Snorkelling through the Belizean barrier reef, the world's second largest after Australia's, isn't something you'll forget in a hurry.
Caye Caulker is a thin slither of Caribbean paradise, just off the coast of Belize, a country with a distinctly different flavour to its Spanish-speaking Latin American neighbours.
The Creole character of its inimitable inhabitants ensure that this tiny island is most definitely larger than life. Brace yourself for a slow pace – things don’t move out of strolling gear here – and you certainly won’t find any cars on the island – the main form of transport is the golf buggy!
Caye Caulker is a tiny sliver of Caribbean heaven, and it doesn’t take very long to explore. There’s the ‘main strip’ complete with restaurants, bars and shops, a variety of inns, hostels and hotels, and then there’s The Split. That’s about it.
Created in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie cut the island in two, The Split is the main ‘beach’ area of Caye Caulker and the perfect place to enjoy a lazy day in the sun, snorkelling in the sea and drinking Pina Coladas.
The main strip of Caye Caulker features all manner of shops, bars and restuarants, with little dirt roads running off to the other side of the island at regular intervals.
Barbecues gently browning shellfish, lobster and meats can by found lining the streets throughout the day, with a visit to Chef Kareem’s Unbelieazable Lunch a must for the best stuff.
For some real local flavour try Martinez Fast Food for brown stew chicken and a revitalising homemade ginger beer.
The best food pick after dark is Chef Juan’s Kitchen and Pastries, with a choice of coconut curries plus lobster in a lipsmacking lime, garlic and chilli marinade, and it’s BYOB. Failing all that, you could always just spent your days slurping ice cream on the sand.
Jewellery and keepsakes made from shells and similar form the lion’s share of the offerings, alongside more conchs then you’re ever likely to have seen in one place before. All viable options to keep thirsty punters busy before beer o’clock.
Sundowner seekers should make their way to the Iguana Reef Inn to soak up those final rays, pelican feeding time is a sight worthy of distracting onlookers from the most beautiful of sunsets. Not to mention the brilliant I & I Reggae Bar for the perfect rooftop view.
Happy hours get under way around three, the happiest tends to be over at the Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill, which gets pretty raucous as the day streches on, probably because you can sink rum and punch less than a couple of quid a cup.
Karoake sessions tend to turn in to a bit of a free for all, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself on the dancefloor you’ll likely end up with a microphone under your nose sooner rather than later.
After all that warming up The Reggae Club hosts the afters, and believe me when I tell you there is no holding back on that particular dancefloor.
Laidback vibes aside, one of the real reasons to make a visit to Caye Caulker is for its unrivaled biological beauty. Turqoise blue waters stretch out from the caye’s eastern beach towards waves crashing gently over a reef, just a mile into the distance.
There you can find an alien world of natural nooks and crannies, bursting with tropically fluorescent sealife, a boat trip out to investigate is the only real option.
Our day with E-Z Boy Tours Belize began in the bay, spotting seahorses before feeding by hand leaping tarpon fish. Once out at sea at our first stop the boat was quickly surrounded by nurse sharks and stingrays. We’d arrived at the famous ‘Shark Ray Alley‘.
Tentatively we each entered the water for a closer look. Invitingly sparkling seas filled with omninous looking creatures feels almost juxtaposed, but everything we see glides along with a undeniable elegance.
Later we see giant turtles, life that lumbers on land but moves adeptly through wavey water. Other tours include trips to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by diver and environmentalist Jacques Custeaux, and the stunning Turneffe Atoll area as well as fishing trips too.
There’s not just boat trips though, and you’ll find burning a few calories beachside isn’t difficult with plenty of watersports available, from the more relaxed stand-up Paddle Boarding, through to Wind Surfing and even the odd jet ski ride.
There’s an eclectic mix of cabanas, hostels, guest houses and hotels dotted all around the island, with something to fit every budget and desire.
The perfectly situated Seaside Cabanas are a great choice for your lodgings, the beachfront hotel sits right next to the dock for connections to the mainland and is centrally placed in terms of the islands best bars and restaurants.
Attractive, comfortable and spacious rooms will make you feel right at home, but the real draw is a beautiful pool and rooftop jacuzzis, from which you can admire the gorgeous sea views. The only decision to make most days is which one to choose for a dip.
Tim enjoyed a snorkelling tour with E-Z Boy Tours Belize, who have been offering organised and bespoke sailing and speed boat trips to fit any requirement or group size for over 20 years. For more details and to book click here.
Tim stayed at Seaside Cabanas, who offer a variety of inviting rooms, a private pool and jacuzzis, in the best location on the island. For more details and to book click here.