|Waterfront of Caye Caulker, Belize|
Northern Belize. Caye Caulker is an island off the Belize coast just south of Mexico. Belize (the country) is about six hours (via car) from Cancun and on the Atlantic coast.
You're a diving or snorkeling fiend. You love ocean breezes, chill vibes, Rastafarian culture, or you're a seafood fan.
What To Expect
A low-key town with plenty of good seafood eats, chill Rastafarian bars, palms swinging in the breeze close to a sparkling ocean. Zero beaches -- people come here to dive/snorkel, not to hit the sand. With the famed Blue Hole, dizzying array of marine life, and a gorgeous barrier reef nearby you won't care. Prices in Caye Caulker are cheaper than Ambergris Caye and the vibe is less touristy. Still, shit is more expensive than on the mainland and much costlier than nearby Honduras and Guatemala.
When To Go
I went in September which is low season, If you want rock bottom prices and little tourist traffic it's pretty much perfect. Caye Caulker hotels and tour companies will be much happier to lower their prices. The only catch is that it's err hurricane season but if you don't mind some intermittent rain (I didn't) it's great. Lonely Planet recommends going to Belize from December to May, which is the dry season (ex-peensssiiive) or May to June when it's a bit rainy but prices are lower.
|The waterfront in Caye Caulker, Belize|
Save yourself the researching headache I incurred in trying to figure out how to get to this %$#* island. Here's how I did it:
- I recommend flying into Cancun, Mexico to take advantage of bargain sun vacation flights. Flights to Belize City, at least on my watch, are crazysuperexpensive.
- Take the ADO bus to downtown Cancun (costs about $5 USD). Switch to an ADO bus that goes direct to Chetumal, Mexico (takes about six hours and costs around $30 USD. Bring a sweater! OMG it's cold!).
- Take a taxi to the waterfront terminal (should cost less than $5 USD).
- You can either take the Belize Water Taxi or the San Pedro Water Taxi water taxis to Caye Caulker (costs about $40 USD and takes around three hours). You will go through immigration (Mexico) at the waterfront terminal and again (Belize) at your hour long stopover in San Pedro (Ambergris Caye).
**OK this is very important, you will have to pay about $25 USD to leave Mexico. Some airlines include this in the cost of the flight. Scan your ticket very carefully and if you don't see the fee, call your airline to make sure. Then print out your proof of payment if applicable. I don't know how many people raged and roared about it being a scam when we got to the immigration office. Apparently it's a law and apparently you have to pay it so either figure out if your ticket includes this fee or cough it up. Those Mexican officials are just NOT going to let you through without paying it so please please please don't yell about it being a scam for half an hour. Thanks.
|The amazing Yuma's House in Caye Caulker.|
There's no contest, you have to stay at Yuma's House if you want a hotel in Caye Caulker. It's directly to the left of the water taxi docks. It's right on the water, there's a happening front yard with hammocks, palm trees, and sand, the bathrooms are clean, there's a kitchen and board games, free wifi, it's right by the town, and the price is nice (about $13.50 USD per night for a bed in a four person dorm or about $20 USD for a private room with a double bed).
If Yuma's is full, apparently Bella's is the back-up backpacker's choice.
Oh hello there delicious amazing seafood. How are you doing? We had the best meal of our trip at Roses Grill and Bar. A skewer of huge chunks of meaty fish and perfectly roasted veggies came with rice and salad plus amazing mango sauce. The patio had a good chill ambiance and there were moderately priced happy hour drinks. A bit expensive at about $15 USD but worth it.
We had breakfast at Amor y Cafe twice -- make sure to try the grilled ham, pineapple, and cheese sandwich (amazing bread!) or the french toast with fresh tropical fruit and chocolate sauce.
There are eight million seaside restaurants on Front Street in Caye Caulker serving up lobster so shop around for the best rate. A whole lobster meal starts at $10 USD -- a bargain!
What To Do
If you dive obviously you'll want to do the Blue Hole. But if you're like me and you're not certified (yet!) snorkeling is probably just as fun. We booked at Hicaco Tours in Caye Caulker. The guide, Carlos, is GREAT.
He gets right in the water with you and points out anything and everything you'd want to see. We saw sharks, a manatee, sting rays, a lobster, giant turtles, schools of massive fish, and much more. For $45 USD we visited three sites (a reef, a shark area, and a manatee spotting site), were escorted about in a power boat, and had a very tasty traditional Belizian lunch. Carlos was so friendly and helpful in getting us accustomed to snorkeling (it was my first time).
What else ... there's a swimming spot in the north part of the island with a little seaside bar. I also recommend the very cool I&I bar which features live music, cheap drinks, and a very chill hammock/swing-filled rooftop patio.
|Delicious breakfast at Amor y Cafe in Caye Caulker, Belize|
Ez fine. On second thought, wear shorts and a T shirt when you go scuba diving or I promise you, no matter how much sunscreen you slather on, you will have a grade-A disgusting burn that will throb and peel for days (weeks?) afterwards. There is nothing quite like subjecting your aching burning back and butt to a bumpy chicken bus afterwards. Ez not fine.
Caye Caulker was my favorite spot in Belize. First of all, it's the only pretty town we visited (San Ignacio and Orange Walk were fugly). It's super tiny, the locals are friendly, and there's a huge variety of tasty restaurants. Yuma's House offers the perfect place to chill with a book, a beer, or a board game and forget about the world.
Finally, the snorkeling is so cheap, even for a full-day trip. Seeing the reef probably ranks as one of my favorite experiences yet -- while the coral itself is not brightly hued, the marine life is incredibly beautiful and varied. I kept making crazy excited noises through my snorkeling gear as I wildly pointed out one astounding fish after another ... and this lasted for hours. Money well spent. Bronwyn well happy. A good deal.
- Moon Belize: didn't use this but I love Moon books.
- Moon Spotlight Belize Cayes: Including Belize City: didn't use this but I love Moon books.
- Let's Go Guatemala & Belize: The Student Travel Guide: my friend had this. It's a good basic student guide for budget travelers but it wouldn't be my first go-to.
- Lonely Planet Central America on a shoestring 8th Ed.: 8th Edition: I use this as my general all-purpose guide. My edition is 10 years old so I can't speak to the hotel/restaurant recommendations but I count on it for the transportation advice.