In June of 2016, my wife and I took a cruise (not my favorite form of vacation) to the Western Caribbean. Going to parts of the world we hadn’t seen before was the only way I would agree to a cruise. Not wanting to spend my shore time with people I didn’t really want to spend time with on board, I found independent shore trips for us to take. For our Belize City port of call, I found Caye Caulker – a tiny barrier island about an hour water taxi ride from Belize City.
Pictures From Our First Trip
A scheduling error on our part meant we missed the earlier water taxi and had to wait over an hour for the next one, making our island time considerably less than what we wanted, but as soon as our boat tied up to the dock we knew we had to come back. We spent less than 3 hours total in Caye Caulker – all of that time at the Lazy Lizard at the “Split” – and as soon as we were able we were on-line to find out more about the island, where to stay, how much it costs to get there, food, etc.
Within two weeks of getting back home from our cruise, we had booked a return trip for our 19th wedding anniversary two months later.
At the end of August 2016, we spent the last of our earned annual vacation and headed back to Caye Caulker Belize. During our planning, we learned that a lot of Americans retire to Central America, so we figured we’d start looking at some homes for sale in Caye Caulker. We were amazed at how affordable it can be to live on a Caribbean Island. Add home shopping to our List Of Things To Do!
- Pack light!
We each had one carry on, and only one checked bag. We brought home clean clothes.
- Do the currency exchange.
There is a fixed exchange rate of 2:1. $2 Belize is equal to $1 US. Seems like a simple thing to keep in mind, but it is substantially easier to have Belize dollars with you. All the change you get will be in Belize money, so you might as well start with it.
- The “big” airport in Belize City is really small.
You will get off of your plane via a mobile staircase and have a short walk into the terminal. Do not even think about stopping to take a picture of the Welcome To Belize sign. Security doesn’t like that at all.
- The cab drivers aren’t trying to hustle you.
They just want your business. There is a flat rate from the airport to the San Pedro Express Water Taxi. As of this blog post, that rate is $25.
- If you have time at the water taxi terminal, have something to eat or drink at Scotty’s.
- Once on Caye Caulker you can choose to walk to your hotel or ride a taxi.
The taxis are all golf carts. The only bigger vehicles on the island are construction related vehicles. No cars!
A taxi ride from point A to point B – no matter how short or long is $10BZD ($5US – from here on out, all money info will be in BZD)
- Do the island tour.
$20 to the taxi driver gets you a tour of the island. You will see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting places to eat. The taxi driver will likely point out businesses that his wife, mother, brother, or other relative own. Visit those places later. One of our favorite meals was at Axios coffee shop – sitting with the guy who drove our taxi the night before, Nick Jr. His wife owns that shop.
- There are no beaches.
Lots of the criticism of Caye Caulker by people who haven’t done their research is the lack of beaches. That is kind of difficult to understand since it IS an island. But there really are no beaches to speak of. If you are looking for a relaxing beach with the whisper of surf and waves, try the Virgin Islands.
- GO SLOW
That is the island motto and how you should be. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t rush. Walk when you can. Ride a bike when you can’t walk. Take a golf-cart taxi if you can’t ride a bike.
- Eat a fry jack. While you’re at it, eat two.
Breakfast, lunch, and sometimes supper, you can find this delicious bready goodness filled with just what you need after a night of drinking or a day of snorkeling.
- Eat the street food!
If someone is pushing a cart or carrying a basket of food, get some. Then have some more.
- You can drink the water, but – blech
Caye Caulker has a water system, but the water is “beach water”. If you know what that means, you know what that means. If you don’t know, you’ll learn.
- Pet the dogs.
Central America has a bad reputation when it comes to how they treat their dogs. Caye Caulker is a shining exception to that reputation. Most of the dogs are “free range”, and every dog has a name.
Things They Don’t Tell You
- Yeah, we know. It’s hot.
For some reason 85 degrees in the Caribbean just seems hotter than 85 in Georgia.
- Air conditioning? Fuggidaboutit!
Sure, your choice of lodging might have some A/C, but all of the restaurants (ALL of them) are open air. And only a few of the shops have A/C.
- You are going to sweat.
A lot. All the time. Constantly. No need for make-up, ladies. It will just melt off of your face.
- You cannot drink enough water.
Drink water. Drink it all the time. Drink a lot of it. Bottled water is inexpensive and more drinkable than tap water.
- Beer choices are very limited.
Belikin is the national beer, and it really is a national beer. From what I understand, the Belikin brewery also controls all of the beer distribution for the country. Other than Belikin I saw Presidente and Landshark. The good thing is that Belikin is actually pretty good (as in, you’ll get used to it quickly), and really inexpensive.
- It isn’t a cheap as you have been led to believe.
Many of the guidebooks and websites will tell you that Caye Caulker (and Belize) are more pricey than most of Mexico and other places in Central America. They aren’t wrong. That said, a week in Caye Caulker is still a better bargain than a beach front vacation anywhere in the US, but you will end up spending more than you thought you would.
- Bring insect repellent.
Caye Caulker is a very low-lying island made up mostly of mangroves. And skeeters LOVE that kind of environment. If you are lucky and have a good breeze you’ll be fine. But when you don’t you will get eaten.
- Quaint is too fancy a word.
Caye Caulker is rustic. Very rustic. There is nothing fancy about this place. Imagine an Old West town with electricity and running water.
- Zoning? We don’t need no zoning!
Eating, sleeping, shopping – all of it is mixed together.
- Don’t flush toilet paper.
This – more than anything else – was the most difficult. Waste is on a septic system, but they have very shallow septic fields and small tanks. If it didn’t come out of your body, it doesn’t get flushed. Wipe and dispose in the provided trash can. Yes – really.
- Speaking of sanitation..
Put your American sensibilities aside. Most (all??) of the bars and restaurants would likely fail a state-side health inspection. If that bothers you, don’t come to Caye Caulker. Find a nice all-inclusive resort that shields you from the culture of the island you’re visiting. If it doesn’t, know that you are going to have some of the best and most fresh seafood and fruit ever!
- The coffee is horrible.
I’m kind of coffee snob, but the coffee is just bad. Like – Starbucks level of bad. If you like Starbucks coffee you’ll be happy.
- It really is about the people.
If there are more friendly people in the world, I would rush to them. The folks in Caye Caulker don’t go out of their way to be friendly. They just are. It seems to be the natural state of things. There are a variety of cultures, colors, and accents all blended together to make a perfect example of what hospitality is.
What Was In My Camera Bag
- Nikon D7100
- Nikon 55-200/5.6
- Tamron 28-75/2.8
- Polarizing filter (never used it!)
- Canon Powershot S110 (best pocket camera I’ve ever owned)
- Nikon SB900 (never used it)
- GoPro Hero 4
- GoPro Session