Caye Caulker is a paradise island in the Caribbean Sea, just outside Belize City. The tiny island has an extremely relaxed atmosphere as everything is totally laid back and the island is car free. Caye Caulker is known to be quite expensive, but compared to other “paradise islands” in Central America (like Isla Mujeres and Roatan), I did not find this island particularly expensive – as long as you keep your budget in mind. I love spending time in the Caribbean Sea – so many of my favourite places are out here. One of my friends recently moved to Dominica so I was tempted to get a flight to see her. There are so many benefits of citizenship in Dominica, I was tempted to make the move myself! As for my trip though, here are my recommendations on how to explore Caye Caulker on a budget.
What to do in Caye Caulker
Some people may tell you that Caye Caulker is boring – nothing is happening here. The island’s slogans are “Go slow” and “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”. Vilde, my travel buddy, was even told by a local that she had to walk slower when she rushed a bit! In other words; the atmosphere in Caye Caulker is very relaxed. But that does not mean it is boring – at least not if you only stay for a few days or a week. Because, the main activity you should do when visiting Caye Caulker is to relax and enjoy the peaceful life here.
Even though Caye Caulker is a paradise island, there are no beaches here. For many, that may be a big drawback, but I did not consider it as a problem as there are many spots to both tan and swim around the island. The major spot is The Split, on the northern end of Caye Caulker. The Lazy Lizard bar is located here, but you do not have to buy anything to use the swimming area.
Just next to the Split you will find Sip’n’Dip, which is about the coolest bar I have ever been to! The bar is located on the water, connected to the shore by a small bridge. If you buy a drink or some food, you can basically just chill here all day (and the drinks are quite cheap as they have 2 for 1 most of the day). The bar has swings, huge swim rings and hammocks that are located IN the water, available for all guests. Can you understand why I loved this place?!
The reef outside Caye Caulker is the second biggest in the world (after The Great Barrier Reef). To explore this, you have to go on a tour. The prices for snorkeling tours are quite steep: a full day for 140BZD and a half-day for 70BZD. These prices are fixed and thus the same everywhere on the island. We were lucky as we got to know the owner of a tour company, and got a full day trip (even more, as we spent a few hours fishing and just sailing around after the trip finished) for a discounted price. The tours may include different spots, so do your research before booking. I found snorkeling in Belize amazing and better than most other places I have been (that includes scuba diving in the great barrier reef). We snorkeled among more than 50 sharks, saw dozens of stingrays, a huge sea turtle and the best of all; a manatee (which is quite rare, so we were lucky!). The only disappointment was the absence of colorful reefs and fishes, but this is what you see everywhere else, so I did not care much about that after seeing sharks, stingrays and a manatee! Even though a snorkeling tour may be rough on your budget, it is a must-do!
The island is small and you can walk around it and explore everything in a couple of hours. The picturesque main streets are filled with cute, colorful houses, and all the streets are made by sand. Go outside the main streets as well – walk along the “beach” on both sides of the island. For example, we found a hidden spot with huge fishes that were very visible because of the clear water, and another place where we could see sea horses and pelicans. Walk up to the southern end of the island and explore the “jungle” as well!
On the main strip (near Rainbow restaurant) there is a small animal shelter for dogs and cats, runned all alone by a man named Kenny. He covers all the expenses himself and is depending on donations to make it go around. Travellers are more than welcome to stop by, either to donate, adopt or just play and cuddle with the animals. When we stopped by there were 29 cats and 8 dogs living in the shelter, and they were all excited to see us and nearly jumped on us to get our attention. For an animal lover like me, this place is like heaven! I absolutely recommend to stop by this shelter for a free and great experience.
Visit Koko King, an idyllic beach located on the north island of Caye Caulker. You need to take a few minutes long boat trip to get here – either take the official boat that leaves about twice an hour or hitch hike with some locals. We did both and never paid anything (even though we were told that the official boat costs money, but we never saw anyone pay). There is a restaurant and a bar on site (open both day and evening) as well as sunbeds, swings and various beach activities. Koko King is simply a beach paradise that must be visited!
Where to eat cheap in Caye Caulker
As mentioned, Caye Caulker is not a cheap island. Eating out often costs 20BZD or more, but there are some cheaper options:
-Street food is not the easiest to find on the island, but the few places that exists offer great and cheap food. Near the basket ball court there are a few places open from around 17.00 to 23.30. I recommend the Mexican stall selling tasty quesedillas for 7BZD (big enough to share!). Near Bella’s Backpackers, there is a stall called Jenny’s To Go Food that opens early in the morning and closing around 14.00. Try their fry jacks, a local dish (fried tortillas, I loved the one filled with eggs, cheese, beans and ham). The prices are from 2BZD to 5BZD. Perfect for breakfast or lunch!
– If you prefer to eat in a restaurant, go to Meldy’s. The items on the menu are priced from 10BZD and up. Their 12BZD burritos are delicious and huge (sharing one between two people is more than enough).
– The Chinese Fastfood spots located around the main strip are cheap and can give you a full meal for 8BZD.
If your budget allows it, Caye Caulker will be like heaven for sea food lovers! The lobster season starts June 15th (guess who left the 14th…) and should not be missed.
Where to drink and party in Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a place with loads of young people, and despite its small size it is a good place to party.
– Alcohol may be expensive on the island. A beer in a bar is usually 6BZD, and a drink can be as much as 18BZD! However, you can buy a liter of rum for 15 or a beer for 3 in the supermarket. Enjoy a home made drink on the beach while meeting locals doing the same thing!
– Happy hour is a big thing on the island. Most bars have 2 for 1 prices in the afternoon, and some places even have it all day.
– Local rum based drinks are often priced 2 for 6 or 7BZD (the rum punch is amazing in the heat).
– Sports Bar is the major party spot – ignore its name, this is the place you go to dance, not only to watch the big games. Both locals and tourists seem to love this spot.
– Reggea Bar is another party spot, which is open later than Sports Bar and therefor is the place to go when the Sports Bar closes.
– Sip’n’Dip is a bar on the water (open from around 11 to 19) is, as mentioned above, one of the coolest bars I have ever seen and deserves to be mentioned one more time.
Where to stay in Caye Caulker
Accommodation is expensive in Caye Caulker. There are a few hostels, but guest houses are the big thing on the island. We stayed at Mara’s Place, which is such a lovely spot facing the beach near The Split (not the cheapest option – hostel dorms would be much cheaper). Sip’n’Dip, my favorite bar on the island, is actually located here as well. The accommodation consisits of a few small wooden houses painted in different colors, all with their own hammock in the front. Only minus is no A/C, but except from that I loved this place and its location!
How to get to Caye Caulker
The easiest way to get to Caye Caulker is to take the boat from Belize City, which can be reached by international flights or buses in the region. We took the bus from Tulum, a 7-8 hours long bus ride leaving twice a day. It is recommended to take an official taxi from the airport/bus station to the ferry terminal as it may not be safe to walk around as a foreigner in Belize City.
From Belize City, there are two companies that can take you to the Island: Watertaxi and Ocean Ferry. Remember to check their schedule as the boat does not leave very frequent (e.g. the last boat leaves at 17.30). The price for a round trip is 50BZD.
From Belize City, after our visit to Caye Caulker, we took the bus to Flores in Guatemala. It takes about 5 hours, goes twice a day (11.00 and 13.15 if I am not wrong) and a ticket costs 50BZD.
In cooperation with momondo
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