Take a step back and completely unwind on the laid back Caye Caulker, Belize. Here, time truly seems to stand still for a moment under the motto “go slow.” The island is full of swaying palm trees, overlooking crystal clear waters with extraordinary marine life, but it has no natural beaches. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sea. In this article you can read all about the fun activities on the island, useful tips and how to get there.
In this article:
What to do on Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker, located off the northeastern coast of Belize, is a small island in the Caribbean Sea. The island stretches about 5 kilometers and is just 1 kilometer wide. So you can easily explore the island by foot. Moreover, you can also rent bicycles at many places, allowing you to explore the island in a relaxed manner.
Caye Caulker has no paved roads and you will not find any car traffic. The only motorized mode of transportation is the iconic golf cart, which is becoming increasingly popular among locals and tourists. I found the island to have a very relaxed atmosphere, and the absent car traffic and friendly locals all add to the charm of this Caribbean paradise.
The island does not have any real beaches, but basically you can get into the sea anywhere from the east coast. Although in some places you will be a little more bothered by seaweed. Many guesthouses have a small strip of beach with lounge chairs in the shade of palm trees. These are often also available to non-guests. The west coast is characterized by mangrove forests and the possibility of swimming is limited on this side of the island.
Discover the underwater world
Caye Caulker is a popular tourist destination mainly because it’s surrounded by the second largest reef in the world; the Belize Barrier Reef. So it’s no surprise that you can do some wonderful diving and snorkeling here. Explore the coral reefs and swim among schools of tropical fish, rays, sharks and, with a little luck, even spot a manatee!
Most snorkel tours stop at different spots where you can see the harmless nurse sharks, as well as the manatee. They are somewhat shy, but these gentle giants are so special to see in real life. A golden rule while snorkeling is to always keep enough distance from the sea creatures.
Both diving and snorkeling tours can be booked at various places on the island. The price for a full-day snorkeling tour is about $90. This includes snorkeling gear, lunch and drinks. I can definitely recommend booking a tour with a sailboat or catamaran, so you can glide along the water in a relaxing way.
Sailing on the reef
Should you want to explore the Belize Barrier Reef even more, it is highly recommended to go sailing for a day or a few days. One of the best known organizations is Ragga Sailing Adventures. They offer an amazing sailing tour in which you sail island-hopping across the reef in 3 days and end in the southern town of Dangriga.
The entire trip stays within the reef, keeping the water generally calm and the sailing days short. That said, it’s important that the wheather cooperates a bit. Should it be too windy, the tour will be canceled.
The best chance for good weather is from December to May. But even then there is no 100% guarantee. I traveled there in February and unfortunately my tour got canceled due to high winds. Fortunately, they did offer a one-day sailing trip with snorkeling just before.
If you would like to do this tour with them, you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spot stingrays at the beach
Did you know that you can spot stingrays not only while snorkeling, but right from shore? At the beautifully located Iguana Reef Inn, around 5:00/18:00 p.m. dozens of rays visit the small beach. They are fed fish here daily by locals.
When you are up to your feet in the water, the rays swim past your legs. These animals are incredibly gentle and curious, but it’s a good idea to be careful. In fact, they can sting with the spine at the end of their tail. This only happens when they feel threatened or when you accidentally step on them. Therefore, it’s not recommended to go deeper into the water when the rays are swimming around the beach. But if you are careful you can admire them up close.
The Iguana Reef Inn is the only place on Caye Caulker with a small beach where you can swim during the day in the crystal clear water and relax in the hammocks hanging directly in the sea. It was my favorite place to relax during the day and have a drink in the evening overlooking the sunset.
What also makes this place special is the opportunity to see seahorses in action. These small, fascinating animals have made their home in the knotted ropes located in the sea.
More impressive sea creatures can be spotted from the Tarpon Feeding Dock. For $2.50 you can feed giant tarpon. These fish can grow up to 2.5 meters long and weigh over 150 kg. They are not afraid and live mostly in shallow water, making them easy to admire from this dock.
Getting some drinks at The Split
“The Split” is a popular spot in northern Caye Caulker where you can have a good swim and drinks at The Lazy Lizard. The Split was created by the devastating force of the 1961 hurricane that split the island in two at the time.
Every Sunday, a soccer competition for prize money is hosted by The Lazy Lizard. If you are an avid soccer player, you can sign up too!
Playing soccer with some locals kids
In addition to the tournament at The Split, you can also have a low-key game of soccer at the local soccer field. If you’re not much of a soccer player, it’s also fun to buy some drinks at the supermarket in the evening and cheer on the local kids.
