10 Tips for Caye Caulker: A Tropical Paradise in Belize

In the heart of the Belize Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef in the world, you’ll find a little paradise called Caye Caulker. This is a tropical island that’s only 8 kilometers (4 miles) long and less than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) wide. Caye Caulker exudes a delightful Caribbean atmosphere, and life here moves at a wonderfully slow pace. You can fill your days with snorkeling, diving, biking, watching sunsets, and, most importantly, chilling out. Be sure to hop on a sailboat and explore the rich marine life of the Belize Barrier Reef. Spotting turtles, rays, and even sharks is not uncommon when you take a snorkeling plunge here. I’ve explored every corner of Caye Caulker, and in this article, you’ll find all the tips for this fantastic island.

Good to know: There are few actual beaches on Caye Caulker, mainly docks. Fortunately, there are plenty of places where you can jump into the water, enjoy a drink at a table in the water, or relax on a beach lounger by the water. Unfortunately, the area does have a fair amount of seaweed, although the quantity varies from day to day.

How to Get to Caye Caulker?

Read below to learn how to travel to Caye Caulker from Belize City, San Ignacio, Hopkins, and Bacalar, Mexico.

From Belize City to Caye Caulker

To travel to Caye Caulker, you can board the ferry departing from the port in Belize City. You can choose to take the ferry with San Pedro Belize Express or ride with Caribbean Sprinter to Caye Caulker. The boat ride takes just under an hour, and round-trip tickets are slightly cheaper than one-way tickets.

From San Ignacio to Caye Caulker

If you’re traveling from San Ignacio to Caye Caulker, you can board the local bus to Belize City from this bus station. If you prefer a more comfortable journey on a direct shuttle bus, it’s best to book one at your accommodation in San Ignacio. In Belize City, you’ll catch the ferry to Caye Caulker. Refer to the information above for the details of this journey.

From Hopkins to Caye Caulker

In Hopkins, you can take the bus to Belize City, which is about a 3.5-hour ride. The James Bus Line operates this route. Check their website for the current departure times. In Belize City, you’ll board the ferry to Caye Caulker. Refer to the information above for the details of this journey.

From Bacalar (Mexico) to Caye Caulker

Chetumal is located just a half-hour drive from Bacalar, and from here, you can take the water taxi to Caye Caulker. Both the San Pedro Water Taxi and the San Pedro Belize Express operate this route.

Transportation on Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is a laid-back island, and part of the reason is the absence of cars. The signs that say ‘Go slow’ along the road aren’t about traffic speed but rather reflect the relaxed island lifestyle. Bicycles and golf carts are the primary modes of transportation, but you can easily explore the island on foot since it’s quite small. Bicycles are available for rent at most accommodations.

What to Do on Caye Caulker?

Caye Caulker is a delightful place where you can easily spend some quality time. Below, you’ll find information on the activities available on Caye Caulker.

Explore the Underwater World of Caye Caulker

If there’s one thing that should be on your Caye Caulker to-do list, it’s the snorkeling tour! The waters around Caye Caulker are teeming with life, and with the snorkeling tour, you’ll discover the most beautiful spots. You’ll visit the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the oldest reserve in Belize, where you can encounter large schools of fish, rays, turtles, and even manatees. If you spot a manatee, you can swim alongside it. You’ll also snorkel at Shark Ray Alley, where you can literally swim among sharks that are over two meters (6.5 feet) long! These Nurse Sharks are not dangerous, but they are quite impressive. Some of the animals are not shy and may come quite close, but be sure not to touch them, as this can harm marine life.

Tip: Protect yourself from the sun during this tour by applying SPF 50 sunscreen multiple times a day. Don’t underestimate the sun; many people return from this tour with sunburn.

