Caye Caulker  is an island off the coast of Belize.
Catch a Water Taxi from the Marine Terminal in Belize City. Water taxis (speedboats) leave for Caye Caulker every one to two hours during the day.
The ride takes about 45 minutes, and then continues on to San Pedro. On windy days the trip can be a little rough, but most times is smooth. Sit towards the back of the boat for a smoother ride.
There is a local airstrip on the southern end of Caye Caulker. Local flights from the international (Philip Goldson International Airport - BZE) and domestic airports (Municipal Airport - TZA) in Belize City land here. Cost is about $54US one-way. Compared with a $20Bz taxi ride from the airport to the Marine Terminal, plus a $10US water taxi ticket to Caye Caulker, the cost of taking a plane is pretty reasonable.
If you're coming in from Mexico, you can also fly from Corozal, 20 minutes from the Mexican border at Chetumal. The flight from Corozal will drop you in Ambergris or Caye Caulker, and it saves you the 4+ hour bus ride to Belize City.
Everything is within walking distance -- it takes approximately 20 minutes to walk from the Front Pier to almost anywhere. There are only three main streets on Caye Caulker, none of which are paved. Front Street, the easternmost street, has almost everything for tourists on it. There are almost no cars on the island, and everyone gets around by either bicycle or golf cart. You can rent a golf cart and view the entire island in 30 minutes. A taxi ride (in a golf cart) costs $6Bz, or you can rent a bicycle for $7Bz per hour, or $15Bz per day.
- The Forest Reserve covers the northern 100 acres of the island. It's mostly dense mangrove forest. The local Audubon group sometimes organizes morning birdwatching tours.
- Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, also known as the local reef. The local reef is close enough that you can see the waves breaking on it from the island itself.
- Hol Chan Marine Reserve, 4 miles (6.4 km) south of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, tel: 226-2247 (E-Mail: [email protected]), . Has been protected for longer than the local reef, and so it usually has more mature marine life (i.e. bigger fish) as well as more people, though it's never terribly crowded. It's further away than the local reef.
- Shark and Ray Alley. Tour operators will toss food into the water in order to attract nurse sharks and southern sting rays. You can swim with them, and even touch them if you're quick. Nurse sharks can bite, contrary to myth, but they are also territorial so these sharks are very used to humans.
- The Blue Hole is a 40 meter deep circular hole in the ocean, with many fish, sharks, and corals. The Blue Hole is possibly the most famous dive site in Belize, even though it's nearly straight down. It's at least an hour boat ride away from Caye Caulker.
Short "half-day" snorkeling tours are offered by numerous local businesses for approximately $40Bz per person. They usually leave at 10:30am and 2:30pm. Stops include the local reef, the Coral Garden, and Shark and Ray Alley.
Looking out towards the reef
Longer "Full-day" snorkeling tours are offered by numerous local businesses, for approximately $100-110Bz. They usually leave around 10AM and return around 4:30PM. Stops include the Coral Garden, Shark and Ray Alley, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Be sure to check whether your tour guide will include lunch, since some only include snacks. The full-day trip offered by Ragamuffin Tours includes lunch, snacks, and a Rum Punch "happy hour" on the way back. With all operators, check to make sure they have equipment that is in good shape.
The creation of Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary - a manatee reserve near Belize City is due to the efforts of a Caye Caulker local named Chocolate. He offers guided tours to the Manatee reserve approximately every other day, as do a few other tour operators. Chocolate's shop is at the north end of Front Street, near Ragamuffin Tours. Be warned that you don't get to swim with the manatees in the sanctuary and some days may be more difficult to see them. Most manatee tours include one or two snorkeling stops. Manatees can be seen all year long, and in the summer months can be seen near Hol Chan Marine Reserve as well as other local areas. The younger ones are curious and will swim close to you, unlike the more mature manatees, which generally avoid people (for good reason).
- Seagull Adventures, about a block from the Front Pier, offers snorkeling tours to more distant locations that most other tour guides will only go to for diving. Examples include Blue Hole (about $230Bz per person), Tourneffe Atoll (about $120Bz per person), etc. Ask the owner a few days in advance to find out what the schedule is. The best time to catch her is in the evening, around 6pm -- during the day she's usually gone on the snorkeling trips.
- Carlos Tours next to the Sandbox Restaurant is another local favorite.
Caye Caulker is popular with divers, and there are several dive shops on the island. Local dive shops offer trips to the Blue Hole, the Turneffe Atoll, Half Moon Caye, Hol Chan Marine reserve, and others. Check in a few days in advance to find out what their schedule is.
You can get your Open Water PADI certification at Belize Diving Services for about $600Bz ($300US). It takes 3-4 days, providing the weather is fair. The certification includes 2 shallow-water dives, and 4 open-water dives. All dives are done in the ocean, since they have no swimming pool. Belize Diving Services is located near the soccer field, in the northern half of the town. Similar services and prices are offered at Frenchie's, near the Split.
- Tsunami Adventures, extreme north end of Front St., . This is a great way to explore the northern mangrove forest. Head for the leeward side of the island (the west side) for smoother water and to avoid paddling into the wind. Cost for a two-person kayak is $15Bz per hour for the first hour, then $10Bz for each additional hour.
There is not a lot to do on Caye Caulker. This is a small very laid-back Caribbean island. It is an ideal place to spend a few days while taking a break from travelling around the rest of Central America.
Take a break from it all. Chill out at The Lazy Lizard located at "the split," a little bar on its own near what can only be described as the island's only beach, however there is no sand here.
