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Things to Do in Caye Caulker: A Travel Guide

Things to Do in Caye Caulker: A Travel Guide

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Caye Caulker is an island paradise that, although small, is somewhere you could while away weeks at a time. 

It’s the sort of place where time simply melts away. All you need is a beer, a hammock over the ocean, and a good book.

But there’s more to Caye Caulker than just hammocks and ice-cold Belikin Beer. 

For such a small island, there’s a surprisingly large number of things to do in Caye Caulker. Food – and accommodation – can be found on a budget which is handy for backpackers in this region.

This Caye Caulker travel guide tells you where to stay, where to eat, and all the best things to do in Caye Caulker, Belize. 

What to know about traveling Caye Caulker, Belize

Before jumping into the Caye Caulker travel guide, these are some quick pointers to help you find your feet.

It’s pronounced KEY

If, like me, you’ve never seen the word caye before, you may have been saying kah-ye or something along those lines.

It is in fact, pronounced KEY, like quay in English (another word I only encountered abroad and mispronounced it then, too). 

There are three main streets: Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street

Front Street is the one closest to the beach. This is where you’ll find grocery stores, waterfront hotels and hostels, the ferry pier, and the best barbecue spots.

Middle Street is where you’ll find cheaper restaurants and take-out spots as well as budget-friendly hotels.

Back Street is the third street furthest from the waterfront and has more restaurants and a lot more houses.

Much to my shock when I got there, it’s worth noting that these are not the actual names of the streets. However, it’s how most people refer to them when giving you directions.

Front Street is called Hicao. Middle Street is called Langosta, and Back Street is called Mangle.

things to do in Caye caulker include relaxing and watching the sunset

Reef-safe sunscreen is mandatory

As all reputable dive shops will tell you: do not wear regular sunscreen in the water. Sunscreen messes with the water’s pH balance and can kill the coral reefs and harm the marine life.  Keep them safe by adding reef-safe sunscreen and a rashguard to your packing list for Belize.

This zinc oxide-based reef-safe sunscreen is free from Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and other chemicals that endanger the reef and sea creatures. You might also want to pick up a reef-safe face stick to protect yourself against the fierce Caribbean sun.

You can also reduce how much you need to apply by wearing a rashguard. This two-piece rashguard for women and this men’s rashguard both have good coverage and UV protection. 

English is the main language, but you won’t hear it spoken among locals

The official language of Belize/Caye Caulker is English. It’s the language spoken at schools and government offices.

Belize was a British colony until the 1980s and you’ll still see the British monarch’s face on all of their currency. Which, confusingly, is called the Belize “dollar” not the pound. 

However, the culture of Belize, and particularly that of Caye Caulker, is so much more complex. There is a large population of people with Jamaican heritage who tend to speak Creole to each other. There is also a huge population of Spanish-speaking people in Belize/Caye Caulker.

Other widely spoken languages in Belize you may hear on Caye Caulker include Chinese (especially in grocery stores) and different dialects of Mayan.

laying in hammocks on the beach

Drugs are 150% illegal in Belize

If the smell of marijuana everywhere you turn and the people on the beach offering you cocaine have led you to believe that drugs are legal here or that you won’t get yourself into trouble for possessing it, then think again. 

The police in Belize do not mess around (I got pulled over in a golf cart in San Pedro near Caye Caulker and the experience wasn’t the best). 

Hotels on the island are very strict and if you are caught even smelling or looking like you may have been doing something you shouldn’t be, they will kick you out without a refund. And, they’ll likely call the police.

Catcalling is no joke

While I absolutely loved my time in Caye Caulker, I can’t ignore the fact that the cat-calling here was out of control.

I grew up in New York and lived in Mexico City at the time of visiting. I am used to the odd bit of staring or over-the-top compliments that are usually harmless.

But here, it was a level that I’d never experienced before. If I was in my bathing suit on the beach I was constantly being approached, EVEN with my boyfriend next to me. The same happened in a bar, at a restaurant, on a walk down the street.

It wasn’t just a comment thrown into the ether, it was often persistent and irritating. While I never felt threatened, I did not enjoy the attention or disrespect at all. 

I still headed out by myself some days when we were there and I wasn’t worried that something would happen, as I mentioned, it didn’t matter whether I was by myself or with Luke, so why bother?

relaxings and looking at the ocean is one of the best things to do in caye caulker

How to get to Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is located a few miles off the coast of Belize City in the Caribbean Sea. 

