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Caye Caulker is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and this complete Caye Caulker, Belize travel guide makes visiting it easier than ever.
Start planning your trip to this island paradise with:
- Caye Caulker fast facts (weather, safety, and more)
- Caye Caulker vs. San Pedro island comparison
- How much time you should spend on the island
- The best time to visit
- How to get to Caye Caulker from Chetumal and Belize City
- Belize visas and exit fees
- Where to stay
- What to eat
- Where to drink
- The best things to do
- The best places to swim
- Day trips from the island
- Cost of living
- And oh-so-much more!
If you’re ready to slow down and let the worries of day-to-day life slip away, this Caye Caulker travel guide will make it happen.
Let’s dive in!
Caye Caulker, Belize: Fast Facts
Before you go, this is what you need to know about the weather, currency, languages, safety, and more.
What’s the currency in Caye Caulker?
The island is part of Belize so they use the Belizean dollar. The current exchange rate is about 2 bzd to 1 usd and they use the $ sign to denote it.
However, US dollars are also accepted everywhere on Caye Caulker and it’s not uncommon to get your change back in a mix of Belize dollars and US dollars.
Just make sure to double-check your change because it can be confusing to count what you just got back in two separate currencies!
What languages are spoken in Caye Caulker?
Three languages are spoken on Caye Caulker: Spanish, English, and Creole.
English is the official language of Belize but Creole and Spanish are widely spoken based on location as well. Belizean Kriol is a mix of English, the Native American, and West African languages.
You can learn some common Belizean Kriol sayings here.
On Caye Caulker, English and Creole are the most popular languages but you can get by with Spanish as well.
Where is Caye Caulker?
The island is 20 miles off the coast of Belize. It’s located in the Caribbean Sea and is close to the Mexico-Belize border.
How many people live on Caye Caulker?
Caye Caulker has a population of about 2,000 people. This can flux a bit based on tourism during the high and low seasons. The hot summer months have fewer tourists than the cooler winter months.
How big is Caye Caulker?
Pretty small. The island is five miles long and less than a mile wide.
Is Caye Caulker Safe?
Belize has a Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution travel advisory from the US State Department because ‘Violent crime – such as sexual assault, home invasions, armed robberies, and murder – are common even during daylight hours and in tourist areas.’
Crime can be bad in Belize City but you should be aware of your surroundings and avoid doing anything illegal (like buying drugs) or dumb (like walking home alone drunk at night) no matter where you are in the country, Caye Caulker included.
Personally, I felt no more or less safe on Caye Caulker than I have anywhere else in the world, but of course my experience is anecdotal and you should always travel smart.
Caye Caulker Weather and Temperature
The island is hotter in the summer and cooler in the winter, but the average temperature doesn’t vary too much throughout the year.
May is the hottest month with an average high of 87 degrees Fahrenheit / 30.5 degrees Celsius and January is the coldest month with an average high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit / 26.6 degrees Celsius.
The rain is a little more variable – October is the wettest month with an average of ten inches of precipitation while April is the driest with less than two inches of precipitation.
Caye Caulker vs. San Pedro Island
Not sure whether you want to visit Caye Caulker or San Pedro Island? (Or maybe split your time between both?) It all depends on your travel preferences.
Caye Caulker is smaller and less crowded than San Pedro. That means it has fewer restaurants and nightlife and the pace of the island is slower as a whole. The beaches and bars aren’t as busy and there are almost no cars and very few roads on the island.
For a more relaxed island experience, Caye Caulker is better than San Pedro island.
If you’re looking for more parties and tour opportunities (though there are plenty of snorkeling and diving companies on Caye Caulker as well) then San Pedro island may be more up your alley.
How much time should I spend on Caye Caulker?
I recommend spending three days minimum here, but ideally making time in your itinerary to spend five or even six full days on the island.
First, because it takes time and money to get to Caye Caulker, so stopping in for a quick 24-hour jaunt just isn’t worth the effort and expense.
And second, there’s a lot to do on the island (which I’ll cover more below) but you also want to budget time to relax into the island life and do nothing as well! Coming to Caye Caulker and staying busy with tours until you leave would be a mistake.
Read my complete article on how much time to spend on Caye Caulker and San Pedro for more insight.
When is the best time to visit Caye Caulker?
Again, this depends on your travel style. Going in the high season means better weather but more crowds and more expensive accommodation.
Going in the low season means fewer crowds on the island and cheaper accommodation, but hotter weather during the day.
I went during the low season in August and had a great time.
August is one of the wetter months with seven inches of precipitation on average but we had no rain during our five-day stay. It was very hot but I solved that by being in the water 90% of the time.
