A small island off the coast of Belize is the obvious choice for a bit of relaxation. But what is there to do in Caye Caulker other than lazing around in a hammock all day? Well in this Caye Caulker travel guide I’m going to tell you about everything you need to know to plan a great trip.
The islands “Go Slow” motto will have you hooked in no time. In fact, if you haven’t come to Caye Caulker to visit the Blue Hole in Belize it can be quite easy to forget any need to explore at all. But there are some great things to do in Caye Caulker that a lot of visitors miss.
While it’s not as flashy as it’s big brother, Ambergris Caye to the north with its pristine beaches and 5-star resorts, Caye Caulker has a laid back charm that appeals to many. No to mention an abundance of delicious cafes and restaurants, and happy hour deals that make getting off of that hammock almost worth it!
The island became a lot smaller after hurricane Hattie tore through it in 1961. The villagers dug out a channel for canoes following the storm damage to the center of the island. But it has since eroded into a 20-foot deep channel splitting the island into two.
Now many just visit the southern part of the island as the north is much less developed. Although not large there is plenty of things to do in Caye Caulker.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that us travelers should be prepared for anything.
Travel insurance has always been high on my list of things to organize before I travel but now more than ever it’s at the top of my list.
I’m pretty sure we have all had travel plans messed up because of COVID and not all insurers covered this. So you need to find an insurer that covers travel disruption due to COVID-19, World Nomads, Safety Wing, or Travel Insurance Master are the ones to go for.
World Nomads is great for incidents that happen prior to your trip, so if you get sick or are unable to travel due to travel restrictions some of their policies will cover that as cancellation cover.
Safety Wing goes the extra mile and covers quarantine outside your home for up to 10 days, they also have a really handy map on their website showing requirements and restrictions for each country.
I also use Travel Insurance Master for some short vacation-type trips as they are cheaper than World Nomads a lot of the time.
If you are doing shorter trips or a longer backpacking trips then WorldNomads or Travel Insurance Master are the best options. If you are a digital nomad or planning travel of at least 6 months then go for SafetyWing.
Dive on the world’s second-largest barrier reef. The Meso American Reef stretches over 1000 km’s from Mexico to Honduras. It has some of the clearest water and most abundant marine life on the planet and is a must for an avid diver. Lighthouse Atoll is one of the most popular dive sites from Caye Caulker but there is an endless amount to choose from. Blue Sea Diving and Frenchie’s Diving offer experienced divemasters and well-maintained equipment starting from $110 for two dives.
The Blue Hole is at the top of almost every divers bucket list. At 300m across and 125m deep, it’s one of the most impressive sights in the ocean. It’s not cheap though with trips costing around 450 BZD for a three-tank dive, not including the park entrance fee. If you aren’t a diver you can tag along on the 2-hour boat ride to snorkel the Blue Hole for around 120 BZD. But the best way to see this impressive natural wonder and the surrounding coral reefs is by air. It’s a sight not to be missed.
If you have more time to spend in Caye Caulker, there are plenty of companies offering multi-day sailing and snorkel trips. Most include a BBQ on the beach and a stay on uninhabited paradise islands. Prices generally start at 800 BZD per person.
There is a 100-acre forest reserve in Caye Caulker to explore. Here you will find red, black, and white mangroves along with birds, sea life, and plants all accessible by kayak.
Wish Willys is one of the most authentic restaurants on Caye Caulker and something of a local institution. Wish Willy, or Maurice Moore, was born in Belize but moved to Chicago to become a chef. He returned to the island to start his very own restaurant serving up fresh seafood straight from the Caribean sea. It’s best described as having a BBQ in your friend’s backyard if your friend has large dreadlocks and his backyard is a paradise island.
The Split is the place to be on the island. Although it can be busy it’s a beautiful spot to grab a deckchair or towel and go for a swim. Make sure to swim in the protected sea pool or shallow areas to avoid the strong currents. Head to the Lazy Lizard at happy hour to make the most of the discounts, as the drinks can be pricey compared to other places on the island.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley are popular boat trips from Caye Caulker. Snorkel trips don’t disappoint with big sightings like loggerhead turtles, southern stingrays and nurse sharks in abundance. Highly endangered Manatees also hang around the waters here, nursing their young in the protected sea gardens. Half-day trips to see the manatee reserve in a responsible way can cost around 75 BZD.
Koko King lies on the untouched north side of the island. It’s one of the few true sandy beaches on Caye Caulker with a resort-like vibe, a fully stocked international bar and Full Moon parties. You can even stay overnight if the drinks are a bit too free-flowing for the returning boat ride. There are no roads here but you can get a free water taxi from the main island, which picks people up every hour at the dock at the end of Calle de Sol Road.
