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Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour: Snorkeling + Sailing the Most Pristine Coral Reef with Zeppelin Dive & Sail

cayos cochinos from roatan tour headerThe Cayos Cochinos are a little-known and postcard-worthy island archipelago off the coast of Honduras. The only way to reach them from Roatan is by chartering a sailboat or taking one of only a couple sail tour options. I was determined to visit this gorgeous island chain, so I did my research and booked a Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour with Zeppelin Tours.

Editor's Note: Zeppelin Tours has since sold their catamaran, Raya Aguila, and their day sail and snorkel tour charter business to Amavi Charters. Please check Amavi's website for current information and to get in touch about scheduling a Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour. While I haven't had direct experience with Amavi Charters, they are using the same boat and crew from my Zeppelin experience. You can check their Tripadvisor reviews here.

roatan tour snorkel sail

Read my full Roatan travel guide

 

About the Cayos Cochinos

cayos cochinos sail

If you haven’t heard of the Cayos Cochinos, you’re not alone. This remote archipelago is still pretty unknown. It sits in between the Caribbean/Northern coast of Honduras and the Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila and Guanaja).

The Cayos Cochinos consist of two small islands - Cayo Grande and Cayo Menor - and 13 other small cays.

While they are geographically separate from the Bay Islands, The Cayos are part of the Bay Islands department in Honduras, and are only 24 miles from Roatan.

The Cayos Cochinos are also part of the second biggest barrier reef in the world - the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

This archipelago was named a protected marine area by Honduras in 1994. Because of this, no development is allowed on the islands and the waters are protected from fishing or any commercial interests.

The only development that exists on the Cayos Cochinos was before the cays were named a protected area. So there are only a few private homes, most of them mansions owned by wealthy Hondurans. And one cay, Chachauate, has a small indigenous Garifuna community.

cayos cochinos cays
Chachauate, the tiny cay that is home to a Garifuna village.

But the last population census marked the population as 108, so these area is still incredibly tranquil, wild and untouched. It’s the perfect place to get to know the jungle and the amazing marine wildlife that makes this barrier reef famous.

Honduras actually has the best reef health in the Caribbean and this is the only reef in the world that’s health is actually improving year after year. So the Caribbean reef of Honduras really is one of the best places in the world to do some diving and snorkeling, and the Cayos Cochinos are virtually untouched and empty. We only saw one other boat of two divers when we arrived, and not another soul the rest of the day.

How to Get to the Cayos Cochinos:

There are only two ways to get to the Cayos Cochinos.


Getting to the Cayos Cochinos from La Ceiba:

You can make the journey to the Cayos Cochinos from La Ceiba on the mainland of Honduras. The boats leave from the little village of Sambo Creek outside of La Ceiba. The journey from Sambo Creek, La Ceiba to Cayos Cochinos takes about 45 minutes and is on a basic boat or panga.

Getting to the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan:

There are only a couple of tour companies that do the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour. I did my research and struggled to find more than 2 or 3. Zeppelin tours seemed to have the most glowing reviews and were a pleasure to correspond with when I was inquiring about the tour. You can read the full review of them below to hear about the tour.

 

Editor's Note: Zeppelin's Cayos Cochinos day trip tours have been sold to Amavi Charters.

 

The other option from Roatan is to charter a private sailboat trip to the Cayos from Roatan. 

The Schedule: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

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I'll give you an overview of the day here. Keep scrolling below for more in depth info about the snorkeling, the catamaran, and the experience.

