Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Cork-er) is a small island East of Belize City and about 1 mile away from the Belize Barrier Reef. The motto of the island is “Go Slow” and in deciding where to go in Belize, we chose Caye Caulker because of its motto of “Go Slow” rather than Ambergris Caye, whose motto is “Go Fast.” The island is a sleepy, peaceful, laid back island of about 2,500 people.
How to get to Caye Caulker from Belize City
There are two options to get to Caye Caulker from Belize City- by boat or by flight. The boat options are about 30-45 minutes each (albeit, a further taxi from the airport to the ferry dock or vice versa is also needed). The two companies that provide this service are Belize Water Taxi ($18 one way, $28 round trip) and Ocean Ferry Belize ($15 one way, $25 round trip).
The easiest way to get to Caye Caulker, and the way we travelled between Belize City and Caye Caulker, is by flying. Again, there are two companies that provide this service- Maya Air and Tropic Air- we flew with Maya Air at $67 per person each way. When booking, be sure to make sure that you selected the correct airport- flights also depart from the Belize Municipal Airport (TZA) and this would require a taxi from Belize City Airport (BZE) which would add time and cost!!
The flight takes about 10 minutes and provides amazing views! The plane seated about 12 people but was comfortable and a convenient option.
***TIP*** If your flight into Belize City arrives in the morning or early afternoon, to save money, it may be a good idea to take a taxi to the ferry terminal and a boat over to the island of your choice. While we flew, it would have been much cheaper to take a ferry. On our last day, we found it a lot more relaxing to fly back to Belize City and would do this again over taking the ferry as we would have had to depart Caye Caulker much earlier than we did.
***TIP #2*** Once you land in Belize, passengers disembark from the front and back of the plane. As such, if you can’t get a seat right at the front of the plane, choose a seat toward the back so you can get off the flight and to the immigration line faster. Once at the immigration line, there are about five lines for immigration. Choose the lines furthest to the left as these have 2 immigration officials working them.
Where to stay on Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker has zero chain hotels or resorts, which for us was a major plus (except this meant that we couldn’t use points and instead had to pay for accommodation- how un-Fostering Travel of us!!). There are abundant B&Bs, tiny local hotels and hostels. We chose an airbnb “outside” of town. This meant we had a 6-8 minute bike ride to and from restaurants and the beach, which we did not mind at all. Having bikes is EVERYTHING on Caye Caulker; even if you stay in town, it is a fantastic way to quickly move around town and carry groceries and beach supplies.
Another huge factor in determining where to stay in Caye Caulker- air conditioning. The daytime breezes are bountiful and comfortable: nighttime lows of 81F are less than desirable for sleeping. The plus of this temperature is that clothes dry very quickly so you can pack less and just hand wash clothes and hang them up outside.
We determined that amenities are the necessity for accommodation in Caye Caulker: choose the perks you want over the location. With a bike you can easily navigate the entire island in minutes, it does not matter what area where you’re staying.
Where to eat and Cheap Eats on Caye Caulker
Seafood is abundant on Caye Caulker, and lobster is king. More spindly and less sweet than its Maine cousin, lobster is cheap by US standards. Directly from fisherman, lobster was $15 BZ ($7.50 USD) per pound. In restaurants, a whole grilled lobster dinner was on average $20-$30 BZ ($10-$20 USD). Seafood curries are especially popular, and quite delicious.
Our favorite fish by far was the snapper. We purchased a black snapper ($10BZ/$5 USD per pound) directly from a fisherman and grilled it at our airbnb.
Fisherman’s Co-op (pronounced “coop” on the island) is the place to buy fish and lobster daily from 3-5pm directly off their boats. They will let you choose from coolers loaded with their daily catch, and clean the fish for you if you prefer. The easiest way to the Co-op is by going down the street past the electrical supply. It’s incredibly noisy, but an easy way to find it. The Fisherman’s Co-op is on the same street from the Ocean Ferry Belize water taxi, on the opposite side of the island (1 min bike ride).
