I think I found my spirit island. An island where day drinking is the local sport, and aspirations of sitting in an inner tube while working your way through a bucket of beer are considered 100% valid. An island where locals chastize you for walking too fast, where the smoky smell of pimento wood being burned for jerk chicken permeates the air, where golf carts have right of way.
Yes, Caye Caulker, you can stop blushing — I’m talking about you.
Top Things to Do in Caye Caulker
If you go to Caye Caulker with a checklist, you’re doing it wrong.
Caye Caulker is a place that’s easy to get sucked into. While there aren’t that many things to do in Caye Caulker per se, the days still manage to slink by a little too easily. You’ll rise as your room gets warm in the morning sun, eat breakfast with a beach view, amble along the colorful buildings, and sunbathe — all before the nightly ritual of watching the sun sink into the sea.
Yup, that’s a grind I can get behind.
Spend the day in the sun at Sip N Dip
But really: how to while away your days in lovely Caye Caulker? Make your way to my favorite beach bar, Sip N Dip. Where else can you sit on a swing in the Caribbean sea, relax in a hammock over the water, or just chill in an inner tube with a bucket of beer floating alongside you?
Located just before The Split on the north end of the island, day drinking at the Sip N Dip is my number one can’t-miss thing to do in Caye Caulker.
A bucket of beer will set you back $25 BZD ($12.50 US since the Belize dollar is pegged at a 2-to-1 exchange rate with the dollar) for 6 — one of the best deals on the island! Happy hour is from 3 to 5 and offers specials on rum punch, Cuba libres, and other house drinks — get two for $7 BZD ($3.50 US).
Visit the sweet animals at the Caye Caulker Animal Shelter
Another one of my favorite things to do in Caye Caulker is visit the lovely dogs at the Caye Caulker Animal Shelter! This non-profit animal shelter cares for dogs and cats in need of homes. They welcome visitors to come by and love on the animals. With these faces, how could you walk on by?
If you’re a dog lover, you’ll love Caye Caulker. Because it’s a small island with no cars, many people allow their dogs to hang out on the island during the day, running about and making friends. Most aren’t strays – they’re well-behaved, well-loved pets who get to call the streets of the island their playground.
Needless to say, I was in heaven. Janet and I loved the dogs so much we even spent a whole day filming them!
Swim with manatees
One of the best reasons to visit Caye Caulker and top things to do there is swim with the manatees north of Caye Caulker. To do so, you’ll have to book a tour (check out this one run by Anda di Wata) as the manatees don’t swim that close to Caye Caulker but in a deeper, more protected area.
It’s a bit expensive and I was on a backpacker’s budget in Caye Caulker so I didn’t indulge but it’s on my list of top things to do on Caye Caulker when I return to this magical island. I mean, manatees are truly the elephants of the sea. Freaking adorable.
Please note: never touch animals in the wild, even if they seem docile and gentle. You can do serious damage. Give them a comfortable distance – at least 5 meters if not more – and observe quietly and respectfully so that others in the future can also enjoy the presence of these gentle sea giants.
Snorkel in the Belize Barrier Reef
Belize is home to the second-largest reef system after the Great Barrier Reef, so if you’re a lover of marine life take full advantage of Caye Caulker’s amazing location and make sure you don’t miss snorkeling (or diving, if you’re certified) while on Caye Caulker.
Do sunset yoga
I’ll readily admit that I was never stayed sober long enough on Caye Caulker to make it to sunset yoga, but RandOM Yoga offers donation-based sunset yoga classes on the roof of Namaste Café with a great sunset view and ocean breeze.
Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard
Caye Caulker is a small island and it’s easy to kayak around in just a few hours. There are several places on the island that rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks, and it’s one of the best things to do in Caye Caulker because the water is super flat and glassy, making both sports easier than normal.
If you’re into something more adventurous – learn to kite surf, go scuba diving, or try deep sea fishing!
Eat delicious barbecue
On Caye Caulker, you’ll see — and smell — barbecues going all day and night long. You can’t go wrong with the island’s most popular dish – jerk chicken!
A plate of jerk chicken will set you back about $15-20 BZD ($7.50-10 US) in a restaurant and usually will come with your choice of sides and anywhere from one to three glasses of rum punch included! Quality across the board was about the same everywhere, so no place really sticks out – just order the jerk chicken and you can’t go wrong!
On the street, a takeaway portion of jerk chicken and coconut rice will cost you about $10 BZD, or $5 US. My favorite street stall was located on the north side just before Sip N Dip.
There is also delicious Chinese food on the island thanks to the influence of Chinese immigrants who run many of the local shops and grocery stores. My favorite was located across the street from La Cubana, and the chow mein was delicious, only about $7 BZD ($3.50 US), and big enough for two!
Try a Belizean breakfast
My favorite Belize breakfast is fry jacks – fried dough pockets stuffed with your choice of filling. My favorite was meat, cheese, and egg. Get them at Errolyns House of Fry Jacks for a mere $2.50 BZD each!
If you prefer a more traditional breakfast, or you’re really missing bagels, Ice ‘N Beans is another one of my favorite places on Caye Caulker for breakfast.
Sip on a swing at Margarita Mike’s
I’ve already rhapsodized about Sip N Dip. Another place I loved for day drinking was Margarita Mike’s.
What can I say? I love a good bar swing! And also day drinking. Go figure.
Chill at the Split
I loved spending my days at the “The Split” – the northern tip of Caye Caulker. Apparently, Caye Caulker used to be one island until a hurricane hit in 1961, breaking the island in two. The channel that divides them now is called “The Split” and, absent any white sand beaches, is Caye Caulker’s unofficial watering hole.