We started off our day with Zeppelin Dive & Sail bright and early - meeting at the marina at Parrot Tree Resort at 7:30am. After getting situated and getting a quick safety primer, we set off into the clear Caribbean seas.

parrot tree resort cayos cochinos tour

The sail to the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan is anywhere from 3-4 hours each way, so this is a good time to settle in, sit in the catamaran net, chat with others, and take pictures. I LOVE being on a boat, so the more time on the sea, the better. 🙂

Our first stop on the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour was a spot called Lionshead off the largest island in the Cayos Cochinos archipelago. All of our gear was provided for us by Zeppelin. Here we snorkeled in an amazing and huge reef for an hour. I’ve never had that much time to snorkel before! If you’re an avid snorkeler you will love the amount of time you have to explore this untouched reef. And this was only our first stop.

clear seas cayos cochinos

Next we returned to the boat just in time to find our gourmet and huge lunch spread waiting for us. After enjoying the fresh food and a cold drink, we set off for our second stop.

This next stop was a bit closer to a shore, but still teeming with life. Here we snorkeled for about 30 minutes and saw lots more colorful and interesting marine life.

cayos cochinos tour
After returning from the second snorkel session, we were treated to a tour of the rest of the Cayos. We sailed past some of the 13 small cays, some of them only a few square feet! We saw Chachauate, the only cay that has an indigenous Garifuna village, and then a few of the other cays that were privately owned.

sailing the cayos cochinos
Chachauate cay and its Garifuna village.

Finally we swung around the other side of Cayo Grande, and made our way back to Roatan. We chatted some more, enjoyed refreshments, and watched the sunset over the Caribbean just as we were arriving back in Roatan.

roatan sunset sail tour

The Catamaran: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

catamaran tour to cayos cochinos from roatan

The catamaran that Zeppelin uses for this Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour was super comfortable for our full day of sailing. Named the Raya Aguila, it’s a 40 foot Fountaine Pajot catamaran. They only allow a maximum of 12 guests, and often have much less. Our tour included 5 guests and 4 crew members - the space was more than enough, but still felt intimate. I hate tours that are crammed with too many people - they feel so impersonal and uncomfortable. During our all day tour, I got to know each and every guest and crew member and enjoyed the friendly but comfortable vibe on board.

zeppelin dive and sail tours

The catamaran is equipped with two bathrooms, so we never had to wait. The kitchen is large enough for the crew to prepare fabulous and fresh meals. And the front of the catamaran has the quintessential big net to lounge in. Our journey was a bit wavy, so I didn’t spend as much time on the net as I would have liked, but it was a great place to sip on a beer after each snorkel session!

cayos cochinos catamaran tour

roatan tour to cayos cochinosThe catamaran was in excellent condition and a pleasure to spend our day in.

The Service: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

The level of service on the Zeppelin catamaran was exceptional. From the moment I arrived until the end of the day, I was taken great care of by everyone on board. In the morning I was greeted by Wayne, one of the owners, and his friendly crew. I was shown around the boat, given instructions on how to use the bathroom, where to store my things, etc.

Before departure, we were given a quick safety lesson by Wayne. I appreciated hearing about where I should sit, how to move around the boat, and other safety tips.

I never had a chance to be thirsty, as the attentive crew asked me occasionally if I would like some water, coffee, beer, or cocktail. And the food and refreshments were plentiful and seemed to come out on a regular schedule (see below for more on the food and drink).

enjoying a beer on the cayos cochinos from roatan tour
Photo by Kim Burns.

The staff was also warm and friendly. I had lots of great conversations with the crew about their lives and traveling. I enjoyed a long conversation with Wayne about his sailing adventures with his wife, Elly. It was fascinating hearing the stories of how they ended up settling in Roatan:  starting in Vancouver, sailing down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, and then through the Panama canal and up the Caribbean, before finally arriving in Roatan and deciding not to leave.

Our snorkel guide was also amazing. We didn’t have to stick by him if we preferred to explore on our own, but we were warned that he had the uncanny ability to find the most interesting and beautiful marine life. And he did! We saw a lionfish, a barracuda, lots of huge lobster and king crabs, and countless other colorful and interesting fish.

I couldn’t have asked for a better crew or service during our Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour.

The Food and Drink: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

gourmet lunch on cayos cochinos tour

The refreshments served on board the Raya Aguila were far beyond my expectations. This was no typical tour food - everything was made with fresh ingredients, well-prepared, and delicious.