(By the way, double check your accommodation for air conditioning before you book because many places don’t have it and those that do often charge extra per night to use it.)
The best time to visit (weather-wise) is the winter from November to April because the summer and fall are wetter and have a higher hurricane risk.
June is also a popular month because the famous Caye Caulker Lobster Fest is held every year to celebrate the start of lobster season on the island.
How to Get to Caye Caulker, Belize
Now that you’ve decided when to visit Caye Caulker and how long to spend on the island, it’s time to figure out how you’re actually going to get there.
There are two major departure points for the island: Chetumal in Mexico and Belize City in Belize. It’s easier and cheaper to get to here from Belize City than Chetumal and I recommend this departure point if you’re choosing between the two.
From Belize City you can take a flight or ferry to Caye Caulker, with the ferry being the cheaper and more popular option.
Belize City to Caye Caulker Ferry
The San Pedro Belize Express makes multiple daily trips from Belize City to the islands.
It makes nine trips between 8 am and 5:30 pm. Tickets cost $18 usd one-way or $28 for the round trip (note that their website stipulates that tickets must be bought 24-hours in advance) and the ride takes about 45-minutes.
I used this company to travel from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and the trip went smoothly.
Ocean Ferry Belize also runs the route five times per day between 8 am and 5:30 pm and tickets cost $15 one-way and $25 for the round trip.
Belize City to Caye Caulker Flight
Maya Island Air and Tropic Air Belize both offer flights from Belize City to Caye Caulker every day from the Belize International Airport. The flight takes 10 minutes and prices start at $64 per person (one-way) on Maya Island Air.
Chetumal to Caye Caulker Ferry
There is only one ferry trip each day from Chetumal to the island.
It departs in the afternoon and alternates between two companies: SanPedro Belize Express and Water Jets International.
Tickets cost $55 each way and the ride takes about three hours because it goes from Chetumal to San Pedro, where you go through Belize immigration services, before continuing the last 30 minutes to Caye Caulker.
Chetumal to Caye Caulker Flight
Finally, you can fly from Chetumal to Caye Caulker… kind of. Take a taxi to the Chetumal border crossing, cross on foot, then take a taxi or bus to the Corazol airport.
From here, you can take a flight with Maya Air and Tropic Air to San Pedro Island and then the ferry from San Pedro to Caye Caulker. Flights from Chetumal to San Pedro start at $45 per person and take 20 minutes.
The ferry from San Pedro to Caye Caulker will add an additional $18 and 30 minutes to your trip.
For more details, read the Chetumal to Caye Caulker guide for a step-by-step guide on traveling between the two destinations.
Belize Visas, Port, and Exit Fees
Belize port and exit fees can be paid in USD and Belizean dollars.
Because we entered by boat through the San Pedro Island immigration, we had to pay a 2 usd ‘Port Fee’ payable in bzd, usd, or mxn. If you’re flying into Belize there is no entry fee at the airport (if you’re a citizen of the countries that can enter Belize visa-free for 30 days, which is almost all of them).
However, when leaving Belize, there is an exit fee whether you leave by boat, car, or air.
In 2019, the exit fee was 40 bzd / 20 usd and it can be paid in Belizean dollars or US dollars. When traveling through Belize and especially when crossing borders, it’s always a good idea to have cash on hand for costs like these.
Where to Stay on the Island
Finally let’s get to the good stuff – where is the best place to stay on Caye Caulker?!
The island is small, but did you know it’s split in half by the ocean?
There are hotels on both sides but one is way more built up than the other, so if you don’t want to be taking water taxis every day to get to the bars, restaurants, and old town of Caye Caulker, you need to be careful where you book.
The best place to stay on the island is near ‘The Split.’ The Split is exactly what it sounds like – the spot where the two halves of the island split apart.
The split was manually dug, but a hurricane in the 60s widened it to what it is today – a channel big enough for boats to pass through.
When booking Caye Caulker hotels, a good point of reference is the Lazy Lizard Beach Bar located on the Split. Anything around here and the streets to the south of it are in a great location.
Once you get down to the I and I Reggae Bar the island starts to get more residential and quieter again, with the Caye Caulker Airstrip marking the last vestiges of civilization before it becomes mostly protected land.
I recommend staying between The Lazy Lizard Bar and the I and I Reggae Bar (is it a problem that two bars are my go-to landmarks…?) but the closer to the Lazy Lizard the better.
But wait, what about the north side of the island on the other side of the infamous Split?
It’s mostly protected land, but some resorts are just beginning to be built up. The WeYu Boutique Hotel (home to Koko King) is the most notable and has a beach, pool, bar, restaurant, and resort rooms.
