Despite Caye Caulker being diminutive in size, it packs a whole lot of personality which makes visitors fall head over heels, and ensures its popularity with a diverse crowd ranging from backpackers to wealthy expats.
“Go Slow” is Caye Caulker’s very fitting motto and it immediately tells you a lot of what you need to know about this Belizean tropical paradise. You’ll see it plastered all over the island on signs, printed on souvenirs and t shirts, and even quoted to you by locals - no lie.
People here genuinely live by this mantra and it’s reflected in every aspect of island life, so in terms of the best things to do in Caye Caulker, the first one is undoubtedly to embrace this expression.
Relax, take a deep breath, and bring the pace down a notch or two.
Done that? Ok, now you’re ready to find out the rest of what this chilled Caribbean island has to offer.
Hit The Split
Caye Caulker is an island chopped in two, the halves separated by a narrow channel of turquoise water that’s about 50 metres across called The Split. Depending on who you ask, it was either formed by the devastating Hurricane Hattie in 1961, or alternatively it was hand dredged by locals after the storm. The idea being to allow canoes and small boats to conveniently pass from one side of the island to the other rather than going all the way around it.
Either way, it’s now a popular hang out spot and a visit here is one of the things to do in Caye Caulker that you can’t miss out on. Strangely enough for a tropical paradise there aren’t really that many places that people go swimming on Caye Caulker. The Split’s clean and calm mini harbour is probably the most popular place to dive in and cool off, not least because it’s beside one of the most well frequented bars on the island, The Lazy Lizard.
People come here to chill out, have a few drinks, dive off the high board, fish, sunbathe, party and whatever else takes their fancy. It’s kind of a catch all area where families, backpackers and locals all congregate to have a good time, so get your swimming cozzie on and head down for the afternoon.
Swim With Sharks
Yes that’s right, one of the very best things to do in Caye Caulker is to swim with sharks. Now before you start picturing bloody death scenes from Jaws, know that these are Nurse sharks which are almost harmless to humans.
I say almost because they’re suction feeders which means they suck in huge volumes of sea water before blowing it out of their gills, catching the plankton and small fish they feed on in the process.
While they won’t bite you unless seriously provoked, apparently the force with which they suck the water in with while feeding can make you an unwitting victim. If you do get sucked in they have thousands of tiny teeth that will strip the skin and flesh from your bones, so you need to stay a safe distance away from them.
They’re found in an area nicknamed "shark alley" not far off the coast of Caye Caulker and there are lots of boat trips that will take you to enjoy a swim with them. You can hire a private vessel to head directly there or join one of the longer tours that takes you around various sites.
Snorkel or Dive on the World’s Second Largest Barrier Reef
One of the main draws for many visitors to Caye Caulker is its proximity to the world’s second largest barrier reef. Belize lays claim to almost 200 miles of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which runs all the way from Mexico down to Honduras, and this section is renowned for being particularly spectacular.
For scuba divers and snorkelers alike the attraction is clear - the Belize Barrier Reef is one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet with hundreds of species of fish and coral, plus plenty of other sea life that’s not even been discovered yet.
However you choose to see it, these waters are heavily protected in Belize and so are brimming with a colourful kaleidoscope of aquatic scenery. Again there are many options to visit the Belize Barrier Reef with trips offered by numerous companies on the island, so take your pick.
Check Out a Sensational Sunset
We think that sunsets are nature’s ultimate free show and love to wonder at them in every part of the world we visit. On Caye Caulker they’re absolutely sublime and definitely not to be missed.
Once you’ve witnessed the deep blue sky melting from shades of gold and yellow into purples and pinks, you too will understand why catching a sunset is one of the best things to do on Caye Caulker.
Our favourite place to catch one on the island is right next to The Split. People come to this area each evening in couples, groups of friends, or even alone, to celebrate the last of the sunshine.
Dangle your toes off the edge over the seas, take a beer or two, and if you’re lucky you may even see some of the luminescent creatures found here, swirling about in the water leaving neon trails in their wake.
Walk Around the Whole South Island
At 5 miles long and a mile across at its widest, Caye Caulker is a pretty tiny island. In fact in some parts it takes about 2 minutes to walk from one side to the other and feels as though you could easily throw a stone across the distance. Because of this, it’s extremely easy to get around by foot.