One of the owners of Zeppelin, Elly, has a passion for cooking and baking, and shows it through the homemade offerings.

Before the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour, Zeppelin emails you a sheet with some questions so they can be sure to be well prepared for you. Here you can let them know about any food allergies or preferences, and they will cater to your specific diet.

They strive to serve a lot of fresh fruits and veggies - most grown within 100 miles of the island. They also serve freshly ground dark roast coffee from Honduran farms that they brew in a french press on board.

Throughout the day we would receive little appetizers - home baked goods, little sandwiches, bruschetta, or soft cheese with a locally made mutton pepper jelly - a delicious sweet and spicy jelly made on the neighboring Bay Island island of Guanaja.

gourmet lunch on cayos cochinos tour
Lunch was a treat with a huge buffet of black bean salsa, crisp green salad, rice, tostadas, grilled bbq chicken and grilled fish. Did I mention that the crew fired up the onboard grill while we were out snorkeling? They grilled up the fresh chicken and fish for us while we enjoyed the marine life, so that everything was ready minutes before we were.

chicken and fish lunch cayos cochinos from roatan tour

lunch on cayos cochinos from roatan tour

And the drinks were plentiful and varied. We had our pick of coffee, tea, juice, water, beer, wine, or freshly made tropical cocktails throughout the day. A cold local beer was perfect for me after a long swim!

Doesn’t everything just taste better on the sea too?!

The Snorkeling: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

about to snorkel cayos cochinos
Photo by Kim Burns

The snorkeling on the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour was amazing. As I mentioned before, we only saw one boat of two divers when we arrived, and then didn’t see any other people for the rest of the day. We had this amazing reef totally to ourselves. The fish and marine life were plentiful, and content to swim around us.

Our snorkel guide was amazing at finding some of the hidden marine life. He pointed out the small tucked away dens of King Crabs and Lobster. He pointed out all kinds of unusual fish like barracuda and even a lionsfish.

snorkeling cayos cochinos honduras
Photo by Kim Burns.
fish in the cayos cochinos marine reserve
Photo by Kim Burns.
lobster cayos cochinos
Photo by Kim Burns.

The coral itself at the Cayos Cochinos is incredible, every color and size and shape imaginable, all swaying beautifully in the current.

I’ve had the pleasure of having a couple of other especially amazing snorkel experiences in my life, including snorkeling in the reef off the coast of Belize, and this experience was right up there in my top couple of snorkels. The marine life is just vibrant and healthy, and beyond that you literally have the ocean completely to yourself. It’s like going back in time, before humans came along and damaged our beautiful underwater universe.

The Sailing: Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour

sailing the cayos cochinos from roatan tour

It was very quickly obvious to me that Wayne and the Zeppelin crew were absolute experts on the sea. They were always observant about the wind or any adjustments in the weather or the sea. We made some adjustments in our route on the way back because the wind had changed and it would be much more comfortable for us in the adjusted direction.

sailing to cayos cochinos with zeppelin tours

This is not an easy journey - the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour takes you 24 miles over open seas that can be powerful and very variable. If you do this trip, you should be sure you are with an expert captain and crew who will always put your safety and comfort first. I was very confident that the Zeppelin crew would make all the best decisions before and during our journey to the Cayos Cochinos.

Who the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour is For

cayos cochinos from roatan tour catamaran

The Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour is not for everyone. If you prefer just to relax on a beach all day, this will not be the right tour for you. This Cayos Cochinos sail & snorkel tour is for the adventurous and curious.

While there is plenty of time for relaxing on the beautiful catamaran, taking in the gorgeous views, the trip can be a bit bumpy as you travel 24 miles over open Caribbean sea from Roatan to the Cayos Cochinos. You should definitely enjoy being on a boat, because it takes a few hours to get to and from Roatan to Cayos Cochinos. Being on a sailboat is basically my favorite thing in the world, so I was pretty excited about that part of the day.

catamaran tour from roatan
Photo by Kim Burns.