If you like being away from it all, this side of the island is for you.
Koko King has a water taxi that runs every 20 minutes to the south side but if you want to be within walking distance of the bars, restaurants, town, and beaches that the rest of Caye Caulker has to offer, staying on the South Side is the better choice.
Best Caye Caulker Hotels, Hostels, and Airbnbs
I stayed in this colorful tiny home and loved it, especially because the couple who own it have an adorable puppy named Gumbo and because they have a private dock!
It was so nice to be able to grab a bucket of beers from a shop and relax in their private hammocks and swim in the beautiful cove with no one else around.
I also recommend the Iguana Reef Inn.
I didn’t stay here, but I hung out on their beach because they have a nice beach bar, overwater swings, overwater hammocks, and one of the best sunset spots on the island.
It’s on the mangrove side so it has more wildlife (I saw a giant stingray while swimming here as well as pelicans and seahorses) and less people. That’s a double win in my book.
What to Eat on the Island
Now on to one of my favorite topics: food!
Because Caye Caulker is so small there aren’t a ton of restaurants to choose from. So, this section of the Caye Caulker travel guide focuses more on what you should eat rather than where you should eat it.
When you’re on the island, make sure to try some of the local specialties like:
This is the number one food to eat on the island. It usually costs $10 to $15 for a small lobster and then prices go up from there.
Fresh lobster is caught around the islands from June through February, and then it’s prohibited in March, April, and May to let the lobsters breed and make sure they’re not overfished.
Stew chicken is some of the most moist and well-cooked chicken you’ll ever try. It’s usually served with a few sides as well, which brings us too…
Rice and beans
Rice and beans are a popular side dish in Belize and on Caye Caulker.
Rather than served separately, the rice and pinto beans are mixed together in one dish.
So, it’s a bit drier than I was expecting (I usually cook them separately and keep the beans super saucy) but it’s still tasty.
Fry jacks are so bad for your body but so good for your soul.
They’re most common at casual street food stands and are made by frying a flour tortilla, topping it with a bean spread, meat, and fresh veggies like lettuce and tomato, and then folding it in half to enjoy while you (attempt) to walk to the beach.
Fry jack stands also sell burritos in non-fried (but still homemade) flour tortillas. I’m partial to these over the fry jacks so I recommend trying both.
Las but not least is the jerk chicken.
Jerk chicken is seasoned with jerk seasoning and grilled instead of stewed. It’s not quite as moist as the stew chicken but the flavoring is definitely on point.
Want to try all these and more at my favorite spots on the island?
Use this list of the six best cheap restaurants on Caye Caulker to eat well while still sticking to your budget during your stay or book this top-rated Caye Caulker food tour on Airbnb to try them all in one day!
Where to Drink on the Island
The absolute best place to drink here is at the beach bars. This guide to the three best beach bars on Caye Caulker will take you to:
- Koko King (Remember the resort on the north side of Caye Caulker? It’s one of the most popular beach bars as well)
- Iguana Reef Inn (My personal favorite beach bar on the island)
- The Lazy Lizard (Possibly the most iconic spot on the island)
Each one has something different to offer from parties to nightlife to idyll relaxation, so check out this guide to decide which one is the best for your travel vibe.
What are the best things to do in Caye Caulker?
During the day, the best things to do on Caye Caulker are swim, eat, drink, relax, snorkel, or dive.
I’ll tell you the best places to swim on Caye Caulker in the section below and we’ve already covered food and drink, so let’s focus on the snorkeling and diving.
There are about ten million snorkeling tours and diving companies to choose from.
I personally used the Caveman Snorkeling and can recommend the company. Stressless Tours focuses on conservation and eco-friendly tours so they could also be a great choice in this environmentally fragile area.
Prices and itineraries don’t seem to vary much between companies and I really doubt the experience as a whole does either.
When snorkeling, you have two options: half-day or full-day tour.
Both take you to swim with the sharks in Shark Alley, but only the full-day tour includes a stop at the Hol-Chan Reserve, a snorkeling spot in the second largest barrier reef in the world after Australia.
I figured I’m all the way out on this tiny island, I should visit the reef while I have the chance. But if you don’t have the money or time then honestly, the half-day would still be great too. The full-day tour is $65 and the half-day is $35.
If you’re scuba certified you can also dive with a few companies on Caye Caulker as well. I am open-water certified but we opted out of the diving this time around.
What else is there to do?
You can rent a kayak to visit the north side of the island and take a walk through the 100-acre protected Caye Caulker Forest Reserve where you can see wildlife like crocodiles and iguanas.
