Things To Do on Caye Caulker For The “Outliers”

Like many people whenever I go on vacation, I do some research beforehand – things to do, sites to see, where to stay, places to eat etc. My recent trip to Caye Caulker was no different. I went on TripAdvisor. I read blogs. And there were two items in the “Things To Do” lists that appeared in almost all of the articles that I came across:

  • work on your tan at the Lazy Lizard
  • try the fish or try the <non-vegetarian> at xyz restaurant

And I realized that all of these articles were written from one single perspective. What I mean is, I’m a South Asian, vegetarian woman. I don’t work on my tan…ever. And I don’t eat fish, steak, nor any other non-vegetarian delicacies.

The-split-Lazy-Lizard-Caye-Caulker-sun-bathers
People working on their tans at the split, at the Lazy Lizard…yup never gonna be me.

So, what’s there to do on Caye Caulker
for the rest of us? 

{Snorkeling}

Full day snorkeling. I specified full day vs. half day because, you’re at the 2nd largest barrier reef…in the world. I think that warrants a full day. Plus it was super fun and we saw different things at each place we stopped. There are several companies on the island that offer full and half day tours.

I appreciated that the company we went with, Anda de Wata included the photos in the price. What I didn’t care so much for is that when we stopped in the area with the nurse sharks they bait them so that the tourists can see them. While it made for a brilliant experience for us, it kinda destroys the ecosystem. I didn’t know about this beforehand and to be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar to ask.

Anda-de-Wata-sign-Caye-Caulker.jpg

It occurred to me afterwards and while we were strolling one day, I did see a sign for a company that states that they don’t feed the sealife.

Reef-Preservation-Caye-Caulker.jpg

{Diving}

Of course Belize is famous for the Blue Hole. We’re not divers and concluded that it’s also not worth going there to snorkel – it’s expensive with poor visibility on the surface. You’ll see much much more snorkeling at Hol Chan vs. the Blue Hole.

Note about diving: My husband and I are relatively social people and we enjoy chatting with other tourists while we’re on holiday. Not a single person we met was diving the Blue Hole. Most people said they’re not divers. Others said it’s overrated. I expected the opposite.

{Walk or Bike Around The Island}

Samta-Ajay-Caye-Caulker-sign.jpgthumb_IMG_4375_1024.jpgCaye-Caulker-scene.JPG

Caye Caulker is 5mi x <1mi. There are no cars, only golf carts allowed. People walk and/or ride bikes. We enjoyed strolling around the island taking in all the vibrant colors. There are loads of docks which are great vantage points to enjoy the views and take photos.

{Water Activities Galore!}

Stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, tubing – there are places to rent gear. Ande de Wata will take you tubing, basically they attach the tube to a boat and you float around drinking rum punch as you watch the sunset.

{Sea Horses!}

The Iguana Reef Inn, has created a seahorse enclosure. It was an attraction for people from Ambergris Caye doing day trips.  It’s free for anyone to come by as well as enjoy the hotel’s beautiful waterfront deck and loungers. It’s also one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset.

black-sea-horse-Caye-Caulker
Give a shout out for zoom lenses!  This is a baby!
yellow-brown-sea-horse-Caye-Caulker
This is an adult and most likely a female, as I learned that males carry the eggs and therefore have a protruding pouch which contains thousands of eggs at one time!

I saw some comments online about guests complaining about “outsiders” taking up all the lounge chairs and crowding the area. I have no idea what weird situation they were referring to because I was there at the peak of peak season and there was always more than enough space to go around.

Since we stayed at the Iguana Reef, every morning I woke up bright and early to go visit my little friends. Seahorses are tiny, not the strongest of swimmers and they’re really hard to see since they camouflage so well with the seagrass. Early morning was good because the water was calmer and I was usually the only one there!

It was an accomplishment to spot one! I spent several super chill hours at the seahorse enclosure which is conveniently across from Iguana Reef’s awesome bar. So while my husband enjoyed football and sipping on Belikins, I was on my own seahorse safari.

{Chillin’ at A Bar}

The Lazy Lizard at the split, is a beautiful and fun area to hang out and get a drink. Unfortunately their deck along the water doesn’t have umbrellas, so even if you’re not interested in working on your tan, you’ll get one just sitting out there but the bar is covered and serves lots of delicious tropical drinks, bar food with lively music and of course, they’re famous for corn hole.

