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Caye Caulker

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Revision as of 23:35, 11 August 2011 by Mjvanderveen (talk | contribs) (Snorkeling)

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Caye Caulker

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Caye Caulker [15] is a small island off the coast of Belize, 1.6 km (1 mi) west of the Barrier Reef. It's about 8.2 km (5 mi) in length with a population of 1,300 and counting.


Caye Caulker is popular with backpackers and budget travelers for its (relatively) cheap prices, laid-back vibe, and abundance of restaurants and bars. There aren't really any proper beaches to speak of, but plenty of docks are spread around the island where you can pull up a plastic chair and get your sun on, or hang out at one of the ocean front restaurants or walk down to "The Split" which is a popular swimming area and if you're feeling a bit thirsty, The Lazy Lizard Bar is just couple steps away from the water.

There are only 3 roads in town, all sandy. Front Street runs along the east coast, Back Street along the west coast, and Middle Street exactly where you'd expect it. The vast majority of places of interest to a visitor will be found along Front St and the west coast.

The local cultural influences are Mestizo, Garifuna and Creole.


On early British maps the island's name is spelled "Cay Corker." Known historically for its plentiful supply of exposed fresh water at La Aguada, one theory holds that this island was a favourite stop for sailors to replenish and cork water bottles. The Spanish name of the island is Cayo Hicaco, which means "the island of the cocoplum." "Caye Caulker" could be an anglicised pronunciation of Cayo Hicaco. Another theory is that boats were caulked in the protected bay, La Ensenada, on the western side of the island leading to the "Caulker" name.

Recent history of Caye Caulker began when Mestizo refugees from the Mexican Caste Wars arrived. With few inhabitants, food could be grown with sustainable methods of agriculture. The coconut and the fishing industry became important economic staples of the island. Even today a few of the older women continue to process coconut oil for their own use and to sell, although generally the coconuts themselves are harvested and shipped to the mainland.

Get in

By air

Caye Caulker Airport (IATA: CUK) is located at the southern end of the island. Belize is served by both Maya Island Air and Tropic Air. Flights leave hourly from Belize City to San Pedro, and will stop here if there is demand. These local planes leave from the international airport and the cost is approximately US$60-70 one-way, and takes about 10-15 min. These planes also leave from the Belize City Municipal Airport (IATA: TZA) and the cost is less.

If you're coming in from Mexico you can fly from Corozal, 20 min from the Mexican border at Chetumal. The flights stop in Ambergris and Caye Caulker if there's demand, and will save you the 4+ hour bus ride to Belize City.

By sea

Catch a Water Taxi in Belize City to Caye Caulker and they have frequent runs to the island everyday rain or shine. The ride takes about 45 min, 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.

  • Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association [16] - $20Bz one-way, or $35Bz round-trip. (Check their website for departures). Caye Caulker Water Taxi is located at the foot of the Swing Bridge in Belize City.
  • San Pedro Belize Express [17] - $20Bz one-way and $35Bz round-trip. (Check their website for departures). San Pedro Belize Express is located inside the Brown Sugar Terminal in Belize City.

If you are coming from Mexico you can get a boat directly from Chetumal to San Pedro and then to Caye Caulker, it runs everyday, leaving at 3PM and 3:30PM, US$35, 2.5 hr. While twice the cost, this route is a much better option than trekking down to Belize City and getting the boat there. Tickets can be bought at the Maritime Terminal or Muelle Fiscal itself or from a slow speaking large friendly dude at Chetumal ADO terminal.

Get around

There are only three main streets on Caye Caulker - Front Street, Middle Street and Back Street - none of which are paved. Front Street, the easternmost street, is the busiest and has almost everything for tourists on it. Everything is within walking distance, it takes approximately 20 min to slow-walk from the Front Pier to almost anywhere.

There are few cars on the island, so everyone gets around on golf carts, bicycles or on foot. With a golf cart, you can go around the entire island in 30 min.

There are many places on the island who rent bicycles.

For golf carts check with C&N Golf Cart Rentals and Caye Caulker Golf Cart Rentals.


  • 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, (6.4 km (4 mi) south of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye), +501 226-2247 (), [1]. 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 m 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.


Caye Caulker is a small, very laid-back Caribbean island. In fact, its motto is "Go Slow" and that is exactly what you should do. It is an ideal place to spend a few days while taking a break from travelling around the rest of Central America.

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, do not expect Rio or Hawaii - there is no sand here. The "beach" is a sunken area of a picnic area surrounded by cement sea walls, damage from the hurricane and smartly kept as it was in 1961. On the walls you'll see the young and hip lazing about, catching a tan. When it gets too hot, you can jump into the water and climb back again, or make the short walk to the Lazy Lizard to refresh your drink.

