If you only visit one place in Belize, make it Caye Caulker! This island paradise caters to all budgets but we’re going to show you how do it as cheaply as possible!
Caye Caulker is a tiny coral island located 32 km North-East of Belize City, an hour away by water taxi. The whole island measures 8 km long by 1.6 km wide but the centre of town is even smaller & can be walked in 10 minutes.
It’s a major backpackers hub on the Central American trail. For many people, put off by Belize’s expensive reputation, Caye Caulker is their first & only stop in the country.
And what an impression it leaves!
Caye Caulker flaunts the best of Belize’s easy, breezy attitude & lifestyle. You feel it in the air as soon as you set foot on the island. Here, the people are laidback & chilled, islanders of a mix of Belizean, Creole, Garifuna & mestizo cultures.
As an ex-British colony, the official language is English however most locals prefer to speak Creole. Creole is a mixture of English & local African dialects, after spending months in Spanish speaking countries, I found it very endearing.
There seems to be more travellers than locals on Caye Caulker. In other places, this ratio would completely spoil the authenticity but on the island, it simply adds to the charm. Caye Caulker feels like a community, it feels like home.
One drawback in this paradise is the lack of any proper beaches. The only real place you can swim at is “The Split”, a popular swimming area in from of the “Lazy Lizard” bar.
Today, Caye Caulker is made up of 2 islands but it was actually 1 long island until 1961 when Hurricane Hattie tore through. Now, there’s a narrow waterway separating the 2 islands, hence the name “The Split”.
There’s not much to see & do in Caye Caulker but that’s part of the appeal. We happened to be there on the its biggest weekend, Lobster Fest, but the celebrations were still low-key. Do taste some seafood while on the island, it’s super-fresh & at a relatively decent prices.
With its 3 roads, golf carts (there are no cars), many of bars & restaurants and diverse cultural influences, you can be sure to enjoy the good life in Caye Caulker!
Hol Chan Marine Reserve Tour
Caye Caulker is the gateway into the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest in the world after Australia’s. Unfortunately there’s no good snorkeling from the shore so if you want to snorkel or dive, you’ll need to take a tour.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is the best site for snorkeling & diving in the Cayes.
It’s located south of Ambergis Caye but easily accessed from Caye Caulker. It’s known for its abundance & variety of marine life and impressive coral formations.
There are many tour agencies on the island – they all offer roughly the same programs at roughly the same prices. And don’t be surprised if you book with one company, only to go with another…
A full day snorkeling tour to Hol Chan Marine Reserve includes 5 or 6 stops featuring:
- Shark-Ray Alley
- Coral Garden
- Sunken Barge
- Tarpon Hole
Duration: the tour runs from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm.
Price: we paid BZ$130 / US$65 – the cheapest price we found.
The price includes:
- snorkeling equipment
- lunch (burger) & fruits
- drinks (water & punch)
- snorkel guide
Shark-Ray Alley definitely lives up to its name. Here, the snorkel guide will throw bait in the water to attract nurse sharks & stingrays. And come they do, many of them! I’ve never seen anything like it!
Then you yourself jump into the water with all these sharks & rays! It’s a really unforgettable experience.
It was mating season for manatees & we were lucky enough to see 3 of them on our tour. Another amazing encounter!
Diving is also very popular, and expensive, from Caye Caulker. Experienced divers can organise trips to the Blue Hole from here.
The snorkelling tour to Hol Chan Marine Reserve is not cheap but it’s one of the highlights of Belize & you can’t do it yourself. We had an awesome time & do highly recommend it.
Budget Food in Caye Caulker
There are a lot of cafes & restaurants in Caye Caulker but budget food is hard to find. Your best bet is a Chinese take-away shop on the main strip – it’s next to a Chinese-run supermarket, which is not saying much as all the supermarkets in Belize are owned by Chinese people.
Anyway, here, you can order sweet & sour chicken fingers with rice or chips for BZ$6 / US$3.
There are one or two Chinese restaurants on Caye Caulker – a plate of noodles can be enough to share between 2 people.
In the morning, local food vendors set up shop on the main strip & sell cheap snacks & burritos for BZ$1-2. Go early before the sell out.
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker
Sandy Lane Guest House is the best value for money accommodation you can find on Caye Caulker. If there are 2 of you (maybe even one), it’s cheaper than any hostel on the island.
A room with shared bathroom is BZ$30 / US$15. Rooms are basic but clean & the owner Miss Elma is lovely.
It’s a huge property with cabanas, located on the corner of Middle Street & Chapoose Street, near the football field – unfortunately it’s not well signposted.
How to Get to & from Caye Caulker
The only way to Caye Caulker is via a ferry from Belize City.
Services run roughly every 1-1.5 hours between 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi runs more regularly than Ocean Ferry Belize.
Ocean Ferry Belize
- One way trip: BZ$19 / US$9.50
- Return trip: BZ$29 / US$14.50
San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi
- Return trip: BZ$27 / US$13.50
Trip duration: 45 minutes
You can check schedules on their websites but do not book online – prices are more expensive.
Tickets do not need to be booked in advance, buy them at the pier offices just before departure.
For more information on Belize City, see our post Belize City: What to See & Do in 2 Hours.
In a Nutshell
Water taxi: BZ$29 / US$14.50 return trip
Sandy Lane Guest House: BZ$30 / US$15 for a room with shared bathroom
Hol Chan Marine Reserve snorkeling tour: BZ$120 / US$60
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*** The Final Word – Caye Caulker is the #1 destination in Belize! ***
Did you love or hate Caye Caulker?
Accessible DIY travel to more distant locations via multiple connections or longer forms of public transport
Visited in July 2016