The boat pulls up and you step off the tiny dock right into the heart of the island. A golf cart zips by, restaurants are buzzing, and the waves are gently crashing below. Right away, you’re greeted with a sign telling you Caye Caulker’s motto: Go Slow.
A short walk into the depths of town leads you to reggae music thumping away. And tables full of food and drinks, surrounded by smiling people. Someone jumps off the high-dive platform at the hottest spot on the island, The Split, and splashes down into the crystal-clear water. You’re surrounded by a peculiar mix of high energy with utter relaxation.
Walk to the leeward side of the island, and you’ll find a few incredible spots for sunset. There’s a small public beach or a great hotel patio with pelican feeding and seahorse farms.
Caye Caulker, Belize is an amazing little island off the coast of Belize, just south of Mexico’s beautiful Riviera Maya.
Why Caye Caulker Belize?
Caye Caulker is about one thing: relaxation. Signs everywhere saying “Go Slow” explicitly reinforce the message. On this tiny island, you’ll find an abundance of small restaurants and a handful of oceanfront bars. There are spectacular views of the ocean from both sides of the island. You can catch the sunrise from the windward eastern side and then walk three short blocks in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset from the leeward western side.
The people of Caye (pronounced “key”) Caulker are some of the happiest I have ever seen in my life. Every person is smiling and laughing. The people hawking their handicrafts are polite. The restaurant workers are eager to help. And whenever you hang out in the busy areas, people seemed to be very respectful of one another.
Caye Caulker, Belize is nothing but a tiny little island. And I mean small. Very small. In fact, no cars are allowed on this island. Golf carts and bicycles are the only forms of transportation in Caye Caulker, Belize. But walking can get you almost anywhere you want within 20 minutes or less.
Three main roads run about a half mile long, stretching from the tiny airport at the southern end all the way to the island’s hotspot: The Split. You can take boats across The Split to reach the other side, which is mainly uninhabited and undeveloped, except for a few vacation rentals and one beach club (Koko King).
Fun at The Split
The Split on Caye Caulker is the main gathering area and party spot. It is a small waterway which was formed years ago by a hurricane and has now split the island in two. The waterway is large enough for boats of all sorts to cruise through, but it’s mainly enjoyed by the people hanging out at the bar along the edge.
A large bar, named The Lazy Lizard, is right on the edge of the water. It has plenty of tables under palapas on the sandy area and a few tucked away down in the shallow water. The Lazy Lizard has an event area for DJs to put on shows, a large palapa with community tables for big groups, and some games to play: bag toss (aka cornhole) and horseshoes. It’s nonstop fun all day long. Unless you come too early. Or too late on a night without an event. Island time…
The Lazy Lizard’s signature drink, Lizard Juice, is a sugary mixture of various rums, neon-colored juices, and blended ice. While it’s not exactly a rum aficionado’s affair, it’s pumping through the veins of many tourists here. And something every visitor has to try at least once (cost: $10 BZD or $5 USD). I’d also like to start a formal petition to rename the drink to Lizard Lick – rolls off the tongue much better, right?!
Next to The Lazy Lizard at The Split in Caye Caulker, there are public areas to hang out and enjoy the sand. A sea wall lines the entire edge around The Split, so you can’t merely walk into the ocean. But they’ve made a lot of entrance areas with just a few steps down into the water. My favorite was going into one of the many tables down in the water. Just be aware of rogue waves that can cover the tables!
Things to do on Caye Caulker: Adventure and Fun
While “go slow” is the island’s motto, some adrenaline-filled adventure can be had as well. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are some of the top adventure activities and things to do on Caye Caulker Belize. And they have lessons for newbies. They also have Flyboarding, which is sort of like a jetpack for water.
There are plenty of boat tours as well: snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, and spear-fishing expeditions.
Our favorite thing to do on Caye Caulker was snorkeling. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to see right off the shoreline, so a boat tour is needed. And tons of companies do tours out here. A group called Caveman is the highest rated, but we went with Mario’s since we ate breakfast next to one of the employees and she was incredibly nice. French Angel Expedition is another option with a good reputation.
When we got there, the representative from Mario’s walked us down to a different shop and grouped us together with them. So it’s a bit of a free-for-all. But most operators do the same trip. Some are more environmentally conscious than others, however, because they understand that feeding the wildlife causes unintended consequences. You can ask about their policies beforehand.
