Painting in Paradise: Roatan, Honduras

I recently returned from my 9 day trip to the island of Roatan, Honduras. It’s located about 1 hour by ferry from the mainland. It’s surrounded by the enormous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef system in the world. Unlike many other diving destinations, the reef is located just offshore so long boat rides to access it aren’t necessary.

Getting my PADI open water scuba diving certification has been a bucket list item for some time now, and after finding a spectacular deal on airfare to one of the world’s best diving locations, it seemed like the right time at last!

With temperatures in the low 80s (my ideal!) and plans to be underwater whenever possible, this trip was planned as a carry-on only vacation. Of course, my art supplies always make the cut. Watercolors are perfectly suited for even the most minimalistic traveler. My tiniest kit consists of a single water brush, a palette made from an eyeshadow compact, and my mini sketchbook. I didn’t need to go *super* compact so I brought along 3 water  pens, my bigger travel palette (featuring a turquoise paint I bought just for this trip!), mechanical pencil, Micron pen, and a wrist sweatband. I also packed a couple of my new watercolor pads for stand-alone pieces.

Why a sweatband? They’re perfect for wiping the water brushes clean in between colors. Instead of needing a painting surface, I can hold everything necessary to paint in my hands. I’ll try to get a photo and/or video of myself demonstrating this sometime.

Typically, when I travel, I like to try a wide variety of restaurants and food stalls. But, this trip, more often than not my companion and I ended up eating and drinking at our hotel’s restaurant. The food and drinks (especially the gigantic tropical cocktails) were great and reasonably priced, and the ocean view (below) was spectacular.

We seem to have chosen the perfect time (early May) to visit Roatan. The weather was great except for one day of rain, and there were very few other tourists on the island. Thus, the restaurant was not so busy so I was able to sit and paint there after meals without feeling like I was taking up a table.

When you paint in public, you can expect people to be curious and want to see what you’re working on. Usually they’ll be very positive and often will want to share their own experiences with art. I’ve found it to be a great ice breaker and a fun way to relate to just about anyone. I took to painting at the dive shop in between dives. The dive shop staff were so awesome and helpful, I decided to paint a piece for each of my instructors as a gift. One features a sea turtle we watched nibble on a sponge, and the other my divemaster/instructor known as the “turtle whisperer” for his uncanny ability to find at least one sea turtle on pretty much every dive.

I was so inspired by all of the beautiful creatures I saw underwater. Seeing a vibrant, living coral reef teeming with such a variety of organisms was a lifelong dream come true. I have enjoyed snorkeling since high school, but diving lets you see things one cannot see while snorkeling. When you snorkel, you are getting a glimpse of the sea. When you dive, you are part of the ocean. The current gently pulls you along as schools of colorful fish swirl and float around you effortlessly. The sea fans wave back and forth with perfect elegance, and the formations of coral and sponges feel like a bizarre and wonderful sculpture garden. I am truly grateful to my instructors for making me feel comfortable so that I could figuratively lose myself in this world without worrying about my safety as a first-time diver.

My travelling companion for this trip (already dive certified!) was interested in trying her hand at painting, and so we also spent some time between dives painting one of the coconut trees outside of our room. Bringing my extra supplies along was definitely a great choice in this case.

Hers in on the left, mine on the right. I think she did a great job!

We had originally planned to explore the island more to check out more of its above-water natural beauty, but we were both so enchanted by the diving that we didn’t do much else. I would love to return to Roatan again someday and if I do *maybe* I’ll be able to tear myself away from the ocean to explore a little more.

For anyone thinking about visiting Roatan, I definitely recommend the Splash Inn where we stayed/ate/went diving. (No compensation for saying that, it’s truly my personal recommendation!)