As the taxi boat approached the island my sight was filled with palm trees, pastel-coloured houses and locals with dreadlocks; we had unmistakably arrived in the Caribbean. Instant happiness flooded my heart when I stepped ashore – this was what paradise must look like. A white sandy road lead from the pier towards the settlement. I started walking in my normal upbeat pace. “Where are you going with that speed”, a man yelled at me from the shore. Surprised by the sudden yelling I slow down my pace. Again the man shouts to me, but this time in a much more friendlier tone, “Welcome to Caye Caulker”.
I was traveling south from Yucatan, Mexico and decided to make a short stop in Belize and explore the small island Caye Caulker. It lies less that an hour’s boat ride away from the more populated and hectic capital Belize city. The island consists of three main streets: the front, middle and back street. Leading away from the pier is Front Street, seamed with small shops and restaurants. Here is where the crowd initially gathers. It is the place for the best lobster on the island, colourful wooden houses and girls in bikinis and street vendors sell homemade souvenirs and sunscreen in their stacked shops. But as soon I leave this road I can only hear silence – and the waves crashing on the beach.
Despite the island having experienced a boom of tourism the last decade it is still a place to relax and unwind far away from the crowds. It is especially loved by backpackers and young travelers. Caye Caulker doesn’t have big hotels, paved roads or even cars. To get around you either walk, or rent a bike or golf car. The locals managed with great success to maintain the relaxed atmosphere and Caribbean charm. On trees and houses across the island you will find signs telling you to “go slow” – a message that helps visitors to adjust to the Belizean way of live.
What To Do
I spent four days on the island, including Christmas Eve and Day. Being from Norway literally nothing on Caye Caulker reminded my of the holidays back home. The sun is shining pretty much all the time and it is hot and humid. Caulker is famous for its opportunities for scuba divers and snorkelers. From the island you can book diving tours to the amazing Blue Hole, shortlisted as one of the wonders of the world. It is a circular sinkhole in the centre of a large reef structure and home to colourful under-water wildlife.
If you are not into diving or just need a break from it, the place to spend your time is The Split. This is a narrow waterway separating the island in two parts, but really it is the place to be. The sand banks are lined with beach bars serving cold local Belikin beer and locals and other travelers sipping exactly on that. Although the Split is a canal, it is wide enough to take a cooling dip in it. The island’s kids spend their time here, playing soccer, fishing or riding their bikes.
Where to Stay
Although it is quite hard to book a place to stay online, there is plenty of options when you get there. Many places simply don’t have a website. For backpackers wanting to sleep in dorms Yuma’s House has a great reputation, but be sure to book some weeks in advance. The guesthouse Paradise Inn offers clean, air-conditioned rooms at a very reasonable price. I found it by talking to the locals and advise you to do the same. Caulker has a very small community which makes it very easy to get to know people. Walking along Front street it is inevitable that you bump into the same people over and over again.
Eating & Drinking
It is really not hard to find eateries and bars on this island – they populate all shores and beaches. The island is known for its excellent lobster and delicious coconut curries, which are best enjoyed at Happy Lobster on Front Street or Rosa’s Grill and Bambooze on the beach. If you are hungry for something else that Caribbean food, go to Pizza Caulker for great pizza and a nice vibe.
The best dessert of the island is served by The Cake Lady – literally a lady who takes her cake trolley all over the island. She does cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner – check out this little video about her. Try her famous banana bread, chocolate coconut cake or the more typical Belizean Rum cake.
For drinks head to the Split and enjoy your drink with a magnificent sunset over the canal. At night the Belizeans mix up some great rum drinks. The best cocktails and beautiful views can be found on the rooftop of the I&I Reggae Bar. I particularly fell for a mix of coconut rum and pineapple juice, unfortunately also known as “the Panty Ripper”.
Caye Caulker is a colourful paradise, a laid-back destination to include in your Caribbean and Central American itinerary. A couple of days are enough to fully immerse in the relaxed island community and explore the most beautiful surroundings you will ever find. What about you – where have you found paradise?