Stepping off a water taxi to a dock with pelicans and laying over the clearest turquoise water that shows you about fifty different shades of blue in the bright sunlight, you have to snap yourself to believe it’s not a dream. The moment is real and there you are, just landing to a beautiful little island with palm trees and alabaster-white sand – and a relaxed atmosphere. You think you’ve entered paradise – and it’s all true for the days ahead.
As a small country of only some 350 000 inhabitants, Belize has quickly become a famous destination for beach life and exploring the beauty underwater. Just outside the coastline on the bright Caribbean sea sits the second largest coral reef on earth attracting more and more tourists and travellers to dive, snorkle and just escape to stunningly beautiful remote islands. A 322 kilometres long coral reef can be admired from a thread of little islands, or cayes (keys). The reef with its islands has been recognized as UNESCO world heritage site since 1996 with three atolls and the mysterious Blue Hole in the area too.
Belize is much more than islands, though. Trip to Belize is easily combined with visits to Mexico and or neigbouring Guatemala. There are several Maya ruins to explore in the diverse and deep jungle as well as basic city vibes in Belize city. Similarly, traditional Garifuna (mixed African and indian) culture gives Belize rather relaxed vibes. Belize has not been an independent state for long and is still part of the British Commonwealth. English, with a creolean twist, is the main language. Still, it’s mainly the sea and islands that attract.
Casual Caye Caulker
The island of Caye Caulker is situated some 30 km northeast of Belize City and can be easily reached with a convenient 45-minute water taxi ride. Caye Caulker is one of the largest islands on the reef and is situated as the second island south of the Yucatan peninsula that stretches out towards Belizean border in Mexico. The first island, Caye Ambergris with San Pedro area, is the most popular among tourists and the largest of the cayes with a population of some 14 000 people. Thus, it apparently is most modern, with modern accommodation and services from luxurious to moderate – and highest tourist prices. Caye Caulker on the otherhand is where the locals and backpackers go relax and enjoy time in the paradise-like island. Both can be easily reached with water taxi that runs on regular basis. Both these and even the smaller ones are available with small local airplanes as well as privat speedboats.
Caye Caulker was our choise for a nearly two week resting and lazying period after being on a round-the-world backpacking journey for seven weeks and in eight different countries with 15 different accommodations. We as travellers were clearly in a need of a quiet break from all travelling and needed nothing fancy, but an island in the sun for resting. Caye Caulker turned out to be an excellent choice for our paradise excape.
The island is small, even being one of the largest on the reef, measuring only some 2 km in lenght and 200 meters in width for the most part. This little island of some 1 600 inhabitans still has all the basic services you need – except for a hospital. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and about ten little or medium supermarkets too (in February 2017). Daytrip and travel agents are even more. There are two ATMs and a bank office, couple of laundromats, dentists, pharmacy and a bakery. Accommodation varies from moderate nice hotels to less expensive hostels to even very cheap cabanas on the beach. Many services are run by locals; however several services clearly run by foreigners who has probably fell in love with a place or a local.
One cute thing about this island (and others I assume) is that there really are no cars or mopeds in the island – only golf carts. Little streets have no pavement or stones, but are white sand instead. The island is completely flat and the highest buildings are a few hotels three-story high. Another interesting feature that stands out on the little island is the Rastafarian lifestyle, which can be seen in colours, signs, some houses and even businesses.
The above and the relaxed atmosphere makes the island a quiet place with quite little or no night life or otherwise packed places, no big tourist resorts but not really that many kids either (besides the locals of course). There were some construction work taking place, which made a little noice, but building and restoring can only be a good thing, right?
Daytrips above and under water
If looking for action from your beach vacay, Caye Caulker is not perhaps a place to stay for long. There’s only a little you can do and see while on the island…, whereas the sea and the reef around offers plenty! Daytrips to different parts near and far are various. You can choose from half-a-day’s to full day, night sail or an overnight excursion to snorkel, dive, or visit other cayes. And naturally, you don’t really need to leave the island or go far since you can do all (quieter) water sports around like kite-surfing and stand-up-paddling.
Staring at the incredible clear and turquoise water from your own dock offers a lot too. Birds are plenty and you can swim and snorkle just off your dock or especially around the north tip of the island. We saw plenty of colourful fish and even an eagle ray circling around our dock! The whole south end of the island is full of mangrove – providing safe havens for wild life (didn’t spot anything too wild, though 😉
Our stay at Caye Caulker was amazing. We can honestly say that after having been on a Caribbean island hopping tour and visiting five different islands (read more here: ), these Belizean cayes really impressed us! We just stared at the sea, all its colours, sunsets, bids, fish, people taking it easy and enjoyed the casual and relaxed vibes this little island has. We probably left a little piece of our hearts there – and will definitely return in the future!