Caye Caulker: A Good Place to Go Slow

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Just off the coast of Belize lies a sleepy little island called Caye Caulker. Pastel wooden houses on stilts line the seashore. Palm trees sway slowly in the breeze. People of every shade of the rainbow call this island home, from Rastafarians pushing fruit carts to blond-haired, blue-eyed cafe owners and Chinese shopkeepers.

Welcome to Caye Caulker. You’re going to love it here.

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Caye Caulker, Belize

Don’t think of Caye Caulker as your run-of-the-mill Caribbean island, however.

You don’t come to Caye Caulker to lounge on beaches. The closest things you’ll find to beaches are meter-long strips of brief sand interspersed with docks.

You don’t come to Caye Caulker for a resort experience. None exist here. The best accommodation you can find is a high-end guesthouse with a pool, of which there are a few.

You don’t come to Caye Caulker for nightlife. Not that you can’t party here — you certainly can. It’s more of a lounge-and-drink place than a stay-out-all-night-and-make-bad-decisions place.

So what do you do here? You soak up the sunshine, all while moving at the speed of molasses. “Go slow” is the motto of Caye Caulker and its denizens take it seriously. Seriously, the locals will call you out if you’re walking too fast for their liking.

It takes practice for a Boston girl to learn how to slow down. During my semester abroad in Florence, I learned the art of the passegiatta — the evening stroll. Throughout Italy and much of the Mediterranean, people leave their homes to walk through the neighborhood just before sunset. It’s the place to see and be seen, and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you’re power-walking to your next destination.

So when I arrived in Caye Caulker, I lived like it was a 24-hour passegiatta. Quite a good decision.

Kate in Caye Caulker

Biking Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is small enough that you can get by on foot if you want to. If you want to see a lot of the island or travel quickly, however, you’re best off renting a bike. Stores throughout the island rent them for about $15 BZD ($7.50 USD) for 24 hours.

There’s a lot to see for such a tiny island!

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Purple houses on stilts. I wanted to live in a purple house when I was little!

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An island graveyard.

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Plenty of places to eat with sea views.

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A million spots to photograph.

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That pink octagonal house captured my imagination. Who would choose to live in a place like that?

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And trust me, when it’s late at night and you want to get home to the north part of the island from I & I Bar, you’ll be glad it’s just a four-minute bike ride instead of a twenty-minute walk.

Snorkeling with Sharks

Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

Belize is a short boat ride from the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Belize Barrier Reef, home to some of the best diving and snorkeling in the Americas. Raggamuffin Tours invited me to try a complimentary one-day snorkel tour.

That one-day tour included snorkeling at three sites: the Coral Gardens, the famed Hol Chan, and an incredible (and scary!) stop at Shark Ray Alley, filled with nurse sharks, stingrays, and huge tuna.

I’m not even a snorkeler, but thanks to Belize, I’m now a huge fan. You can read about the day I swam with sharks here!

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The Split

I love destinations that have one main place where everyone hangs out. In Caye Caulker, that place is the Split, a channel that divides the two halves of the island.

Caye Caulker was one solid piece of land until 1961, when Hurricane Hattie struck. The storm caused a lot of damage in Belize and effectively split the island in two. Today it’s deep enough for boats to sail through it:

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Today the southern part of Caye Caulker is where you’ll find all the development; the northern part has only a few buildings, most of them private residences.

But the hottest spot in town is perched on the edge of the Split itself: the Lazy Lizard, a fun bar and perfect place to lounge with a beer.

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Kate and Erisa in Caye Caulker
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Kate in Caye Caulker

A bucket of local Belikin beers is definitely the way to go — a bucket of six costs $30 BZD ($15 USD), plus a $5 BZD deposit for the bucket. That works out to $2.50 USD each!

Not a beer person? Have bartender Julie make you a piña colada. They’re much more expensive (think $15 BZD or $7.50 USD each), but they are so creamy and delicious! Piña coladas that good are hard to find. (And if Julie’s not there, forget it.)

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My advice? During your time on Caye Caulker, plan one full afternoon for hanging out at the Lazy Lizard. Then return for sunset every night of your trip!

The Lazy Lizard shuts down not too long after dark, and the main place to party after that is the I & I Bar. Don’t show up too early — people start showing up around 9:30 and the dancing begins much later.

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The Worst Thing About Caye Caulker

Are you female? Are you foreign? You will receive constant sexual comments. The Belizean men catcall every foreign woman walking down the street.

It doesn’t feel as bad as traditional street harassment, as it’s usually said in a light and friendly tone. Don’t let that fool you, though — friendly tone or not, it’s still street harassment. Street harassment at its core is about power. Men are telling women that they do not belong on their streets. And that’s what happens here in Caye Caulker.

Erisa and I were constantly yelled at and told sexually explicit things, most of them from men with huge smiles on their face. The most explicit things were said when I was alone.

Even one of the locals that became a good friend of mine, the first thing he ever said to me was, “Hey girl, I like the way you’re eating that ice cream.” (Unrelated: he then asked me if I was from Idaho and proceeded to call me “Potato” for the next few days.)

