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One of the first steps to planning a trip to these beautiful Belizean islands is to decide how much time to spend on Caye Caulker and San Pedro Island.
This, of course, will vary based on whether you’re on a short vacation or a long backpacking trip, which type of island experience you prefer (super laid back vs. built up with nightlife) and your budget.
But, this insight will help you decide.
So, how much time should you spend on Caye Caulker and San Pedro? Keep reading to find out!
You need at least enough time to relax, do nothing, and enjoy the views like this!
How Much Time Should I Spend on Caye Caulker?
Based on my personal experience, I recommend spending a minimum of three full days and a maximum of six full days on Caye Caulker.
First, it takes some effort and expense to get to Caye Caulker.
You have to travel to Belize City or Chetumal, Mexico, two places you wouldn’t visit if you weren’t going to the islands.
From Belize City, the trip with San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi costs $18 one-way and requires a bumpy 45-minute boat ride.
From Chetumal, the trip costs $55 plus about $30 to cross the border and takes about three hours – see my step-by-step guide and budget breakdown of the trip for more details.
Once you exert all that effort, it’s kind of dumb to spend only a day or two enjoying the fruits of your labor!
I’m not going to stay I enjoyed the Chetumal to Caye Caulker ferry, but it was worth the effort to reach the tiny island.
Second, it takes time to get into the island mindset.
The much-shared slogan of Caye Caulker is ‘Go Slow.’
Yet, unwinding from the constant emails and stress of day-to-day life isn’t instant (unless you’re very mindful, in which case, I envy you) and it takes time to let that sunburn sink in and learn to rise with the sun, go to bed when it sets, and leave your phone behind at home while you go exploring for the day.
Sure, a day on Caye Caulker is fun (and if that’s truly all the time you have, I still recommend it), but it’s not enough to truly destress.
Third, there’s a lot to see and do, but you also need to budget time to do nothing.
If you have at least three full days on the island, you can mix and match some of the highlights, like:
- Explore the small town and day-drink at my favorite beach bars on Caye Caulker
- Kayak across the split to the northern half of the island and explore the nature preserve
- Go snorkeling in the second largest barrier reef in the world
- Take an island food tour
- Dive or fly over the Great Blue Hole
But – if you have five days – you can do everything on this list and tack on an extra day of doing absolutely nothing and what’s not to like about that?
More than five or six days on the island, though, and you might get a little sick of being sunburned and hot all day and feel ready to move on.
Less than three days and you’ll feel rushed (the last thing you want on this ultra-relaxed island) to see and do everything you want to.
I spent four full days on Caye Caulker in this colorful tin7 home (with a private dock!) and thought it was the perfect amount. (If I had the funds to see the Blue Hole, I’d want one more.)
At the end of my stay, I was sad to say goodbye, but I was also felt like I got the full Caye Caulker experience and was ready to move on.
The verdict: Three to six full days on Caye Caulker
Night sky and city lights on San Pedro Island
How Much Time Should I Spend on San Pedro?
Nah, I’m just kidding.
This answer really depends on how slow you’re traveling.
San Pedro is the main town on Ambergris Caye, the neighboring island to Caye Caulker. It has a much larger population (16,500 vs. 2,000 people) and a larger area as well (25 miles long vs. 5 miles).
Dan went to both Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye years ago when he was teaching in Belize and when we planned our second trip, together this time, he was pretty adamant about skipping it.
So I listened, and we didn’t go, and I have no regrets.
Everything you could want from San Pedro – like getting PADI certified, visiting a nature preserve, or flying over the Blue Hole – can be done from Caye Caulker as well.
The only thing San Pedro offers is more variety in restaurants and nightlife, which I personally don’t care about that much. I don’t go to islands for the food and bars which can usually be counted on to be average and overpriced no matter where it is in the world.
Lobster, rice, and beans on Caye Caulker
For the average person on an average-length vacation, you can honestly skip San Pedro because Caye Caulker is less crowded and more beautiful. To put it bluntly, Caye Caulker just does it better.
If you’re on a tight budget, the Belize City to Caye Caulker round trip is $28. The Belize City to Caye Caulker to San Pedro to Belize City round trip is $64.
So, tacking San Pedro to your trip will cost an extra $36 that’s just not worth it when Caye Caulker is more idyllic anyway.
You can also consider tacking an extra day onto your stay at Caye Caulker to take a day trip to San Pedro (Water taxis run from 7 am to 4:30 pm between the two island and round-trip boat tickets cost $28) because you can see a lot of it in a day and you have the added bonus of not having to take your bags and luggage with you on the boats.
If you’re backpacking and have months of travel stretching out ahead of you, then yeah, give it more time.
Two to three full days on San Pedro is enough to explore the island and:
- Chill at the beach bars
- Explore Bacalar Chico National Park & Marine Reserve
- Go bird watching
- Shop, eat, drink, and dance all night
The verdict: If you’re on a budget or pressed for time, skip San Pedro. If you like to see every inch of every country you visit and relaxing on a beach isn’t your priority, two to three days is the most you need on Ambergris Caye.
Water tables at the Lazy Lizard beach bar on Caye Caulker
So, How Much Time Should I Spend on San Pedro and Caye Caulker?
In a perfect world with an unlimited budget and vacation time, I suggest five to six full days on Caye Caulker plus three full days in San Pedro Island.
In reality, Caye Caulker is better, slower, more beautiful, and less crowded than San Pedro and you should focus on slowing down and relaxing there for a few days rather than trying to jump between the islands and see everything.
Of course, everything is subjective.
But, I hope my personal opinion on how much time to spend in Caye Caulker and San Pedro helps you weigh the pros and cons of each island and create the perfect itinerary for your trip!
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This article is part of the Captivating Caye Caulker series. Read the rest below:
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