I loved their tent-tables with thatched roofs perched right in the crystal clear water. The gorgeous water was warm, like bath water and I could’ve sat there all day drinking Bailey Colada’s, eating french fries and onion rings, and pondering all my questions about Harry Potter trivia.

table-in-water-The-split-Lazy-Lizard-Caye-Caulker
Belizeans seem to have a thing for really high tables. I’m 4’11 so I know you’re rolling eyes at me thinking, the table’s not high…it’s just you…but seriously even factoring that in, several places we visited throughout the country, the tables were super high. Just something I noticed =p. When I mentioned this to my husband he gave me the same skeptical look that you’re probably giving me right now.
Water-table-Lazy-Lizard-Caye-Caulker
Spent an afternoon munching on warm freshly made french fries, sipping Baileys Coladas and enjoying the views.

The people watching was good too as brave souls jumped from the staircase-diving platform they’ve made, into the water. Families brought their little ones there to snorkel as well – as the water is pretty calm and shallow.

Note about families: we didn’t see too many young kids like elementary school age or younger, like you see a ton of when you go to other popular tropical destinations like Hawaii. Most of the families we saw had teenagers. IMO, families are better off on Ambergris simply because it’s bigger with more things to do and explore.

As I mentioned above, the Iguana Reef Inn has a great bar as well. And what they did that’s smart, is created a partnership with three other bars on the island. So you bar hop to each one and get your card stamped. Once you’ve collected all 4 stamps, go back to each bar and your 1st drink is free.

Iguana-Reef-Inn

Iguana-Reef-Bar-Ajay-Samta.jpg
Us at the Iguana Reef’s oceanfront bar. They have a drink called The Nutty Professor. For anyone who likes sweet/dessert drinks it’s a MUST!
Caye-Caulker-Drink-Card
As you can see we clearly rook advantage of this ;p

I just wish they served food at Iguana Reef. On our last day on Caye Caulker, it rained buckets but we didn’t want to just go back to our hotel room. While hanging out at the bar, we met some other people who also happened to be from SoCal. So there was a big group of us hanging out all afternoon and I would’ve loved a pizza.

Koko KingThis is the newest spot on Caye Caulker. Since it’s on the side that split during the hurricane you can take a ferry to get there or if you’re paddle boarding or kayaking, head there yourself. The ferry is free with purchase of a drink at the resort. We actually didn’t go as we were happy hanging out at the deck of our hotel at Iguana Reef Inn.

{Movie Under the Stars}

At Bondi Bar & Bistro. While we were there they were showing Bright, streaming from Netflix. They have comfy lawn chairs in the back, plus popcorn and other food for purchase. Make sure you slop on the DEET.

{Visit Ambergris Caye}

Ambergris Caye is gigantic compared to Caye Caulker – 25mi x >1mi. There are about 14,000 living there. Most people rent golf carts there. Before going when I heard that I imagined this charming village with cute little golf carts everywhere. But the roads aren’t great so it’s more like golf cart off-roading. The golf carts are noisy and give off the odorous gas. And again having a unique perspective as an Indian-American, when I landed at Ambergris and started walking to the water taxi dock, I felt like I was visiting an open air market in Delhi, twenty years ago. Uneven roads, super dense streets lined with tiny shops, small “cars” whizzing by, the odor of gas.

That’s all part of the charm and the experience! But I was glad we decided to stay on Caye Caulker but visit San Pedro. I only spent a few hours there and when I do go back, I’ll stay on Ambergris to try something new.

golf-carts-amgergris-caye

Chocolate lovers should check out the Belize Chocolate Company’s store too. It’s $$$ but made in Belize.

Belize-chocolate-company

There’s a waterfront bowling alley, loads of bars, restaurants, docks to relax on or jump from and you can do day trips around Ambergris.

Ambergris-Caye-water-taxi-dock

{Sky Diving}

This is something I regret not doing. You have to go to Ambergris Caye for this. For me $300USD to dive overlooking the reef would have been worth it. I actually didn’t know this was a thing until too late on our final day there, so I def. plan to go back to do this. BTW, the fee includes the photos and videos. You aren’t allowed to take your own camera but your guide who dives tandem with you, has theirs.

Important note: you have to wait at least 24 hours to skydive AFTER scuba diving. But no such time restrictions on scuba diving after skydiving.

{Eat}

I was pleasantly surprised at how vegetarian and vegan-friendly Caye Caulker was. There weren’t any vegetarian/vegan places but lots had at least one option if not more. I fully expected to live on french fries and potato chips, the entire time I was in Belize. But every restaurant had at least 1 vegetarian option which either was already vegan or could be made vegan. Traditional Belizean food is rice and beans and the way it’s cooked with spices, is really tasty.

