Caye Caulker is an island that epitomizes relaxation. Lining the sandy streets of Caye Caulker Village you’ll find guesthouses, restaurants, grocery shops, artisans selling crafts, internet cafes and a few bars. At the end of the village you’ll find the legendary split where you can swim or grab a drink at the Lazy Lizard bar. Caye Caulker is all about relaxing in a small and quaint environment. You can chill in a hammock, read a book, enjoy lots of lobster, talk to some local islanders, go for a swim, enjoy some drinks or do nothing at all.
History & Island Motto
Caye Caulker is located 21 miles northeast of Belize City, just south of Ambergris Caye. Some of the Mestizo refugees who landed on Ambergris Caye after the Caste Wars in Mexico, moved on to inhabit this island. There are many theories as to the origin of the name “Caulker”, the most convincing of which is an anglicized version of “Hicaco” the island’s Spanish name meaning coco plum. Today, fishing and tourism form the base of the local economy. They supply most of the lobster for Red Lobster and even for Ambergris Caye. Locals have been cautious in being overrun by the tourism boom, trying to avoid what they feel are mistakes made by their island cousin to the north. As a result, the island has retained a lot of the charm that some feel has been lost in bustling San Pedro. However, the low-key atmosphere and cheap prices are precisely its appeal, making it popular among backpackers. A sign on Front Street asking the “traffic” of pedestrians and bicycles to “Go Slow” best sums up the tranquility on this island.
Caye Caulker Village & The Split
Caye Caulker Village (population 1,300) extends a mere mile from the Split to the airstrip. The Split is a channel formed by Hurricane Hattie which separates the village from the northern mangrove forests. Sunbathers are usually seen lounging on sand banks and the winding cement seawall at this popular snorkeling and hang-out spot. Many come to enjoy the sunset here while sipping on a Belikin (the beer of Belize) at the Lazy Lizard bar. The sandy streets are lined by weathered guesthouses and giftshops. The shore is lined by bars, restaurants and rows of docks that cater to the busy boat traffic. The beaches are narrow and walking into the water will most likely put you into a bed of sea grass. However, the Caribbean Sea is as beautiful as ever and the world’s second largest barrier reef is visible standing from the shore. There are many great restaurants and the “nightlife” is mostly drinks at happy hour, with a few bars continuing into the night. I&I bar, a 3-story pillar of reggae, should not be missed. Aside from a few American and European expatriates, the island is owned and run by Belizeans (San Pedro is mostly owned by foreigners). This makes for a very cozy atmosphere and genuine Belizean hospitality.
Many Sites & Activities from the Island
If you can manage to pry yourself from your hammock, there is no shortage of activities to fill your days. The Caye Caulker Marin Reserve, encompassing the stretch of barrier reef in front of the island, offers many excellent snorkeling and diving sites. The ever popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve is just a few miles away off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. Dive trips to Lighthouse Reef Atoll (home of the Blue Hole) and Turneffe Islands Atoll are also available and highly recommended. The many saltwater flats around the island are particularly known for tarpon and bonefish while the reef is great for snapper and barracuda. Chocolate, a local legend, can take you to see manatees in nearby Swallow Caye, a reserve he helped create. Guided nature walks can take you into the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve, encompassing the northern mangrove and littoral forests and home to over 130 birds. Renting a kayak to explore the shoreline might bring you sightings of crocodiles and certainly birds. Afternoon sunset cruises as well as a 3-day sailing excursion to Placencia (complete with camping on deserted islands) are available aboard a Belizean-built monohull. Mainland attractions can also be visited with a boat ride towards the coast. Lamanai, one of the largest Mayan ruins in Belize, is particularly recommended.