For years, Caye Caulker has been popular with backpackers looking to sample the laid-back atmosphere of Belize but reluctant to pay the high prices on nearby Caye Ambergris.
In Caye Caulker, life moves at a snail’s pace. No one is in a rush. No roads. (You drive around in golf carts.)
You visit Caye Caulker to relax on the beach, get a tan, eat lobster, and spend the evenings dancing at one of the reggae bars. Don’t come here if you are in a rush! (Diving and snorkeling are also popular here due to the nearby Belize Barrier Reef and world-class dive sites like the Blue Hole Natural Monument.)
There isn’t a whole lot to do other than slowing down and enjoying the natural surroundings of this tropical paradise.
This Caye Caulker travel guide will help you travel cheaper, better, and smarter during your next visit.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Caye Caulker
1. Visit Caye Caulker Forest Reserve
This reserve takes up 100 acres of the island and is home to a plethora of sea, plant, and bird life. Keep an eye out for rare species, like the black catbird! Kayakers are welcomed here, and kayaks are available to rent at your accommodation, or at Chocolate’s Gift Shop.
2. Eat at Lobsterfest
July marks Lobsterfest, the festival honoring all things crustacean. Tourists and locals alike enjoy contests, food, cocktails, and music by top DJs and local bands. There’s also the chance to try every conceivable lobster dish from lobster ice cream to lobster ceviche.
3. Explore the Split
Hurricanes ripped through the island in the 1960s and 90s forming “the split.” On one side are the mangroves of the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve and, on the other, well, the inhabited part of the island. The Split is great for lounging around, swimming, snorkeling, or having a drink. It’s the place to be on the island.
4. Go manatee watching
Manatees are huge, docile but highly endangered animals. There are many tours on to Swallow Caye, an ideal manatee spotting site. Entrance to Swallow Caye is 10 BZD, but it’s usually included in the price of a tour (the only way to get there). A full-day tour starts at around 180 BZD.
5. Snorkel Shark Ray Alley
Snorkelers flock to Shark Ray Alley for the chance to get up close and personal with nurse sharks and rays at feeding time. You can pose for pictures, pet them, and even get in a swim as they are used to human contact. A ton of tours and boaters will take you.
Other Things to See and Do in Caye Caulker
1. Go snorkeling
The Belize Barrier Reef is just a few minutes from the island and provides an ideal underwater world for snorkelers to explore. The different kinds of coral and species of fish are astonishing. Half-day tours start at 80 BZD while full-day tours start at 180 BZD.
2. Go diving
Caye Caulker and its surrounding areas are a diver’s paradise. There is the barrier reef, as well as Blue Hole Natural Monument and Half Moon Caye. The Blue Hole is a 1000 foot x 400-foot deep hole with a cave and is one of the most popular dive sites in the world. A half-day tour with two dives starts from 200 BZD. The trips to the Blue Hole are full-day, 3-tank tours and start from 600 BZD.
Year-round winds and warm shallow waters make windsurfing a big draw here. If you’re experienced, then board rental for two hours will cost about 100 BZD, but if you’re a newbie, you can take a beginner’s lesson for 150 BZD.
4. Go kayaking
Sea kayaks are available to rent, and you can head to the northern island, past the Split, to explore the mangroves. Kayak rentals start from 20 BZD per hour or 30 BZD for a half-day. Go to Lisa’s Kayak Rentals at Maya House for the best rates or check out Ocean Academy to support the local high school with a donation in exchange for rentals.
5. See the South End
The southern end is an area rich in crocodiles, bird-nesting, and raw natural beauty. Swimming at this end of the island offers a wide array of anemones, sponges, gorgonians, fish, and more. Most people don’t visit come down here, so you’ll have the area all to yourself.
If you’re heading to other parts of Belize, check out some of our other city guides:
Caye Caulker Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Dorms with 8-16 beds cost around 26 BZD per night, while smaller dorms start from 32 BZD. A standard private room in a hostel is between 80-90 BZD per night. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most (but not all) have self-catering facilities.
Budget hotel prices – There aren’t a whole lot of budget hotels around Caye Caulker. Double rooms at resorts start from 100 BZD per night. Most other 2-3 star hotels are around 150 BZD per night, and they can reach up to 300 BZD during peak season. Standard amenities include private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning.
On Airbnb, private rooms start from 80 BZD. You can get a basic cabana (a tiny house studio) or apartment from 100 BZD, but often you’ll have to pay extra for Wi-Fi. Nicer apartments, including those with swimming pools, start from 150 BZD.
