The Central American nation of Belize is lined with a golden coastline and fringed by a barrier coral reef protected by UNESCO, part of the largest barrier reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. Just a short ferry ride north of Belize City, the roughly four-mile-long (6.4 km) island of Caye Caulker beckons for a casual tropical respite.
Stretching merely a mile (1.6 km) across, the hook-shaped island made of limestone coral is washed by turquoise waters and crisscrossed with sandy pathways to explore. Caye Caulker has long been on the radar of budget backpackers and scuba divers adventuring through Central America. And whatever brings visitors to these sun-soaked shores today, they usually arrive on the island looking to enjoy its beautiful natural setting, fresh lobster, warm sea breezes, and supremely casual vibe.
Things to do in Caye Caulker
With a good balance of things to do both above and below the water’s surface, Caye Caulker has tons of tropical appeal. The best part is you can stay as busy or as laid-back as you like during a vacation here.
Checking out Belize’s beautiful coral reefs is at the top of the wish list for anyone who likes to snorkel or scuba dive. And there are many operators who can take you out on excursions to the 61-square-mile (158 square km) Caye Caulker Marine Reserve, a short boat ride from island marinas. Head out with Frenchie’s Diving, and you can spend time snorkelling with gentle nurse sharks and stingrays on your surface interval between dives at Shark Ray Alley, a special shallow area where they are known to congregate.
Caye Caulker’s most popular beach is The Split, where the island was split apart by a hurricane back in 1961. Come listen to live music at picnic tables set right in the shallow waters or catch a concert on the beach at the island’s iconic watering hole, The Lazy Lizard Bar & Grill, while enjoying a frosty Belizean Belikin beer and dancing to reggae music with locals.
During boat tours with Caveman Snorkeling Tours, you can visit the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary to spot manatees in the warm and shallow waters before stopping to snorkel at colourful coral gardens waving with fans and teeming with tropical fish.
When it comes to exploring Caye Caulker on land, renting a bike and setting off on two wheels to pedal the sandy backroads and visit Caye Caulker Village and spots like Koto King Beach (on the north side of The Split) is the best and most fun way to get around. Most guesthouses have bicycles for rent and some can rent you golf carts, too. You can also rent jet skis (with onboard tracking and communication devices) from Spot’s Water Sports for self-guided explorations around the island by water.
Where to stay on or near Caye Caulker
Accommodations on Caye Caulker are mostly of the boutique and small, family-run variety, with some good Airbnbs and vacation rentals in the mix, too. Apartment-style accommodations with step-out access to the pool and beach await at Caye Reef, with two-bedroom waterfront apartments and a penthouse apartment with access to a rooftop jacuzzi.
Colinda Cabanas is a collection of colourful beachfront suites and cabanas with hammocks strung from the patios and panoramic ocean views. With 25 rooms, Blu Zen has contemporary two-bedroom condos right on the beach, pretty tropical gardens, and a third-floor penthouse from which you can admire both sunrise and sunset. For more luxury options, you can also stay just north of Caye Caulker on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, where the chic casitas of Matachica Resort & Spa and Victoria House Resort & Spa await.
When to visit Caye Caulker
With warm temperatures all year, Belize is a popular vacation spot in any season. The dry season runs from February to May, while the wet season can make things soggy during frequent torrential downpours that roll in during June and July. Temperatures are at their coolest and most pleasant from November to March, but for the balmiest water temperatures, you’ll want to be here from May to September. Generally speaking, the best time to visit is usually January through April, when you’ll enjoy the most pleasant overall weather conditions and avoid hurricane season (June to November).
How to get to Caye Caulker
Most visitors get to Caye Caulker via regular ferry rides that depart from Belize City and take between 45 minutes to one hour each way. The San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi makes the trip and also carries travellers to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and Chetumal, Mexico, in the state of Quintana Roo along the Yucatan Peninsula. Water Jets International is another reputable ferry service that connects the three destinations.
Caye Caulker Airport is serviced by Maya Island Air, which makes the 20-minute trip to the island from the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City. Tropic Air also makes the short hop to Caye Caulker from Belize City.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Main and Feature Image Credit: Helge Jäkel/EyeEm/Getty Images
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