Most of the tours start off with a 15-20 minute boat ride off the coastline to the reef. The first stop is swimming with juvenile nurse sharks and rays. The less aware tour groups feed the sharks and rays from the boats, so they regularly approach each boat that comes into their area. And you get to swim right alongside of them!
The second stop is at a deeper part of the reef, about 20-30 ft (6-9 m). As scuba divers scuttle underneath, you’ll skim along on top and check out the colorful coral and plentiful wildlife. We saw mainly fish on our trip out, but it’s possible to see larger aquatic life, like turtles, dolphins, sharks, and more.
The final stop takes you to a shallow reef area where you can swim around the coral and go off on your own in search of animals. A few people on our boat were completely exhausted after the first two snorkels, so there weren’t many people in the water. Kristina and I got lost in the shallow reef for about 30 minutes. It was a blast and we saw a lot of small fish and vibrant coral life.
The biggest downside of things to do at Caye Caulker Belize is the lack of large public beaches. Apart from The Split and the small public beach, basically everywhere has large sea walls which make entering the water tough. During our stay, the water was often very murky along the sea walls and sargassum had made its way to the island.
Places to Eat & Drink on Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker has a wide variety of food. The people of Belize are quite diverse, with ties from the Caribbean (of course), Maya, European, African, and Asian cultures. So there are many different types of places to eat on Caye Caulker. But like most places, you’ll do best by eating at places the locals recommend the most.
Don’t be afraid to ask golf car taxi drivers, tour operators, or even just people standing in line with you for their advice. TripAdvisor and blogs like this (and the many other incredible blogs out there) can be helpful, but it is always best to get the local scoop to find the hidden gems. No matter what, you’re not going to have a hard time finding good places to eat in Caye Caulker, Belize.
And be patient with the service. You’re on island time, so if something is “taking too long” take a close look at yourself and where you’re at. There is no reason to hurry. Grab another drink, take in the sights, and as the locals say, Go Slow.
Since we love local food that’s a good value, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of food stands with great prices on Caye Caulker, Belize. The tourist-centered restaurants have food for around $10-15 USD, but the food stands and carts were more like $5 USD and under. And some of them have the best food on the island.
In the morning, our favorite place to eat in Caye Caulker is Jenny’s Fry Jacks. No visit to Belize would be complete without trying the fry jacks. It’s a large piece of flatbread that’s deepfried and filled with your choice of toppings. Beans/cheese, ham/cheese, and chicken/cheese are some of the favorites. Errolyn’s Fry Jacks has been around for a while and is highly rated, but locals say Jenny’s is taking over as the best fry jacks in Caye Caulker Belize.
We also LOVED the small food stand right in front of the baseball court by the ferry dock. At night, a Salvadoran woman cooks up pupusas that will rock your world for $2 USD each! A thick corn-based flatbread is stuffed with your choice of filling (cheese, beans, chicken, etc.), then fried to perfection on her flat-top griddle. Be warned: these are made from scratch and take a bit of time to cook. But it’s worth it! They also sell burritos if you want a quicker option. That same stand (by the basketball court) sells small tacos in the morning. A good all-day selection for where to eat in Caye Caulker.
Also on front street, just a couple blocks toward The Split, there is another small stand with burritos for lunch. We had an excellent vegetarian one from here with beans, Oaxaca cheese, and a lot of cabbage and mixed veggies. She also does a Belizean Philly Cheesesteak option with beef, onions, peppers, and melted cheese. That seemed to be the common order here. These range from $2 – $4 USD.
There is one spot called After Hour Munchies. While it isn’t quite as cheap as the food carts, it still has affordable food and is open late. Might be worth checking out if you’re hungry late night. They have nachos, chicken wings, fries, coconut rice and beans, and more.
The places above are good, cheap options. But if you’re looking for nicer restaurants on Caye Caulker and are going to spend a bit more, there are plenty of choices around. The best meal we had on the island was at Pasta per Caso on front street. This tiny little place has three communal tables and is only open for dinner. They have excellent salads and the pasta is offered in one of two ways each evening: vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Sort of like a chef’s choice, and thankfully, the chef is great.
They make the pasta from scratch in-house. It’s best to make a reservation, which they only offer at set times: 5 pm, 6:30 pm, or 8 pm. And plan on sharing your table unless your party happens to fill it up completely.