Snorkelling and diving

Much of the activity on the island centers around snorkelling and diving (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 min 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.


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. Some of them include 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. 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).

  • Chocolate (tours), (At the north end of Front Street, near Ragamuffin Tours). Tours to Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary and manatree habitats, tours are normally run every 2nd day.
  • Carlos Tours is located next to Cafe Amore, 1 block south of the Sandbox restaurant. An eco-friendly tour and quite respectful of the reef. The locals living on the island will say that his tours are one of the best. The tour includes 4 stops: Hol Chan Marine Reserve, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye for lunch (not provided), Shark-Ray Alley, & Coral Gardens. The price is $90Bz. Carlos will take multiple underwater pictures during the trip and can supply them on a CD after the trip for $30Bz. This is much better than getting $40Bz underwater disposable camera.
  • Red Mangrove Eco Adventures, Front Street, Caye Caulker, [2]. Eco friendly small group snorkel tours to local sites and Turneffe Atoll.
  • 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.
  • "Juni's", sailing/snorkling trips to hol chan marine reserve. Authentic experience on a beautiful self built sailing boat. Small groups to maximum of 6 people. Only for those who respect the ocean, the fish and the locals. If you like drinking and smoking with 20+ people on a sailing boat, then don't go to Juni. Go to raggamuffin instead. Find Juni in his office behind the police station, best before 9.30am and after 5.30pm, or at his boat Trinity at the dock. Experience yourself, and direct nice and friendly people to him if you can.

Caye Caulker is popular with divers and there are several dive shops on the island. Contact them a few days in advance to find out what their schedule is. PADI certified dive shops are available offering both recreational diving and open water courses. These courses normally take 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.

The local dive shops all offer dive trips to the Blue Hole, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, Spanish Bay, Turneffe North, and Turneffe Elbow, prices vary depending on the dive site.

  • Belize Diving Services, (Near the soccer field in the northern half of the town), [3]. PADI Resort facility. Small groups, safety conscious and is the only dive shop to offer technical diving services.
  • Big Fish Diving, (Located at the southern part of the island opposite of Quan's Shopping Center). PADI Certified.
  • Frenchies, (Located in the northern part of the island towards the Split), [4]. Run by a Belizean. Very friendly and laid back. PADI Certified.

  • Scuba Sensation, (Located in the middle of the island before the police station). PADI Certified.

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): $US90 (2 tank dives)
  • Turneffe Atoll: $US150 (3 tank dives)
  • Blue Hole: $US150 (3 tank dives) plus $US40 park permit

Sea Kayaks

  • Tsunami Adventures, extreme north end of Front St., [18]. 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.

Other Activities

You can also book various activities at many places on the island, such as

  • Sailing tours. With the Ragga muffin tour you can do a sailing trip of three days (two nights). Sleeping on little islands, snorkeling, fishing your own meal, a wonderfull experience.
  • 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. For more information see the Friends of Swallow Caye. [19]


Like most of Belize, most shops accept US Dollars, US$1 equals $2 Belizian. Prices will be posted in Belizian dollars, but always confirm before making a purchase.

There are 2 ATMs on the island. One ATM is for local cards only and another ATM accepts foreign cards. Often on weekends, ATMs run out of money, so stock up on your money in Belize City.

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.
  • Chan's Mini Mart, Middle Street. For your grocery needs during your stay in Caye Caulker.


This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve! Suggested fixes: Please assist to develop the accuracy of this article by placing the establishments already listed here into the most appropriate of the 3 available price categories. Any new Eat listings should also go into the most appropriate of the the three price categories available: Budget, Mid-range or Splurge


  • Auntie's Fast Food is located on the Middle Street. It offers delicious Belizean and Chinese take out with a relatively low price. Famous dishes include Stew Chicken, Baked Chicken, Rice and Bean and Cow Foot Soup.
  • The Bamboo Grill next to Rasta Pasta has good fish and shrimp dishes, but chicken is also available. Features swings instead of chairs at some tables and the bar. Friendly hostess.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget up to $--Bz
Mid-range up to $--Bz
Splurge over $--Bz

  • Glenda's, Back Street near the microwave tower, serves eggs, bacon, a cinnamon roll, and coffee for just $US3.50.
  • 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.
  • Femi's Bar and Lounge, Front Street, a little south of the Lazy Lizard. Great lunch, dinner, and drink specials on a pier overhanging the sea.
  • Fran's - Roger's sister, her fare is similar to that of Jolly Roger's, for the same 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.
  • Pirates located near the supermarkets offers cheap food for the budget traveller. A generous portion of Chicken and Chips can be had for $7Bz.


