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Taking the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker is the most popular way to travel between the two destinations but I’m also going to cover how to get to Caye Caulker by bus (via Belize City) and by plane so you can compare all of your options and choose which one is right for you.
I made the trip from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and from Caye Caulker to Chetumal in August 2019 and documented every detail.
This step-by-step guide will walk you through exactly how to get to Caye Caulker, including:
- How many ferries run from Caye Caulker to Chetumal every day?
- Where is the Chetumal ferry port?
- How much does the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker cost?
- How long does the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker take?
- How to prebook Chetumal to Caye Caulker ferry tickets
- How to avoid the Mexico-Belize border fees
- What to pack for the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker
- Bonus: How to take the return ferry from Caye Caulker to Chetumal
- Bonus: How to get to Caye Caulker by bus (via Belize City)
- Bonus: How to fly from Chetumal to Caye Caulker (for surprisingly cheap)
- And much, much, more!
Ready to get started?
Use this article with my first-hand experience to plan a perfect, smooth, and stress-free trip from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and back again!
Inside our ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker with San Pedro Belize Express
How many ferries run from Chetumal to Caye Caulker every day?
Only one. It leaves Chetumal at 3:30 pm every day and arrives in Caye Caulker at 6 pm Belize-time (which would be 7 pm in Mexico).
If you’re buying a round trip, check the schedule carefully because you may be going out with one company and back with another (like we did).
Both companies have terrible reviews online and I was super hesitant to make the trip, but we went out with San Pedro Belize Express and returned with Water Jets International and had zero problems with either one.
Because only one ferry leaves per day, there’s a good chance you’ll need to spend the night in Chetumal the day before it departs unless you can time your flights into the city perfectly. If that’s the case, I recommend this Airbnb with a private pool because it made our time in Chetumal feel like the start of our vacation rather than just waiting to get to our destination.
Immigration at the small but clean Chetumal Ferry Port
Where is the Chetumal ferry port?
The port in Chetumal is called the Terminal Maritima de Chetumal and you can click here to see it on Google Maps.
You may also see it referred to as El Muelle Fiscal so if your taxi driver isn’t quite understanding where you want to go, try calling it that instead and it may help.
The dock is long and there is a small shop at the end with snacks and water but it’s not open on Sunday. There also isn’t an ATM so make sure you have enough pesos to pay your 558 mxn Mexico Tourism Fee and your ~50 mxn Belize port fee.
The ferry terminal is near the center of Chetumal and there are some restaurants near the port but they’re not in super convenient walking distance so I recommend bringing food or eating before you come.
Filling out our customs papers and waiting patiently to get to Caye Caulker!
How much does the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker cost?
If you’re coming from Mexico, getting to San Pedro and Caye Caulker is not a budget-friendly trip. I spent:
- 55 usd – One-way ferry ticket from Chetumal to Caye Caulker (tickets to San Pedro are $5 less)
- 28.50 usd – Mexico Tourism Fee. Must be paid in Mexican pesos. See the Mexico-Belize border fees section below for more details and important instructions on how to avoid this.
- 2 usd – Belize Port Fee. This can be paid in Belize dollars, US dollars, or Mexican pesos.
In total, the one-way ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker costs 85.50 usd.
If you are taking the ferry back to Chetumal after your trip, prepare yourself. It only gets worse from here.
- 60 usd – One-way ferry ticket from Caye Caulker to Chetumal
- 20 usd – Belize Exit Fee. Can pay in Belize dollars, US dollars, or they’ll change Mexican Pesos for you (at a terrible exchange rate) to pay it as well.
- 28.50 usd – Mexican Tourism Fee. Yep, you have to pay this on your way out and your way back.
In total, the one-way ferry from Caye Caulker to Chetumal costs 108.50 usd.
It hurts to write this out right now, but the round-trip ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and back to Chetumal cost 194 usd per person.
Still waiting patiently to get to Caye Caulker!
How long does it take to travel from Caye Caulker to Chetumal by ferry?
We went with San Pedro Belize Express because they were the company that happened to be running the day we wanted to go.
San Pedro Belize Express leaves Chetumal at 3:30 pm
Water Jets International Leaves Chetumal at 3 pm
From start to finish the trip takes about 4.5 hours and your experience should be similar no matter which company you take. Here’s a peek at our timeline with San Pedro Belize Express:
- 2:30 pm – Arrive at the Chetumal ferry port an hour in advance
- 2:30 to 3:30 pm – Fill out customs and border paperwork, wait in the immigration line to get our passports stamped and pay our Mexico Tourism Fee, line up bags for drug-sniffing dogs
- 3:30 pm – Board boat and depart for San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye
- 5:30 pm – Arrive at immigration control in San Pedro, get passports stamped, and pay Belize port fee.
- 6:30 pm – Board boat departs from San Pedro. Immigration only took about 15 minutes, but we still waited until 6:30 pm to leave, you won’t go as soon as everyone is through, unfortunately.
- 7:00 pm – Arrive in Caye Caulker! Note that when you arrive it will be 6 pm local time.
Unless you’re staying super far from the normal tourist spots on Caye Caulker, the arrival docks should be in walking distance from your accommodation on the island.
San Pedro Island – I took this photo while waiting in yet another immigration line, this time to enter Belize, before continuing to Caye Caulker
Do I need to buy Chetumal to Caye Caulker ferry tickets in advance?
San Pedro Belize Express explicitly states on their website that you should buy them 72 hours in advance to ensure a seat. Because there’s only one trip a day, you really don’t want to risk getting turned away and being stuck in Chetumal for 24 hours waiting for the next one.
If the same company is running on your way out and your way back, it’s probably easiest o just buy your roundtrip tickets all at once.
Because we had to go out with one and back with the other, we prebooked our tickets online to get from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and then bought our tickets from Caye Caulker back to Chetumal at the boat offices on the island.
Boarding the boat again on San Pedro to make the final 30-minute trip to Caye Caulker
How to avoid the Mexico – Belize Border Fees
Ok, you can’t get out of the 2 usd entrance fee into Belize or the 20 usd exit fee.
But, if you play your cards right, you just might be able to avoid the 28.50 usd Mexico Tourism Fee on your way out.
If you entered Mexico by land, you have already paid your Mexico Tourism Fee and you should have a receipt for that tucked into your passport. Show the immigration officer, and you won’t have to pay it again when you exit.
However, if you come back from Caye Caulker to Chetumal by ferry and enter again, you will have to pay this fee again.
If you entered Mexico by air, the Mexico Tourism Fee may or may not be included in your flight price.
Check the itemized fare, taxes, and fee receipt and if you see ‘Mexico Tourism Fee’ (not departure fee, that’s different), print the receipt and show it to the immigration officer in Chetumal to waive the fee.
As stated above, though, if you take the ferry back from Caye Caulker to Chetumal, you will have to pay the 28.50 usd fee to enter again.
Yes! We finally completed the trip from Chetumal to Caye Caulker and arrived on the tiny Belizean Island at sunset
What to pack for the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker
Cash is the most essential item and you should have at least 650 mxn to make sure you can pay all your fees without stressin’.
The boats do have (tiny) bathrooms, so if you want to start the party early you can bring a 6-pack to drink with your group and pass the time 😉
Hey, the captain suggested it to me, so I’m just passing along the message!
Bring some snacks because, duh, and other than that a good book or some music is all you need for an enjoyable trip!
Oh, and make sure to sit in the back because it’s a little less bumpy than the front and has better views!
Five nights passed in the blink of an eye and before I knew it we were boarding the Water Jets International ferry from Caye Caulker to Chetumal at sunrise to head back home
Bonus: How to Take the Return Ferry From Caye Caulker to Chetumal
You can buy your tickets from Caye Caulker to Chetumal at the offices on the island if you don’t buy round trip tickets.
Although both ferry companies leave from the same port in Chetumal, that’s not the case in Caye Caulker, where they have both separate offices and separate departure docks.
The San Pedro Belize Express ticket offices and terminal are in the same place. Click here to find it on Google Maps.
The Water Jets International Office is inside the La Isla Resort – click here to find it on Google Maps – and the departure dock is directly across from it.