Relax at The Lazy Lizard at The Split

The Split is one of the most popular spots on the island. It’s a narrow channel that divides Caye Caulker in two, created by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Right at the tip of the island, you’ll find the popular beach bar, The Lazy Lizard. Here, you can bask in the sun and enjoy the water while sipping on a drink and listening to great music. Starting at 10 am, you can choose a beach chair to read a book or take a refreshing dip in the sea from the high diving platform. If you feel like being active, you can play a game of volleyball or rent a SUP board or kayak.

Tip: Especially when the sun sets, this is one of the best spots to enjoy the colorful sunset from your comfortable chair.

Watch the Sunset at Iguana Reef Inn

Another cozy spot to watch the sunset is from the small beach at Iguana Reef Inn. There are relaxing chairs, daybeds, swings, and hammocks in the water. Plus, it’s one of the few places on Caye Caulker where you can walk right into the sea. Even if you’re not staying at this resort, you’re welcome to visit. The sunsets here are phenomenal!

From around 3 pm, it gets quite busy as they start feeding pelicans and stingrays, which attracts a lot of attention. The large birds fly very close, and there are dozens of stingrays in the water. They come so close to people that some start touching and petting them. This is not good for the animals and even poses a danger to their survival. If you want to care for the animals and ecosystems as best as possible, refrain from feeding or touching them and enjoy from a distance.

Explore Caye Caulker by Bike

The perfect way to see more of Caye Caulker is by bike! Literally cycling around the entire island isn’t possible, but you can explore various parts of the island on your bike. It’s fun to hop on the ‘Split to Split pontoon’ with your bike at The Split. Purchase a round-trip ticket at the pontoon, and it will take you across to the other side. This part of the island is much quieter than the main part. You’ll mostly cycle through nature, occasionally passing a restaurant. A nice stop is at El Ben. If you order something at the bar here, you’re welcome to relax by the lovely pool.

Take a Flight over The Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole is a remarkable natural phenomenon. This blue hole is situated in the sea near the Lighthouse Reef. Originally, it was a limestone cave that collapsed about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age. The Great Blue Hole is perfectly round, 130 meters (427 feet) deep, and has a diameter of 300 meters (985 feet). It’s so large that you can see it from space! If you dive here, you’ll encounter massive stalactites, colorful corals, rays, turtles, and, notably, a lot of sharks. Nurse sharks, hammerhead sharks, and reef sharks seek the depths here for cooling. However, you need to be an experienced diver for this.

Another way to admire The Great Blue Hole is from the air, in a small plane. You take off from Caye Caulker. The plane has only one cabin with a maximum of 10 seats and no separate cockpit, so you’ll feel like you’re almost sitting on the pilot’s lap. This alone is an experience! After flying over the beautiful turquoise waters and uninhabited islands for about 15 minutes, you suddenly see the dark blue hole. Regardless of which side of the plane you’re on, the pilot ensures that he circles around the dark hole from both sides so everyone gets a good view. As a bonus, you’ll also fly over a shipwreck that ran aground in the middle of the ocean on a sandbank. The company I did this with is called Maya Island Air, and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to take this flight. Prices start at $250.

Tip: All those loops around The Great Blue Hole can make you a bit queasy in such a small plane. Take a motion sickness pill in advance if you’re prone to motion sickness.

Join a Yoga Class at Namaste Café

Start your day right at Namaste Café! Every weekday morning, you can participate in a relaxing yoga class on the yoga deck. Since they believe that yoga should be accessible to everyone, these classes are donation-based, allowing you to determine the price. It’s delightful to wake up your body slowly in the morning within the slow-paced lifestyle of Caye Caulker. After the yoga class, you can enjoy a delicious breakfast at Namaste Café.

Join the Three-Day Sailing Trip on the Belize Barrier Reef

One of the most exciting activities you can do in Belize is the three-day sailing trip from Caye Caulker to the city of Dangriga. The sailing trip is all about sailing, snorkeling, making new friends, exploring uninhabited islands, and enjoying delicious Caribbean cuisine.

