Belize is an anomaly in Central America, being the only English speaking country and one rooted more in the culture of the Caribbean islands than the region surrounding it.
I had fond memories of the Caribbean from holidays as a child. I have always loved the culture, so I had a feeling I would love Belize, despite the claims about it being expensive.
We came from Chetumal in Mexico by boat, to avoid having to go all the way to Belize City by bus. It wasn’t cheap, $45 each, but it got us there in just a few hours. Our first taste of the country was immigration at the larger of the two cayes, Ambergris. You know you’re going to have a great time when staff encourage you to grab a beer during immigration! (we did, of course)
Another 30 minutes and we arrived at tiny Caye Caulker. Despite being dark by this point, we could still see it was beautiful, and the good vibes emanated from all around. When we woke the next morning to the sound of the waves outside our window, it was confirmed. It was paradise.
I’d usually go into what we did during our stay but in all honesty there isn’t a huge amount to do on the caye. And that’s the appeal. Nothing to do but relax.
Our typical day went like this:
– Wake up and make our way out to Errolyn’s and buy some fry jacks for breakfast. What are fry jacks? They are fried dough stuffed with whatever you want – my favourite was chicken, beans and cheese. They’re obviously pretty unhealthy but oh so delicious and a bargain for Caye Caulker at 3.50BZD ($1.75US).
– Work off the food by relaxing in hammocks on our guesthouse’s private dock.
– Around lunchtime go for a walk around the island. Maybe to ‘The Split’ which is a channel between the 2 halves of the island for a beer and a swim, maybe to grab some cinnamon buns from the bakery or maybe to the animal shelter to walk some dogs – we did this twice and it was nice to help out getting the dogs socialised and comfortable around people.
– Sunbathe or sleep until the evening, or perhaps go for a sunset ‘panty ripper’ (coconut rum punch) during happy hour.
– Go out for dinner. This was the only difficult part. Eating out (fry jacks aside) is expensive in Belize, so although we would have loved fresh lobster every night, we couldn’t afford it. So usually we’d go for fried or stewed chicken, rice and beans at various smaller restaurants. We did have lobster and fish a few times though and it was unsurprisingly delicious.
– Sleep and repeat. It’s a hard life.
Halfway through our week though, we decided we should actually do something. As we don’t dive, snorkelling was our best bet.
Leaving at 10am, we sped out just a few miles to the Caye Caulker reef. We didn’t hesitate to jump into the crystal clear water to try and spot some fish. The first part was semi guided, with our guide pointing out various fish and rays. We saw a lot but it got better.
Next stop was shark ray alley. It’s pretty much how it sounds – full of rays and sharks. It was a bit disconcerting getting in at first with these massive creatures swimming all around, and you had to make sure you didn’t stand on a ray, but once in they swam around you and took little interest.
The guide dived down and picked up a conch shell, feeding the meat to the rays, who swarmed around us. The sharks were more elusive but a group of them did come over for food. This was quite amazing, I’d never ever swum with sharks. Of course these were harmless small ones, but it was still really cool.
We had one more stop, at another reef. This was much shallower, so you had to be careful not to cut yourself on the coral (Katy did though!). Here there were far more fish than the first, and the coral reef itself was stunning, with lots of different types of coral.
I enjoyed it so much that when I got back to the boat, everyone else was already on there waiting for me!
We stopped one more time, at a spot right by the island, where they have a protected area for some enormous fish (I forget the name). We couldn’t get in, and I’m glad – one fish tried to eat our GoPro! We fed them a bit and they jumped right out of the water.
After our day of excitement, we needed a few more days of relaxation, which luckily we had.
So as you’re probably aware, we enjoyed Caye Caulker. But it might not be for everyone. For a start, you notice we haven’t mentioned any beaches. That is because there aren’t really any. There are some sections where you can lie out, but they aren’t like the Caribbean beaches you might be imagining.
This is why everyone congregates at the split, as mentioned earlier. But this was a bit of a disappointment too – I expected loads of areas to chill but there was just a tiny bar and some old concrete piers half destroyed by the hurricane in the 1960s.
Add to this the cost of food and drink, and you can see why some people don’t love the island. But we did, it was super chilled, the people were really friendly and it just seemed like a happy place to be.
Our boat from Chetumal cost $45 per person. I’ll be writing another post on the whole journey soon.
We stayed at Yuma’s House, right on the seafront near the ferry docks. We had a private room and while a tad expensive by our usual standards ($37US) the whole place was beautiful, brightly coloured with plenty of hammocks all around. It also had 2 well equipped kitchens, though groceries were quite expensive too so we didn’t bother with them.
We highly recommend Yuma’s but you need to book ahead – we saw loads of people getting turned away. And unless you fancy ‘Dirty McNasty’s’ hostel (yes, a real place) there arnt all that many other budget spots on Caye Caulker.
Our favourite places for cheap(ish) food were Syd’s and Meldy’s. There are also some Chinese takeout places with slightly lower prices.
For our snorkelling we went with Tsunami who we’d recommend – they were professional and the guide was very knowledgeable about all the marine life. The cost was $35US for a half day. There are loads of other companies offering the same trip, with much the same cost, and there is a whole day one which goes to a further away snorkelling spot for double the price – it was just a bit too much for us.