The ferry from Caye Caulker to Chetumal runs once daily at 7 am and they suggest arriving at 6:30 am to be on the safe side. If you take Water Jets International, Ice and Beans coffee shop is just down the street and they open at 6 am so it’s a pleasant place to start your day.
This is what our timeline for the ferry from Caye Caulker to Chetumal looked like:
- 7 am – Leave Caye Caulker
- 7:30 am – Arrive in San Pedro, line up to show our ferry tickets, pay our Belize Exit Tax (40 bzd or 20 usd, you can also exchange pesos to either currency to pay it).
- 9 am – Leave San Pedro
- 10:30 am – Arrive in Chetumal (note that it’s 11:30 am local time in Mexico). Immigration here is slow so I recommend making a subtle effort to be one of the first in line to get through faster. Mexicans will be called to the front and then foreigners will begin passing through.
- 11 am – Get through immigration and move on with your life with fond memories from Caye Caulker!
If you have a flight from the Chetumal Airport, you can walk to the center from the terminal to get something to eat before flagging down a taxi to the airport. From the center to the airport a taxi should cost around 75 mxn / 4 usd.
If you’re traveling by land to Bacalar, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun, there are shared van services with prices at the terminal that you can book.
I don’t remember all of the prices, but I think Chetumal to Playa del Carmen was 600 mxn / 30 usd per person which I thought was a pretty ok deal.
There are also bus stations in Chetumal which probably have cheaper options if you’re willing to exert a little more effort to reach your destination.
The center of Chetumal – it’s pretty hot and boring, so you should plan to spend as little time here as possible.
Bonus: How to get to Caye Caulker by bus (via Belize City)
You can save money by traveling from Chetumal to Belize City by bus and then taking the ferry from Belize City to Caye Caulker.
As with most bus routes, info on this one is hard to pin down online and you’ll have to do more research beyond what I can provide here.
But from a few initial searches, it looks like buses run multiple times a day from Chetumal to Belize City. They’re going to be pretty basic (like, converted school buses) and take about 4 hours and cost around 10 usd. You will still have the same fees at the border crossing.
Then, from Belize City, you can take the San Pedro Belize Express Ferry to Caye Caulker for only 18 usd one-way or 28 usd round-trip.
Another perk of this option, besides just the savings, is that there are multiple departures from Belize City to Caye Caulker every day between 8 am and 5:30 pm so it’s good for a more flexible schedule as well.
Chetumal from above
Bonus: How to fly from Chetumal to Caye Caulker (for surprisingly cheap)
This is the fastest option and – just looking into it now – may actually be cheaper than the ferry.
To catch these tiny charter flights with Maya Air, you need to take a taxi to the Belizean city of Corozol.
The drive without any border crossing would take 28 minutes, but in reality, you’ll need a Mexican taxi to drop you at the border and then a Belizean taxi to pick you up and finish the trip on the other side.
The Corozol Airport has multiple flights to San Pedro every day and they only cost 43 usd each!
The cheapest fare even includes a checked bag so there honestly may be no shenanigans here and that could really be the final price. They say they have flights to Caye Caulker as well but they don’t show up on their schedule.
The flight is only 20 minutes and is probably has absolutely stunning views.
Once you land on San Pedro, all you need to do is hop on a boat from San Pedro to Caye Caulker to finish the trip. This final stretch costs 18 usd each way (or 28 usd for the round trip) and runs until 4:30 pm every day.
Ready to go? Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights to Chetumal or Belize City and then browse the best Airbnb options (like our cozy tiny home with a private dock on Caye Caulker and our house with a private pool in Chetumal) to book your stay!
This article is part of the Captivating Caye Caulker series. Read the rest below:
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I’ve been traveling full-time for three years, these are the resources that make it happen:
➤ I exclusively use Airbnb for savings and security on long-term stays in furnished apartments.
➤ I use Booking.com for short-term stays in hostels and hotels on weekend trips.
➤ Upwork allowed me to take the leap to travel full-time because they make it so easy to find freelance clients in any field.
➤ The Superstar Blogging Travel Writing Course launched my travel writing career and helped me become a contributor at sites like Cincinnati Refined and International Living, and even get published in the Boston Globe.