If you are a backpacker in Belize, you will almost inevitably end up on the island of Caye Caulker, which is located in the Caribbean Sea off Belize. Caye Caulker is considered the backpacker’s paradise and has some highlights and attractions to offer on land and on water. We spent a few days on this little island and want to tell you 5 things you need to know about Caye Caulker.
How to get to Caye Caulker?
If you want to travel to Caye Caulker, your way usually leads you via Belize City. From here, the water cabs leave several times a day in about 90 minutes to Caye Caulker. It is not necessary to buy the tickets online. You can just go to the ferry terminal and get your ticket. There are several providers, but they all have similar prices and similar frequency. Our provider was called Belize Watertaxi and runs about once an hour. You can find the exact schedules on the website.
How do I get from Belize City to the ferry terminal?
If you arrive by bus in Belize City, you will probably be at the ADO Bus Terminal (Google Maps link). From there you can take the 2 km cab or walk. For the cab you have to pay 10 Bz$, which we found a bit expensive. That’s why we walked to the ferry port (Google Maps Link).
It only took us about 20 minutes and we didn’t feel unsafe doing it. Sure, the first part of the route doesn’t exactly go through the best part of Belize City, but just before you get to your destination, the area gets busier with stores and lots of people. You save money and still get to see some of the country and its people, what more could you want?
Shortly before you reach your destination, you will be approached by some people, and you can get coupons or even be escorted to the ferry terminal.
The ferry terminal of Belize Watertaxi is quite large and somewhat confusing. When you think that you are almost there, you have to turn a corner and a big sign directs you to the left, then to the right again around the corner. Then you are finally there. Tickets are sold in an air-conditioned office. After that you have to check in your luggage. If you arrive, as we did shortly before departure, it goes directly incl. luggage on board.
Where should you stay on Caye Caulker?
Where you stay on the island depends on whether you want to live in the middle of the hustle and bustle, or whether you like it a little quieter. Since the island is so small, you can quickly reach the center even from the quiet side.
The West Coast
If you prefer it quiet and relaxed, the west coast is the right place for you. Here you are away from all the hustle and bustle. Also there is no problem with seaweed, because it is mainly washed up on the east coast. You can spend the evening relaxing on one of the wooden jetties and enjoy the sunset. Since Caye Caulker is very small, you are still within a few minutes at the Split or on the east coast of the island.
On the west coast we can recommend the following two hotels/hostels.
The cheaper option is Sophie’s Guesthouse*. The Guesthouse is the perfect backpacker’s hostel and is always highly praised. Unfortunately, it was already fully booked during our stay, so we had to stay in another hotel.
Pelicans and seahorses can also be found here.
If you like it a bit more luxurious, the Iguanas Reef* is the right place for you. The hotel offers great rooms and a nice outdoor area with a small beach, wooden jetty and hammocks in the water. Here are always several pelicans and you will find the seahorse sanctuary at Iguana Reef.
Tip: You can use the outdoor area even if you don’t stay at Iguana Reef.
The East Coast
On the east coast is the main street of Caye Caulker. Here you will find the boat dock, restaurants, tour providers, supermarkets and souvenir stands. So it is always a bit noisy. This is also the place where the young people come to drink beer and there is always something going on. If you want to be in the middle of the action, then you can take a hotel on the east coast of Caye Caulker. Then you are always only a few meters away from the next supermarket or restaurant.
If you want to sleep a little above the noisy street, but still have everything in view, then we can recommend our hotel. It is located directly above a supermarket and has a totally cool roof terrace from which you can see the entire island. The rooms have no real window (only one in the bathroom), but a good air conditioning and are very modern. This was also the only hotel on our trip where you could open the door with one of those key cards and it didn’t just have some cheap lock. We felt very comfortable.
Hotel Recommendation on Caye Caulker*
Check out our hotel* here, where we stayed in Caye Caulker. There is a roof terrace with a view of the sea and the whole island and at the same time you are in the middle of the action.
The rooms are very modern, you have air conditioning and a private bathroom. Although the room itself has no window, but the private bathroom has one and that was totally enough for us.
Is there a real beach on Caye Caulker?
No. Unfortunately there is not. Caye Caulker is not the typical Caribbean island with palm trees on a soft sandy beach. If you are looking for something like that, then you should rather go to Caye Ambergris, because there is the most beautiful beach of Belize in our opinion.
