Richard T. Nowitz/National Geographic Stock

“The language, we are losing that a little bit,” says Arzu, who is originally from Guatemala and is trilingual in English, Spanish and Garifuna.
Some people on the island, like native mainlander Alvarado of Infinity Bay, thinks of Roatán as something separate from the Central American nation of which it’s officially been a part since the mid-19th century. When she hears someone is going back to the mainland, “I’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re going to Honduras?’ It seems like we’re almost two different countries.”

With its verdant setting, world-class diving and well-developed-yet-not-­overdeveloped infrastructure, Roatán seems poised to become the best of both worlds for those who seek both a Latin American and a Caribbean vacation experience. Infinity Bay resort has just opened a new reception building, and a spa is scheduled to open in the fall. And farther east, the ambitious, gorgeous Pristine Bay luxury golf resort and development opened the island’s first golf course, designed by the legendary Pete Dye.

“It’s going to come down to there’s only so far you can go,” Blaikie notes. “There’s enough here that can be developed and still maintain its pristine environment.”

As the global economy recovers, many believe the island now has an opportunity to move forward with development that’s to scale with the island itself and that will respect its resources and history while also paying homage to — and partnering with — the mainland.