San Pedro Belize Express operates water taxis between Belize City and Caye Caulker. Journey time is 45 minutes and boats operate between 8 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Rates are 42 BZD ($21 USD) for a single fare or 75 BZD ($37 USD) for a return. 

Belize Airport – the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport – is located just 9 miles (14 km) from downtown. It’s a 25-minute taxi ride directly to the pier.

Getting around Caye Caulker

There are no cars on Caye Caulker – and no paved roads either. In terms of getting around, you can walk, rent a bike, or arrange a golf cart taxi. 

Most of the Airbnbs, hostels, and hotels in Caye Caulker have rental bicycles. These are free in most cases. Otherwise, you can rent them for around 15 BZD ($7.50 USD) per day/60 BZD ($30 USD) per week. It’s also possible to rent them by the hour. 

Look out for potholes: lots of potholes. I fell in one while cycling and still have the scar to remind me of it (I was a few rum coconuts deep, but it’s worth knowing anyway). These are caused by the heavy rainfall during the rainy season.

Golf carts are slightly more expensive and work out close to 727 BZD ($360 USD) for a week. You can also hail golf cart taxis or have your hotel call a local driver to take you around the island. 

Best time to visit Caye Caulker/Belize

The best time to visit Belize/Caye Caulker is during the dry season of November through April. These months see daily temperatures of 68-77°F (20-25°C) and crystal-clear visibility for diving and snorkeling – two of the best things to do in Caye Caulker.

June through September brings the worst rainy season. July is usually the wettest month of the year. Bear in mind that the cycle roads are made of a clay-like substance which is a nightmare during heavy rain. The rain also impacts underwater visibility.

If you want to avoid the rain, crowds, and peak season prices – consider traveling to Belize/Caye Caulker in April, May, or October. 

No matter what time you visit, pre-booking hotels in Caye Caulker is a must as rooms sell out many months in advance. This island is tiny!

Where to stay in Caye Caulker

Accommodation revolves around mellow guest houses and beach cabanas plus a cluster of hostels near the pier. Flash resorts are cropping up but the island maintains a steady balance of budget and mid-range digs. If you’re torn between Caye Caulker and San Pedro, this is the cheaper of the two Belize islands.

Even during the low season, vacancies FLY; you do need to book Caye Caulker hotels a few months in advance.

Luxury Caye Caulker hotels

Caye Reef Condos

One of the most sought-after Caye Caulker hotels near the Split comprises large apartments for families. Some have private patios or a sea view and all guests have access to complimentary bikes and a shared pool. 

Island Magic Beach Resort

This is one of the larger resort hotels in Caye Caulker although it retains a laid-back atmosphere. Nautically-themed rooms overlook the pool or the Caribbean Sea and have all the mod-cons for a comfortable stay. 

Mid-range Caye Caulker hotels

Treetops Hotel: Clean, contemporary, and quiet, Treetops is one of the best boutique hotels in Caye Caulker with sea views. Rooms are accented with driftwood and marine trinkets. Free bikes are available and golf carts drivers can be hailed by reception. 

Colinda Cabanas: These colorful beachfront cabanas are nestled amid the palm trees steps from the Caribbean Sea. Each has a kitchenette and a private terrace furnished with a hammock. Bicycles, kayaks, and snorkel gear are free of charge to guests.

Budget Caye Caulker hotels

Sea n’ Sun Guest House: This is one of the most popular Caye Caulker hotels. Rates linger around $50 per night and come with an en suite bathroom and personal patio. Free kayaks and bikes plus access to a kitchen make it a winning budget stay. 

Barefoot Beach Belize: Close to the pier and amenities, this top-rated resort offers beach cabanas on a budget for couples and larger cottages for families. All units have access to the private beach and free bikes.

Things to Do in Caye Caulker, Belize

Of all the things to do in Caye Caulker, my favorites include getting out on the water. However, you should note that Caye Caulker isn’t a beachy island. You need to see the shore as a jumping-off point for exploring the reef.

1. Snorkel the Belize Barrier Reef

Snorkeling or diving at the Belize Barrier Reef is one of the best things to do in Caye Caulker.

This is the second-largest reef network in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and it sits a mere 10-minute boat ride of the island. 

