Barrier Reef –
Bits ‘n pieces
Caye Caulker is one of the Caribbean islands that belong to Belize, an often overseen destination for people travelling in Central America. Although it is the priciest destination within this region, the country most certainly has many sights to take in (Maya ruins, nature reserves) and a very relaxed atmosphere. The top destinations in Belize are two of its islands: Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, the former is more oriented towards family/resort holidays and the latter is a wonderful backpacker’s hotspot which is great for kicking back a while.
It’s a small island, has around 800 local inhabitants, and you can walk from the one tip of the island to the other in 10 minutes. There are no cars; people get around in golf carts, by bike, or on foot. The roads are quite sandy, so most people don’t use shoes or sandals and just walk around barefoot all the time. English is Belize’s main language, and the locals speak it with a Jamaican-like accent. Caye Caulker is just about synonymous with relaxation, you’ll see ‘Go Slow’ signs along the roads and you’ll hear and see Bob Marley everywhere. There are only little wooden houses, lots of sand and ocean, palm trees, and a warm breeze that never stops and just seems to embrace you all the time. It’s a very very Caribbean place.
It’s impossible to get lost on the island. There are only a few streets: the Dock Street – which is obviously where you’ll find the dock with the boats to Ambergris Caye and Belize City. Then there are the Front Street, the Middle Street and the Back Street, which run parallel to each other, from north to south. Most of the restaurants, shops and bars are situated on the Front Street. On the northern tip of the island you’ll find the municipal beach, although it isn’t really much of a beach. You’ll see a bit of sand, some concrete, the ocean, and the northern uninhabited island, separated from Caye Caulker by a canal, also known as ‘the Split’ or ‘the Cut’. On an interesting side note: these two islands used to be one big island, but in the year 2000 hurricane Keith hit Caye Caulker pretty bad and in fact physically split up the island.
One of the biggest attractions of Belize is its location at the Barrier Reef, the biggest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The underwater world of the Caribbean Ocean around the Northern Cayes is very impressive. Therefore, it’s no wonder that a lot of visitors spend their days in Belize snorkelling or diving. A lot of colourful coral and fish, sharks, dolphins, rays, turtles, lobsters… they’re all around.
An absolute must for divers is the Blue Hole in the Lighthouse Reef, rated as one of the best dives in the world. There are a few diving companies on Caye Caulker: Belize Diving Services, Frenchies and Big Fish, all of which organize daily diving trips to nearby reefs. These include Turneffe Atoll, Hol Chan Marine Park, and of course the Blue Hole.
There are also plenty of possibilities to do snorkelling trips from the island. Hol Chan Marine Park and Shark-Ray Alley are the best places to go for spotting some of the many underwater creatures. As a cheaper option you can also simply rent snorkelling equipment on the island and swim around at the Split, where you’ll see plenty of interesting fish as well. You can rent equipment at Tsunami Rentals.
In the daytime it’s relaxing, swimming, snorkelling or diving. By night it’s eating, drinking and dancing. There are many nice little restaurants and bars to be found on the entire island. A good one to go to is the popular I&I bar, located at the southern end of the island. This bar is absolutely wicked: everything is hung from the ceiling: swings, hammocks, tables… it’s a very cool place to chil. Another happening place is the Lazy Lizard Bar at the Split, which carries the slogan “A sunny place for shady people”. This is a good place to get some Lizard Juice into your system to start the evening with. On Friday through Sunday the local disco is open: the Sunset View Disco, where the party continues until late.
There are many great places to eat. Some popular restaurants are the Sandbox and Rasta Pasta. The food is alright, but try out some other places too (recommended comes Marla’s Kitchen). For the cheapest food, go to the Chinese restaurant on the Front Street. They do takeaway food and offer a decent meal for 2.50 USD. For a good breakfast: there’s a lovely little bakery on the Middle Street.
If you’re travelling by yourself, Tina’s Backpacker Hostel is without the doubt the place to be. Good atmosphere, 10 USD a night. If you’re travelling in a group (2 people or more), you’ll find it more economical and more fun to get a place of your own. There are several possibilities to rent nice your own cabin or beach house, provided that you stay on the island for at least three days.
- There is no ATM on Caye Caulker. So be sure to take enough Belizean Dollars with you from Belize City. The only alternative is to can get a cash advance from your credit card at the local bank. That’s expensive to do though.
- The local currency (Belizean Dollars) is fixed at a rate of two to one with the American Dollar. And USD are accepted everywhere.
- Although there’s plenty of drugs to be found in Caye Caulker, be sure not to smoke in public (e.g. on the beach). The police is quite strict, checks frequently and will arrest you if they catch you.