Sea shells can be plentiful on Roatan beaches, especially those on Sandy Bay. Ranging in size, color, and design, these vibrant sea creatures draw enthusiasts from all over the world. Many prefer to comb the sandy beaches for sea shells. However, shelling isn’t limited to dry land. Roatan’s many divers search for the shells of mollusks and sea creatures below the surface. This requires carefully inspecting coral and reef walls, checking crevices and under walks, and fanning the sand on the bottom of the ocean.
Some of the most popular souvenirs available on Roatan are cameos intricately carved on shells found in and around the islands of Honduras, including Roatan. The most popular and best known cameos come from the Stone Castle Cameo Factory in Coxen Hole. Visitors are welcome to tour the small but reputable facility, learning how these artisans create their masterpieces. The factory’s cameo master was originally trained in Italy. He now trains each of the native Honduran craftsmen for five years. Visitors can watch carvers as they work, and their exquisite art pieces range from large display pieces to smaller jewelry, such as pendants and earrings. These striking carved shells are available to buy from the factory, as well as at a variety of shops on Roatan.
Tips & Warnings
Sea Shells cannot be found on the beaches of all Caribbean islands, because some of those with mass tourism (like Nassau in the Bahamas) have been picked clean and the tidal patterns of some beaches do not wash shells ashore. Additionally, some shells (like the queen conch) are protected as they are the shells of endangered species. This also holds true for coral, which is protected around the world. Be sure you know the type of shell you plan to bring home, and it is not advisable to purchase them from "beach boys," since it is entirely possible they will be protected species. You can be prosecuted for taking coral or endangered shells, and you could have them confiscated at Customs when you return home. Also do not collect shells or anything else in a protected marine area. As with the importation of elephant ivory, you must have proper paperwork to prove the source of some shells. If you take shells while scuba diving or snorkeling, you are apt to be collecting a living animal. Many people feel collecting sea shells is not good for the environment, and point to beaches where natural shells have disappeared. You might want to come home with great sea shell photographs. Sea turtles are common in these waters, and they are also a protected species. Do not purchase anything claiming to be turtle shell - it will either be fake or illegal.