I met exactly one Belizean man who didn’t speak to women this way. Not surprisingly, he grew up in the United States.

The truth? The harassment sucks, but you shouldn’t let it keep you from traveling to Caye Caulker, even if you’re alone. If you called a man out on it, he would never do it again. I ended up making many male Belizean friends by the end of my time in Caye Caulker.

It’s a little bit of ugliness marring an otherwise lovely island.

Sophie's Guest Rooms

Where to Stay in Caye Caulker, Belize

I stayed at a guesthouse so wonderful, I’d love to give it a plug here: Sophie’s Guest Rooms. Sophie’s Guest Rooms was such a great choice. It was located just a block from the Split and the Lazy Lizard, on the west side of the island, with sunset views!

Erisa and I shared a private room with one twin bed and one double bed. There was a sink in the room and there were two shared bathrooms, each with a toilet, sink, and shower.

The staff were so lovely to us, it was stupendously clean, and there was free (instant) coffee in the morning. Internet wasn’t the greatest, but I could live with that. (See Essential Info for more information on Sophie’s and internet.)

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Also, I had the craziest experience here. I was standing outside on the deck near a couple and I heard the guy said to the girl, “I’m checking Adventurous Kate to see if she posted Tikal pictures. She’s been to 55 countries; she used to live in Chester.”

I nearly fell over. Then I turned around. “Hi.” Then THEY nearly fell over. “It’s really you!”

It turns out the couple themselves were from Chester! And they were on my Tikal tour, and they recognized me then, but were too shy to say hello. (Note: if you see me somewhere, PLEASE come say hi! I always get upset when people tell me they saw me somewhere but were too intimidated to come talk to me.)

I get recognized once a month or so these days, but I have never overheard people talking about my site until now. It still blows my mind.

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The Takeaway

I don’t want the street harassment to dominate this post, but I’m afraid it will. Trust me — Caye Caulker is so much more than that. It’s calm and quiet and the people are incredibly nice.

Caye Caulker was such a special place to me, and I would love to return. Don’t skip it. It’s worth it.


READ NEXT:

Sailing Down the Coast of Belize

Solo Female Travel in Belize: Is it Safe?


Caye Caulker, Belize, is waiting for you! via Adventurous Kate

Essential Info: There are frequent ferry connections to Caye Caulker from Belize City on the mainland and San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. There is a daily ferry to Chetumal, Mexico. You can also fly from Belize City on Tropic Air.

The one-day snorkeling trip from Raggamuffin Tours visits three sites: Coral Gardens, Shark Ray Alley, and Hol Chan. Lunch is included. The tour lasts all day and costs $70 USD.

Sophie’s Guest Rooms is located a five-minute walk from the Split and has sunset views over the ocean. Rooms each have one double bed and one single bed, along with a sink. Bathrooms are shared. Rooms from 30 BZD ($15 USD). You can find other accommodation on Caye Caulker here.

You can get around the island by walking, but I recommend renting a bike. Several convenience stores rent bikes for 15 BZD ($7.50 USD) per day.

Internet on the island is half-decent at best, and I found the fastest and best internet to be at a restaurant called Enjoy and at the Lazy Lizard.

As always, I recommend getting travel insurance before your trip. I always use and recommend World Nomads.

Many thanks to Raggamuffin Tours for offering me a complimentary one-day snorkel trip. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Is Caye Caulker your kind of island?

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48 thoughts on “Caye Caulker: A Good Place to Go Slow”

  1. Caye Caulker really seems to be a great destination for sunny and funny holidays 😀 You really hooked me by your great post and the expressive pics… But how about the costs in general? Would it still be doable for a student? Greetings from South Tyrol, lena

  2. Thank you for this: “Don’t let that fool you, though — friendly tone or not, it’s still street harassment. Street harassment at its core is about power. Men are telling women that they do not belong on their streets.” I feel like street harassment is something that’s kind of overlooked or minimized and it can make a difference in your experience. Plus, this was a really well-informed way to phrase it. Not the, “oh just take it ask a compliment!” crap I usually hear from people. It’s not a compliment, but it does have everything to do with power dynamics.

  3. Well, you already know my opinion of Caye Caulker – I loved it, too!

    Despite the lack of a real beach and the occasional street harassment (I honestly don’t remember getting much of it – you’re just too good looking, Kate), I would 100% recommend Caye Caulker to people. It’s such a great place to chill out.

    (Did you meet Cake Man?)

  4. Hi Kate,

    Just started to follow your blog about a month ago. You are such an inspiration! Anyways, was the street harassment a major issue in Belize as well? I have aspirations to visit!

  5. I live right next door on Ambergris Caye and do love Caye Caulker…so much. Slow is an art form….I totally get you on the harassment. But I prefer to just take it so NOT SERIOUSLY…kinda roll my eyes and keep walking.

    But i can see how it can weigh on you. Glad you loved it here! San Pedro next! Actually so much more of this gorgeous GORGEOUS country to see. Cayo, Punta Gorda…I am super blessed to write about it.