Before I dive into specifics about the places where we ate and recommend, I want to share that the whole Go Slow vibe really manifests itself when it comes to food. Some restaurants are notoriously slow. I’d say the only place where we really felt that way at Southside pizza which took almost 30 minutes to make a medium, veggie pizza. But we weren’t in a hurry and understood that that’s part of the charm of the whole experience.

We ate at:

Il Pelicano: Arguably the fanciest restaurant on the island. It’s open for dinner only from 5:30pm-9:30pm Tuesday-Sunday. On busy nights like holidays, make a reservation. We tried to go there on New Year’s Eve and they were completely booked for the whole evening! Turned out they had a pre-fixe, with mostly non-vegetarian items anyway but unexpected in such a laid back place. We did eat there our 1st night on the island and I ordered a delicious funghi pizza and my husband had the eggplant lasagna which we each really enjoyed.

Il-Pelicano-Caye-Caulker.JPG

Chef Juan’s: I forgot to get a photo, but it’s like small a portable and they offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went there for lunch and dinner and enjoyed the vegetable coconut curry with white rice, plus a side of your choice. It was light food but filling and packed with flavor. The seating is a handful of small and larger communal tables under the stars.

When we went for dinner I grabbed a couple of seats while my husband went to the window to order our food. I struck up conversation with a family visiting from DC. We talked about what dishes we ordered and I mentioned that I’m vegetarian. Their teenage boy looked at me and said, “why?” as in why are you vegetarian? I said, “I practice a small religion from India called Jainism. And we believe in non-violence.” His response, “that’s a good religion”. His mom followed with he’s gonna Google it now when we get back to the hotel.

I LOVED that simple exchange. Quick, direct and it’s nice to finally not be looked at like you’re weird. Growing up in Orange County, California in the mid 80’s and 90’s, vegetarianism was a completely foreign and unaccepted practice which lead to some awkward and unfortunately sometimes unpleasant social situations growing up. Thirty years later, the world has caught up and being vegetarian or vegan is spreading. In general, people are more aware of these diets, which is like a breath of fresh air.

Chef Juan’s is cash only

Caribbean Colors Art Cafe: their menu has several delicious vegetarian dishes as well as specifically states which items can be made vegan as you can see in the photo below. We ate there our last day on the island. I love the view. Directly across the restaurant is a basketball court and behind that…the ocean.

Caribbean-Colors-Art-Cafe-Menu-Caye-Caulker-vegetarian

Caribbean-Colors-Art-Cafe-view-Caye-Caulker
View from Caribbean Colors Art Cafe…the basketball court and of course the ocean.
Caribbean-Colors-Art-Cafe-Menu-Caye-Caulker-Gazpacho-watermelon-soup
Gazpacho watermelon soup appetizer, served on a bed of ice.
Caribbean-Colors-Art-Cafe-Menu-Caye-Caulker-entree
Veggie skewers served on a bed of fried rice flour crisps. I got excited when this dish arrived as those fried crisps bring back memories of visiting India as a kid. My grandfather used to gather all of us kids and buy us that as a savory snack from the local street vendor.
Caribbean-Colors-Art-Cafe-Menu-Caye-Caulker-Ajay-entree
My husband ordered a veggie loaded savory crepe.

Rainbow Grill & Bar is waterfront and has an actual vegetarian section on the menu!Rainbow-Grill-Vegetarian-Caye-Caulker.jpg

Chips-Salsa-Rainbow-Bar-Caye-Caulker
The portions were really big. The chips & salsa alone could have been a whole meal. You can see the plate of spaghetti as well, which hit the spot.
Ajay-burrito-Rainbow-Bar-Caye-Caulker
Vegetarian burritos in Belize were really tasty. They load them up with veggies and they’re huge!

Southside Pizza: This is a little restaurant with an open air kitchen. A friendly Garifuna guy works there and makes you feel right at home. There were only 1-2 other couples seated when we got there – one of which was already eating and the other was waiting for their food. We ordered a medium, vegetarian pizza and they said it’d be around 25-30 minutes. I could see the two ladies in the kitchen making the food and couldn’t help but reflect on how different it is from here where the employees move quickly and are trained for fast turn around.

These ladies took their sweet time. There was no rush at all. 🙂Southside-pizza-Caye-Caulker.jpg

Honorary shout out: You kinda can’t go to Caye Caulker without visiting Herrolyn’s House of Fry Jacks, at least once. We actually didn’t go at all. We tried Fry Jacks in San Ignacio and came to realize it’s exactly like a bhature, as in chole bhature that you find in Indian food. It’s insanely delicious but also fried and you feel heavy after eating, so we appreciated from afar.