During three days, you’ll be completely away from the civilized world and sail over the beautiful Belize Barrier Reef. Here, you’ll often go snorkeling to admire the stunning underwater world. You might encounter large marine creatures such as stingrays, sea turtles, big fish, and sharks. You’ll also snorkel in places with colorful corals and large schools of fish. You’ll stop at idyllic islands that will be your sleeping spots for the night. This unforgettable adventure will surely stay with you for a long time! If you want to know more about it, read all about the three-day sailing trip at the Belize Barrier Reef in our article.

Tip: This sailing trip is a one-way tour and ends in Dangriga. It’s a 1-hour bus ride from there to Hopkins. Therefore, plan the sailing trip after your stay in Caye Caulker.

What You Should NOT Do on Caye Caulker

Unfortunately, there are many organizations on Caye Caulker that feed sharks, rays, pelicans, and other animals to make money. Feeding the animals allows you to get a close look at them, but as enjoyable as this may be for photos, be aware that it’s extremely harmful to the animals and ecosystems. Animals become dependent on feeding, as they forget how to find or hunt for their own food. Ecosystems become unbalanced, which can ultimately lead to the disappearance of entire species and organisms. Due to feeding, the sharks in this area no longer exhibit their normal reproductive behavior, putting their survival at risk. In the future, these animals may completely disappear from the area if feeding continues.

What Can You Do? Contribute to the preservation of the beautiful nature by choosing eco-friendly tours. The tours we recommend, such as the snorkel tour, are all reputable organizations with a focus on nature and wildlife. Additionally, never feed animals and avoid touching them. Most marine life has thin and delicate skin, and when we touch them with our hands, we can damage their skin or make them sick due to the bacteria we transmit. This also applies to starfish and coral.

Best Restaurants on Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is primarily known for its seafood restaurants. Freshly caught fish, lobster, shrimp, and shellfish are featured on almost every menu at local restaurants. Traditional Belizean dishes like rice and beans, stewed chicken, and fried jacks are also popular. I’ve tested many restaurants, and below are my favorites.

Ice and Beans Cafe – This is a popular breakfast and lunch spot on the beach, offering delicious bagels, smoothies, and fruit bowls.
Il Pellicano Cucina Italiana – This Italian restaurant serves tasty pizzas and pastas. You can enjoy your meal in a cozy garden setting, and sometimes there’s live music. Prices here are relatively high.
Reina’s – In this local restaurant, you can dine deliciously and affordably. They serve delightful Caribbean dishes.
Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries – For good curries, grilled meat, and fish, Chef Juan’s is the place to go. Order a tasty dessert as well.
Namaste Café – Start your morning right at this colorful cafe. Order coffee, smoothies, and a healthy breakfast.
Errolyn’s House of Fryjacks – This is the best place to try traditional Belizean fried jacks for breakfast.
Wish Willy Bar & Grill – Visit here for delicious fresh BBQ dishes and a friendly atmosphere.
The Pelican Sunset Bar – It’s a delightful spot to enjoy fresh seafood while watching the sunset.

Our Favorite Places to Stay on Caye Caulker

On a tropical island like Caye Caulker, you’d prefer to stay in a beachfront bungalow to capture that ultimate island feeling. The cheerful bungalows at Colinda Cabanas are nestled among palm trees on a white sandy beach. It’s delightful to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of waves and the rustling of leaves. If this hotel is above your budget, you can stay at Dream Cabanas for a more affordable option. Here, you’ll spend the night in a stylish room with air conditioning, a refrigerator, and a private terrace. It’s not directly on the beach, but it’s just a few minutes’ walk away. Barefoot Beach Belize is the best budget option on Caye Caulker. Here, you’ll stay in a cheerful cabana right on the beach. The cottages are simple but have everything you need, including air conditioning, a private bathroom, and a comfortable bed. Another great advantage is that you can borrow bicycles for free.