There are literally dozens of tour companies along Front Street and all of them have fixed prices. However, it’s wise to pre-book especially when traveling to Belize/Caye Caulker in the high season.

This 7-stop snorkeling tour in the Belize Barrier Reef from Caye Caulker takes you to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. You’ll swim alongside turtles, seahorses, and coral gardens and pass by a shipwreck. The itinerary also includes the shark-infested waters of Shark Ray Alley. Worry not, these shark species are totally harmless.

Depending on the time of year, you may also encounter manatees.

If a full day out in the water doesn’t float your boat, check out this three-hour marine reserve snorkeling tour. You’ll swim alongside barracuda at the Serene South Channel and attempt to find Nemo at the Mystical Coral Gardens. The third stop is Ray Alley to meet the sharks and rays and you’ll swing by an underwater cave inhabited by tarpon fish. 

2. Dive the Great Blue Hole (or fly over it)

Scuba diving in the Great Blue Hole is one of the coolest things to do in Caye Caulker if you’re open-water certified.

The Great Blue Hole needs little introduction: it’s an enormous marine sinkhole where you can dive without ever seeing the bottom. Although it’s part of the Belize Barrier Reef, it takes around 2.5 hours to access the Great Blue Hole dive sites by boat. For that reason, tours depart super early – around 5 a.m. 

Frenchie’s Diving and Scuba Sensation are two of the best dive shops running tours. Both run three-dive scuba excursions and rates are exactly the same: $340 USD for the whole day out. If the fee is too costly, check out other local dive sites that are a fraction of the price. It’s also possible to sign up for a PADI course at either center. 

Snorkeling is also possible at the Great Blue Hole but you can’t really conceive the full scale of it from snorkeling. Your money will be far better spent snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

While diving is a phenomenal experience, a scenic flight over the sinkhole is the best way to truly see the enormity of it. The nearby island of San Pedro (Ambergris Caye) has more operators. However, Maya Island Air operates a morning flight on select days of the week. The path compasses views of Shark Ray Alley, Turneffe Atoll, and Lighthouse Reef plus one or two shipwreck sites. 

If your pockets are as deep as the hole, you can charter a private flight with Tsunami Adventures.

A Great Blue Hole dive or flight is a splurge but it’s worth every last cent. 

where to stay in Caye Caulker hotels

3. Cross “The Split” Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is divided into two islands by the Split. This channel of water is often attributed to Hurricane Hattie of 1961 but it’s contested – others say it was made intentionally on the back of the catastrophe. 

The Split Caye Caulker is located at the northern end of the main island where the pier is and the southern end of the northern cay. 

It’s a nice spot to just hang out and swim: there’s a pier for perfecting your belly flop. But, you can also cross the Split by kayak or boat. Swimming isn’t possible for the average person, mind.

Many Caye Caulker hotels have free or rental kayaks but you can also hire them near the crossing itself. Once there, you can paddle around the northern part of the cay to your heart’s content.

Alternatively, Tsunami Adventures runs a Split to Split ferry. It’s free to take bicycles on the boat but golf carts push the one-way price up from 5 BZD ($2.50 USD) to 50 BZD ($25 USD).

the best things to eat on caye caylker are lobsters and barbecue

4. Eat ALL the food

Of all the places I traveled to in Belize (which admittedly aren’t many), Caye Caulker had the best food by a country mile.

The variety is spectacular. The flavors are amazing. The price is even better.

Be sure to have fry-jacks for breakfast even though they will make you want to go back to sleep.

A fry-jack is basically a dough that has been deep-fried. It’s filled with whatever you choose. I usually went for eggs, beans, and cheese. Luke enjoyed his with bacon. You can have ham and cheese, eggs, sausages, or simply beans.

They are cheap and filling and the best places on the island to have them are Jenny’s To-Go Food (a little stand on a side street off of Front Street and Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks (a shop with a window where you order).

Skip the coffee at those spots, it’s dreadful. The only place on the island for a great cup of coffee is Ice and Beans Cafe. Their doughnuts are also outrageously delicious.

For lunch, pick up barbecued seafood or jerk chicken on Front Street. If you are walking towards the Split with the water on your right, you’ll find a row of guys barbecuing on the beach on your right-hand side.

