Everyone that has been to Belize has told us one thing ‘you will LOVE Caye Caulker’, they weren’t wrong. Prepare to want to book your travel after you see the photos.
An island just off of the coast of Belize (near Belize City), Caye Caulker has c.1600 inhabitants, awesome food, dangerous happy hours and a fitting island motto ‘Go Slow’. When we first arrived we worried that five nights here was going to be too much. A short wander and we had covered the main strip, a far cry from the places we had been so far on our route with extensive to-do/see list, but by the time we were leaving I was very sad to go. Five nights of nothing but sun, sea, barbecues and rum was exactly what was needed.
The locals, who all speak English with a Caribbean accent, are always looking for an opportunity to chat and you can be sure to hear the words ‘don’t worry’ and ‘relax’ many times on the island. For the most part this was a welcomed reminder to remain chilled but was a bit frustrating when our backpacks were sent to San Pedro (the next island) when we first arrived.
After taking the night bus from Bacalar, we arrived in Belize City in time for the 8am ferry. The ferry port is a quick taxi from the bus station and costs $2USD (£1.60) per person (USD is accepted in Belize at a rate of $1USD=$2BZD). You can purchase ferry tickets online from San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi or buy them from the ticket office for $15USD (£12) one-way to Caye Caulker or $25USD (£20) for an open return.
There were two queues for boats, one for San Pedro, the other for Caye Caulker – our boat was much smaller than the one taking the SP queue, where our bags were placed in the hold, and we were reassured that the larger boat would make a stop at CC and not to worry. Unsurprisingly, the stop was never made and when we hopped off the boat to collect our bags we were met with staff that insisted we didn’t worry and our bag ‘will be on the 10:30 ferry, or the 12 or the 1’ and to ‘come back at 2 or 3 and they’ll be here, go explore the island, relax’ (a lot easier said than done when we were dressed for the air-conditioned night bus and had been awake since 2am. Thankfully Rob got some sense out of one of the guys who located our bags and arranged for their return. In the meantime, we checked out Ice & Beans, the ace coffee shop owned by our Airbnb hosts, Mario and Karen.
There is very little to do on Caye Caulker in the way of sights, museums and monuments but there are plenty of snorkelling, diving and boat tours available. Our budget was running quite tight from accommodation alone so we decided to stay on the island and embrace the slowness. We found that the best place to swim on the South Island was at the Split, named so because of the divide in the islands caused by a hurricane in the 60s.
If you have time it is definitely worth taking the free boat across to Koko King (a resort on the North Island) from the Back Pier (about halfway along the West side). The relatively new resort has a decent stretch of beach with loungers, rubber rings, swings over the water, a bar/restaurant and a swimming pool and swing beds, both of which can be used for a fee. There is also a daily happy hour from 4-6pm.
While drinks on the island aren’t wildly expensive, the normal prices do run close to those back home, so most places offer happy hour. Here are some of my favourites, drink of choice was almost always the Panty Ripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice):
Sip ‘n’ Dip, 3-6pm
Local mixed drinks are $4BZD (£1.60) each, and sip and dip has a jetty lined with chairs as well as rubber rings and hammocks in the water.
The Lazy Lizard, 5-6pm
A selection of drinks are 2 for $6BZD and, located right on the split, it’s the perfect time and place to enjoy sunset.
Enjoy Restaurant, 12-8pm
Selected cocktails are 2 for 1 for 8 hours! With prices ranging from $6-9BZD (£2.40-£3.60). We were also told that arriving before 8pm means that you can drink at happy hour prices for as long as you stay, so pull up a bar swing and get that rum down ya.
Where we stayed:
We found that there were no good deals on advance hostels/guest houses and so booked to stay in an Airbnb hosted by Mario and Karen (the owners of Ice & Beans and Sub-Away). The room was small but enough with GOOD air con, which is exactly what you need after a day in the sun. They also had two cool dogs, the room is available to book here.
Where we ate/drank:
Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen
With picnic benches overlooking the water this is the perfect place, as you might expect, to watch the sun set over dinner. We arrived at 5pm and had the deck to ourselves. We went for BBQ chicken and chicken kebabs with sides of plantain, coconut rice and coleslaw – all of which was perfectly cooked. Food and two cocktails came to $50BZD (£20).
The Little Kitchen
This place was recommended to us by Mario (our Airbnb host) and we were promised great food at local prices. While the prices were on par with everywhere else on the island, the food more than made up for it. The conch fritter appetisers were SO GOOD and the coconut fish and grilled pork chop mains were also really tasty. Also located on the west side of the island and another great place for sunset. Total cost including two cocktails was $48BZD (£19.20).
Chef Juan’s Kitchen
This place is cheaper than a lot of others on the island and special mention should be given to the $10BZD (£4) chilli served in a bread bowl, after which we were stuffed!
When you read tripadvisor reviews about the big-as-your-forearm chicken burritos you would be forgiven for putting it down to overexaggeration. But seriously, the burritos here are not only delicious but big enough for two to share, which is great value at $12BZD (£4.80). You’ve also GOT to try the peanut butter and banana milkshake – a meal in itself – which comes in a huge glass, and if you’re lucky you’ll get it topped up with the leftovers from the blender…
Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks
One of a few cheap eat destinations on island, Errolyn’s is open 6-2pm everyday except Monday, and churns out the simple, filling Belizean delicacy. You can choose any mix of cheese, beans, ham, chicken and eggs for $2-4.50BZD (£0.80-£1.80).
Chef Kareem’s BBQ
Located on Front Street, Kareem serves up unbeatable BBQ at reasonable prices. Make sure to get the Italian Sausage if he has any that day
The Cake Lady
Special mention should be made for the Cake Lady, who sets up a table most nights on Front Street and sells slices of a variety of homemade cakes for 5BZD (£2). We went for chocolate, banana and coconut cake and so should you!