  • Agave, Front Street, north of Dock Street, [5]. Bar and grill offering contemporary seafood dishes for between $20Bz-$40Bz
  • Amor y Café, [6]. Great breakfast place on Front Street south of Dock Street
  • Jolly Roger, Front Street. For $25Bz you can get catch of the day (lobster, snapper, baracuda) with garlic bread, mashed potatoes, rum punch and a small desert. The grilled seafood is delicious (like everywhere else), but the lack of hygiene and running water means you need a robust digestive system and a bit of luck if you want to avoid food poisoning.


  • Don Corleone, Front Street. Italian restaurant.
  • Habaneros, Front Street. Lunch and dinner.


There is not much to do in the night in regards to partying. Holidays and long weekends are when events and dances are held on the island by individual committees of the island.

Sunset at the Lazy Lizard
  • I&I Reggae Bar, (Located on the southern part of the island). Nice vibes and hang out spot to meet with friends or meet new friends. Great place to relax on a hammock or swing with a cocktail. From the top deck you can see the whole island, eerily peaceful at night.
  • Oceanside Night Club, (On the front street). Karaoke nights Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and Lady's Nights. Has dancing and/or live music from time to time, and can be a popular destination on weekend nights before midnight.
  • The split is the place where hurricane Hattie split the island in two in 1961, a bit of dredging and currents subsequently 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. Happy hour starts at 5PM and offers two rum drinks for $5Bz; try the "Panty Ripper" included in this deal.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Yuma's House Belize ((also known as Tina's Backpacker's Hostel)), (East side of the island), [7]. The islands hostel, between 2 of the water taxis on the beach. It has new management and the rooms have been renovated. A social place and this is the way a hostel should be.
  • Many other high quality lodging facilities are available for US$20-30 per night. Don't get ripped off by the rental companies charging US$60 or more per night, they are run down, and a complete rip off.
  • Da Real McCaw, [8]. Great place, quiet, hammocks on porches right across from beach. US$150-210 two beds.
  • Blue Wave Guesthouse, (Near the split, across from Ragamuffin Tours), [9]. Rooms with balcony, cableTV, private bathroom. Nice and new. $60Bz per night.
  • Chila's Cabin, Caye Caulker, Belize (On the northern part of the island towards the split next to Don Corleone), +501 630 3668, [10]. Ideal for the budget traveler. On the beach front. Nice sea view, private hot/cold shower, cableTV, fridge, coffee pot, microwave, toaster, balcony with hammock. Split unit A/C, 1 double bed, wifi and complementary bicycles. Good for a couple or a single person and safe for females traveling alone. US$55.
  • Colinda Cabanas (Previously known as Lorraines Guest House), (Beside The Anchorage Resort, a 10 min walk south along the beach from the water taxi), +501 226 0383, [11]. checkin: 12 noon; checkout: 10AM. Renovated in 2011 and renamed Colinda Cabanas. Beachfront location facing the reef with frequent easterly breeze. All bathrooms have hot and cold reverse osmosis purified water. A community kitchen should be completed by 1 December 2011. A 175 ft dock with palapa and hammocks, safe swimming area. Private ocean view cabana-US$25, A/C beachfront suite-US$100.
  • The Tropics Hotel offers an alternative for those on a budget who don't mind getting cosy. A "Sunset" room costs $55Bz and comes with a shower and two double beds to share.
  • Oasi, [12]. 3-room guest house located south of downtown, near the airstrip. Each suite has a kitchen, porch with hammock and free use of bicycles.
  • Iguana Reef Inn, [13]. Hotel with private pool, beach, dock, free continental breakfasts, safes and small refrigerators in each room, A/C and shower. They have their own bar. No children under 10 years old allowed.
  • Tree Tops Guesthouse, (just before Tom's Hotel), +501 226 0240, [14]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. Immaculately clean and very comfortable rooms, with charming garden just 50 yards from the waters edge. US$55-110.


Caye Caulker has internet access, but the island is served by a single hard line to the mainland and is therefore prone to bandwidth problems and interruptions.

There are a few internet cafes and wifi hotspots on the island.

  • Cayeboard Connection is open from 8AM-9PM.
  • Caye Caulker Cyber Cafe open from 8AM-10PM.
  • The Island Link Internet Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor is open from 8AM-9PM. They also have delicious ice creams and is owned by a local Caye Caulker native.
  • Young's Internet Cafe on the back street

Get out

Water taxis [20] leave the island for Belize City from early in the morning till the end of the day.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

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