Diving and Snorkeling
Much of the activity on the island centers around snorkeling (about a dozen operators offering trips) and scuba diving. The prices at all the shops are basically the same. The local diving is at Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a 30 minute boat ride away. A little further out is Spanish Bay, Caye Chapel, and some other sites. Long distance trips to Turneffe Atoll and the famous Blue Hole are regularly available.
There are five local dive shops:
- Paradise Down Run by an American. Very professional, very organized, and bigger trips. They seem to offer the long distance trips (Blue Hole and Turneffe Atoll) more frequently.
- Frenchies Run by a Belizian. Very friendly and laid back.
- Belize Diving Services,Caye Caulkers only PADI Resort facility. Small groups, safety, and "Worry-Free diving"
- Big Fish Diving
- Black Durgon Run by Simeon. Takes small groups no larger than 6.
There are also operators on nearby Ambergris Caye that can pick you up if the local shops aren't going where you want.
The cost of various trips varies according to the distance from Caye Caulker. Typical costs are:
- Local dives (Hol Chan, Spanish Bay): $US 90 (2 tank dives)
- Turneffe Atoll: $US 150 (3 tank dives)
- Blue Hole: $US 150 (3 tank dives) plus $US 40 park permit
You can also book various activities at many places on the island, such as
- Sailing tours.
- Tours to Maya ruins (on the mainland).
- Cave tubing (on the mainland).
- Manatee watching Tours normally include a snorkeling stop at Sergeant's Caye (on the barrier reef) and a short visit to St. George's Caye. There are many tour operators out of Caye Caulker, San Pedro and Belize City who do manatee watching trips. Visit Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary that was set up by Chocolate Heredia, Belizean native and award winning conservationist. 9,000 acres of sea and mangrove became a protected area in July of 2002. Visit the site for more info: Friends of Swallow Caye
- Marla's kitchen is the price/quality place in town, with a huge BBQ she prepares the best lobster in town, another tip is the day special with 5 sides!!!
- The Sandbox, located right near the Front Pier, has good food at reasonable prices. This is the only place on the island where you can get a veggie burger.
- Rasta Pasta is the place everyone tells you to go. The food is good, but not as special as you might think.
- The Bamboo Grill next to Rasta Pasta has good fish and shrimp dishes and a friendly hostess.
- Look up a small, small place one block off Front Street called Wish Willy's. It is laid back and in the chef's (Maurice) backyard. The food is fresh, tasty, and very reasonable and Maurice is very friendly. He also makes a great rum punch.
- Habaneros on Front Street has great food for lunch and dinner, but at high prices (for the island).
- Don Corleone, Front Street, serves a great breakfast.
- Glenda's, Back Street near the microwave tower, serves eggs, bacon, a cinnamon roll, and coffee for just $US 3.50.
- Jolly Roger sets up a grill on Front Street. For $20-25BZ you can get catch of the day (lobster, snapper, baracuda) plus garlic bread, mashed potatoes, rum and coke plus cheesecake for dessert. Without a doubt some of the island's best food.
- Fran's - Roger's sister, her fare is similar to that of Jolly Roger's, for similar price. Located across the street from the Miramar Hotel.
- Caye Caulker Bakery, Back Street, just North of Chan's Grocery. Opens at 7:30AM. Serving a mixture of sweet and Savory foods. The ham and cheese turnover (if available) is exceedingly delicious and is a filling breakfast on its own.
- Gift shops along the Front Street sell mainly t-shirts, hammocks and souvenirs. Vendors can be found along the main street selling a variety of crafts and jewelry.
- Caribbean Colors Art Gallery, Front Street. Art gallery on Caye Caulker.
- Chocolate's Gift Shop, Front Street near the split. Sells beautiful sarongs and clothing from Bali. Nice sarongs and silver jewelry.
- The split is the place where hurricane Mitch split the island in two. (It was actually hurricane Hattie in 1961, a bit of dredging and currents that really formed the split) There is a bar just next to the split called the Lazy Lizard. Good place for a binch while watching large tarpons, and rays just swimming by.
Sunset at the Lazy Lizard
- Check out the I&I reggae bar. Great place to hang out on a hammock or swing with a cocktail. From the top deck you can see the whole island, eerily peaceful at night.
- The Sports Bar (they have a couple of TVs tuned to ESPN) is right across from Rasta Pasta and the Police Station and occasionally has live music. The food is pretty good and it's a nice place to grab a beer in the shade on a hot day.
- Oceanside has dancing and/or live music from time to time, and can be a popular destination on weekend nights before midnight.
- Sunset View - a disco on the back side of the island just north of the soccer field. It is only open from 11PM on weekends (it doesn't get going until 1AM), but you will see a different side of the island - DJs spin reggae, punta, and other caribbean music and the locals cut loose and dance in a surprisingly large room -- be prepared to be one of the few tourists there, but it is great fun if you like music and dancing.
- Tinas Backpackers is the hostel on the island, just next to where the watertaxi lands. A social place and this is the way a hostel should be!
- Many other high quality lodging facilities are available for $20-$30 per night. Don't get ripped off by the rental companies charging $60 or more per night, they are run down, and a complete rip off.
- Da Real McCaw, . Great place, quiet, hammocks on porches right across from beach. 150-210USD two beds.
- Blue Wave Guesthouse: Near the split, across from Ragamuffin Tours. Deals can be had for a room with balcony, (cable)TV, private bathroom for B$60 per night. Nice and new.
Water taxis leave the island for Belize City from early in the morning till the end of the day.
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