Herrolyn's-House-Fry-Jacks-Caye-Caulker.jpg
As you can see Herrolyn’s is super popular, especially in the morning for breakfast and brunch.
Bhature.png
Is this a bhature or a Fry Jack? That’s how similar they are!

{Being Vegetarian on Caye Caulker on New Year’s Day}

The only thing that did kinda suck was on New Year’s Day the majority of restaurants were closed. We had a harder time finding food that day and ended up eating fries at the Lazy Lizard and buying snacks at one of the many grocery/convenience stores.

Fun Fact: Most of the grocery stores on Caye Caulker are owned by Chinese people. About 2% of the population of Belize identifies as Chinese.

{Unwind}

Last but not least being on Caye Caulker is a great time to veg out. Whether you’re on one of the many docks, at your hotel/hostel or a hammock tied to trees, Caye Caulker is definitely a place to completely unwind.


{Getting to Caye Caulker}

Since October 2016, the airstrip on the island has been closed for “construction”. I wrote “construction” because apparently there’s been no construction nor progress. So the Belize water taxis are loving the boom in business! But needless to say, the only way to get to Caye Caulker (for the time-being) is by boat. We were arriving from San Ignacio, so we had two options:

drive 2 hours from San Ignacio to Belize City | 45 min. water taxi to Caye Caulker.Private

  • a private shuttle would’ve cost about $250-$300USD
  • the water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker is $18USD/person one-way or $28USD/person round trip; and it’s direct.

fly + water taxi. 15 minutes from San Ignacio town to Maya Flats airstrip | 1 hour flight  to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye | 45 min. water taxi to Caye Caulker.

Taxi: $20USD for 2 people
Flights: $180USD for 2 one-ways
Water Taxi: $18USD/person one-way

Maya-Flats-Airstrip-San-Ignacio-sign

In all, you’re not saving a ton of time nor money. Time-wise only about 45 minutes. In our case we saved no time at all because the water taxi from San Pedro to Caye Caulker was running 45 minutes late. The benefit then of flying was that flying was a little cheaper…and we got to fly – see the reef from above.

{It’s Definitely Worth Flying if Your Final Destination is Ambergris Caye,
not so much for Caye Caulker}

We were the only ones on our flight from San Ignacio that were staying on Caye Caulker. Everyone else’s final destination was Ambergris – so for them flying was totally worth it. For people heading to Caye Caulker, it comes down to preference. Caye Caulker is closer to Belize City than Ambergris, as you can see in the map below.

Ambergris-Caye-Caulker-Belize-City.png
Map showing Belize City relative to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye

I definitely enjoyed the flight and glad we did it, as I’ve only been in a tiny plane a handful of times; and I loved the views from above. Next time though, if the Caye Caulker airstrip is still closed, we’ll drive + water taxi. But hopefully the Caye Caulker airstrip will be re-opened soon!

Flight-San-Pedro-Belize-view

View-from-flight-to-San-Pedro
View-from-flight-to-San-Pedro-Caribbean-water

A few notes:

  • We flew on Tropic Air. There’s also Maya Island Air.

Tropic-Air-Belize

  • The planes are small – so luggage restrictions. Our plane sat around 20 people including the pilot. My husband and I each had 1 small carry-on roller bag, plus a backpack each so we were fine. I saw others with somewhat bigger bags but nothing too gigantic. Just make sure you find out about the luggage restrictions.
  • We probably could’ve found a less costly private transfer from San Ignacio to Belize City but didn’t bother to spend the time. BTW, we booked our transfers and hotels with anywhere.com. I had used them for our Costa Rica trip earlier in the year and had a great experience so took advantage of their service for this trip as well.
  • From Maya Flats airstrip (San Ignacio) we made a quick, 20-minute stop in Belize City on the way to Ambergris. We didn’t de-plane, just a quick stop to drop off/pick up people.

Maya-Flats-Airstrip-San-Ignacio-Belize

  • When you arrive at the water taxi buy your tickets, you don’t need to book in advance. They take cash and credit card.
  • If you have luggage a young guy will come up to you, ask you where you’re going and seemingly whisk your bags away. Don’t worry they’re taking them to the right place and they will give you a claim ticket. I was surprised that they actually check to verify your claim tickets when you go to collect your bags.

Speaking of claim tickets, they have some insane permanent glue on their luggage stickers, because this happened when I pulled the sticker off of my roller bag. It happened to my husband’s bag too. And these are regular Samsonite suitcases.

baggage-claim-sticker-ruined-suitcase-Caye-Caulker
The Belize Express’s baggage claim tickets might tear off the lining of your suitcase/bag.
suitcase-wheels-Caye-Caulker
When we arrived on Caye Caulker, we walked to our hotel as we were thrilled that it was so close and were excited to see the island. Since we each had a little carry-on roller bag we thought it’d be fine. In retrospect we should’ve just taxi’d there because the wheels on our suitcases got pretty dirty. Spent about an hour washing them after we got back.

{Other Caye Caulker Tips}

Money. Bring cash to Caye Caulker (either USD or Belizean). We thought we wouldn’t need cash but some of the smaller restaurants are cash only or there’s fees (tax) on credit cards. For our snorkeling tour they had to charge 12.5% GST if you paid by credit card.

There is an ATM on the island or take USD with you. Don’t bother getting Belizean dollars before you get there. US dollars are accepted everywhere and they’ve pegged their dollar to the USD. $1USD = $2BZD

Language: everyone speaks English on Caye Caulker. You do not need to know Spanish from the airport, customs, taxi to the water taxi ferry, and on the island itself. In San Ignacio, I found that knowing Spanish was helpful. While all the people in tourism such as guides and hotel staff know English, some of the taxi and tour drivers did not. And the day we crossed the border to see Tikal I used Spanish a lot that day.

Health: Take bug spray with DEET in it. I use the one Costco sells and it’s worked well for us. You can buy it on the island too. They also sell Aloe Vera to relieve the itching in case you do get bit.

Healthcare: As you may know the motto on Caye Caulker is “Go Slow”. They lovingly and jokingly say that they have two cemeteries but no hospital on the island, so go slow. As I mentioned earlier, since there the Caye Caulker airstrip is closed the only way to get off the island is via boat. For some this may be an important factor in your decision to stay on Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye.

Safety: I felt super safe the entire time I was there. A couple times random guys (locals) came up and started talking to me but they seemed harmless. I was there on New Years Eve and saw that both the Sports Bar as well as the Lazy Lizard stepped up security that night. On New Year’s  Eve local kids were exploding firecrackers which was mostly a nuisance as opposed to a safety issue. Like any place you go, be alert and do not make yourself a target.

Groceries: There are loads of places on the island to buy fruits, veggies, toiletries, snacks etc. so if you’re AirBnB’ing, don’t feel like you have to schlep all of that with you.

{Summary}

For those that are waiting to “Go Slow” until you actually arrive on Caye Caulker, here’s the CliffsNotes (remember those?) version of PassportPage’s, 9 Things To Do on Caye Caulker. Scroll up for more details about each.

  1. Snorkeling: at the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world. I went with Anda de Wata but there are several operators on the island. No need to book in advance, even during peak season.
  2. Diving: we didn’t go to the Blue Hole nor did we meet anyone who did either, but obviously this is what Belize is famous for.
  3. Explore the island: on foot or bicycle: it’s so small, a leisurely stroll will take you an hour at most.
  4. Seahorses: go see the seahorse enclosure at the Iguana Reef Inn
  5. Chill at a Bar: Our favorites were the bar at the Iguana Reef Inn and the Lazy Lizard. Other hot spots were the Sports Bar, Margarita Mike’s and Koko King.
  6. Visit Ambergris Caye: it’s a short 30 minute water taxi to Ambergris. Check out the Belize Chocolate Company’s store
  7. Skydiving: I found out about this too late but I would go back to do this.
  8. Eat: I was really really pleasantly surprised at how much vegetarian and vegan food there was on Caye Caulker. Scroll up, to see details about the places we went that we’d recommend.
  9. Chill out: there are loads of docks and most accommodations have hammocks where you can really spend the entire day and just unwind. Catch up on reading and sleep.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our dive into Caye Caulker. And mostly I hope this helps you plan your trip there. Let me know if it did in the comments. I love hearing from our readers, and fun, funny, interesting helpful stories from your travel experiences! You might like to follow us on Facebook and Instagram too, where we share a lot of different content and images.

Other PassportPages Posts you might like:

Women’s Guide to Packing for Costa Rica
Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker?
Getting to Belize’s Cayes


Woman with long hair smiling
Samta, Founder of PassportPages

all photos except the map screen shot and one photo in this article are PassportPages originals, as you’ll see from the copyright on each of our originals.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Things To Do on Caye Caulker For The “Outliers”

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