Roatan might be one of the world's foremost permit fishing destinations, yet its notoriety seems dwarfed by Mexico's Quintana Roo state in the Yucatan and Belize. Interestingly if you were to look at a map, Roatan is one of the Bay Islands (Utila, Roatan and Guanaja), which lies due east of Belize's Permit Alley and north of Honduras' northern coast. It's the pristine nature and enormous biomass of the drop-off reefs and flats that draw in large numbers of permit as well as bonefish. The mangrove shorelines also feature snook and tarpon. And the biggest bonus for the flatsfisher is the presence of some big ocean tally and parrotfish that roll up from the depths to feed on the tons of crustaceans that live on the rubble flats.
There are many features that make Roatan distinctive. Besides the world class diving that one can swim to from the shoreline, no other flats fishing destination offers such a multiplicity of shallow water species that abound on a island full of rolling terrain and huge hills — one could say small mountains. On both of my stays in Roatan on the less populated eastern end of the island, the evening forests would birth clouds of bats on their way to a nighttime "insect feed." Conversely, the mornings always offered loads of multicolored humming birds dining on flowers as I breakfasted before embarking on a day of flats fishing on my guide Kevin Bodden's panga.
Roatan is an island destination where it is best to bring your own tackle for shallow water and flats fishing. As to the prolific blue water fishing that lies so close to the island, the large charter boats provide heavier tackle. For the species mentioned above, it's best to bring a combination of fly and spin tackle. All the flies and lures that work elsewhere work in Roatan as well.
For the least pressured areas, hire a guide that travels past the populated west side of the island, particularly the southwest area near Coxen Hole. Currently, there are both native and American fishing guides. My own tendency is to fish with the locals to support the island itself. I generally fish with Kevin Bodden and Perry Cooper. It will be of interest, though Roatan belongs to Honduras, the main language of the Bay Islands is English. The guides also speak Spanish and an island Creole, so communication is NEVER a problem.
I would advise you to ignore the claims of any lodge that insist that the only good flats fishing is on the extreme eastern end of the island. As long as the flats do not get too many boats, swimmers or dive boats going through the area, the permit and bonefish are amazingly well distributed. Certain guides and lodges offer a one day cruise ship "fishing special," which entails a good deal of travel, but enough fishing to catch some flats fish. Just be sure to get back well before your cruise ship sets sail.
At this time, there is a non-stop flight from Dallas/Fort Worth and one-stop flights from Miami to San Pedro Sula to Roatan. But be aware these flights and itineraries can change. Generally, flights to Roatan from the USA involve a stop — but for serious anglers it is absolutely worth it.