If you want to experience island life in Belize, you will quickly end up at Caye Caulker. The relaxed atmosphere, idyllic sunsets and beautiful marine life attract many tourists to the island. Caye Caulker’s motto is ‘go slow’, creating the perfect place to do absolutely nothing for a few days. Do you still like to do some activities? Or do you want to know what the best place is to do nothing at all? Then continue reading to learn about the 8 best places to go and best things to do on Caye Caulker in Belize.
How to choose between Caye Caulker and Ambergris
Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize in the north of the country. The popular counterpart of Caye Caulker is the island of Ambergris Caye, which is pretty close to the island Caye Caulker. Most visitors choose to visit one of the two popular island destinations. But how to choose between these two Caribbean destinations?
To us, choosing between Caye Caulker and Ambergris is mainly about budget and about back-to-basic (Caye Caulker) versus luxury (Ambergris).
Opinions about the islands are divided, but we ultimately chose to visit Caye Caulker because it is the more budget-friendly island of the two. The relaxed atmosphere mainly attracts backpackers who are looking for good hotels and beach cabins on Caye Caulker, but aren’t interested in pricey luxury resorts. Ambergris does have the beautiful hotels and resorts you would expect on a Caribbean island, but you can expect to pay much more for your stay at those luxury hotels on Ambergris. We’ve also been told that Ambergris is a bit more touristy and crowded, while the much smaller island of Caye Caulker is known for its laid-back vibe and ‘go slow’ motto.
But for both islands the main activity is the same: you are supposed to relax and do absolutely nothing. You travel to the islands to enjoy the tropical island vibe, the magical sunsets and the beautiful sea life. But even if you want to plan some activities, you’ll have plenty to do as well. The most popular activity on both Ambergris and Caye Caulker is a snorkel or dive tour in the Great Belizean Reef or a scuba diving excursion at the bucket list spot among divers, The Great Blue Hole. Other activities include renting a golf cart to cruise around the island (there are no cars on the island), enjoying the cocktail happy hour and watching the sun go down each night.
Both islands have few beaches, with Ambergris just winning over Caye Caulker. You might not expect that from a Caribbean island, so it’s good to know in advance. If you are looking for beautiful sandy beaches with swaying palm trees, we recommend visiting (also) the coastal town Hopkins.
How to get to Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a small island off the coast of Belize in the north of the country. The popular counterpart of Caye Caulker is the island of Ambergris Caye with San Pedro as its main town. The two islands are close to each other and are two of the most popular destinations in Belize.
You can get to Caye Caulker by ferry from two directions: by normal ferry from Belize City or by speed ferry from Mexico. From Belize City, there is a regular ferry to first Caye Caulker and then Ambergris (San Pedro). You can also travel to the island by speed ferry from Mexico – or vice versa. It is a bit more expensive, but it will save you a lot of time. We regretted afterwards that we had not taken this speed ferry when we traveled from Caye Caulker to Mexico, as the regular ferry and then the bus took us an entire day of traveling.
Are you traveling with a big travel budget? Then consider booking a local flight to the island.
Where to stay at Caye Caulker
Though Caye Caulker is only a small island, it is packed with nice restaurants, fine cocktail bars and wonderful hotels. These are concentrated on the southern part of the island – it was split in two by a hurricane in the 1960s – wherever you arrive by ferry. Although Caye Caulker is a Caribbean island, don’t expect luxury resorts, boutique hotels and luxury beach cabanas. Caye Caulker is a more back-to-basic destination and so are the hotels on the island.
#1 Colinda Cabanas for a small-scale accommodation with 14 rooms and cabanas. Colinda Cabanas is located directly on the coast and has a magnificent view of the sea. This hotel is particularly popular because it has a private beach, where you will find lounge chairs, hammocks and sun beds which is very rare on Caye Caulker. Bicycles, kayaks and snorkel gear can also be borrowed free of charge.
#2 Island Magic Beach Resort for a wonderful hotel with the best reviews. The pickup at the ferry, on-site restaurant with outdoor tables with hanging chairs, pool, and spacious rooms make this a top choice for Caye Caulker. The location right on the main street on the island is perfect for exploring everything on the island.
#3 El Ben Cabanas for one of the few resorts on Caye Caulker and one of the rare places to stay on the northern part of the island. Guests stay in beautiful beach cabanas in a tropical waterfront setting. There is an outdoor pool, on-site restaurant and bar. You can borrow kayaks for free to paddle around the island.
#4 Weezie’s Ocean Front Hotel and Garden Cottages for a beautiful hotel with an on-site restaurant and not just one, but three outdoor swimming pools. Of all the hotels on Caye Caulker, this is the closest thing to a boutique hotel. You can borrow kayaks and paddleboards for free to explore the waters around the island.
Caye Caulker Map
8 best things to do at Caye Caulker in Belize
#1 Snorkeling and diving: the Great Belizean Reef and Great Blue Hole
The Belizean coral reef is one of the most beautiful in the world. Did you know that this is the largest living coral reef in the world? It runs all the way from the north along the coast to the south of the country. Caye Caulker is located in heart of this reef, in the northern part. If there is one thing not to miss when visiting Caye Caulker, it’s a snorkeling or diving tour to discover the beautiful underwater world of the Great Belizean Reef. From Caye Caulker, tours will take you to the beautiful Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a large coral reef just off the coast.
