Tiny little Caye Caulker, found just off the coast of Belize is what much of the rest of the Caribbean islands must have felt like to visit many decades before tourism took off in the region. Sleepy Caye (pronounced ‘key’) Caulker is just a few miles long and there’s not a whole lot to do. That’s the best thing about it though, the laid back, chilled out island life is what most visitors travel here to find. You won’t find any high-end all-inclusive resorts but you will find a Caribbean experience like no other, with lazy days spent strolling the coast and breezy evenings spent looking out to sea as the sun sets.
For these reasons and more Caye Caulker is a real favorite amongst backpackers and travelers looking for a place to visit that’s still off the beaten track. The locals are down to earth and welcoming, there’s excellent snorkeling and diving off the coast and plenty of cold beers to be drunk in the ramshackle bars.
Island life is slow in Caye Caulker, but make sure you get there fast before the rest of the world discovers the delights and charms of this beautiful, tropical island. To help you to plan your trip, here’s our ultimate guide to visiting Caye Caulker Belize.
Don’t leave home without your Lonely Planet Belize (Travel Guide)
Location and How to Travel to Caye Caulker Belize
Caye Caulker is just a small island, with a small population of just under 2000 locals. It’s found in beautiful surroundings, only one mile away from the world’s second largest barrier reef and only 20 miles away from the Belizean capital, Belize City. It’s in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, and it’s possible to travel here from a few of the surrounding destinations.
Caye Caulker has one, short runway that’s served infrequently by a few airlines when there are enough passengers. Light aircraft can land here, but generally, the airlines will make this a pit stop on the way over to other more popular destinations. Tickets can be bought from Belize City, and flights will stop here on their way to the larger city of San Pedro, further north.
Belize City is well connected internationally and to places in southern Mexico by long-distance buses. From Belize City, a more regular transport option to reach Caye Caulker is via the consistent water taxis and ferries that operate from the city to the island.
From Belize City, it’s a 45-minute ride, and the ferry can then be taken onward to San Pedro. Or vice versa if arriving from a northerly direction. The ferries run every day and there are several companies operating from the harbor in Belize City.
Once you are on Caye Caulker, getting around is simple. There’s just one main road circling the island, and there are almost no cars. The preferred method of local transport is a golf cart, and a few tour guides even operate guided trips by taking their guests out in the buggies. There’s a solitary traffic sign, which encourages residents and visitors to ‘Go Slow’. It’s easy enough to walk around or there are plenty of bicycles available for rent too.
Check out this guide if arriving by cruise ship Fodor’s Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call (Travel Guide)
The Best Time to Visit Caye Caulker Belize
The island has consistent year-round temperatures that rarely fluctuate, meaning it’s always hot in Caye Caulker. There is a distinctively dry and wet season, however, with the dry season being experienced between December and April and the wet season from May to November. The water and the reef are best experienced at the end of the dry season when visibility is at its best, but year round it’s possible to visit and still enjoy the water and island life.
The dry season is peak season and while visitor numbers are much higher and costs may increase, compared to other Caribbean islands, this is still a relatively quiet and untouched destination to visit, so don’t let this affect your decision on when to visit. If anything, Belize is a great dry season alternative to the other much more expensive and crowded countries in the Caribbean region.
We visited Caye Caulker in March and the weather was nothing short of perfect. We had clear skies with full sun and a light, warm breeze. The water was clear with good visibility for diving and snorkeling. It was busy, with March being extreme high season due to Spring Break, but the boat trips were run well and we hardly noticed the crowds.
Things to do in Caye Caulker Belize
The real beauty of visiting of Caye Caulker lies in doing nothing at all. It’s laid back and easy going and the perfect place to relax and unwind in beautiful surroundings. If you are more adventurous though and want to do a few more exciting activities than lazing around with a cold beer, then the reef is just a short boat ride away and there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you entertained. Here are the best things to do in Caye Caulker Belize.
The greatest thing to do on Caye Caulker is very little. The island’s motto is to take it slow, and the relaxed and calm island life may make you want to stay much longer than you’d planned. It’s best to simply stroll around, find a quiet spot on the coast and stare out to sea. Visit one of the bars and relax with a few cold drinks in the late afternoon. Whatever you prefer, just do it slowly on Caye Caulker.
You might want to check a couple of these places out during your visit:
- Osprey Silver Jewelry & Boutique
- Chef Kareem’s UnBelizeable Lunch
- Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries
- Barrier Reef Sports Bar & Grill
Snorkeling and Diving the Reef
Caye Caulker is very close to the nearby reef, which is incredibly bio-diverse. It’s a beautiful place to snorkel and dive and there are several operators set up on the island who can take you out or even help you to acquire your Scuba certificates. There are many dive sites around the island, however, the most popular and well-established spots include the spectacular Turneffe Atoll and the beautiful Hol Chan Marine Park.