If you enjoy a walk then set aside a morning or an afternoon and take a wander around the perimeter of the whole south island. Start in the town and head south along the east coast. You’ll soon find yourself out of the main town and into the more residential areas.
There are lots of swanky houses here overlooking the sea along the single path that runs the whole way around. You’ll also pass the island’s airstrip which looks abandoned but we were assured that private planes do land on it from time to time.
It gets pretty swampy in parts at some times of year so you have to be quite adventurous to carry on. Particularly when you’re walking through knee high water and come across places with names like Crocodile Watch Bridge and Crocodile Road!
The wildlife is impressive and you’ll spot all kinds of species of birds, lizards, and perhaps snakes. Be aware that there are crocodiles here, but we were assured by a local guy we passed that they’re more scared of people than we are of them and will scuttle off at the faintest inkling of someone approaching...
Scoff Fry Jacks Every Morning
This isn’t a suggestion, it’s a directive. Fry jacks are some of the most delicious foodstuffs to ever pass our lips here at The Whole World Or Nothing. As a breakfast food they’re simply the perfect way to start your day as they’ll put a smile on your face and start a party in your mouth that will have you craving them all day and night until the following morning.
No idea what fry jacks are? Well it’s a traditional Belizean dish made from puffed up, deep fried pieces of dough and stuffed with all manner of mouth watering fillings from stewed chicken to eggs and bacon. They’re definitely not the healthy option, but your waistline will be the last thing on your mind once you get a taste of this finger licking fare.
Feast on Lobster
Wherever you go on the island you’ll see smoky grills covered with grub that will make your stomach do summersaults of joy, and nothing has that effect on us quite like a barbecued lobster. If you’re into your seafood as well then you’ll agree that feasting on these succulent crustaceans is one of the best things to do in Caye Caulker.
Even better than virtually every restaurant on the island serving up this luxurious dish (during the season which runs from June to February) is the fact that it won’t break the bank to enjoy it. A lavish lobster blowout will set you back less than the price of a bucket of beers, so be sure not to miss out.
Enjoy the Nightlife
Caye Caulker’s compact centre is packed full of bars, restaurants and clubs, so if you’re after a night out then you’ll definitely find a good party here. It doesn’t usually get really wild and raucous, the vibe is more chilling to some laid back reggae beats with a few cocktails or beers in most places.
That said, there are a few clubs which we were told are open late into the night and people go there to dance the night away. We didn’t actually go to any of the “clubbier” clubs as we were quite content chillaxing in the bars which open pretty late.
Think swing seats suspended from ceilings, rustic tables and chairs fashioned out of rough planks of wood, and beachfront outdoor seating and you’ve got a good idea what they’re like. Many bars run specials on alternating days of the week so you’ll find the crowds pop up in different places throughout the week, but it’s easy to spot the more lively places if that’s what you want.
Hang Out at Koko Kings
The north island of Caye Caulker remains largely untouched and is covered in natural reserves full of interesting wildlife. In recent years however, parts of this part of the island have begun to be developed, and one of those newer developments is the Koko King complex.
You can reach it by a water taxi which runs every half an hour throughout the day, ferrying people across The Split. Alternatively you can just swim the short distance across, or even paddle board or kayak over if you’ve hired one for the day.
Once there you’ll find a kickass bar built on stilts over the water, a swimming pool for those who prefer chlorine to saline, a restaurant, loungers, and calm, clear sea to swim in. It’s a popular hang out spot and even though it’s just a short hop across The Split feels like a world away from the south island.
Head over to enjoy a bucket of beer with your friends, sample a delicious cocktail or two, and generally chill out for the day in a secluded and laid back environment.
See the Seahorses
On the west side of the south island there’s a tiny seahorse sanctuary that’s home to dozens of these strange little creatures. At first glance you probably won’t see anything but some netting that looks like it’s covered in seaweed, but stay there and let your eyes adjust.
After a few moments the magical little beasts will start to appear before your eyes as what you thought was bits of old rope move gracefully around the area. They’re supremely camouflaged which is why they’re difficult to spot at first, and if you’ve never seen a seahorse before they’re probably smaller than you imagined.
We loved spotting these tiny critters, and though we only spent about 20 minutes there it’s still one of the best things to do in Caye Caulker. Plus it’s absolutely free to visit.
Heading to Caye Caulker? Which of these activities are you most looking forward to doing? Let us know in the comments below.