Enjoy the sunset
Caye Caulker has beautiful sunsets and there are a number of good spots to enjoy them. For example, The Pelican Sunset Bar is a nice location where you can also grab a bite to eat and a drink right away. The name of the restaurant says it all, not only can you enjoy the sunset there, but you can also admire the many pelicans up close. In the evening, the local fishermen clean their catch and the birds love to grab a bite. The stingrays also flock here, and I was shocked to suddenly see a large shadow dangling under my feet from the jetty.
Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen, a bit more situated in the mangrove, is also a nice place for a snack and a drink while enjoying the beautiful colors of the setting sun.
Visit the nearby island Ambergris Caye
From Caye Caulker, you can travel to the neighboring island of Ambergris Caye in just 30 minutes. The ferry service goes up to 5 times a day. While Caye Caulker has a reputation as a laid-back, casual destination, Ambergris Caye has a livelier image. The island is a lot bigger than Caye Caulker and offers a wide range of accommodations, restaurants, bars and activities in San Pedro.
Unlike Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye does have some beaches, even though they are landscaped. For more rest and relaxation, head to Caye Caulker. If you prefer to enjoy a little more luxury, liveliness, then Ambergris Caye is right for you.
The best places to eat
The cuisine of Belize is a fusion of different ethnicities and their wide variety of dishes. The most common dishes consist of a combination of rice and beans, grilled fish or meat with coleslaw. A must-try is the Jerk-style chicken or lobster marinated in various spicy herbs.
Fish and meat in Belize is often prepared on large metal grills that you see everywhere in Belize. Lobster season is until mid-February. After that, no more fishing is allowed so that the animals are protected during the mating season.
Whether you are looking for fresh seafood, tasty street food or Italian dishes, Caye Caulker has something for everyone. I give you my favorite spots to try the island’s delicious food, with links to the locations.
One thing I noticed in Caye Caulker, as well as other places in Belize, is that many eateries serve dishes in Styrofoam boxes. Even if you take a seat on the terrace. And that, of course, is a waste of all that material that could end up on the street and in the sea with the same ease.
Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries
The first eatery I discovered, packed from the water cab, was Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries. This self-service restaurant offers an array of delicious options, including fresh grilled fish and seafood and flavorful curry dishes with rice and refreshing salads. There are a number of covered picnic tables where you can enjoy your meal.
Another typical Belizean restaurant is Reina’s. At night there is usually a queue here, but it’s well worth the wait. Here too you can eat the real Belizean classics including fish or meat with rice and pineapple.
Pasta per Caso
One of the few Italian restaurants on the island is Pasta per Caso. It is run by an Italian owner and you notice that in the quality of the dishes. Every night there are 2 pasta dishes on the menu each 36BZ, with a choice of meat or veg. Reservations are a must, otherwise you are not guaranteed a spot!
Jenny’s To Go Food
For a quick greasy bite, Jenny’s To Go Food is the place to be. Here you can try true Belizean classics like Stuffed fried jacks and Belizean tortillas. And all of them dirt cheap!
Should you travel on a budget and happen to have a kitchenette in your guesthouse, there are plenty of supermarkets on the island. The largest is the Super Sky supermarket on the corner of the Sky Inn.
How many nights at Caye Caulker
As you can see, there is plenty to see and do on Caye Caulker. It may be a small island, but the atmosphere is relaxed and the activities are laid-back as well. If that’s your style, then I can definitely recommend spending at least 4 nights for Caye Caulker.
Unfortunately, Belize is not very cheap, and even on Caye Caulker, prices are quite high for accommodations. There are only a few hostels with dorms on the island, including Bella’s backpackers and Tropical Oasis.
By far the cheapest guesthouse is Blue Wave Guesthouse. For a double room with fan and shared bathroom, you pay just around 30 euros a night. In fact, you won’t find anything cheaper on Caye Caulker. They also offer more comfortable rooms with A/C and private bathroom.
It is advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during high season. If, like me, you want to book more nights at the last minute, I can recommend going by guesthouses on the dot and asking for an available room. Sometimes you can even take advantage of last-minute discounts.
I was recommended M&N Guesthouse, as this accommodation is not bookable anywhere except on the island itself. They usually have a room left, but there is no guarantee.
How to get to Caye Caulker
From the mainland, you reach the island by the water taxi that departs from Belize City. A one-way ticket costs 33BZ and a return ticket is comparatively cheaper, should you travel back to Belize City. The water cab takes about 45 minutes.
It’s also possible to travel to Caye Caulker from Mexico. The water cab leaves from Chetumal to San Pedro and then goes on to Caye Caulker.
I traveled from Flores in Guatemala directly to Caye Caulker by boat and then the water cab. All this was arranged by GetAway travels in Flores.
Tip: Is Caye Caulker your first destination in Belize? At Digiwallet you can buy a SIM card for 40BZ 25 GB for 10 days. But it is also possible to buy a prepaid sim card and top it up.