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, tons of great places to eat in Caye Caulker and tons of amazing Caye Caulker hotels to enjoy (and hostels, too if you’re on a budget, like many backpackers in this region are).
In this article, you’ll find information about minor things that you’ll want to know, the best things to do in Caye Caulker, the top places to eat and drink, and finally, the best hotels and hostels in Caye Caulker.
I hope this helps organize your trip and as always, feel free to ask further questions in the comments.
What to Know About Caye Caulker
Before arriving on Caye Caulker, there are a few things you may want to know.
1. There are no paved roads.
There are no cars, but hiring a bike is a great way to get around.
There are lots of potholes. I fell in one and still have the scar to remind me of it (I was a few rum coconuts deep, but worth knowing anyway).
The roads aren’t quite made of sand. It’s more of a clay-like substance.
This means that when it rains, the roads are terrible, especially for the cheap bicycles that you can rent on the island.
Some of the roads away from the main three are nearly unpassable. This is worth knowing in case you book yourself into a place that is off the beaten path and it is summertime (June-September) aka wet season in this part of the world.
2. There are three streets: Front Street, Middle Street, and Back Street.
Front street is the one closest to the beach and where you’ll find most of the grocery stores, waterfront hotels and hostels, the ferry on and off the island, and the best barbecue spots.
Middle Street is where you’ll find cheaper restaurants and take-out spots as well as some more cheaper Airbnbs and hotels.
Back Street is the third street furthest from the waterfront and has more restaurants and a lot more houses.
Obviously, these are not the only three streets on the island. They are just the ones where you’ll spend the most time.
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 actually called Hicao. Middle Street is called Langosta, and Back Street is called Mangle.
3. English is the main language, but you won’t hear it spoken amongst the locals
The official language of Belize is English. It’s what language you go to school in and what language you speak if you walk into a government office.
Belize was a British colony until the 80s and you’ll still see Queen Elizabeth’s face on all of their currency.
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 and on the island they tend to speak Creole to each other.
There is also a huge population of people in Belize that speak Spanish, so you’ll likely hear plenty of people speaking Spanish to each other while you’re on Caye Caulker.
Other widely spoken languages in Belize that you may hear on Caye Caulker include Chinese (especially in all of the grocery stores) and different dialects of Mayan.
4. 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 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 refund and they will call the police.
5. Lobster Season
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 and 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 festival with lots of delicious food.
6. 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 live in a huge city (Mexico City) and I grew up in New York. I am used to the odd bit of staring or even the over-the-top compliments that are usually harmless.
But here, it was a level that I’ve never experienced before. If I was in my bathing suit on the beach I was constantly being approached, EVEN with my boyfriend laying next to me on a towel.
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 walked down the street and headed out by myself some days when we were there and I wasn’t worried that I something would happen, as I mentioned, it didn’t matter whether I was by myself or with Luke, so why bother?
7. 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).
Things to Do in Caye Caulker
Of all the things to do in Caye Caulker, my favorites all include getting out on the water.
1. Take a Caye Caulker Snorkeling Trip
Snorkeling is one of the most sought after things to do in Caye Caulker, and for good reason.
The second-largest reef network in the world after the Great Barrier Reef, is the Belize Barrier Reef.
The Belize Barrier Reef is more than 180 miles long (290 KM) and it’s only about 10 minutes by boat off of the coast of Caye Caulker.
There are literally dozens of tour companies that you’ll find along Front Street and all of them have price-fixed, so if you find a company that you are happy with, you don’t have to worry that someone else on the street is charging less.
When I visited (2019),
The half-day tours include all the snorkeling gear that you need. Usually, they bring some water, but I recommend bringing some of your own because in my experience it wasn’t enough and they tend to use these horrible plastic bags.
Most companies will remind you, but if they don’t please do not wear sunscreen in the water, especially when swimming around the reef.
Sunscreen messes with the water’s pH balance and can kill the reefs nevermind harm the beautiful animals that live in it. Instead, consider wearing water-shirts to cover yourself and avoid sunburn.
The usual stops on the tour include a huge part of the reef where you can swim through it and see colorful fish and nearly as colorful reef as well as an area where there are tons of sharks that you can swim with.
Depending on the time of day and time of year, you may also get to stop and see the manatee sanctuary where these silly animals float around in total peace.
2. Eat All the Food
Of all the places I traveled 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 then 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, which is just a little stand on a side street off of Front Street and Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks, which is a shop with a window where you order and then wait outside along with everyone else.
Skip the coffee at those spots, it’s dreadful. The one and only place on the island for a great cup of coffee is Ice and Beans Cafe. Their doughnuts are also outrageously delicious.
