“There’s not much to do on Caye Caulker.” I heard it over and over again while planning my family trip there, and have read it and heard it more since departing. People don’t say it as a complaint, just a characteristic of this tiny, charming little island. If you’re looking for action, convention Belize tourism wisdom seems to say, head to Ambergris Caye.
But I disagree. Yes, Caye Caulker is an appealing place in which to do nothing, or to do not much. Stroll the dirt-road Front Street. Dangle your feet in the water at The Split, Caye Caulker’s answer to its non-existent beaches. Rent a bike and meander around the side roads. It’s all a dream. But assuming you’re craving a little more adventure, that too can be found on Belize’s favorite backpacker island! And it won’t put you in the poorhouse either. While boat tours are pricey compared to other Central American activities, there’s plenty of free and reasonably priced things to do as well. Read on for seven of them.
Note: Caye Caulker is so small and street names so obsolete I’m not bothering to put directions in this post — just walk the main drag and ask anyone to point you where you’re going.
1. Stand Up Paddle Around The Island
The flat, shallow waters surrounding Caye Caulker were made for Stand Up Paddleboarding — though the current will give you a proper workout in some directions! We found just one place renting SUP boards, along with windsurfing gear and standard surf boards (you’d need to boat out to an area with waves for the latter).
The afternoon we went for a paddle, we literally carried our boards over to the west side of the island and then paddled up around the northern tip, through The Split, and right back up to the shop’s dock on the east side. The last bit was extremely tough, and the guys at the shop looked somewhat surprised we’d pulled it off. But it was a great workout, and a beautiful way to get out on the ocean.
Cost: We paid $15 each for a one hour rental. Tours and lessons also available!
2. Hang Out With Man’s Best Friend
The Caye Caulker Animal Shelter encourages tourists to explore the island with a leash in hand. Show up, grab a shelter pup, sign your name in a composition notebook, and you’re off with a new loyal companion.
The morning that Olivia and I showed up to walk dogs, we marveled at what a great job the shelter was doing with obviously limited resources. No steel cages here — these dogs are living large in an big outdoor “pet park” with loving long term volunteers on hand. And we couldn’t stop laughing at the sign welcoming dog walkers, the general gist of which was, “you literally cannot eff this up.” Don’t like the dog they gave you? That’s fine, try another. Want to come back after ten minutes? Thanks for coming! Need to bring the dog into a restaurant or shop? That’s probably cool. The dog runs away? No worries, they always come back.
We loved our little stroll and struck up plenty of conversations with locals and fellow tourists alike because of it. An awesome activity for animal lovers!
Cost: Totally free!
3. Take a Sunset Cruise
Is there anything like watching a sunset from the hull of a boat? A sunset cruise was high on our priority list, and we weren’t disappointed by the all-you-can-drink rum punch that came along with ours. Also on the menu was fresh ceviche and guacamole, served up by a smiling and friendly crew. It was the perfect kick-off to a big night out on the island. They’ll even give you a rum punch for the road.
We were lucky enough to catch the surreal blood moon lunar eclipse the night of our sail.
Cost: $35, including unlimited drinks
4. Do Rooftop Yoga
RandOM Yoga offers the only formal yoga practice on Caye Caulker. Taught by a friendly expat, the classes take place several times a week on the roof of a nearby hotel. But first, the group meets on the porch of the instructor’s cute purple house, where she also sells her hand designed t-shirts and illustrated children’s books. The laid-back sunset class was one of the highlights of our time in Caye Caulker.
Cost: By donation.
5. Snorkel or Dive
Caye Caulker is a hotspot for divers from around the world, though considering the length of our stay and my sister’s non-scuba diving stance, I was more than happy to snorkel instead. Trips to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, are the most popular on the island, and are known as one of the best snorkeling day trips in Central America for good reason! Other boat trips go to manatee reserve, to shipwrecks, and to more secluded reefs. Read my full post about our day of snorkeling with manatees, turtles, stingrays and sharks here.
Cost: $70 for a full day trip including a full lunch and drinks
6. Hop to Ambergris Caye
Caye Caulker vs. Ambergris Caye is the eternal debate of the Belize-bound traveler. These neighboring isles share dive and snorkel sites but differ greatly on land. I actually spent four days in Ambergris Caye after my sister left Caye Caulker — I anticipated I’d be feeling lonely after my family returned to the US and thought a change of scenery would help stave off the doldrums. Unfortunately I didn’t really love Ambergris Caye. While I enjoyed renting a bike and exploring more remote parts of the island, I found the capital of San Pedro charmless and concluded Caye Caulker was much more my scene.
That said, the islands are incredibly close and if you’re curious about comparing the two, each is an easy day trip from the other.
Cost: The ferry between the two islands is $9.50 each way
7. Fly In or Out!
While technically this falls more under the transportation category than the activity one, we found the whole experience so fun I’d consider it somewhat of an entertainment expense. Consider flying to or from Caye Caulker, and boating in the other direction. The views from the plane are fantastic, and the novelty of flying into Belize’s teeny municipal airports is well worth the price of admission. Later, in Honduras, I’d fly a terrifyingly old plane on a disorganized airline, an experience that made me appreciate how safe and well-run Maya Island Air seemed in comparison.
You might even get to ride shotgun. And, bonus! It will make saying goodbye to this beautiful island paradise a little bit easier. Bye bye, Belize.
Cost: Flights start at $40 one-way between Caye Caulker and Belize City’s municipal airport
Yup… that’s an airport
Many thanks to Maya Island Air for providing me with complimentary flights within Belize.
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