There is sand on the island, of course. Actually everywhere. All the roads are full of it. This also leads to the nice fact that when it rains, the puddles on the island are not dirty brown, but rather beige. Just because of the sand.
But the beaches that exist on the island are either:
- full of seaweed
- not safe due to heavy boat traffic
- too small to really call them beaches
- or they have no direct access to the water (like at The Split).
So you should not go to Caye Caulker if you want to have a typical beach vacation. You won’t have that. Why we found the island nevertheless great you can read in the conclusion.
What to do on Caye Caulker?
This is probably the most famous… well what actually? It is not a beach. There is sand, but it is not a typical beach that leads shallowly into the water. To get into the water you always have to climb down a ladder or stairs. Still, it’s totally cool there.
The split is located at the north end of (the tourist part of) Caye Caulker and separates the island from the northern part which is not touristy. The split between the two parts of the island is said to have been created by a hurricane in the sixties. Theoretically you can swim through this split, but you should be careful. Firstly because of the strong current and secondly because of the many boats that pass through this gap between the islands.
The area around the split actually belongs to a bar, the Lazy Lizard. So if you want to use the many loungers, tables and the big diving tower, you would actually have to buy something at the Lazy Lizard. But nobody really cares about that. We were able to lie there in the sun all day without having to buy anything.
Diving is a very popular activity due to the Belize Barrier Reef being right on the doorstep. There are a few dive schools in Caye Caulker, but they don’t have the best reviews on TripAdvisor. We therefore saved our Belize diving for Ambergris Caye.
Here you are offered numerous excursions on the island. But most of them lead to the same areas. Among others to Shark Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
Shark Ray Alley
Shark Ray Alley is an area in the sea between Caye Caulker and Caye Ambergris where there are always a lot of sharks (Nurse Sharks) and stingrays. And this of course only because they are fed by the guides and are used to the noise of the motor boats. That’s why they come swimming right up when they hear one.
Of course, you shouldn’t feed free-living fish, but that’s just one of the dichotomies you have to face when traveling. It did lead us to a terrific experience, after all. The rays and sharks literally piled up next to the boat and we were even allowed into the chest-high water and were able to view and photograph the whole thing up close. The sharks and rays swam directly in front of us and partly directly towards us.
And even if nurse sharks are supposed to be harmless for humans, we felt quite queasy because of the stingrays.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve
Another big highlight near Caye Ambergris is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. This is a marine reserve where many sharks, rays, turtles and also seahorses can be seen. We have not visited this reserve, but we have heard about unique snorkeling adventures there. So you should plan a tour there.
If you have a little more money to spend, you can also take a sailing boat out to sea. We already had such an experience in Placencia in Belize, so we decided against it this time. However, we looked at the offer and also the reviews of the provider Raggamuffin, and it all sounded very good.
So if you want to make a relaxed trip to Caye Caulker, then take a look at this (or other) provider on site. You even have the possibility to do excursions of several days.
Going to the doctor on Caye Caulker
Doesn’t sound like a mega cool activity in the Caribbean. But if you feel the same as me and you have to go to the doctor on Caye Caulker, then I can highly recommend the following doctor: Dr D’s Clinic.
Even though his practice doesn’t look like much from the outside, he really is a good doctor. I went there with a toothache and although he is not a dentist he helped me a lot. He speaks very good English and is very friendly.
Walking a dog
Yes, you can actually do that when you are on Caye Caulker. If you miss your dog at home or just want to do something good for some poor dogs, then you can visit the Caye Caulker Animal Shelter, the resident dogs and cats, pet them and also walk one of the dogs.
We chose a totally playful young dog and walked him around the beach. The dog had total fun and so did we.
Unfortunately, we found the owner of the facility less sympathetic. He nagged us after our return, because we were with the dog in the sea and so the collar would rust. We did not find that so nice, because he had not told us anything before and generally did not talk much.
But in the end, the animals in the Animal Shelter are really super great and it is fun to deal with them.
Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye? Our conclusion
Our actual answer is: both! We visited both cayes and although both are very different, both Caye Caulker and Caye Ambergris are worth visiting. On Caye Caulker you have the real island feeling. Since the island is very narrow, you can walk from one side to the other very quickly. In addition, all the roads, not only the ones directly on the water, are covered with sand. So, theoretically, you could walk barefoot all the time.
In addition, you realize all the time that you are on an island (not so big). Also the fact that there are no cars and only golf carts driving around adds to this atmosphere. We felt very comfortable on Caye Caulker and would recommend to spend 2-3 days here.