Companies to check out for snorkeling and diving:
- Caveman Snorkeling Tours
- Stressless Eco Friendly Tours
- Anda De Wata Tours
- Belize Diving Services
- Richard’s Adventures Tour Company
Shark Ray Alley
Found within the protected area of Hol Chan National Park, Shark Ray Alley is perhaps the most visited spot in the area, purely because here it’s possible to swim with hundreds of nurse sharks and rays who congregate in the water. These amazing marine creatures are completely harmless and it’s a very unique experience to take away.
This is one of the top things to do in Caye Caulker, so don’t miss it!
Tours we recommend for getting a great experience at Shark Ray Alley:
- Hol Chan Marine Park, Shark Ray Alley and Caye Caulker Tour from Ambergris Caye
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley Snorkeling Tour
- Belize Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley Snorkel Tour from Ambergris Caye
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley Sailing and Snorkeling Tour
Mangroves and Manatees
In the north of Caye Caulker, there’s a dense mangrove forest and open sea that is the natural habitat of the rare manatee, a gentle, large marine animal that’s found in few places around the world. This area has become a popular place to take kayaks and canoes to explore this wild and natural place. There is a lot of wildlife and excellent views back towards the island and out to sea. Early morning trips out will be the best time to see these wonderful creatures playing on the surface.
Tours that offer the chance to see Manatees:
Caye Caulker is technically two islands, with a north and south island that were separated just a few decades ago when the sand that lay between them was dredged up to create a passage for locals to travel easier, rather than having to circumnavigate the whole island. It’s a very spectacular split and looks beautifully dramatic. It’s also a favorite spot to chill out, as it’s the site of the islands only real beach, the rest of the coast being mostly coral.
Read reviews from real travelers on visiting the Split.
The Great Blue Hole
The famous Great Blue Hole, a huge, collapsed, underwater cave of outrageous proportions lies not far from Caye Caulker, and many travelers will use the laid-back island as a base from which to arrange tours out with local diving companies to see this natural wonder in all its glory.
The diving on the blue hole is spectacular, offering dramatic wall drops that are covered in thick coral forests. It is also possible to snorkel along the reef edge of the blue hole.
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker Belize
As an emerging tourist destination, accommodation options on Caye Caulker can appear rustic and basic in comparison to other destinations in the region. There are plenty of options, most in the budget and mid-range levels and all offering varying degrees of quality and service, as can be expected from an unknown destination used to catering more to backpackers than luxury travelers. The accommodation is all clustered around the eastern side of the island, before the split, and being such a small place it’s easy to walk from your hotel to pretty much anywhere else!
Here are a few of the best options to choose from when visiting Caye Caulker Belize:
Top luxury hotels we recommend in Caye Caulker:
Colinda Cabanas ***** Traveler’s Choice Rating by TripAdvisor
CayeReef ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Iguana Reef Inn ***** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Top mid-range hotels we recommend in Caye Caulker:
Seaside Cabanas **** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Barefoot Beach Belize **** Traveler’s Choice Rating by TripAdvisor
Caye Caulker Condos **** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Top budget hotels we recommend in Caye Caulker:
Ocean Pearle Royale Hotel **** Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Anchorage Resort Hotel Belize City **** Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Ignacio’s Cabins *** Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Top hostels we recommend in Caye Caulker:
Yuma’s House Belize **** Excellent Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Vista del Mar Guesthouse **** Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Bella’s Backpackers *** Traveler Rating by TripAdvisor
Is Caye Caulker Safe to Visit?
Belize is very much an up and coming tourist destination, and it does not have the same infrastructure and services aimed at visitors that other more established Caribbean destinations and nearby southern Mexico may have. For many, that’s the appeal of visiting, but for those looking for more luxury or higher levels of service, it may be wise to consider somewhere more well known.
Crime wise, Belize does not have the best reputation. However, Caye Caulker is away from the mainland and big cities and is perfectly safe to travel to as long as basic travel principals are adhered to it is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the Caribbean region.
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Looking for more on the Caribbean?
Resources for Planning Your Trip to Belize
Recommended Guide Books For Belize:
- Lonely Planet Belize (Travel Guide)
- Moon Belize Cayes: Including Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker (Travel Guide)
- Fodor’s Belize (Travel Guide)
- Fodor’s Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call (Travel Guide)
Belize Map: Belize (National Geographic Adventure Map)
Travel Insurance: We use Allianz travel insurance and have since our first trip to Mexico in 2003. They’ve been there for us on our adventures – and many friends and readers – multiple times over! If you want to book with Allianz Travel Insurance, simply use this link to get their travel insurance!
Search for Tours and Trips in Caye Caulker we recommend:
- Viator offers several tours throughout Caye Caulker.
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