Many restaurants on Caye Caulker are in people’s homes; fast food spots that serve from converted windows, and sit down joints with picnic tables on the porch. Unsurprisingly, these places provide quality local food at reasonable prices. Unsurprisingly, the “Go Slow” motto applies to food orders too! You could easily snack your way around the island solely on fry jacks, burritos, tacos, fresh fruit and meat pies purchased from tiny windows in resident’s homes.
Highlights for us were Reina’s: she bakes dozens of beef meat pies ($1.25BZ/$0.75USD) daily, as well as coconut cake and pineapple cake. You can purchase directly from her home window (next to her wonderful sit-down restaurant of the same name which we enjoyed dinner at one evening), or her husband drives around a bike with a bright yellow umbrella selling them daily.
Caye Caulker Bakery: I am a sucker for pastries and went to the bakery 5 times in a few days. They have soft cinnamon rolls that are beautifully homemade with local cinnamon which adds a different and delicious twist! They also have sausage rolls and ham and cheese pastries for savory options. We also purchased a fantastic loaf of bread for under a dollar.
Meldy’s: Famed for Belizean fried chicken and seafood specials. She also had a “Chawita” burger with 3 meats that sounded like a delicious way to clog one’s arteries. We ordered a whole lobster, lobster curry, 3 adult drinks and sides for around $30USD. Dinner is served on picnic tables on her porch.
Angie’s Take Out- Fried seafood is her forte, and she makes a delightful Belizean style pasta salad on the side.
Bahia- A one-woman show serving breakfast and lunch at very reasonable prices. Outside of town close to the airport if you need a snack before your flight!
Pelican Sunset Bar- located on the dock on the Western side of the island, this outdoor bar is great to sit and watch the sunset and enjoy a cold drink. They do have bar specials on food so be sure to ask them about this! We had $1 BZ/$0.50 USD wings (SO GOOD), and they also have ceviche and lobster fritters.
Happy Hour on Caye Caulker: you can find them all over the island! Less touristy spots have happy hour from 12 noon to 7p… the busy spots 4-5pm. Happy hour is generally “local” drinks: rum punch, rum & coke, vodka cranberry, and maybe a restaurant specialty.
Things to do on Caye Caulker
Sleep and read, drink and sleep- seriously. Go slow!
Bad news: there’s no real beach in Caye Caulker. White sandy spots with walk-in access are not to be found. Seaweed reigns on the ferry side of the island, and areas with walk-in access sadly lack a beach on which to sit. Docks are the best option for access to jump into the crystal clear water for great snorkeling though- although we did not see a lot of fish close to the island! We did find a walk-in beach behind the Lazy Lizard: directly in front of Sea Dreams hotel close to Back Street, but there is a dirt road directly in front of the water access.
Snorkeling is FANTASTIC. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world (after that relatively well known one in Australia). Only 30ft deep at its maximum depth, snorkeling is a viable and enjoyable option for non-divers. We swam with a manatee, nurse sharks and lots of color fish and unique coral. Don’t miss it if you enjoy snorkeling. We used Carlos Tours ($70USD per person) for an all day snorkeling tour (9:30a-4:40p) which included lunch. They were friendly and fun and made the experience great by not rushing the snorkeling experience at the 3 stops. We swam at Coral Gardens, Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley.
If you like the “happening” tourist spots, head to the Split. Sip & Dip has hammocks, swings and tubes in the water at the outdoor bar. Lazy Lizard has all day music and people.
Conclusion and General tips for Caye Caulker:
If you want to go slow, Caye Caulker is a fantastic choice of a destination for you.
US Dollars are accepted everywhere and at the time of writing at $2BZ=$1US$
Drinking tap water is not recommended on the island, so you’ll need to buy bottled water, which is inexpensive from any convenience or grocery store.
Many of the “bigger” grocery stores take credit card if you’re out of cash!
Clothes dry fast in the heat and breezes, pack light on this casual island. Moisture wicking clothes are recommended!
Take lots of sunblock, a few good books or podcasts, and something comfortable to sit on at the “beach” and you will have an amazing time on this lovely island!