Live your best life by hopping on to a day trip on a catamaran cruise. Explore protected marine reserves, swim in crystal clear waters and relax on deck with a cocktail in hand. Find a great deal by asking around the stalls in town the night before and spend the whole of the next day in luxury soaking up the rays.
If you’ve had enough of all that relaxing, why not try something a little different? There couldn’t be a more perfect place to try paddleboarding, with tranquil waters and wildlife to spot around every corner. Rentals start at 26 BZD for one hour or take a group lesson with Reef Break Surf Shop, 40 BZD for 2hours.
Caye Caulker is a small island in Belize situated in Central America. Belize shares borders with Guatemala, Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. The official language in Belize is English, although Spanish is also widely spoken.
The currency in Caye Caulker is the Belize Dollar (BZD)
The dialing code of Belize is +501
The water may not be safe to drink from the tap in most places in Belize, however, you will find filtered water in most places to fill up your water bottle.
Make sure to use a reputable company when viewing the wildlife around the Cayes. Many operations feed the nurse sharks from the boats, which isn’t really necessary as there are plenty of sharks to see.
Plastic pollution is also a huge issue here, with tourist boats contributing to the problem.
Do your research and only support tourism companies that are environmentally conscious.
Backpackers Budget – $81 BZD ($40USD)
Accommodation: $15 USD
Food: $15 USD
Activities & Transport: $20 USD
Mid Budget – $215 BZD ($108 USD)
Accommodation: $50 USD
Food: $30 USD
Activities & Transport: $32 USD
Luxury Budget – $450 BZD ($225 USD)
Accommodation: $87 USD
Food: $50 USD
Activities & Transport: $92 USD
If there’s one reason to come to Caye Caulker it’s the food and there are plenty of Caye Caulker restaurants to choose from.
Although Belize has a fantastic mix of Creole, American, Spanish and African cuisine, eating in Caye Caulker is something special. It’s popularity with tourists and the idyllic location has led it to be a bit of a mecca for ex-pat chefs and restaurants. Not to mention the superb locals serving up some of the most delicious Belizean food money can buy.
Meldy’s fried chicken is the one thing I’d repeatedly heard about Belize in the months leading up to our first visit. My partner had visited 5 years earlier and raved about this lady’s beach shack. “The best fried chicken in the world” he had claimed. When we found Meldy had moved her operation to her house due to popular demand we knew we had to find it. Once you are past the bouncers (a small pack of her dogs), take a seat on Meldy’s front porch for some of the best home cooking you are ever likely to have. There isn’t a menu, you’ll just get invited to go and have a look in her kitchen to see what’s in. Possibly some of the best fried chicken around.
Fran’s is another one of those lovely locals who just wants to feed you up and maybe even get you slightly toasted too. Homemade Jerk chicken, mash, and all you can drink fresh coconut rum on the beach for 15 BZD. Who could say no? The island is most famous though for fresh seafood, especially lobster. Get a whole lobster at Enjoy Restaurant and Bar for just 20 Belizean dollars. If you time it just right and come at the end of fishing season in February, cheap lobster is available everywhere. If you are a big fan of the crustacean come in July for Lobsterfest. The festival celebrating all things lobster includes music, contests, cocktails, and even lobster ice cream.
Head to Ice and Beans for the best coffee on the island. It’s a great place to read a book and lounge around on the hammocks all day. The mini doughnuts aren’t so bad either. Yummy Yummy is the place to go for mouthwatering Asian food. It’s also probably the cheapest place to eat in Caye Caulker and a mainstay for backpackers. With a chicken burger costing less than 6 BZD and a BYOB policy, you certainly can’t complain.
If you want to know where to get breakfast in Caye Caulker there really is only one option. Errolyn’s House of Fryjacks. Eggs, beans, ham, cheese and chicken in any combination inside a huge fried breakfast bap for around 4 BZD.
If fried isn’t your thing Suggestion Gourmet is a restaurant/bakery serving croissants and fresh baguettes. The French chef/owner had many job offers from Michelin star restaurants, which he rejected every time with the announcement: “I prefer to work in peace on a tropical island”. Can’t say I blame him.
Belize isn’t known as a budget-friendly backpacker destination, and Caye Caulker is even more expensive than the mainland. But there are some ways you can save money in Caye Caulker if you are careful.
Meals cost anywhere between $4 and $20 depending on whether you eat local or at international restaurants. If you want to stick to the lower end of this then eat street food. Street food in Caye Caulker is cheap and delicious.