Suggestion Gourmet is a French-style restaurant open for breakfast and dinner, toward the southern part of the island. It’s a good choice for where to eat in Caye Caulker. You’ll likely need a map to get here, but it has great coffee, croissants, and even good pizza. The outdoor tables and situated in a lovely green area with plenty of trees.
Paradise Cafe is a good spot to get a very large salad or sandwich. Take it to-go to enjoy near the water or hang out on their patio.
Frans Beachside Grill is $25 BZD ($12.50 USD) per plate and comes with unlimited rum drinks. It’s a great place to try out grilled fish and seafood. They did offer a veggie coconut curry as well.
The Happy Lobster is a large tourist-focused restaurant. Not exactly our cup of tea, but it’s highly reviewed. Crepes and Dreams is a popular breakfast joint. And the similarly-named Ice and Beans is good for coffee.
Secret Tip: Drinks on the Cheap
Coming from the United States, it is always a little weird to see people drinking in public. But Caye Caulker is not the United States, and here, you will find PLENTY of people with open containers all over the island. While there are some laws on open containers, they are largely not enforced, unless you’re being irresponsible.
There are many supermarkets all over town. One called Enjoy Supermarket has the best prices on rum and beer, but they are all quite similarly priced. If you’re looking for cheap places to drink on Caye Caulker, the supermarkets are where it’s at.
Feel free to stop in a shop, grab a beer from the cooler, pay for it, and pop it open on the bottle opener by the door. Every place has a bottle opener and is used to this custom. The police turn a blind eye to it unless they have reason to intervene.
The local beer, Belikin, comes in two varieties: Beer and Stout. The “Beer” version is a simple lager/ale while the stout has a traditional malt-heavy stout flavor. Many people in Belize also drink Guinness – there is a special Guinness brew, Foreign Extra Stout, which is brewed in Belize. Landshark and other lagers are available as imports.
If you want even cheaper beer prices, you can do even better by buying a case of beer from the distributor. Calle del Sol is a cross street which is next to the main pier on the western side of the island (Water Jets International uses this). On that street, by the gas station and pier, is a large warehouse distributor.
There you can purchase an entire case of Belikin beer (24 beers with about 9.6 fl oz each – yes, they’re smaller) for $55 BZD ($27.50 USD). You have to put down $11 BZD ($5.50 USD) as a deposit, which is refundable if you bring them back with your receipt. This is about half the price of the supermarket price. So if you’re truly on a budget – or just like beer over other drinks – this is the absolute cheapest place to drink on Caye Caulker Belize.
On the other hand, if you prefer mixed drinks, tons of people cruise around the island with large mugs or insulated tumblers full of their favorite cocktail. And once again, you can stop by the supermarkets to grab refills on rum, vodka, juices, and whatever else you need to top off.
And a lot of people simply bring these beverages into the restaurants too. I wouldn’t pull beer-after-beer out from a backpack while inside, but walking in with one in hand (beer or cocktail) is not looked down upon. And if you order a beer that you’d like to take out, just ask for a to-go cup. The retailers like to keep their empty bottles so they can exchange them for full ones without putting down an additional deposit.
Best Spot for Sunset: Iguana Inn
The sun goes down on the leeward side of the island (obviously the western side), where there are fewer restaurants and hotels. But we found two spots on that side which are absolutely perfect for catching incredible sunsets.
First is a small public beach located just south of The Split on the western side of the island. It’s small, but it’s there and offers a great place to watch the sunset.
Come here with some snacks and drinks. Hear the laughter of everyone hanging out. If you’re really lucky, some local hotshots might put on a show of their kitesurfing skills. A large crowd can gather along the sea wall, so we just hopped in the water and enjoyed the space.
Our other sunset spot is The Iguana Inn – a nice hotel with a beachfront bar. It has happy hour deals for $2.50 USD per drink (selection of mixed drinks) and a beautiful sitting area. They also have two small seahorse farms; they’ve anchored down two large nets underwater and given these amazingly small creatures a place to grow. (Most of the snorkeling tours stop by here during the day to view the seahorse farms.)
Iguana Inn also has a guy who regularly feeds the pelicans in the area and even drops a bait box stuffed for the rays and nurse sharks to feed on. This is a great spot to come over and spend some time.
