We recently returned from a few days on Caye Caulker. My daughter and some friends had recently been and highly recommended it to us so we are going to write this together so that we can tell you all the best things to do on Caye Caulker for people of all ages!
If you are an “older” person and want to determine if you might enjoy the Caye Caulker activities check out this post which will pose some questions to help you determine whether or not you would like to visit this tiny island.
But if you are ready to go…here all the nitty gritty details about Caye Caulker and the fun things to do on Caye Caulker.
General Information About Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a tiny coral island that is part of Belize. It is one of the northern Cayes and is only about 5 miles long by 1 mile wide. There are no cars on the island and the motto is “go slow.” This was a directive that we definitely followed during our time here!
It is a lovely place covered with swaying palm trees and tropical foliage, surrounded by a gleaming aqua ocean, and traversed by streets made of sand that are raked regularly.
A waterway known as The Split divides the island on the northern end. Most of the businesses and hotels are on the southern side of The Split. Some say that the split was caused by Hurricane Hattie back in the 60’s, but this is only partially true. Locals said that Hattie did open a small waterway but they dredged it deeper themselves in order to allow small boats and canoes to go through. Now it is deep and wide enough for larger boats and the The Split has become a major tourist hangout for the island.
The brightly painted businesses and homes that range in condition from perfectly maintained to ramshackle to downright dilapidated all add to the charm of Caye Caulker. And charming it is.
We found the locals to be friendly and kind and seemingly un-jaded by the number of tourists who come to their island. They speak English with a lovely lilt and we enjoyed hearing the patois that they spoke to one another. They know that they live in a beautiful place and are happy to share it with their visitors as well as to make money from them.
Caye Caulker used to be known as a budget travelers paradise but that is changing rapidly. Nicer hotels and resorts and restaurants are being built although there are still plenty of hostels and street vendors for the backpacking crowd.
How do you pronounce Caye Caulker?
The Belizeans pronounce Caye as Key. I spent the days before we arrived pronouncing it as Kay and it took me a while to remember to say it properly after I heard the correct pronunciation.
How to get to Caye Caulker
Most visitors, including all of us, arrive by airplane into Belize City. After your arrival you have two options for continuing on to the island of Caye Caulker.
Take a taxi from the airport to the boat dock in Belize City where a passenger ferry will take you to the island. The taxi ride takes about 35 minutes and costs $25 US per vehicle.
Tip: Try visiting with your taxi drivers! We found them to be very friendly with a wealth of interesting information about their country.
Tip: At the dock your bags will immediately be checked in for the ferry ride from your taxi. It can be a little disconcerting to see your bags being carted away if you aren’t prepared for it.
Tip: Your bags will probably travel to Caye Caulker on a different boat than the one you are on. Don’t worry. You will pick them up at a little hut on the end of the ferry dock once you get to the island.
After checking your bags you will run a gauntlet of little stores and restaurants with the owners all trying to sell you something. Pass them at first and go directly to the end of the dock to the office to purchase your ferry ticket.
The ferry price is $25 per person round trip. Hold on to your return ticket because that is the only way you can prove that you bought it! The ferries depart about every hour or so and the ride is approximately 40 minutes.
Tip: Sit near the front to avoid the exhaust fumes or even better sit on top of the boat for the best view if you don’t mind arriving a little wind-blown.
Fly directly from the Belize City airport to Caye Caulker. The flights vary in price but last I checked they were about $70 – $80ish per person one way. If you don’t mind spending the extra money this would be a great way to go as it whisks you straight from Belize City to Caye Caulker in about 10 minutes. No taxi and no ferry and much quicker. Check Maya Air or Tropic Air for flights.
Money in Belize and Caye Caulker
If you are coming to Belize with US dollars you will not need to exchange money. US dollars are accepted everywhere and the exchange rate is 2 Belizean dollars to every 1 US dollar. Be aware that once you start to pay in USD your change will most likely be given to you in Belizean dollars or BZ. Soon you will acquire both currencies and you can pay for purchases using any combination of the two.
Prices are always given in BZ in stores and on menus, but I would ask to be sure as you negotiate dive tours, etc. There are many places that accept cash only so be prepared. There is a bank and we saw a couple of ATMs on Caye Caulker but we never used any of them. However, you should be able to get more cash if you need it.
Transportation on Caye Caulker
Because there are no cars on Caye Caulker the main form of transportation will be your own two feet. I suggest renting a bicycle if your hotel or hostel doesn’t provide them. We had bikes and found this to be the perfect way to get around.
There are golf carts which act as taxis. The cost for a drop off is $5 BZ per person. You can also rent a golf cart, but there is honestly no reason to do so. The island is super easy to navigate on foot or by bike. We did take a taxi upon arrival and on our way back to the ferry when we had our bags with us. This was convenient, but not necessary. There was never another moment when we wished for a taxi.
The island is made for leisurely strolling. You rarely need to go anywhere in a hurry! We found that we loved the lack of cars and the slow pace of the island.
Where to Stay
(I am an Airbnb Associate. If you book through my link I may earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. I do not own the Airbnbs that I am including in this post. Some of the photos are courtesy of Airbnb.)
My husband and I stayed at a lovely place called Colinda Cabanas and I highly recommend it! It was delightful and spotless inside and out. All the cabanas have a porch with a hammock. They range in size and some have air-conditioning and some do not. If A/C is important to you (it is for me – at least for sleeping!) be sure and double check.
Our kitchen was really well stocked with coffee items, a nice refrigerator and stove and they provided bikes for us to use. One of the best things is that each cabana has large jug of purified water for your use. You will use it! The weather is hot!
My daughter and her friends stayed at a charming little Airbnb called the Bodhi Tree. It was a cute and brightly colored place that say up on stilts. They especially loved the rooftop terrace with a palapa for shade, hammocks, string lights, and ocean views. They sat on the rooftop every evening enjoying the ocean breezes.
It is a two bedroom 1 bath house that easily sleeps 4 or 5. It has a cute kitchen if you want to do some cooking at home. Bikes are included, too!
Food and Drinks
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food on Caye Caulker. It is simple but good. It reminded me of a cross between Cuban and Mexican food, but with a flair all Belizean. They do a lot of grilled fish and chicken and pork. All the grilled foods were delicious and I definitely recommend giving them a try.
Sadly, it was NOT lobster season while we were there. Even without lobster we enjoyed the food on Caye Caulker and we have a post about the restaurants on Caye Caulker that we tried and would recommend.
You won’t need to bring dressy clothes to dine here. You choices will mostly be very casual restaurants with sand floors and no air-conditioning or street food vendors. No shoes, no shirt is no problem on Caye Caulker!
Best Things To Do on Caye Caulker
SCUBA or Snorkel
You will have a wealth of choices for water activities. Tour guides offering snorkel and SCUBA trips are ubiquitous on the island and you will probably even be approached by locals with a boat. I would recommend using one of the professional guides.
The reef is easily visible from the eastern side of the island and has fantastic snorkeling less than a mile away. Boat tours are necessary and you will find plenty of choices for first time or experienced snorkelers as well as a selection of full or half day tours.
Emily and her friends decided on a half day boat tour that took them to Shark-Ray Alley, the Coral Gardens, and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. You might look for manatees and feed tarpon as well.
If you want a bit more adventure there are some amazing places to SCUBA dive which are a longer boat ride away. This includes some of the most famous dive spots in the world, such as the amazing Great Blue Hole, as well as Lighthouse Reef, and Turneffe Island Atoll. The diving here will often be a mix of steep walls and coral caverns.
You will also find outfits that offer sailing tours. These range from sunset cruises to three day sails with camping on various islands. There are a wide variety of options!
We saw lots of people fishing from the piers and sea walls. The places we stayed provided fishing gear and several of the guests fished regularly from the dock while we there. They were having great luck with both fly fishing and just dropping a line. You can rent fishing rods on the island, but we observed locals fishing with a just a hook, line, and weight early one morning and they had a bucket-full so perhaps you could do the same!
We were told by our host at Colinda Cabanas that we did not need a fishing license for dock fishing, but I would definitely double check this informations before you bait your hook!
If you want to go out on the ocean to fish there are fishing tour companies that you can book.
Explore the Town
The best Caye Caulker activity if you aren’t out on the water is simply to walk around the island! Stroll or bike up and down the sandy streets. Pop into stores. Visit with the locals who are peddling their wares at a multitude of gift shops and souvenir stands lining the streets.
Get your hair braided or enjoy a beach side massage. Check out the art gallery and have a coffee at Caribbean Colors Art Cafe. Enjoy the breeze. Avoid stepping on one of the lazy, slumbering dogs who stake out their specific resting spots in the middle of the road. Sip a delicious icy cold pina-colada or fresh fruit juice. Rejuvenate with a Fry Jack…
It’s simply a lovely place to wander.