The Lazy Lizard is often cited as a favorite, but when I went it was under construction — which killed its beachy vibe.
Still, a day at the Split is never spent poorly. I mean: look at those blue, blue waters!
Drink after hours at The Sports Bar or the Reggae Bar
If you’re somehow managed to make it to sunset without getting drunk… congrats! You now have two options: The Sports Bar and The Reggae Bar. Basically everyone on the island goes to The Sports Bar (Barrier Reef Sports Bar) first and then Reggae Bar (I & I) if they’re still standing.
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker
You won’t find luxury resorts here — Caye Caulker is stubbornly down to earth, especially compared with its more upscale cousin, Ambergris Caye, which has its share of luxury boutique hotels.
What Caye Caulker lacks in resorts it makes up for in cheap and cheerful guesthouses. If you’re traveling in a group of two, it often is about as cheap as staying in a hostel.
Janet and I stayed at Sea N Sun Guest House and loved it! The price was fair, the rooms were clean, and the Internet was rather good – a rare find on Caye Caulker. They also rent free canoes and bikes, which can save you a lot of money if those are things you plan on doing while on the island.
If you’re looking for a hostel, I’ve heard good things about Go Slow Caye Caulker. I also met the lovely owner of the new hostel Travellers Palm, which is in the cutest yellow and pink building, and is one of the cheapest options on the island with prices starting around $20 BZD ($10 USD) per night.
How to Get to Caye Caulker
It’s quite easy to get to Caye Caulker from Belize City. There are shuttles about every hour or two. Ocean Ferry Belize is the cheaper of two ferry options (check out the most recent schedule here) at $12 USD one way or $22 roundtrip. The other option, Belize Water Taxi, is a touch more expensive but has more options (schedule here) at $15 USD one way or $25 roundtrip.
You can get to Belize City easily via chicken bus from San Ignacio, Belize ($8 BZD/$4 USD) or Chetumal, Mexico (180 pesos/$9 USD). If coming from the bus station, I recommend taking a taxi, not walking. The bus station is in a dodgy neighborhood, and I wouldn’t want to walk through it with all my belongings on me!
Water taxis from Chetumal, Mexico are available every other day, but they are expensive — over $50 USD one way.
You can also take private shuttles from within Belize or to neighboring Guatemala or Mexico if you prefer to travel in a little more comfort, but I love Belize’s chicken buses. The reggae music and people watching opportunities make the hundreds of stops you’ll make along the way less painful somehow.
7 Things You Must Pack for Caye Caulker
I’ve written an entire Belize packing list but if you just want the essentials, here’s what I think are the absolute essentials.
- Mosquito repellent & after-care: Belize has a tropical climate with mosquitos year-round, particularly in the rainy season. Zika, dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya have all been reported there. While there’s no reason to cancel your trip on account of it, protect yourself with mosquito repellent (as a back-up, I carry around a few mosquito repellent wipes with me in my purse in case I forget to apply spray before leaving or that I can apply after swimming). It’s also inevitable that you won’t leave without a few bites, so bring some after-bite relief too (this is hard to find in Belize).
- Full-size travel towel: This travel towel is full-size so it’s big enough to use as a beach towel, thin enough to pack up super small for your luggage, and it dries super quickly in Belize’s humid climate.
- A guidebook: I use travel blogs a lot when I’m on the road but I also love having a guidebook to give me more specific, thoroughly researched information. Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook and Lonely Planet Belize is no exception. I usually buy the Kindle version, but paper versions are also great fun to peruse.
- Reef-safe sunscreen: If you are planning to do any water activities, such as diving or snorkeling or even swimming, please use a reef-safe sunscreen like this one. The active ingredients in sunscreen are killing off coral in huge numbers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world and is under threat. So please don’t use normal, chemical-laden sunscreen in Belize’s fragile ocean ecosystem!
- Filter water bottle or Steripen: Belize’s tap water is not drinkable anywhere in the country. I recommend traveling with a water bottle with a built-in filter that filters out nasty bacteria and viruses like this awesome LifeStraw bottle so you can reduce your plastic waste. Alternately, you can use a Steripen which sterilizes water using UV light. A great investment if you travel frequently and want to reduce your plastic bottle consumption!
- GoPro: If you go snorkeling or swimming with manatees or kayaking, you’re going to want a way to capture all of that action! A GoPro Hero 6 is currently the highest-quality option, but if you’re on a budget, the GoPro Session is also an excellent choice. Be aware that you need to buy protective casing if you want to take either of these cameras diving. They are only waterproof to 10 meters, and you’ll exceed that if you dive (most dives are at least 15 meters or so).
- Finally, don’t forget travel insurance! Whether you’re scuba diving, caving, zip lining through the jungle or just relaxing on the beach, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for Belize! It’ll protect you in case of accident, injury, lost luggage, theft, or any other disaster that could befall your trip. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for two years and recommend them highly. I’ve included a way to get a free quote below.
So, Why Visit Caye Caulker?
There’s no denying there’s something special about this little island off the coast of Belize.
The views are stunning, the vibe is perfect, and somehow the days just melt one into the other. I found myself spending 4 days here and easily could have spent two weeks or a month here, that’s how much I loved it!
You know a place is special when it actually kind of hurts you to leave it. I know I’ll come back to Belize for a third time, and likely a fourth or fifth… and when I do, Caye Caulker, I hope you won’t have changed.