You better Belize it!
Caye Caulker is the backpacker island off the Belize coast. Locals talk with a thick Caribbean accent and many have Rasta colours in their dreadlocks, they yell out the catch phrase of “Go Slow” to anyone deemed rushing or new on the island. Once on Caye Caulker soil island time kicks in and it’s time to relax. Walking from the Lazy Lizard at the split to the other end of the island is a 10min walk along the beachfront. Along the way fishermen fillet their catch which you can buy direct, before they sell to restaurants. The island is coconut tree covered and surrounded by an outer reef making the internal lagoon waters calm and warm. The barrier reef is the second largest in the world and remains 80% alive. The reef is sprawling with life from sea manatees to eagle rays and nurse sharks all of which you can snorkel with. The infamous blue hole is a two-hour boat cruise from the island, where keen divers explore the insides of the giant sinkhole. Caye Caulker has so much packed into such a small island. We could have spent weeks here.
Tulum to Belize City – $500 Mexican Pesos pp
It’s big old night bus time! Leaves at 12.45am and arrives 7.30am. At some point in the evening around 3am you clear through customs where you may become a target of some Mexican extortion. Keep yourself safe by having proof of your entry tax and your stamped FMN card. Your tax will be shown on your flight itinerary for when you arrived in Mexico, and the FMN is a part of the customs form that you must keep until you leave. The ‘officials’ will charge you $300Pesos for each document you are missing. Not what you want to deal with at 3am!
Belize City to Caye Caulker – $25US return trip pp
From the Belize bus station you can walk 10min to the port terminal although with luggage in the heat a taxi to the port is around $2bz – $3bz pp. From the port take the San Pedro Belize water taxi out to Caye Caulker, it is $25US return trip and you can use the return ticket at any time within the 3 months of purchasing it.
Caye Caulker, Belize to Flores, Guatemala – $15US pp
Once you arrive back to the ferry terminal in Belize City for budget you can get the San Juan shuttle bus. It doesn’t have a bathroom onboard but it does have A/C. We haggled the price down from $20US to $15US. Otherwise you can get a first class coach with bathroom, WIFI and A/C onboard for $25US.
Note – When passing the border to Guatemala you have to pay exit fee of $37.50BZ each. There is a card machine there if you do not have any cash on hand.
- Ignacio’s – $35BZ p/n for a double bed and single bed cabana
We totally recommend Ignacio’s! First impressions of Ignacio the owner are a little crazy and his accommodation matches that. But being the cheapest accommodation available on the Caye we stayed. After two days we had fallen in love with the funky stilted private rooms. They are 800m away from the ferry terminal, which is a long way on the small island but the incredible view from the balcony of the beachfront room collects the beautiful rising sun. Its super basic but does have WIFI. You won’t be able to book, just show up.
- Bella’s Hostel – $25BZ pp for a dorm bed
Upon arriving we organised 1 night accommodation at Bella’s. It is close to the town (even though the Island is small) and offers a friendly vibe to meet new travellers. Canoes and bikes are also free to use. We weren’t impressed with our dorm room as we felt like anyone who wasn’t staying in the room could walk in and out of it. We didn’t feel like our belongings were totally safe. It was also quite expensive for a dorm so we headed to Ignacio’s the next day and wished we stayed there from the start.
- Lobster – If you see a fisherman you can buy fresh lobster for roughly $12bz per pound. You can take your fresh lobster to the restaurants and they will cook it up for you, only charging for sides.
- Fish – Barracuda and snapper were the fish on everyone’s plates when we visited.
- Burritos – Street vendors in front of the basketball courts made delicious pork or chicken burritos with coleslaw. The chicken was our pick after trying both. For only $3bz each these are great for the budget. Why not take two?
- Ice n Beans – The Ice coffees are amazing and if you pop in for a look you can sample a hot fresh donut for free.
Terry’s Grill – A short walk around the corner from the Lazy Lizard takes you to Terry’s. He does the lobster and fish like everywhere but also does giant ribs and has all you can drink rum punch with your meal.
Aunties – For a cheap meal seek out Aunties in the chinatown area. Auntie’s does beans and rice with fried or stewed chicken with large portions for no more than $8BZ
Must see & do
- Jay’s Adventures – Raggamuffin is the main tour operator of the island. However we met Jay, he is a 22 year old captain who has just started running his own boat. He took us to Hol Chan marine reserve where sea life is everywhere. We snorkeled with a sea manatee, nursery sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, barracuda, moray eels, and some stunning coral formations. Jay was an expert guide who made our trip very special, he takes you through the coral pointing out all the different species and helping us avoid the dreaded fire coral. Once all was done and we were exhausted Jay brought out the rum punch for the way home. Its lots of fun with Jay and we totally recommend using his company.
Visit some animals at the Caye Caulker animal shelter. The owner, Ken fought against the Belize government to bring an end to poisoning stray dogs on the island. He adopted all the animals on the street and takes care of them in his home. He loves visitors and taking dogs for a walk is encouraged. If you have had enough you don’t need to bring the dog home either. They all know the way home to Kens.
- Go for a swim at the Lazy Lizard. When Hurricane Hattie in 1961 swept through the island it created a channel through the middle of the island. You can jump off the dock and snorkel the old sunken structures.
- Canoe around the island – Bella’s afforded us the opportunity to take a canoe out for the day to explore the island. We had a great laugh and tried our hand in vain at fishing.
- Dive the Blue hole. 2 hours away by sea lies the giant sinkhole, which filled with up with water after the last ice age. You can dive in and see stalactites and all kinds of marine life inside the hole.
Tips & Advice
- The currency is Belize Dollars
- Everywhere accepts US Currency if you’re short on Belize money. One US dollar is equal to two Belize Dollars
- During the night along the south beach on Caye Caulker, it can be an unsafe place. So be careful and stay in a group.
- Try to bargain with transport and accommodation, especially when in a group! We got a lot of good deals.
- Best time to see Sea Manatees is between May and October. So make sure you do a snorkelling tour then!
Helpful words and phrases
The national language in Belize is English, so it is easy to communicate with everyone.