Belize’s Affordable Caribbean Island

With its laid-back style, Caye Caulker in Belize gets its share of young, active tourists.

If you want to “get away from it all,” tropical-island style, there may be no place better in Belize to do it than Caye Caulker. This five-mile-long island—only half of which is really inhabited—sits in dream-worthy, turquoise Caribbean waters. Its three main streets (imaginatively named Front, Middle, and Back) are packed sand. And the main modes of transportation are by bicycle and on foot (preferably barefoot).

Here, life is all about the water. You can see the Caribbean from almost every place on the island, the sun glinting off the waves. Walk barefoot on the white-sand beaches, the sand squishing between your toes. Paddle off the Split, the channel separating the north and south halves of the island, enjoying a cold one at the Lazy Lizard between swims. And, in the evening, tuck into a fresh-fish or rock-lobster dinner at island restaurants like Habaneros or Rose’s Bar & Grill.

Boats rock at anchor all around the island, and they get regular use.

The blue Caribbean waters just beg to be sailed…and the Chinchorro Reef, the second-largest barrier reef in the world, sits just a mile offshore. For $25 you can spend the morning snorkeling along the reef with an experienced guide, floating above gnarled coral formations and gliding past sea vegetation that waves gently in the current.

If you prefer scuba diving, you can sign up for tours along the reef, to the Blue Hole, and to marine preserves. They’re all within a few hours or less away.

With its laid-back style, Caye Caulker gets its share of young, active tourists. But it appeals to older expats, too. They come for its simple lifestyle, stunning views, and for still-affordable seaside real estate. Prices on Caye Caulker are rising fast, especially on the already-developed southern half. But there are still bargains to be found. What about a small one-bedroom, one-bath condo with a rooftop terrace and sunset views for $150,000? There’s one for sale now. Looking for a business? A lot with four cabanas, used for vacation rentals, is on offer for just under $190,000.

There are a few single-family homes for sale. One near the southern end of the island, just a few minutes’ walk from the Caribbean, is a two-story, three-bedroom home with wraparound verandahs and lovely wooden floors. It’s for sale for $355,000. But many people prefer to buy lots and build their own home. You can find lots starting from as little as $30,000.

And though Caye Caulker revels in its no-shirt, no-shoes lifestyle, you’re hardly a castaway here… Ambergris Caye, with its First-World goodies, is only a half-hour boat ride away. An eight-minute flight on one of Belize’s tiny commuter planes gets you from Caye Caulker to Belize City, with its international airport and connections around the world.