Whether you use her Spanish name Cayo Hicaco, island of the coco plum; Caulker, a possible reference to making wooden boats water tight or La Isla Cariñosa, the lovely island, a visit to Caye Caulker is both relaxing and rejuvenating.
Caye Caulker residents made a name for themselves with shipbuilding, but the coconut has also featured prominently in the island’s history. Coconuts were once shipped to the mainland in large quantities for their delicious water but now there’s enough demand on the island to limit sales to residents.
And long before coconut oil was billed as a healthy alternative, Belizeans were making it themselves and using it to flavor their food. The sweetest use for coconut is as the main ingredient for a plethora of delicious desserts found in local restaurants, delis and on vending carts. Naturalists offer educational and entertaining slideshows about the history of Caye Caulker as well as the wildlife and their habitats.
Fishing, especially for lobster, remains the primary occupation on the island, but many Caye Caulker residents diversify into tourism during that industry’s high season. Tour guides take pride in taking visitors to the island to premier snorkel and dive sites just offshore.
Accommodations on Caye Caulker range from laid back luxury with modern conveniences to private beach camping grounds with incredible views. The moment you arrive in Caye Caulker, you realize that life moves at a different pace in this pretty place.
Brightly painted houses line the beach and sand streets. Coconut fronds sway in the warm breezes. Children laugh as they play in the tide pools. Bicycle bells, not car horns, ring out as friends greet each other. The smiles are as contagious as the “no worries” attitude. The tangerine colored starfish (locally called sea stars) beam through the sapphire waters.
Everything about this place cries out: “slow down”; “breathe deep”; “treasure the time.”
WHAT TO DO
Bait fish called sprat are caught in cast nets in the shallow waters surrounding Caye Caulker
- Sunbathe at the Split: The most popular beach area in Caye Caulker is called “The Split”; it’s near the channel that divides the island in two. There’s a lively beach bar, room to soak up the sun and even a shallow play area for the kids.
- Snorkel: The shallow waters of Caye Caulker’s Shark and Ray Alley boasts an impressive number of Southern Sting Rays and Nurse Sharks. Guides get up close and personal with the residents, creating great photo opportunities.
- Visit the Forest Reserve: Home to a variety of wildlife, this area protects more than one hundred acres of littoral forest, which includes three different types of mangroves. A great picnic area is located near the visitor center.
- Take to the sea: Given its close proximity to the reef and nearby islands, Caye Caulker makes a great base for kayak tours and sailing trips. Adventures can last a few hours or the entire week.
- Dive: Caye Caulker tour guides have the choice of several incredible dive sites just offshore. Belizean dive masters are dedicated to sharing everything they love about the country’s colorful marine world.
WHAT TO EAT
- Coconut: Whether you decide to try the “water” served fresh from the nut, the pies, crusts, fudge or the local choice “cotobrute” (shredded coconut bonded with sugar), anything with coconut in the name is guaranteed to be good.
- Lobster: At the start of the lobster season in June, Caye Caulker hosts a lobster festival where the delicious crustacean is prepared every way imaginable. One year, even lobster ice cream was on the menu!
- Snapper: Whether it’s red, black, silk, mutton or yellow tailed, snapper is always a tasty option. Snapper can be served fried for breakfast, grilled for lunch and baked for dinner but you can always have it your way.
- Conch: The beauty of the Queen Conch shell is only outdone by the succulent taste of the mollusk living inside. Popular island favorites include creamy conch soup, conch ceviche, spicy jerk conch and conch fritters.
- Shrimp: Shrimp is a popular menu item as both a “boca” (an appetizer) and a main meal. Restaurant chefs on the island use a variety of flavors, like curry spices, fresh garlic and coconut milk, in their shrimp creations.
WHERE TO STAY
Advertised accommodations are listed here. For a full list of Caye Caulker properties, please turn to the directory in this book.
Bicycles are popular mode of transportation in Caye caulker. Beach cruisers can be rented from several island properties.
- Caye Caulker Plaza Hotel: 32 rooms. From the roof top terrace of the Caye Caulker Plaza Hotel, guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the island. Cozy, comfortable sitting areas create a welcoming atmosphere. Its main street location provides easy access to restaurants, stores and, best of all, the beach. www.cayecaulkerplazahotel.com
- Iguana Reef Inn: 14 rooms. Iguana Reef offers guests upscale accommodations that make them comfortable enough to go barefoot. Located on the water’s edge, enjoy incredible views of the Caribbean Sea from one of the verandahs or relax in the fresh water swimming pool. www.iguanareefinn.com
- Island Magic Beach Resort: 10 rooms. This resort opened in February 2010. This small sea side property is big on customer satisfaction. Perfect for relaxation, romance, family beach fun and luxury in a tranquil setting. Views from the rooms range from island views to seascapes. There’s also a honeymoon suite available. www.islandmagicbelize.com
- Seaside Cabanas Hotel: 16 rooms. The U-shape design of this hotel offers a view of the invigorating freshwater pool and the revitalizing Caribbean Sea. It’s located just a few feet from the tender boat dock, so your vacation can start in minutes. www.seasidecabanas.com
- Vega Inn and Gardens: 8 rooms. Enjoy the beachfront and experience the hospitality of island life in a tropical garden setting. The staff will welcome you with village charm. You can live like a local in suites, houses, rooms, or utilize the campsite. www.vegabelize.com