Average cost of food – Belizean cuisine leans heavily on beans, rice, cheese, and tortillas. Rice and beans is a common lunch choice, and you can always find tamales, panades (fried meat pies), onion soup, chicken stew, and garnaches (beans, cheese, and onion in a fried tortilla) pretty much everywhere you go. Expect a lot of seafood here, including lobster, shrimp, red snapper, sea bass, and halibut.
Most restaurants on the island cost between 14-22 BZD, with breakfast at a cafe starting from 6 BZD. You can get fast food (grilled meats, BBQ seafood, pastries) from 13 BZD.
A week’s worth of food is between 100-120 BZD for basic staples like pasta, vegetables, and chicken.
Make sure you eat at Wish Willy’s, the best restaurant on the island. You get a great chicken or fish meal there, and it comes with a drink. There are no set prices, but it’s cheap!
Backpacking Caye Caulker Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Caye Caulker, my suggested budget is 81 BZD per day. This budget will cover staying in a hostel dorm, cooking most of your meals, walking everywhere, enjoying lots of free activities like swimming and lounging on the beach. It’s a tight budget but doable if you cut your drinking. If you want to party or eat out more, add another 20 BZD per day.
On a mid-range budget of about 215 BZD, you can stay in a two-star budget hotel or a private room in an Airbnb. You’ll be able to eat out for all your meals and enjoy a few drinks as well. You can rent a bicycle to get around and do watersports like snorkeling or windsurfing.
On a “luxury” budget of 450 BZD or more, you can stay in a private Airbnb with a pool, eat out for all your meals (lobster and drinks), rent a golf cart to get around and do some tours (like diving). You’ll be able to snorkel, windsurf, and more. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!
Caye Caulker Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Caye Caulker can make it an expensive place to be if you do a lot of tours and activities. But, if you’re just chilling on the beach and staying in a dorm, you won’t spend a ton of money. But, if you want to lower your costs, here are save money in Caye Caulker during your visit:
- Shop around – There are a lot of dive companies on Caye Caulker and competition is fierce so be sure to shop around. Most will give you a free dive in the hopes of getting you to sign up for their PADI certification course.
- Snorkel The Split – If you snorkel the Split, you’ll be able to see a wide variety of fish without paying money for an expensive tour to the reef. Same animals, cheaper price.
- Travel off-peak – The most expensive time to visit is between October and April. By traveling in the off-season, you can significantly reduce prices for accommodation and flights.
- Combine trips – Many tour operators offer trips that combine popular excursions. These are a good way to save on transfers to each tourist destination as well as possibly get dropped off at your next destination.
- Happy hour – Most bars have a happy hour in the late afternoon and offer 2 for the price of one drinks.
- Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy here. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw.
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker
Need a place to stay while you travel in Caye Caulker? Here are my favorite and suggested places to stay on the island:
How to Get Around Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a relatively small island and is easily walkable. If you’re staying outside the main village, there are a few other ways to get around:
Bicycle – Other than on foot, bicycle rentals are your cheapest option for getting around. You can find them for as little as 15 BZD per day, or 60 BZD per week. Ask your hostel if they have bikes to rent.
Golf Carts – Golf carts are definitely not a budget option, with hourly rentals starting from 25 BZD. You can also rent them daily from 150 BZD, or weekly from 600 BZD. I don’t recommend this mode of transportation unless you have mobility issues.
Water Taxi – Water taxis will take you to the mainland for 35-40 BZD for a round-trip. The two water taxis that service Caye Caulker are:
- Caye Caulker Water Taxi
- San Pedro Water Taxi
When to Go to Caye Caulker
The best time to visit Caye Caulker is from the end of November to mid-April. This is Belize’s dry season (and it’s also peak season). However, it never gets too crowded at Caye Caulker. The temperature here never varies much and very rarely dips below 77°F (25°C). January and February can be a little cooler, with occasional lows of 68°F (20°C)
November to April is also the best time for diving, as the waters are clearest during this time. The rainy season lasts from September to October, so I would avoid traveling to Caye Caulker during those months.
How to Stay Safe in Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker’s laidback lifestyle doesn’t tend to involve any violent crime, although theft can be a problem. There have been several reports of hotel keys being stolen and then used to ransack the room, so make sure you have your valuables stored safely.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
People are generally friendly and helpful, and you’re unlikely to get into trouble.
Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).
Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Caye Caulker Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do group tours, go with Intrepid. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts with them too!
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
Caye Caulker Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of TNN+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts: