If you’re wondering how to pronounce Roatan, you’re not alone. The Caribbean island of Roatan has been owned and named and renamed by so many different groups that its name remains a little bit of a mystery.
The History of Roatan
After Christopher Columbus and his crew first sighted the island of Guanaja, the Bay Islands underwent a long period of European involvement. The inhabitants of Roatan at the time of European arrival were the Paya, or Pech. For several centuries after Columbus’ first sighting, Roatan passed between English and Spanish hands, plus a number of pirates who used the island regularly for protection. The Garifuna established a permanent community at Punta Gorda, one of the only signs of stability on the island at the time.
Throughout this time of back-and-forth ownership, claims made by many different people, and new communities popping up throughout the island periodically, Roatan was called a variety of names.
Rattan, Ruatan, and Roatan have all shown up on maps identifying the island over several centuries. While Roatan is now the official name for the island, how to pronounce Roatan is an entirely different debate.
How to Pronounce Roatan
For many of the island’s residents, the name Roatan rolls off the tongue as a mixture of Caribbean creole and Spanish influence. For all mainland Hondurans and their descendants who live in Roatan, the island’s name is distinctly Spanish. For the many visitors to the island, the island’s name becomes a bit more Southern American in nature.
Generally speaking, the island of Roatan is pronounced as roh-ah-TAHN. But, if you want to call it roh-ah-TAN, don’t worry, you won’t be run off the island as an outcast.
If you’re coming on a Western Caribbean cruise to Roatan, your itinerary might say Isla Roatan for your destination, in which case you should definitely use the first – more Spanish – pronunciation of the island. Call it EECE-lah roh-ah-TAHN.
Roatan's Eclectic Residents
The people of Roatan are a varied group with an immeasurably mixed background. Because of that continuous flow of people coming and going on the island, bringing new influences to the cultural blend already resident here, you can rest easy knowing there is lots of leeway in your pronunciation of the island of Roatan.
We invite you to come visit the beautiful island of Roatan to discover for yourself just how eclectic and fun our Caribbean island home truly is. Learn more about our interesting history, and plan a trip to celebrate with the Garifuna of Roatan. Take part in one of our adrenaline-filled activities in Roatan, or simply marvel at the stunning ocean views and sensational sunsets as you relax on the beach.