Caye caulker, the small island off the coast of Belize is a tiny slice of laid back paradise. As the locals like to advertise, it’s a “no shirt, no shoes, no problem” kinda island.
While it is the second largest of the Belizean Cayes, it feels a world away from any large overdeveloped town or hot spot. The island vibe is strong here, with no cars on the island and walking or golf buggies the preferred mode of transport. The only traffic sign directive is “go slow” and this perfectly sums up how you should be holidaying here.
When we arrived here, we instantly fell in love. The weather is warm and sunny on this barefoot paradise, most hotels and hostels front the main street which runs along the coast of the island, and everything is within an easy walking distance. The locals are friendly and the definition of chilled, and as a bonus, everything is in English! Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language, so no need to pull out the rusty Espanol.
One of the best parts of the sailing tour was trying our hand at fishing.
There are also many minimarts on the island (strangely all but one are owned by Asian families!), however there are equally a good number of local eateries to choose from, from street food stands through to higher-end establishments.
We spent five days in Caye Caulker which was enough time to see most things, but it’s very easy to spend a week or more here given how beautiful and effortless life is 🙂
If you’re planning a getaway to Caye Caulker, here are 6 must-do things:
1) Book a sailing tour for snorkeling and a visit to Shark and Ray Alley
Book a sailing tour which includes snorkelling at Shark & Ray Alley.
We opted for a 2 day / 1 night sailing tour, and it was a lot of fun. The island is dotted with many tour operators so you can take your pick, but a sailing cruise with snorkelling included (and unlimited rum punch) is a fun way to see the coast, more of the surrounding islands, and basically relax.
Our boat accommodated 7 people so if you’re in a large group you could feasibly book out a whole boat to yourself. Almost all sailing tours will include a stop at shark and ray alley, but double-check to make sure as this is one you don’t want to miss. Fisherman historically came to this area to clean out their boats and catches, which in turn attracted all the local rays and reef sharks. So much so that now when any boats appear, they swarm underneath in great numbers!!
Note: On the day we went, the currents were ridiculously strong, so be wary of that as you go snorkelling! Take fins and make sure you check where you are relative to the boat often, or you may find yourself having drifted quite far with an exhausting swim back.
2) Go fishing and cook your spoils at the local restaurant
3) Go for a beach massage with Javier
Javier is a local providing massages by the beach for a very reasonable BZD$50 for one hour, or BZD$80 for two people for one hour each if you’re a couple! He’s located 100 metres down from the spit sign here and has a variety of methods on offer (from Swedish to aromatherapy, sports, etc). You are sheltered somewhat from the winds in his makeshift beach hut, but Javier honestly has the most amazing technique. Read his reviews, he’s fantastic, and a must-see if you’re in need for some pampering!
4) Get a fry jack for breakfast
Erolyns House of Fryjacks serve up some delicious fry jacks every morning from 6:30am. Fry jacks are essentially a deep-fried folded bread with stuffings in every combination possible using beans, cheese, chicken, ham, or bacon. All you need to know is they are delicious, cheap (BZD$3-7 depending on your filling choice), and taste even better with the local Marie Sharpe hot sauce on offer. Just try one, you won’t regret it.
5) Go for a yoga class at randOM Yoga
Go for a yoga class at randOM Yoga (on top of Namaste Cafe).
This yoga class is held on an open-top floor space and run by Jessie, a local Belizean. It’s a by-donation class meaning you pay what you feel it’s worth. Mats, straps and blocks are provided and if you are interested check the timetable on the board outside the Namaste Cafe (as it can vary based on her availability).
Also, remember to go at least 5-10 minutes early as spots fill up quick! While Jessie is very good at Tetrising everyone in, unfortunately, if the numbers are simply too many, she does have to turn people away.
6) Spend a day kicking back at Koko King
Koko King is a beautiful beach resort on the northern island of Caye Caulker. What was once all one island, thanks to a few large hurricanes, has now split it into two with Koko King on the north island and only accessible by a regular and free* boat. You can see the island across from The Split (however don’t think you can swim it!) and it’s a quick 2-4 minute boat ride away.
Koko King houses the upscale Weyu hotel, but is also open to the public for use of their beach and amenities (though note the hotel pool is the only out of bounds area).
In my opinion it is nicer than the split and is a great place to relax for a day, particularly if you rent a cabana bed! There are 3-4 cabana beds on the beach you can rent for the day at BZD$50 which is not too expensive when split with friends, however if you are keen for one I recommend going early (by 10:30am) as these go very quickly! If not, there are some beach chairs provided for free
At Koko King, there is also a decent restaurant with food and drinks (not cheap but not ridiculously priced either) as well as rubbers tyres you can float on for free and a water volleyball net if you’re keen! It’s shallow enough anyone can play, and we teamed up with another group for a fun, friendly match.
To get across, you can catch the boat provided by Koko King that runs every 30 minutes. The cost is BZD$25 or free if you spend the equivalent amount at their restaurant (which if you’re going for a few hours or over lunch is very easy to do). Note any money paid for a cabana bed also allows you to meet the minimum spend for 2 people! Just make sure you collect a wristband from the bar to prove you’ve met the spend when you leave.
Getting to Caye Caulker:
The two main ways of getting to Caye Caulker: a ferry from Belize City or a ferry from Chetumal.
Ferries from Belize City take about 45 minutes and operate up to 12 times daily with two operators; Belize Express Water Taxi or Ocean Ferry Belize.
Ferries from Chetumal take about 3.5 hours stopping first in San Pedro to complete immigration, then Continuing on to Caye Caulker. The cost is just over USD$50+and from Chetumal you’ll need to check the departure times as there are generally only 2 per day.
If you are travelling down from Mexico into Belize, another option is to catch a bus from Bacalar to Belize City between 8am – 9am (depending on your hotel location) and then the 1.30pm ferry across to Caye Caulker which sees you to the island by 2.30pm. You can easily organise this transfer via Marlin Espalda for US$40 per person which includes a small simple breakfast (think cereal/toast/tea and coffee) and a return ferry ticket to Belize City. We used them in April 2019 with no problems; they explained how to cross the border from Mexico to Belize and talked us through all the required immigration forms and process.
Where to stay in Caye Caulker:
Anywhere you stay on the island, you’ll be able to walk to the other end. It’s pretty small! Staying somewhere on the main road or just off it would be our recommendation as you’re closest to the action.
We stayed at Hotel Enjoy (which sits close to the ferry port, Errolyn’s fryjacks and opposite Namaste cafe) and had good wifi which is difficult to find in Belize. We have also stayed at De Real McCaw Hotel which is a good budget no-frills accommodation. On the main road closer to the Spit, it faces the beach too with cute porches out the front of every room.
Use coupon code 76983920 if booking via booking.com to get 10% back off your accommodation bill!