Located around a mile from Belize’s famed Barrier Reef system, the tiny island of Caye Caulker is a popular stop for backpackers and budget travelers, and those just looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life back home. With vibrant turquoise waters and a hip local vibe, the island has become increasingly popular with travelers wanting to experience local Belizean culture while still enjoying a tropical vacation.
Only five miles long, Caye Caulker’s motto of “Go Slow” is one both residents and tourists are quick to adopt. The primary mode of transportation on the island is either golf cart or bicycle. Or, live like a local and kick off your shoes and wander the island’s sandy streets.
Tourism is a key industry but fishing has primarily been the main source of income. Wondering how Caye Caulker got its name? Several theories exist, but it is believed to have made its way on to British maps as “Caye Corker.” Sailors knew of its abundant fresh water, so they would stop to replenish and “cork” their water bottles. Another theory is that Caye Caulker is the Anglicized pronunciation of Cayo Hicaco, its Spanish name, which translates to ‘island of the coco plum.’
Things To Do
Although Caye Caulker is small, the island offers a wealth of activities to keep everyone entertained. Obviously, watersports are a main draw to travelers and you can do everything from snorkeling and diving to windsurfing and kitesurfing. Look for excellent fishing opportunities, and bring back your catch to have it cooked up at one of the local restaurants in town.
Other things to do in and around Caye Caulker include full day excursions that can take you to see everything from local manatees or all the way to a Mayan temple on the western border of Belize’s mainland. It makes for a full day, but mainland tours like cave tubing, zip lining, the Belize Zoo and more are all available.
If you are hoping for a day of doing nothing, check out Caye Caulker’s “Split”, named for the channel that divides the island in two. The Split is the local hangout for travelers and locals from all around Belize. The calm, shallow waters make for a perfect spot to cool off, and the Lazy Lizard serves up bar food and some strong drinks, including the “lizard juice” – try if you dare!
Food and Drinks
After an active day of exploring Belize or lounging around on the island, check out one of Caye Caulker’s numerous restaurants or street stalls. Everything from barbeque to fresh seafood (including Conch ceviche) are readily available as you wander the beachside. While you can get good BBQ in a restaurant, check out the guys who set up their grills on the beach for one of the best meals you’ll have in Belize. When in season, lobster and conch are “must try” eats and you will find some of the best in Caye Caulker. Lobster is such a big deal in Belize, there are several annual “Lobsterfest” celebrations, including an annual one on Caye Caulker.
Where To Stay
If you are looking for a five star luxury resort, Caye Caulker may not the island for you. Lodging options range from hostel-type accommodations to several boutique properties with more modern amenities. The island has resisted major commercialization and thereby lodging options tend to be simple and geared to those looking to spend most of their time outdoors.
It is easy to get to Caye Caulker. If you arrive to Belize via the Phillip Goldson International Airport (PGIA), you can choose between the following two options.
The cheapest way is to take a cab to the water taxi center where you catch a boat to the island, which takes around 1 hour. The most direct option is to take a flight on either Tropic Air or Maya Island Air from PGIA, which takes approximately 20 minutes and you are treated to some fantastic views of the reef and neighboring islands.
And if you arrive Belize via a land border, you should follow this guide.