Where to Stay in Caye Caulker Belize
The decision of where to stay in Caye Caulker Belize is simple: If you want to be in the heart of the action, stay close to The Split. If you want to be away from the crowds, try to go further south and off of front street.
But honestly, the island is small and if you don’t mind walking 15-20 minutes, you can stay almost anywhere without much of a hassle. As you get toward the airstrip, you’ll find fewer people and more space. The area just northwest of the airstrip is the farthest from town and is more of a locals area – probably a bit too far away to stay.
Anchorage Resort and Barefoot Hotel are two spots good choices for where to stay in Caye Caulker Belize. They’re toward the southern end, where the airport is, and they both have beautiful sunrise views and nice piers to hang out on. They cost around $60 – $80 USD per night. The biggest downfall to staying there is that the sea wall makes entering the water a bit challenging. The sargassum (common seaweed) piles up at times too, so be prepared for water that’s a bit less than ideal. Having a pool can really help out at times.
You can also find rentals of all sorts and are excellent options for where to stay in Caye Caulker. We met up with some of our family there and splurged on a very nice cottage rental for about $200 USD per night. It had one bedroom and one loft area, comfortably sleeping 4 people. Plus, a small pool was in the center of the four cottages. They were known as the Low Caye Cottages.
Da Real Macaw has some rooms with kitchenettes and full kitchens for around $80 USD per night. Costa Maya Beach Beach Cabañas had small cabins with kitchenettes for $150 USD. Tropical Paradise Hotel has small cabins that rented for around $75 USD per night during our visit.
Currency in Caye Caulker Belize
Belize has its own currency: Belize dollars (BZD). However, it is tied to the US dollar (USD) at a fixed rate – also known as being “pegged.” Every $1 USD is equal to $2 BZD. Always. Most prices will be in BZD, so you simply divide by two to get the USD equivalent. For example, if a beer is $4 BZd, it is $2 USD.
Since this exchange rate is fixed, the island (and the vast majority of Belize) uses US dollars and Belize dollars interchangeably. You do not need to exchange US dollars before coming to Belize. You can pay in all USD, in all BZD, or even a mixture of the two. Most change will come back in Belize dollars.
The biggest mistake tourists make is that they forget the prices are listed in BZD and they pay the price in USD – effectively paying double what they should have. I’m sure most vendors will correct your mistake, but just be careful.
Caye Caulker is a dream. Golf carts zoom around to incredible restaurants and bars. The party goes off at The Split with everyone hopped up on Lizard Juice. Take a boat to snorkel or dive along the second largest reef in the world. Catch the sunrise from a hotel like Anchorage Resort, then head over to Iguana Inn for the happy hour sunset. Walk around with a beer or drink in hand, check out the sights, and get lost roaming the small streets.
If you want to find a secluded island with great energy, good food, and happy people, Caye Caulker, Belize is the place to go.
Have you ever visited a place where no cars are allowed and everyone gets around via golf cart or bicycles? We love places like this and would love to hear about your experience in a comment below!
6 thoughts on ““Go Slow” in Caye Caulker Belize: An Incredible Island Getaway”
Amazing article! Thank you so much! I have a question. Do you think it is necessary to rent a golf cart while staying on Caye Caulker? I have read different opinions and wasn’t sure your thoughts. Thank you!
Most people are fine visiting without a golf cart. It might be useful if you have mobility issues, simply hate walking around, or choose to stay far away from the main area. Otherwise, I recommend enjoying walking around and popping into the different places you find along the way!
The entire tourist area, starting from the airport and going up to The Lazy Lizard at The Split) is less than 1.25 miles (about 2 km). It takes around 25 minutes to walk the entire way.
Seeing your post reminded me of the best vacation my family every had. I agree that French Angel is the best! And Rosa’s next door (part of the family) has the best coconut mojitos I have ever had. We are determined to return and your post only underlined it!
Caye Caulker is a very special place! And just like you, we cannot wait to return!
M&K. Great article. I’m hoping that some of those food places are still open when we get there in November 2021….they’ve had a hard year I understand (as we all have had). Well done. Regards to you both
Hopefully there will still be some good options around. I’m sure it has been extremely difficult for the local community, but it is an amazing place to visit and I have faith they’ll rebound quickly! Enjoy your time and thanks for the kind comment! If you want to update us on the situation once you return, we’d love to share it.