Although there are many companies offering snorkeling tours on Caye Caulker, the prices hardly differ. Prices during our stay on Caye Caulker were $35 for a half-day tour (with three snorkeling sessions of approximately 45 minutes each) or $65 for a full day (with five snorkeling sessions). Because the prices differ little, we recommend you look for an ecofriendly snorkeling organization. Many tour companies disrupt the natural rhythm of the sharks by feeding them and don’t teach you how your sunscreen can damage the coral (even the oil-rich sustainable brands), which is a shame. It’s also worth looking for a tour that starts as early as possible so you don’t end up snorkeling with all the other groups in the same spots.
We ended up booking our tour with Reef Friendly Tours, but this organization canceled the tour half an hour after the agreed starting time. So we eventually ended up joining the tour of Anwar Snorkel and Tours. Unfortunately, they did feed the sharks. It was a spectacular sight from the water, but it still felt wrong to disrupt the natural life of the sharks in this way. A big bonus of Anwar is the GoPro they bring on their tours, so you’ll have some cool underwater photos even if you don’t have an underwater camera yourself.
If you’re really into diving, one of the best things to do on Caye Caulker is a diving tour to one of the most famous diving spots in the world. You must have heard of the Great Blue Hole. It is a gigantic sinkhole off the coast of Belize with depths of more than 100 meters and with stalagmites, stalactites, coral, special fish and many sharks. Since it was named one of the five most beautiful dive sites in the world by Jacques Cousteau, The Blue Hole has been on many bucket lists. The stalagmites, the stalactites, the coral, the special fish and the many sharks make diving at the Great Blue Hole a unique experience. Want to know more about this unique sinkhole? Then check out this Discovery documentary!
#2 Magical sunsets
Caye Caulker guarantees magical sunsets night after night. You can book a sunset tour and enjoy the sunset on board a boat. But you can also save yourself money and just enjoy this magical experience every day from the coast and the beach clubs. We loved seeing how the sky turned yellow, orange, pink and red, as the sun went down each and every night on Caye Caulker. Popular places around sunset are The Split (the Lazy Lizard) and Iguana Reef. Most places have their happy hour around this time, so order a tropical cocktail, sit down and take in the magical sunsets of Belize!
#3 Seahorses and pelicans at Iguana Reef
One of the best places on Caye Cualker is Iguana Reef. It is one of the few places on the west side of the island where you can go into the sea for a swim. There are lounge beds, it’s happy hour all afternoon (two cocktails for 10 BZN, so only 2,50 euros each) and there are instagrammable swings in the water.
And did you know that this is also a great spot to spot seahorses and pelicans? A seahorse sanctuary has been constructed next to the jetty of Iguana Reef. Sit on the jetty for a while to see the little sea creatures and experience how you’ll get better at spotting them after a while. There are also dozens of pelicans at Iguana. Especially at the end of the afternoon, as around 5 pm they are fed by the Iguana staff (and you can help them if you want).
#4 Morning yoga at Namaste
One of the best lunch spots on Caye Caulker is Namaste, offering delicious sandwiches, healthy meals and tasty drinks. We kept coming back to this great hotspot on Caye Caulker. And you can join the yoga session every morning at 9:00 am! There is no set price, you just pay what you want and what you can miss.
#5 Rent a bike or golf cart
There are no cars on Caye Caulker, so everyone travels around the island by bike or golf cart. And this is also a great thing to do, even if you don’t necessarily have somewhere to go. Although everything is within walking distance on the small island, it is a lot of fun to cross the island. You usually rent bicycles for a day and you can rent a golf cart per hour. But many of the best hotels on Caye Caulker offer free bicycles for their guests (as well as free kayaking to paddle around the island!).
#6 Cocktails at The Split
Caye Caulker was once much bigger than it looks today, as the island was split in two by a hurricane in 1961. That may sound a bit more dramatic than how it actually went: the hurricane created a narrow water channel of a few centimeters. It has been worn out over the years and dug out by the islanders into the waterway it is today. The Split is now deep enough to sail through and your excursion boat will probably do so during a snorkeling or diving tour to show this to you.
The place at the end of the inhabited (southern) part of Caye Caulker is called The Split. You will find a relaxed bar here with lounge chairs and often live music, called The Lazy Lizard. It is the perfect place for a cocktail during happy hour and for a beautiful sunset. You can see the other, northern part of Caye Caulker on the other side of the water channel from here, but you can’t get there without a boat.
#7 Sail to the beach of Koko King
There is not much on the other side of The Split, so we decided not to go there. But if you do want to visit this more undiscovered, northern part of Caye Caulker, you can do so by booking a stay at El Ben Cabañas, one of the few resorts on Caye Caulker and one of the rare accommodations on the northern part of the island.
Or visit Koko King restaurant on the beach. If you spend enough money at the restaurant, the boat ride there is free and otherwise you pay a few dollars for it. The boat is not at The Split as you might expect, but much further south on the island. Koko King is a great place to relax in hammocks and enjoy some drinks and food. One of the great things about this area is the beaches, which you won’t find in the southern part of Caye Caulker. The northern part is a small bounty paradise that we would definitely visit another time on Caye Caulker.
Update: Koko King is now renamed to Northside Beach Club.
#8 Enjoy the restaurants at Caye Caulker
Although not many people live on Caye Caulker, the island draws a lot of tourists, so you can expect a large choice of restaurants all over the island. The main street has many restaurants and you can also find many great places to eat or have drinks at the coast. Our favorites were Cafe y Amor and Axios Sun Coffee for breakfast. Namaste makes a great place for lunch. We also loved drinking cocktails at Iguana Reef and The Split during happy hour. And for a cheap and tasty Asian meal, you have to go to Yummy Yummy.