“Everything’s gonna be alright, Everything’s gonna be alright, Everything’s gonna be alright” I slowly open my eyes to the sound of Bob Marley. I feel the ocean breeze flowing through the shutters and the sunlight peeping through the cracks of the wooden shack we are sleeping in. Opening the crooked wooden door hardly held closed by an improvised hook, I see our opposite neighbor hanging the wash on a cord held by palm trees while singing along with the king of reggae. She smiles at me, yelling a “good morning!”. Welcome to the island of Caye Caulker, Belize, the Caribbean enclave of Central America!
A few hours on the island are enough to adapt to its slow and relaxed pace, and so we stroll through Front St., the main hangout lined up with colorful wooden shacks hosting bars, restaurants, craft markets, diving shops and guest houses to grab breakfast at a coffee shop. Shorts and optional flip flops are the uniform here, and we wave and chat with the people we met the day before, already feeling like locals on this low-key and friendly island.
Wether you feel like a burrito or a healthy granola yogurt, all options are available to start the day before heading to the beach. Going to the northernmost tip of the island, we reach the Split. Created in 1961 by hurricane Hattie, it divided the island into two and is now the perfect hangout to take a plunge. The reef is too far to swim to and snorkeling by the broken down docks at the Split gives a sneak preview: parrot fish, angel fish, conches, and an occasional ray sometimes jumping out of the water in an attempt to fly almost as graciously as the clumsy pelicans trying to dive!
“Stand up for your rights” is now blasting at Lazy Lizard, the swanky bar with a few tables in the water strategically located at the Split. Indeed, Bob is right, and it seems like a good idea: standing up from our pareos, we make our move to explore the island a bit further looking for a lunch spot. Occasionally overtaken by a few golf carts and bikes, the only local land-vehicles, trying to avoid the pot holes of the unpaved streets, we stop to smell tiare flowers, hibiscus, bougainvilleas or laugh at funny plays of words on handmade street signs. A wooden bar overlooking the street, good smells from the kitchen, tasty burritos or specials are all we need to be convinced.
The digestion hangout out is a no brainer: back to the East side, we crash in a hammock to take a nap and read, enjoying the sea breeze and the atmosphere. The beach is only a few meters away and allows us to cool down. Later in the afternoon, the diving and snorkeling boats are coming in as barbecues start smelling like freshly grilled lobsters, the seasonal favourite.
Indeed, this delicious smell reminds us that it is almost time for the big mission of the day: looking for a dinner spot!
But first, we head to the Upper West Side and sit on a dock, next to a small black heron drying in the last sun rays and together with it, we take in the beautiful sunset on the Caribbean Sea.
It is getting darker and shacks are lightening up creating an inviting and colorful vibe. Hanging in our swings, sipping rum cocktails at the bar, making friends to the sound of reggae while our lobsters are being grilled: this is the perfect ending to a Caye Calker style day!
The most striking feature of Caye Caulker may very well be its low-key atmosphere and the friendliness of its inhabitants, always smiling and willing to start a conversation.
With the construction of a few concrete buildings, the opening of direct flights from the USA and massive daily arrivals of backpackers and hippies, the special vibe of Caye Caulker may be jeopardized. Go fast, go now, and once there: go slow!
Claire & Marcella
- Caye Caulker is easily accessible from Belize City by a 50-minute water taxi ride (or from Chetumal with only one connection per day that needs to be booked a few days ahead of time).
- We were visiting in early December before the start of the high season and had a hard time finding accommodation getting off the boat. Make sure you book ahead or that you arrive rather early to look for a place to sleep.
- Bikes and golf carts can be hired to get around, but the island is small enough to be discovered on foot.
- For self-catered travelers, there are many bars and restaurants for all budgets, as well as several small supermarkets on the island.
- Credit cards are widely accepted as well as US dollars (careful: notes only, no coins).
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!