Sand in my toes, frozen Piña Colada by my side, sun beating down on me in a tropical, exotic third world beach town: THIS is how I like my massages.
Welcome to Roatán, the largest bay island of Honduras, one of the beautiful ports of call on my festive holiday Caribbean cruise. Although a vacation destination, Roatán is quite impoverished in most parts of the island. Tourism is an important part of their economy, and part of that economy, as I found out, consists of BEACH MASSAGES. You thought Spa Week massages for $50 were a good deal, BUT, if you’re willing to sacrifice quality, privacy, etiquette, sanitation and technique, the beach massages in Roatán are the way to go.
Before I tell you how my boyfriend scored an 8-handed massage for $8 (and I, thrilled and apparently ripped off with a 40-minute 2-handed massage for $20), take a look at some of the photos I snapped as we sailed the colorful, broken-down waterfront villages of Roatán:
After a day exploring the small island by van, boat and foot, our clan of ten ended up at Bananarama Dive beach. Within 30 seconds of stepping foot on the sand, I learned just how easy it is for anyone – perhaps the very same people who waved to us from their open-air homes – to become a “massage therapist” in Roatán. A local woman approached and asked if I’d like a “$10 for 20 minutes massage.” Faster than I could take off my flip flops, I said YES, PLEASE. I told my boyfriend Ray he should get one too, but the thought of some unknown, unprofessional local woman touching him with oil of indeterminate origin did not sound appealing to him at all. He politely declined.
On a bed sheet a few feet from the shoreline, I laid down and the massage began. Nothing mind-blowing or even methodical, but I was being pampered in the beautiful sunshine, and couldn’t have been more in my element! It was a few minutes into it when I heard another “massage therapist” trying to convince Ray to let her massage him. “No thanks,” he resisted. “I really have no cash anyway.” It was true – he only had $8 on him. Well, after some back and forth, “No, no, PLEASE no!” and “Yes, yes, yes, just one minute!” I heard silence.
When I looked up, this is what I saw:
Four women massaging my boyfriend, and 3 by-standing spectators. With no remote hint of technique, over loud conversation and some old man flirting with the girl in charge of Ray’s left leg, it was the opposite of a spa experience. And I was SO excited for him! EIGHT HANDS! That is like, the grand slam of massages! That doesn’t even exist in real life. I don’t care that it was the worst massage (of all the 3) he’s gotten in his life, it was still an 8-handed massage. In tropical paradise.
If you ask Ray he’ll tell you he hated every second of it, but I don’t know… he looks pretty darn relaxed for someone being “harassed,” “assaulted” and “honestly just being polite.” With only $1 per hand to offer for his 25 minute treatment, it was pound for pound the best massage deal anyone’s ever gotten.
There are beaches all over the world like Bananarama where anyone and their mother (literally) can turn themselves into “massage therapists” to make what for them is a LOT of money. I look at it as supporting the local economy! I dream to be able to support local economies all over the planet! Random beach massages may not get any sort of “Spa Week seal of approval,” but it’s one helluva way to get pampered on the cheap.
Photos by Michelle Joni Lapidos, except for the first one, via Bananaramadive.com