This is also a weather dependent trip - if there is too much wind or any inclement weather, it’s not possible to make the journey. Because of this you need to be a bit flexible about the tour date. We had originally hoped to make this trip on a Monday, but Wayne was watching the weather carefully, and let us know that the forecast was calling for rain and wind that day, likely making the journey impossible. So we adjusted and moved up the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour to Friday, a day full of sun and pleasant winds. If you’re looking to plan out every hour and every day of your journey, it will be hard to pin down this trip until you get closer to the date.

But I urge travelers to take a more relaxed approach to scheduling their vacations anyway, It’s better to make sure you don’t overschedule yourself, and have the chance to do really amazing things like this Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour!

Final Words on the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan Tour with Zeppelin Dive & Sail

cayos cochinos from roatan tour

The Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour was definitely one of my favorite days during my trip in Roatan. Being on a beautiful catamaran, traversing the gorgeous Caribbean sea was a treat. And the snorkeling was just incredible - like getting an authentic peek into the vibrant underwater world. We had plenty of time to explore it and enjoyed some of the most beautiful reef I’ve seen in my life.

And then add in the wonderful crew, the intimate setting with only a few other guests, and the delicious and fresh food - it was pretty much a perfect day.

I’d highly recommend this Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour to any adventurous people visiting Roatan who would like to see something completely off the beaten path, and see some of the most gorgeous reef that the Bay Islands department has to offer.

sunset on the caribbean from roatan tour

 

Other Roatan Tours that Zeppelin Offers

Zeppelin Tours offers several other options if the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour doesn’t fit into your schedule or interests.

Zeppelin’s most popular tours are their Liveaboard Dive & Sail packages. These are totally customizable depending on the number of days you have and your interests. You can choose to do as many dives as you like per day, mixing in yoga, SUP, exploring, or just relaxing.

Zeppelin also offers some other full day Sail & Snorkel trips around the island of Roatan. They explore some of the best places to see the vibrant marine life close to the island. These can be a great option if you don’t have flexibility in your schedule to adjust according to weather. These day tours are safe to do in almost any weather.

Zeppelin also offers Land & Sea tours that spend an overnight on either the island of Guanaja or the Cayos Cochinos as well as Sunset Sail tours from Roatan. Check out their website for a full list of offerings.

cayos cochinos from roatan tour cay


Editor's Note: Zeppelin Tours has since sold their catamaran, Raya Aguila, and their day sail and snorkel tour charter business to Amavi Charters. Please check Amavi's website for current information and to get in touch about scheduling a Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour. While I haven't had direct experience with Amavi Charters, they are using the same boat and crew from my Zeppelin experience. You can check their Tripadvisor reviews here. Zeppelin still offers liveaboard dive & sail packages.

 

Tour Company: Zeppelin Dive & Sail

Social Media: Facebook

Price: $172 per person (including tax) for the Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour for a non-private charter. $1380 (including tax) for a private charter with up to 8 guests. Check out their website for a full offering of other tour and charter options.

Contact: [email protected]  

Reservations: http://www.zeppelindiveandsail.com/contact-zeppelin-dive-and-sail/


Disclosure: this post is written in partnership with Zeppelin Dive & Sail. All views and opinions are my own, and I wouldn't recommend anything I didn't love!

 

Read my full Roatan travel guide for everything you need to know about where to stay, what to do and where to eat on this beautiful tropical island.



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2 Responses

  1. Jenn and Ed Coleman
    | Reply

    Zeppelin sounds like a fantastic operation. I ended up taking a lot of dive boats in San Diego getting trained up to rescue diver. It’s amazing how much a good captain can add to the experience. They are so much more than just boat operators. They make the entire trip flow.

  2. […] at least one tour to some of the most amazing places around Roatan to see marine life. I took a Cayos Cochinos from Roatan tour with Zeppelin Tours and it was my favorite day during my Roatan travel. The Cayos Cochinos are a […]

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