They have chalkboards with the daily menu and different tables so you know whose restaurant is whose. My favorites were Chef Kareem for chicken and sausages, Go Slow Grill for lobsters, and Otis and Family for anything that they’re cooking and for an ice-cold beer.

For dinner, have more seafood at Dee N’ D’s. It is by far the best fresh seafood restaurant that I found on the island. Followed closely by Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen.

relaxing in a hammock at the beach

5. Explore Caye Caulker by bike

Not only is biking a means of getting around but it’s also one of the most adventurous things to do in Caye Caulker. Most accommodations do have free or cheap bike rentals but if that’s not the case, rent one from a grocery store. These are readily available on Front Street and near the pier. 

You can ride a bike almost to the southernmost tip of the island and take it on the Split to Split Ferry. 

6. Relax at the Lazy Lizard

Perhaps the most famous spot on Caye Caulker and without a doubt, amongst the locals and tourists, one of the best things to do in Caye Caulker: the Lazy Lizard.

It used to just be a little bar where you could swim in the ocean, perch under a palapa with a bucket of beers, and relax. Now it’s so much more.

The whole Lazy Lizard area is now more of a complex than just a bar. 

There’s a pizza place, a swimming area, reclining chairs where you can catch some sun, and a whole seating area all the way to the left where you can catch the sunset.

This is more of a daytime spot and like most of the bars on the island with water access, it closes at dusk for obvious reasons.

It’s worth heading to at least once while you’re on the island, especially on the weekends when they have a DJ and during happy hour when they have 2-for-1 deals on cocktails.

Otherwise, it’s usually overcrowded and the beers are more expensive than anywhere else.

coming into caye caulker on the ferry

7. Bar hop around the island

Instead of spending all your time and money at the Lazy Lizard, I recommend checking out some of the other bars around Caye Caulker.

It’s also valuable to know that you can go into any of the supermarkets and simply buy an individual beer. The front counters all have bottle openers and then when you return that bottle, you get a discount on the next one.

You can take them and sit in most areas on the beach as long as it’s not private or part of a restaurant.

That being said, there are tons of other great bars on Caye Caulker worth exploring. 

Some of my favorites:

  • Sip n Dip – way better than the Lazy Lizard, way more relaxed, and special offers on buckets of beer!
  • Swings – as the name suggests, the bar doesn’t have bar stools, but swings. The drinks are delicious and they do really good food as well.
  • Bambooze Beach Bar and Grill – There are seats right on the beach so you can sip your beers with your toes in the sand.
in a hammock at sip n sip

Enjoying a nice cold beer on a hammock at Sip n’ Dip!

8. Visit in time for Caye Caulker Lobster Fest

Caye Caulker is famous for lobster. However, you CANNOT get lobster year-round in Belize. 

You will only find these delicious critters on the menu in Caye Caulker between June and February. By February, they will be far more expensive than they were in June and July.

If you want to plan your trip around some fun, be sure to check out the dates for Lobster Fest in Caye Caulker. It’s a fun (and free to attend) festival with lots of delicious food, beach parties, live music concerts, and pageants. There are also various contests revolving around food, drink, and family games.

Caye Caulker Lobster Fest is held annually in July. It usually lasts around three days and accommodation does get booked up. Unfortunately, this is the wettest month in Caye Caulker so you’ll need to weigh up your priorities. 

9. Feed the tarpon

Hand-feeding the giant fish known as the “silver king” is one of the most unique things to do in Caye Caulker. The dock is located on the west coast of the island at the end of Calle la Posa. There are several women selling buckets of sardines for 5 BZD ($2.50 USD) that you can then throw to the tarpon. 

The vendors will also give you some pointers about how to feed the tarpon without losing a finger. It’s good fun and great to even just watch if you prefer not to actually feed the fish.

10. Take a day trip to San Pedro

It’s worth spending a couple of nights in Caye Caulker and a couple in San Pedro in Ambergris Caye. However, you can always just visit the larger island for a day. There are far more things to do in San Pedro, Belize, and it only takes 30 minutes to get there by boat. 

San Pedro has far better beaches than Caye Caulker so do pack your beach gear and snorkel mask.

Secret Beach is a mission to get to but it’s worth it for a couple of hours of sand and sunshine – you’ll need to have a taxi drop you there or rent a golf cart. You can also visit a floating tiki bar and sip a cocktail while bobbing around in the Caribbean Sea.

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