    Your pictures are gorgeous.

  6. I loved Caye Caulker too, I would also add that the food is amazing. We ate at the street stalls selling hot food and cakes and had the most amazing lobster. I was on the island with my fiance and another couple and didn’t get hassled at all but my friend did as she has blonde dreads which the local guys loved

  7. Definitely a great and accurate write up of Caye Caulker! I also experienced quite a bit “street-harassment” but like you did my best to ignore it. (Although I loved your side comment about being called “Potato” for a few days!)

    Beyond what you did (I also took the same snorkel tour!), the other things on the island I did was do a scavenger hunt and then raced golf carts on the airport runway late at night.

    Your post makes me miss just resting in hammocks so much!

  8. Your recent sailing post featured some of my favorites of all your photos to date…until you posted this! The colors here are blowing me away. Love this post, and definitely adding Caye Caulker to my visit list 🙂

    And on another note: I really miss traveling in Central America, but man — I do not miss the street harassment. It’s such a shame the way it can overwhelm the feel of a place. I hate that when I think back on living in San Jose during my semester abroad in Costa Rica, it’s one of the first memories that comes to mind — even before the good times.

    1. I appreciate that! And I agree with you. Nicaragua was the other place where I found the most prevalent street harassment, particularly in Granada, Leon, San Juan del Sur, and Big Corn Island.

  9. My advice is to have a look at local women – how do they dress? You will hardly see any of them running around in bikinies and there is a reason for it – their culture. So as a tourist, keep your bikinies for the Split only and wear a shirt + skirt/shorts everywhere else and you won’t be bothered with too many comments.

    1. I disagree with that, Veronika. Local women in Caye Caulker wear shorts and tank tops, and when I wore something similar to that — or even conservative — I would get harassed as well. It had nothing to do with bikinis.

  10. It looks like a lovely island in the pictures and it does sound like a great place. But the street harassment would drive me nuts. I recently experienced a “mild” form of it during my American Adventure, and it was definitely annoying and uncomfortable!

  11. I was in Caye Caulker in January and loved it. Snorkeling was my personal highlight. The island was perfect for me – a mix of relaxation and getting work done. When you’re going to Yucatan or traveling through Central America, this is definitely a place you shouldn’t miss.

  12. I went alone in February. I miss it so much! Caye Caulker is the ultimate chill spot. I was harassed on the streets but I never felt unsafe. I will be back soon!

  13. Caye Caulker seems like my kind of place.

    I love to book in ‘chill out days’ for my trip. Whether its lying on a beach with my kindle all day or making sure I have at least one day a week where I can sleep in.

    In terms of the street harassment was it best just to ignore or did you actually call them out on it? I almost always tell someone to stop disrespecting me whenever I’m harassed but sometimes thats not the safest thing to do.

  14. I loved Caye Caulker! Great post which brought me down memory lane. it is beautiful and the best snorkeling I have every done! I saw manatees, sting rays and sharks. And I will always remember a local shouting at me in his Belize-an accent “slow down lady, why you walkin so fast?” ha ha
    LOVED it!

  15. Belize simply looks incredible. Are people generally staying in a hotel or are there other, more quaint accommodations like rooms to rent and such?

  16. We weren’t scared to talk to you, the sun was setting and honestly hadn’t seen it was you. Just one of those freaky coincidences. We love the photos and blog, bringing back lots of memories for us now we are back to the normal life in Chester. :p

  17. What a beautiful place, definitely seems worth a visit.
    Sad to hear about street harassment but glad a few of them stopped once you called them out on it xo

  18. Wow that made me step back in time to when we visited Caye Caulker on a trip down from Mexico to Panama. Its funny reading through and viewing your pictures, I can see some of the exact memories I have of the place myself. I think you may have had better weather than us though or a better camera 🙂 We did the nurse shark snorkeling just off the coast and loved it, my wife was first in for once… My favorite thing was the lobster shack, such food I was just blown away by… simply incredible. Thanks for igniting a new memory for me and happy future travels.

    Dave (A Wandering Memory)

  19. I love your sunglasses! I never would’ve guessed that Belize would be such a diverse place. But, that’s unfortunate that there’s so much street harassment there! Nonetheless, it looks beautiful!

    1. I usually book a few days ahead of time, and that’s what I did here. Some exceptions: if it’s high season in a super-popular place or if it’s during a festival or other major event.

  20. I love Caye Caulker. I’ve been there twice so far, and in a few months my husband and I are going back for a long term stay. I haven’t noticed the cat calling to be bad, but then again I’m older. I always get in as much snorkeling as I can when I’m there. This year I even went on a night snorkel with Mario’s Tours. I also tried hand fishing for crabs, and even though we didn’t catch any, we had a great time.

  21. If you had to share a vacation with caye caulker ans another closeby ish spot that did have amazing beaches, what would you recommend? Thanks!
    Raquel

  22. I love the sarong’s in your pictures. Going to Belize next week. Will I be able to purchase some there, or do you have a suggestion of where to purchase some prior to my trip?

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