A hostel should cost around $15-$25 per night, while a double room in a hotel comes in between $40 to $100 a night. Air BnBs are also a great option, at around $25 a night depending on the location.
The Belizean dollar is tied with the USD at a rate of 2:1. Although many places take USD it’s always best to have local currency if you want to get the best prices.
Caye Caulker can be more expensive than mainland Belize, with the abundance of great food on offer and interesting activities that can eat into your budget.
It is, however, a very relaxed island and so if you want to enjoy the island without spending a lot of money then simply get into the island way of life sunbathe, make the most of happy hour, and eat local food.
There are many supermarkets down Avenida Hicaco. There is just about everything you could want here, with plenty of American and British imports (including Salad Cream and chocolate digestives!). There is no need to stock up before coming to the island unless you want to save some money on basics of course.
The exception is bringing cash. There is a bank (Atlantic Bank) with a 24 hour ATM on the island and a couple of exchange places operating out of hotels. But it’s best to bring cash with you as there is only one machine; if it breaks that’s it, not many places will take a credit card.
If you are looking for Cay Caulker accommodation for backpackers, there are some great options for hostels in town. The most famous being Dirty McNasty’s hostel, run by a lovely couple the atmosphere is super friendly. Best of all for just $10 a night you get free rum punch and breakfast! Juan In A Million is also a great option at just $13 a night for a dorm. It has a great bar, a nice restaurant downstairs, and a cool area to relax with hammocks, etc.
If you want something a bit nicer and are looking for Caye Caulker hotels then Vista Del Mar Guesthouse ($50 per night for a double room) is a great central option. It’s also far enough away from the noise of the bars and nightlife. With large, clean double rooms, studio apartments, a communal kitchen, balcony, and beach hammocks it’s the perfect place to spend a week or two.
For something a bit more out of the way, there’s Jungle Cocoon. At $98 per night for two people sharing, it’s a little dearer than the other options. But it’s a hidden slice of paradise in the secluded southern part of the island near the airport. The owner is a renowned french chef, who handily owns a top-notch bakery right next to the hotel called Suggestion Gourmet.
Many people travel to Caye Caulker as part of the “Gringo Backpacker Trail” through Central America, often coming down from the beautiful Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.
Traveling from Tulum to Caye Caulker can be a bit of a long day if you’re planning to avoid an overnight stop in Belize City. Getting from Tulum to Caye Caulker by public bus takes around 10 hours, costing US$80 for 2 people.
Taking the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker, stopping at the border, takes around 12 hours costing $145 for two. The bus is a lot cheaper but doesn’t have the comfort of the ferry and is definitely the path less trodden, with mainly just locals on the very slow, and very hot, chicken buses.
From Belize City, you can travel to Caye Caulker by ferry or by air. From Belize City take the Belize Water Taxi or Ocean Ferry Belize to Caye Caulker. Check each site to match your schedule, but both cost around 25 BZD one way and take 45 minutes.
Book your transport from Belize City to Caye Caulker through GuateGo here.
Return trips are discounted but allow flexibility in case you want to stay for a few extra days. There are two airlines that fly to Caye Caulker, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air costing around 150 BZD one way from the domestic or international airport.
If you are traveling from Guatemala just take the bus to Belize City. You can book your travel from Guatemala to Belize City through GuateGo here.
Golf carts are the way to get around on this small roadless island, with many offering a taxi service from the port area. Bikes are also a fantastic way to explore and can be rented easily on the island from 10 BZD.
Kayaks can also be rented from 20 BZD per hour. But the number one way how to get around on Caye Caulker is by foot. Take the island’s “Go Slow” approach to life and take in the natural beauty that surrounds you. People are extremely friendly and there is little hassle for tourists, unlike other places in Central America.
There isn’t really a bad time to visit Caye Caulker. Although peak season from October to April can be a little more expensive and busy, it’s still a colorful, relaxed and friendly place to visit any time of year. English speaking Belize is such a great place to visit in Central America, but surprisingly not that touristy so make sure you get here before everyone else does. Bring your filtered water bottle to help cut down on plastic pollution, grab some delicious street food, and don’t miss out on all of the best things to do in Caye Caulker.
A Brit that got fed up of the 9 to 5 corporate life, Jo sold everything to become a full-time wanderer. Having travelled to over 70 countries, Jo shares her money-saving tips and secrets from inside the travel industry through her site Lost Wanders. Hoping to inspire you to work less and travel more.
See more of Belize from Lost Wanders on Instagram.