There’s also a small wildlife sanctuary on the south side of the island if kayaking isn’t your thing.
Otherwise, wander the streets (if it’s not too hot) and taste test Belizean chocolate at the Belize Chocolate Company, check out some local artists at the galleries and boutique shops, take a yoga class at Namaste Yoga or get a massage at one of the spas on the island.
And don’t worry, all is not lost at night on Caye Caulker.
There are actually tons of tours – like night fishing, diving, snorkeling, and stargazing – and things to do on the island even after the sun goes down.
Best Places to Swim on the Island
Where’s the best place to hang and do nothing on Caye Caulker? The beach bars are a popular choice because you can get shade and chairs while you swim.
There aren’t a ton of beaches like you may be expecting on Caye Caulker, but there is a small one across from Dee n’ D’s Waterside Grill.
The Split is another free place to swim where you’ll find lots of like minded backpackers hanging out but you’ll be sitting on a rock ledge instead of sand.
If your hotel or Airbnb has a dock, these are also private, quiet, and a dope place to chill, especially on the more protected, quieter, west side of the island. These are also ideal for watching the sunset before eating dinner and turning in for the night.
Finally, there are the pools. Many hotels on the island have them.
Our friends stayed at The Club at Caye Caulker and I enjoyed having the option to swim at night (because you’re definitely not finding me in the dark ocean after the sun goes down!).
Caye Caulker Day Trips
You can also take day trips from Caye Caulker to:
- San Pedro Island
- Belize Mainland
- The Blue Hole
The ferry between Caye Caulker and San Pedro Island run multiple times a day every day and cost $18 for the round trip.
Tour companies on Caye Caulker also offer day trips to the Belize mainland to see the jungle, caves, and ruins that the country is famous for.
And finally, there’s the famous Blue Hole. It’s 407 feet deep and best seen from above. You can dive the Blue Hole, fly over it, or even skydive over it.
Cost of Living on Caye Caulker in Belize
How much does it cost to travel and take a vacation on Caye Caulker?
The island is not cheap. In fact, all of Central American isn’t that cheap if you’re used to South America or Southeast Asia prices.
Add on the fact that Caye Caulker is an island – with less goods and more shipping costs – and you’ve got a community that’s similar in pricing to places in the US.
Typically, a cheap meal will cost around $5 USD and a mid-range meal around $12. Beers usually cost $2 to $3 and cocktails around $5 to $8 (or even up to $10 if you’re getting fancy).
Luckily, swimming is still free but snorkeling, diving, fishing tours, sunset cruises, and other tour-type activities are pricey. On the cheap end, half-day snorkeling tours start at $35 usd per person but prices can quickly climb with some full-day fishing and diving tours selling for hundreds of dollars per person.
Accommodation costs vary, with the cheapest dorm rooms starting around $15 per person for bed and the top-rated Caye Caulker hotels clocking in as high as $100 or more.
Infrastructure on Caye Caulker
If you’re traveling as a digital nomad or planning a long-term or super budget stay, you might be wondering about the infrastructure on Caye Caulker.
Internet – Surprisingly, the internet in Belize is pretty ok, but it depends on the package your hotel or Airbnb invests in. Max speeds can – according to wifi provider’s claims– get up to 40 mbps download and 20 mbps upload.
Groceries – The markets fine but nothing special – you’re not going to find the kind of variety you get at Kroger, Costco, or Walmart here.
Air conditioning – I covered this a bit above, but many places either don’t have air or will charge you extra for it. Get ready to sweat and embrace the heat – your trip will be better for it.
Roads – The island has one main ‘street’ that’s unpaved with a few more branching off from it. The main forms of transport if by foot, bike, or golf cart because there are very few cars on the island.
So, is Caye Caulker a good digital nomad destination for long-term living on the island? Read my take on whether or not it has what it takes to become a digital nomad haven.
Living and Working on Caye Caulker in Belize
Thinking about making a permanent move to live and work on Caye Caulker, Belize?
I would only recommend doing this if you’ve spent a lot of time on the island and are sure you want to make the move and invest in real estate on Caye Caulker – in which case, you probably wouldn’t be reading this introductory guide to the island…
But, if you want to take a crazy leap, I support you.
For work – like real, on the ground jobs that aren’t in the e-commerce, digital nomad, working online sphere – check out the surprisingly active Caye Caulker Job Vacancies Facebook group.
To learn more about how Dan and I became location independent four years ago (and how you can too) browse the Working Abroad Series for in depth guides and interviews with experts in jobs like teaching ESL online, becoming a freelance writer, and more.
Ready to go?
This article is part of the Captivating Caye Caulker series. Read the rest below:
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