The Truth about Caye Caulker – Belize it or Not

I’d heard a lot about Caye Caulker (pronounced ‘Key’ Caulker) from travelers and everyone agreed that Caye Caulker was the ideal place for sun and low-key and anti-resorty fun. This sounded like us.

Dreaming how I could jump from bed into the ocean for a dip in the early warm mornings. Our days in Caye Caulker were to relax, be lazy, snorkel, dive and  play in the crystal clear blue water everyday.

I imagined my toes in the sand sitting under the coconut palms drinking my Caribbean Golden Rum in the pleasant breeze of the Caribbean Sea, jumping in the water to swim and cool off.

Lay out, swim, eat, drink, and nap.

Rinse and repeat every day.

Caye Caulker

However no one mentioned the beach thing and how expensive it was. We quickly discovered that it was to cost $552 for 6 nights – ouch that is way over budget, but this is a treat right? Of course accommodation is always an indication of food price too, usually we find the accommodation and food cost per day are about the same. Caye Caulker was no exception, food was hard to come by and very expensive.

Veges and fruit were not fresh and a lettuce cost $3!  A basic breakfast cost $17.

It seems Caye Caulker used to be the budget backpacker hangout for those traveling around Central America. We found those days are no longer. It seems budget accommodations in Caye Caulker run about $20-30/night and if you want an apartment they run to $80 a night minimum.

Caye CaulkerWe tossed up between Diane’s Beach House 25 metres from he ocean and one with a swimming pool. We thought we would opt for the Beach house by the ocean instead of the chlorine infested pool. Now I know why a lot of the apartments and hotels have swimming pools, there are no real swimming beaches here.

The foreshore is literally covered with sea grass which smells rather putrid and gets amongst your hair if you swim in it. Some of the hotels have tried to make their own little sandy beach type arrangements, but still there is no ideal swimming spots.

Caye CaulkerAnyway, once our bus arrived to Belize City after a 5 hours journey from Tikal, we were greeted at the boat dock by baggage men grabbing our bags to check in for the ferry to Caye Caulker.

We grabbed a quick yummy fried fish dish, a couple of local Beliken beers and waited for the water taxi to board to paradise. Brigett, a large buxom, dark, local women comes over and welcomes us to Belize, chats and then starts massaging my neck and shoulders.  Nice… I thought I am going to like this place.

Caye CaulkerThe loading dock at the water taxi station was more chaotic than a Tokyo rush hour train. Everyone filed aboard from the crowded boat terminal and we were on our way – a fast 1 hour to Caye Caulker.

Rasta hustlers were already waiting for the fresh round of tourists off the boat, yelling all kinds of stuff like  “Hey man, need a hotel, need a taxi” another dude spots us and rushes out of his Pizza joint to tell us that he pours triple rums. This is all pretty loud and english after the relative calm of Guatemala.

Caye CaulkerOur beach house was 100m from the dock, coloured pink and yellow, cute and authentically beachy. By that I mean everything is rusty and covered in sand, it’s fallen victim of the humid climate. Nonetheless it has a big grunty air-conditioning unit which I welcomed and an amazing King Bed with a memory foam mattress.

Caye CaulkerCaye Caulker is just 8 feet above sea level! The island is basically a sand bar over a limestone shelf and inside the shelf of limestone are many huge underwater caves. The last hurricane was 5 years ago and a local told me that the island must evacuate for hurricanes as a direct hit by the eye of a hurricane would push a storm surge of artificially raised sea levels about 15 feet higher than normal in front of it.

Caye CaulkerWhaaat? Oh crap and here we are visiting in hurricane season!

Des was secretly hoping for one I think!

If you are looking for white sandy beaches, Caye Caulker is not the place for you. There’s plenty of sand, the streets are paved with the stuff, but there are no real “swimable beaches” in Caye Caulker.

Instead everyone goes to the Split, a hurricane-made portion of the island where the island was split into two. Ok we think let’s try that for swimming. Again I imagined a small sandy strip of beach. We walked up towards the “split.” and find a jetty type arrangement that people were jumping off. Caye CaulkerMany people will tell you the “split” was created by Hurricane Hattie that hit Belize hard in 1961, which is partly true, but it is actually man-made. Hurricane Hattie did create a small split so right after the hurricane the locals began hand-dredging the split further. It started as a small, shallow passage for canoes, but over the years, the increased flow of tidal water has created an opening of about 20 feet deep. As we got closer to the Split the music got louder and here we find a raucous bar and jetty with giant speakers and boozing swimmers.

For us it held no appeal at all.

I have new swimming togs and I want to swim, I am hot, where will I go. We wander back in the other direction and meet a couple who take us to a little jetty that we can jump off into cleanish (only minimal sea grass water). Des didn’t even bother but I am in the water or should I say the bath – yes the water is like tepid bath water. We chat for bit and go our seperate ways.

Caye CaulkerNow that I am over my swimming disappointment it’s on to the Caye Caulker’s other treasures…some snorkelling and maybe some diving.

 

On the way home we meet Caveman… you’ll have to check the next post for our highlight of Caye Caulker and day of adventures with Caveman along with his beautiful story.

Have you been to Caye Caulker?  What did you think of the beaches?

Comments

7 Comments on “The Truth about Caye Caulker – Belize it or Not

  1. Well, you “win” some and you “lose” some – that’s the exciting part of doing it yourselves! Glad to see you are still making it up as you go! Enjoy!

    • Thanks for your comment. Everyone’s perspectives are different and ours is to be true to ourselves in conveying our experiences to readers.

  2. I think this wrongly represents the island…but of course we all have a completely different experience. There were cheaper rooms….and we found a restaurant called Marin’s that only costed $5 USD for an enormous meal including a drink. It is owned by Marin, one of the only people left on the island who was actually born there. She began the first hostel on the island back in the 60s by letting people stay in her guest room. She began cooking for them, and as more people came to the island she started charging and it grew from there.
    We were there at Xmas time, and it was quiet even though most of the accommodation was full. We stayed at Amanda’s Place which was absolutely beautiful and split between two people it only costed each of us $30/night. (I would have went for a $10 bed at the Lazy Lizard but my sig other wouldn’t go for that).
    That all being said……we were away all day, every day on dive trips so were only really on the island each evening. If I had to be there the entire day for the whole week I would have gone stir-crazy in two days.
    It was fun to walk all the way around the island and a bit of an adventure as the trail leads to mud if it has rained recently. We did this on our one day off.
    We swam across the split to check out the other side of the island, nothing there but bugs and barking dogs, but swimming across was fun.

    • Hi Christine,

      Thanks for your comments about your experience in Caye Caulker. You are right everyone has a different experience.

      While it’s a funky little place – our biggest disappointment was no actual beach to swim in. The ‘split’ sported loud booming music and boozing swimmers – not our style. Yes, you can get budget rooms for $30 a night, but our requirements are an apartment with cooking facilities. We are travelling permanently and cannot afford and neither do we want to eat at restaurants every day.

      The highlight and our fondest memory of Caye Caulker was meeting Caveman – did you read that story?

      • Too bad you didn’t know about Sandy Lane Guest House & Cabanas. They will rent you a cabana that sleeps 3 and has a full kitchen for about $35 US a night, tax included. And it’s right around the corner from Fry Jack’s where you can get a Fry Jack sandwich (basically, stuffed fried bread) for breakfast for a couple of bucks. And I know you can get much less expensive restaurant meals than what you describe.

        • Thanks for your comments David – no we didn’t know about Sandy Lane Guest House – but we do now!

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