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Latest update: 10 March 2023

THE backpacker paradise in Belize is Caye Caulker. It was already when I traveled through Central America in 2013 and 2018, and it still is today. The island has elevated the statement ‘Go Slow’ to an art form. Find out what to do in Caye Caulker.

Tiny Caye Caulker

You should certainly not go too fast on Caye Caulker, as you’ll fall off the island: it is only 8 km long and about 1.5 km wide. You can roam the island by bike, golf cart, or simply on foot. The only village is Caye Caulker Village, and pretty much everything is there. Restaurants, bars, and shops. The street is bustling around dinner time. Away from the main street, it is quiet, and you have time to take it all in.

So be sure to wander off the main street. You will find even more of the local go-slow vibe. It’s reflected in everything. Cleaning up a bit around your house? No, too much effort. Want to give your home a fresh coat of paint? Maybe tomorrow.

Hostels on the island

Because Belize is relatively expensive, Caye Caulker is one of the few stops for backpackers before they leave the country for more affordable Mexico or Guatemala. And honestly, you don’t really get your money’s worth with the hostels. In 2018 I stayed a few days in Yuma’s House and a night in Traveller’s Palm. Unfortunately, like a few other hostels on the island, Yuma’s has not stood the test of time. Bella’s Backpackers is still there, but it was a weed party every night back then.

Traveller's Palm

Slowly (yes, everything really goes slow!) Caye Caulker attracts tourists other than backpackers: couples and families have discovered the island. That also means more choices in accommodation, so be sure to look beyond the hostels on Hostelworld and Booking.com.

Nothing to experience?

The pessimist can easily claim that there is nothing to do in Caye Caulker. The optimist will say the exact opposite. Go slow is not only elevated to an art, but also an activity. So here are some ideas to spend your days on Caye Caulker – nice and slow.

Mangrove forest Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is actually cut into two parts. The northern and southern parts are separated by a narrow channel through which small boats can pass. In the north lies the mangrove forest, where you can spot crocodiles, boas, iguanas, and crabs. You can take a boat to the other side or grab a kayak (free with your stay at Traveller’s Palm) or SUPboard. I decide not to do that: many people tell me the current is hefty and that they turned around halfway. So I take Caye Caulker’s motto go slow seriously right away.

The Split: party place

The Rough Guide describes Caye Caulker as the island of lazy pleasures. What to imagine? Sunbathing, reggae, rum punch, and shadowy figures who want to offer you something from their “farmacia” (aka: weed). All four come together at The Split – the tip of the southern part of Caye Caulker. The Lazy Lizard bar provides music and alcohol. People jump into the beautiful blue water to cool off. Strangely enough, Caye Caulker doesn’t really have a lovely sandy beach. It instead has a few demarcated square meters of sand here and there. The Lazy Lizard also has an artificial beach. In that respect, the backpacker’s paradise disappoints me. But hey, go slow, and everything will be fine!

Google Maps location

Borrow a dog: Caye Caulker Animal Shelter

The Caye Caulker Animal Shelter takes in dogs and cats and tries to give them a new home. Owner Kenny takes care of several dogs and cats on his property on the main street. No pens, just Kenny’s house with some sheds where the animals move freely. Kenny says most animals eventually find a new home in the United States. In Europe, you face a few months of quarantine, making it difficult for a Dutch person to adopt a dog from the Caye Caulker Animal Shelter.

If you like, you can borrow a dog from Kenny. You can choose one and hit the road with them. Walking, romping, it’s your pet for a while. Donations like money, toys, or food are always welcome.

Google Maps location

Downwards facing dog: yoga at the Namaste Café

On the roof of the Namaste Café, I join yoga classes from the American Jessie. Her classes are crowded. As far as I know, it’s the only yoga option on the island, and the classes are donation-based. In theory, to make yoga available to everyone. In practice, it means that many people who do have some money don’t pay up. There are classes in the morning and afternoon. Check the board outside the cafe for the current schedule, or try the website.

Google Maps location

Snorkel at the Belize Barrier Reef

Since Caye Caulker is almost directly on the Belize Barrier Reef, a snorkeling trip is a must. For divers, a visit to the world-famous Blue Hole is within easy reach. You have to dig deep into your pockets for both. So it certainly makes sense to visit different providers to find the best deal. In the end, I choose Ragga Sailing (formerly known as Raggamuffin), but there are other options.

When choosing, pay attention to whether the organization feeds the animals. Some organizations feed the nurse sharks so that tourists can get close. However, this disrupts the entire ecosystem. View your options.

Tip! Bring your own snorkel gear to ensure you have good material. You can buy good snorkel masks at Amazon or Bol.com.

The Ragga Sailing crew usually goes all out to give you a nice day. Expect a day full of jokes, flirting, conversation, singing along to local hits, and plenty of rum punch. And, oh yes, dolphins, rays, moray eels, sharks, and turtles! Not unimportant, right? I chose the Hol Chan Marine trip. It starts at half past 11 in the morning, and we return around half past five. We have stops at Hol Chan Channel, Shark Ray Alley, and Coral Gardens. Each time a crew member snorkels with us to ensure we are all okay and point out everything in the underwater world.

Bars and restaurants on Caye Caulker

The most popular bar is definitely the Barrier Reef Sports Bar (Google Maps location). From 9 pm, it fills up, and the party begins. Dancing to old hits, reggae, bubbling, salsa, and top 40. Be on time too, because on Caye Caulker there is no club you can go after the bars close.

Do you want to eat pizza? Then you can eat pizza. Do you want Chinese food? Then you can eat Chinese. Do you want to eat burgers? Then you can eat burgers. Caye Caulker has everything your stomach could desire, but unfortunately, not of high quality in my experience. There are plenty of options, but it’s all soulless. I’m a fan of the street food stall with pupusas (like an arepa or flat bread) next to the basketball court and the fry jacks from Jenny’s (Google Maps location) just down the street from Bella’s Backpackers.

Of course, nothing is produced on the island, so everything is imported. But the lobster is fresh! The lobster season runs from June to mid-February, and the fishermen take that deadline seriously. So if you come to Caye Caulker in June, you might experience the season’s opening. The Lobster Fest is supposed to be a big happening.

My coffee spot is the Namaste Café (Google Maps location). This is below the yoga school and is one of the few places where the wifi is quite good. Because yes, the internet also goes slow on Caye Caulker. The wifi is also okay at Amor y Cafe (Google Maps location), but I don’t think the coffee is very good.

How do you get to Caye Caulker?

Caye Caulker is an island, so you get there by boat. The Thunderbolt Water Taxi operates from Corozal and Sarteneja. It may seem a good choice because of the speed, but I still advise you to travel to Caye Caulker via Belize City. The Thunderbolt boat is small and cramped. If you ask me, that’s the recipe for seasickness.

Tip! Belize Bus and Travel Guide has the most up-to-date bus information.

It is best to take a taxi to the San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi from the bus station in Belize City. Although it is only a short walk, Belize City is generally considered dangerous. So please don’t take the risk. Your life is worth more than a few dollars.

Colorful advertising banner of the San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi.

At San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi, cheerful people are ready to welcome you and handle your luggage. You will be given a tag, and you can use it on Caye Caulker to collect your luggage. Buy a ticket at one counter, and at the counter right next to it, you can validate your ticket. That sounds rather superfluous, but oh well… you can practice going slow on the mainland!

The San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi also runs to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. More information about which boats sail in Belize can be found in the blog: How do you go from A to B in Belize by boat?

More Belize travel inspiration?

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission – at no extra costs to you of course!

More Belize travel inspiration?

Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, I might receive a small commission – at no extra costs to you of course!

First published: July 2018. Updated since.

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