Caye Caulker is special. Perhaps it’s the bicycle friendly, sandy dirt roads or the local motto “go slow” seen everywhere on hand painted signs reminding you to take it down ten notches. Or perhaps it is that it’s a small, less overrun, but incredibly colorful and cheerful little island that makes it feel very welcoming and will have you scheming on how to live here permanently as some seem to do. One thing is for sure, right now it’s a very charming place to land for a few days.
It seems there are many weathered hostels and guest houses in town and clearly a mix between a back packer vibe and a global, retiree vibe. You will meet people here from all over the world, but Belize seems to be most popular with Canadians, Australians, Europeans and Americans escaping winter.
Again there are no swimmable beaches really. Most are covered with murky sea grass, but people seem to hang at the end of piers and attempt to swim in the bluer waters further out. The most popular place to swim is an area called “the split” at the end of town, but they were doing construction in the area during our stay. The best way to enjoy the water was on a snorkel tour.
Although you can walk or bike clear across the island in a few minutes, it seems to have quite a few special cafes and restaurants hidden in its nooks and crannies that are surprising. We stayed at the lovely Iguana Reef Inn that has big, comfortable rooms, and a refreshing pool and patio. There is a dock in the back of the hotel that has a seahorse ranch attached to its side where you can view brown and chartreuse colored sea horses hanging around old boat ropes. The dock faces West for beautiful sunsets and calm waters to canoe or paddle board. Yachts and catamarans like to park off shore in the protected harbor. It faces west, so it’s a nice place to catch a beautiful sunset every night.
The Iguana Inn offers bicycles to get around and canoes for free use. They do not have a restaurant or water sports, but this forced us to explore more of the town which was fun. There is not much in town but a few shops, convenience stores, food shacks and some cute seafood restaurants and cafes.
The Pelican Italian restaurant was a surprise treat. Normally we would not eat Italian food unless traveling in Italy, but this restaurant was so beautiful we had to check it out. They have a large, raised outdoor deck to dine under the stars and delicious food.
Rose’s restaurant is famous for showcasing their catch of the day on the street where you can pick what you’d like to eat and they will grill it for you on the spot. We shared a huge porgy fish, grilled perfectly with some garlic butter sauce.
Habaneros restaurant has a swanky little bar inside and an outdoor deck overlooking the street. Delicious coconut crusted snapper and shrimp. They also make Indian and Thai fusion dishes.
Keep wandering and eventually you are bound to find even more. There are a few little shops selling conch shells, fresh coconuts, hand made jewelry and crafts. An Internet cafe and plenty of places offering tours. You can rent equipment for water sports and anything your heart desires most likely if you ask around.
A trip to the Cayes is incomplete without getting in the water at some point. We took a snorkel trip with Ragamuffin Tours on a really weathered, wooden sailboat. They took us out to the local Caulker Reef to three spots which included a nurse shark and sting ray feeding session and ended with a tour at a deep, large and beautiful Reef. Equally as beautiful as Hol Chan, but way, way less crowded. Loved it! Highly recommend.
Ragamuffin tours also do a 3 day / 2 night sailboat cruise along the cayes that stop overnight on some private islands. Looks amazing. Next time we may have to try it. You can also book tours all over Belize from local tour companies on the island if you want to venture further afield for the day to see caves and Mayan ruins or other areas moving onward.
Caye Caulker can be reached by tiny propeller plane with Tropic Air (15 min flight around $80 USD) or you can take a cab from the airport to Belize City water taxi / ferry docks (half hour ride, $25.) and take a ferry to Caye Caulker (45 minutes to an hour ride, around $20.) Everything is walking distance from the pier but you can use a golf cart taxi if you have a lot of bags.