For lunch, walk along Front street to have some fresh barbecued seafood or jerk chicken. If you are walking towards the Split with the water on your right, you’ll find a row of four or five 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, be sure to have more seafood at Dee N’ D’s. It is by far the best fresh seafood restaurant that I ate at on the island.
3. Rent Bikes
The island of Caye Caulker is actually much bigger than the little town would lead you to believe.
The streets head south for quite a while and you can ride a bike almost all the way to the southern tip of the island.
Most of the grocery stores along Front Street have bike rentals as do a few of the snorkel shops near the Split. You usually pay either hourly (about $2USD per hour) or for the half or full day. It shouldn’t be more than $10USD for a full-day bike rental.
4. 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. Head to 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 definitely 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.
5. Bar Hop
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.
- Margarita Mikes – Another place with little swings on the beach to sit and watch the waves (and the people of course).
6. Dive the Great Blue Hole (or fly over it)
If you know how to dive, head out with one of the local dive schools to the Great Blue Hole.
The Great Blue Hole is an enormous marine sinkhole where you can dive without ever seeing the bottom.
It’s part of the Belize Barrier Reef that I mentioned above, but isn’t really something that you can get the full scale of if you simply snorkel it.
In fact, the best way to truly see the enormity of the sinkhole is to fly above it.
There are several companies that offer helicopter or small plane fly-overs so that you can see not only the Great Blue Hole, but a vast expanse of the reef in which is sits amongst.
This tour option leaves from San Pedro, the neighboring island that you can reach by ferry.
7. Take the Ferry North to We’Yu
While most of the things to do in Caye Caulker are on the southern island, there is a whole other island north of the Split that you can sort of explore.
You can either rent a kayak and kayak across the split, or you can take the free ferry.
The ferry drops you off at We’Yu Hotel.
While it may indeed be a really great place to stay for your whole trip, it’s also a really great little bar to enjoy some time and water without all of the crowds.
You can simply sit on their beachfront chairs and order drinks and food or you can hire a paddleboard. The water on this side of the island is incredibly calm.
When the island gets busy, the hotel sets up water games in the calm waters and you can jump off of water trampolines or do a water obstacle course.
On some nights of the week, they even have a DJ on the beach so you can dance the night away. If you do come here for a good party, be sure not to kayak and take the free ferry instead.
Caye Caulker Hotels
There are a decent amount of Caye Caulker hotels, but even during low season, the island tends to get booked up pretty well in advance.
I visited in August and I still had trouble finding a good place to stay when I was trying to book things back in June.
So be sure to book your Caye Caulker hotels at least two to three months in advance, and even earlier if you plan to come in November, December or January.
These are the best hotels that I found while hotel hopping around Caye Caulker.
- Sophie’s Guestrooms – This one is on the west side of the island, which means amazing sunsets. It’s a small little guesthouse with only a few rooms and plenty of privacy and it’s so lovely and quiet here at night.
- Sea n’ Sun Guesthouse – This is a great budget Caye Caulker hotel option. If you don’t want to stay in a hostel, but don’t want to spend too much, the rooms here are clean and comfortable. It’s off of the main streets, so it’s quite quiet as well. Rooms start at $45 per night. Book a stay here.
- The Novelo – This is an ideal option for those that want to be a bit away from the downtown action and have amazing views of the ocean. The owners here couldn’t be nicer and the rooms are cute and affordable. Rooms start at $60 a night. Book a stay here.
- Chapito’s Apartments – This is a private accommodation that offers full apartments if you want to self-cater or simply just have a bit more space than a hotel room. There are three or four places to choose from. Book a stay here.
- Island Magic Beach Resort – This is without a doubt one of the nicer places to stay on the island. Caye Caulker isn’t known for big, fancy resorts, but they are slowly starting to crop up on the island. If you want a little bit more luxury than what the guesthouses are offering, this is where you’ll want to stay. Book here.
Caye Caulker Hostels
If you are really on a budget or you want to meet other travelers while you’re on the island, there are several Caye Caulker hostels that you may want to check out.
- Wild Panther’s Guesthouse: Here you’ll find four-person dorm rooms with beds starting at about $15 per night depending on when you plan to visit. It’s clean, but simple and just on the edge of the main part of town, so quite quiet as well. Book a bed here.
- Traveler’s Palm Backpackers Hostel: if you want to meet people and enjoy plenty of nightlife, this is a great hostel option. It’s also one of the most affordable options with beds starting around $10 a night. Book here.
- Bella’s Backpackers: This is one of the highest-rated Caye Caulker hostels, so head here for great rooms, nice people, and a good balance of meeting other travelers while also getting some sleep. Book a stay here.
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