Enjoy nature in the less developed parts of the island
On the northernmost part of the island across from The Split is the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve. This area is basically a mangrove estuary where you will find all kinds of wildlife including wading birds, crocodiles, and iguanas.
Tip: You will also see lots of mosquitos so slather on the bug spray before you go.
Local guide Richard Castillo is the only guide allowed to bring guests to the crocodile reserve within the forest reserve so be sure and check him out if you want to explore in this area.
Relax and relax some more
Bring a book. Bring your guitar. Bring your journal. Remember the motto? Go slow. We went slow. We did a lot of nothing on Caye Caulker because this is a legitimate activity here!. We read, we chatted, we napped, we watched the boats go by…sigh…it was perfection.
One evening a couple of young guests at Colinda Cabanas were playing guitar. My husband Kevin is also a singer and musician so he joined them. Before too long a crowd had gathered and a sing along complete with special requests was happening. No one was in a hurry. No one had anywhere to go. We all stayed long enough to sing down the sun and up the moon. It was one of the most memorable evenings of our trip.
Swim or hang out near the water
It’s super important to know before you go that Caye Caulker is not known for its beaches. The barrier reef keeps the waves from breaking on the shore and the island is mostly surrounded by sea grass. However there are places to swim…
On a dock
Because of the sea grass many of the water front accommodations provide a dock that is long enough to get you past the grass and enable you to swim in clear water at the end. You will see many of these docks!
Or at The Split
Other than a dock the best place on the island to enjoy a swim and a bit of beach is at The Split. This is the busiest area of the island where many people hang out in the afternoon and evenings. You can relax on the sea wall, play games, people watch, flirt, have drinks and food at the Lazy Lizard, sit at a picnic table halfway in the water, swim, snorkel… or do all of the above.
If you are looking for more of a classic beach you can take the ferry and…
Go to KoKo King
Koko King is a resort on the north side of the island across The Split. It is a resort with a public beach. You can only arrive by water. The ferry to Koko King departs on the west side of the Caye Caulker almost directly across from the main ferry dock on the east side.
Just walk straight across the island. You will go through an area that is a bit industrial and suddenly you are back on another dock. The ferry runs about every 15 minutes and is only about a 5 minute ride. The ride is “free” but they encourage you to buy a drink or something while at the resort at which point you will be given a wristband that guarantees your “free” ride back.
Totally worth it.
You will step off the ferry into a highly manicured, well curated island paradise. There is a small but pristine beach with white sand and aqua water. The beach chairs in the sun are free and available on a first come, first served basis. There is also paid area where you can rent beds which hang from ropes in the shade.
A gorgeous open air bar and restaurant perched out over the ocean complete the idyllic scene.
For us the best thing about KoKo King was being able to walk right into the water straight off a sandy beach. The water is clear and calm. They provide inner-tubes that you can hop in and and sip your beverage of choice while you peacefully float.
It’s clean and pretty and relaxing albeit resort-y.
Try some street food
I spoke above about the food on Caye Caulker. There are lots of decent restaurants but you definitely need to try some street food while you are there. It is cheap and delicious. Give it a try! You will especially want to try a Fry Jack which is a local fried bread stuffed with a variety of either savory or sweet items. These are served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and are an inexpensive and filling meal.
Watch the sunset or rise
Many people watch the sun set from The Split. Or you can head to one of the bars or restaurants on the west side of the island. Whatever you do don’t miss an opportunity to get a glimpse of the sun sinking into the ocean. The memory of the sight will stay with you for years to come. Our cabin was on the east side of the island and we were up early enough on a couple of occasion to see the sun rise. This was also beautiful! It’s your choice…sunrise, sunset, or perhaps both!
Party the night away
Caye Caulker is known as a party island!
Some options are hanging out at the Split and the bars around that area. The Barrier Reef Sports Bar has a funky dive and beach bar vibe with live music most nights. They have karaoke and dancing on occasion which Emily and her group really enjoyed! Stop by the bar to check out their schedule.
As the night gets later you can head to the I&I Reggae Bar which has three floors, one for dancing, one with swings hanging from the ceiling and a rooftop for just chatting and relaxing.
While we were on the island Koko King threw a full moon party and it seemed that most of the young tourists with whom we spoke were planning to attend. So you might want to check to see if Koko King is having any events during your visit.
You will find plenty of things to do on Caye Caulker for people of all ages. I hope that you enjoy this little island as much as we did!
Thanks so much for stopping by and thanks for pinning!
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