There are about 450 sandy islands on the Belize Barrier Reef off the caribbean coast of Belize. Belizeans call them ‘cayes’.

We have a steady relationship with the two big ones, and I’d say that we’re on Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker almost every other week. While those two are our steady cayes, we had a one week fling with another one – Tobacco Caye – last christmas. And we loved it.

Watching the sunset from the bar - click to enlarge

Watching the sunset from the bar - click to enlarge

Tobacco Caye is tiny, at a size of only 400 by 200 feet you can walk around it in 5 minutes and across in a lot less. It’s intimate with about 20 permanent residents and 5 little lodges with 3-10 rooms each. The daily routines are mainly dictated by food (you eat at your lodge and at a given time when the bell or triangle calls you to the communal picnic tables) and the generator (there’s light usually until 9 or 10 – then it’s you and your headlamp).

When we got to Tobacco Caye, I was worried that I was looking at going out of my OCD workaholic mind within hours. I had a list of projects lined up before I even set foot on this oasis of nothingness. I didn’t do any of them. Handing over daily routines to the meal bell, the hammock and falling asleep whenever you felt like it became our life for the duration of our stay and I left Tobacco Caye so utterly relaxed that I couldn’t even remember when I had last been this grounded and recharged.

360 panorama of Tobacco Caye from the middle of the island

360 panorama of Tobacco Caye from the middle of the island

By the time we left we had been there longer than any non-resident. It felt a bit like we had become a part of the island, especially when one of the little kids fell and bit his tongue through. The locals came running, calling Kerstin by name and asking for first aid – that’s what Red Cross people do, after all, right? Kerstin succeeded in convincing them that lime juice, ice, peroxide and tylenol were no acceptable remedies for a bleeding open tongue. She didn’t succeed in convincing anyone that a visit to the doctor would be a good idea or that a speech impediment would suck. The boy played happily again on the beach the next day.

What you need to know about Tobacco Caye:

How to get there: Make your way to Dangriga by bus or plane. Find the “Riverside Tavern”. Right outside the tavern’s door is a creek where the two boat captains (Cpt. Doug and Cpt. Buck) servicing Tobacco Caye wait for their passengers. The fare is 30 BZ$ per person one way. You can arrange your trip back with the captains or with your hosts the night before you leave the caye again.

Where to stay: We stayed at Gaviotas, now renamed the blue dolphin. Accommodation on Tobacco Caye is generally very basic (wodden huts with a bed in it). Gaviota’s has good value for it’s price and a very good kitchen that even catered to our vegetarians. Other places are more pricey and have a bit more comfort.

What to do: Free entertainment is abundant. Sunrise usually happens on the east side of the island while sunset can be caught on the west side (with catering from the island bar). There’s a dock close to the bar to go swimming. A lot of guys and most lodges offer tours, usually manatee watching, snorkeling and/or a boat ride to a nearby bird sanctuary island. There’s also a dive shop on the island though the compressor was defunct when we visited and judging from the outside appearance of the shop and its equipment I would think twice about diving here.

Kick back and do nothing. Take a swim when you’re hot. Play some cards. Or join the locals and tourists playing volleyball almost every day between 3 and 5 at Gaviota’s.

How long to stay: We stayed 8 days and at the end felt like a part of the island. Usually people stay 1-3 nights – I would recommend 3-4 nights to achieve island relaxation.

What do bring: Flashlight. Own booze (considerably cheaper than buying it there). Swim suit. A good book.

Sunrise on Tobacco Caye, Belize

Sunrise on Tobacco Caye, Belize

Slideshow: CLICK HERE and scroll to the bottom....