How to Keep it Cheap in Caye Caulker
Caye Caulker is a little slice of paradise just off the Belizean coast and is a haven of relaxation, diving and partying. While it’s often shunned as an expensive, very touristy destination by backpackers (and theyre right!) it’s also home to some of the best marine life that I have seen since my trip to the Philippines two years ago. It’s a refreshing change from the Spanish-colonized countries of Central America, the first thing I saw when I entered was a steel drums rendition of Despacito – is that Caribbean life or what?!
Get Me There!
The port in Belize City is home to several different ferry companies, from what I saw they were all similar price. You shouldn’t have to wait more than half an hour – just make sure you buy a ticket from the one that actually is leaving next or you might get tricked into buying a ticket on a later boat. It should take around an hour and a half to get there and don’t worry if you’re prone to sea sickness, it’s a very smooth ride!
I’m Here, What Now?
Koko King Beach
Feel like sitting in a tube as you sip a cocktail and listen to some party beats? Perhaps you want to scale a massive, inflatable climbing frame or bounce off a floating trampoline? Regardless of your intentions, Koko King is the place to be on Caye Caulker! There’s two ways to get there – you can either swim 30m from the northern most point of the south island, or you can catch a free ferry from the western side. This is also the best spot to watch the sunset from, I’d recommend paddling a tube out to the trampoline with beer in hand, climb up without spilling a drop (quite hard to do) and stretch out to watch the sun dip below the ocean. Paradise eh?
A must-do when on Caye Caulker is the snorkel tour. As a diver I’m usually pretty snobbish when it comes to snorkeling because it’s more like window shopping but this time was so much more fun than that. You can choose from either a full or half day tour with the full day tour leaning more towards manatee spotting. We chose the half day because any more than 30 seconds in the sun renders my skin a lovely shade of lobster and I just wanted to keep the barbecued lobster to the dinner table. The half day was $35 USD which is excellent considering the amount of stuff you’re going to see.
The day includes looking for sea horses, feeding tarpons (huuuuuuge fish that almost ate one of my fingers), feeding frigate birds (huuuuuuge birds that almost ate one of Penelope’s fingers), snorkeling with *hopefully* manatees, a quick break for a snack and then swimming with heaps and heaps of very social nurse sharks and stingrays. If you can’t wait to get there yourself or you’re craving a warm up before you arrive, watch the video of our action-packed day below!
Our boat captain from Caveman Snorkel Tours was touted as the best at finding manatees and he didn’t let us down! We ended up seeing 3 manatees including a female and a male who looked like they were ready to mate (if you know what I mean). We also had a visit from an eagle ray, morays eels, heaps of fish and some southern stingrays.
The swimming with nurse sharks and stingrays was also very cool, but involved mass feeding from the side of the boat which isn’t ideal. The sharks and rays obviously did this every day and knew when and where to be for their free feed. It was surreal being so close to these stingrays, at times you would even step on them because there were so many but they literally could not have cared less.
After a day of perfect weather, successful manatee sightings and enough sun to last me a year we retired in the early afternoon needing a beer, a fry jack and then a nap, in that order!
If you’re a keen diver there’s plenty of beginner and advanced dive sites to be explored with some of the best marine life I’ve seen in a long time. If you want to see what Belize has to offer under the water have a read of Going Deep into the Blue Hole.
Belize on a Budget
I met a heap of people who skipped Caye Caulker because it was ‘too expensive’ and that’s just not okay! Yes the price of most things is more than the rest of Central America, but there are plenty of ways to stay on the island if your pennies are dwindling.
After looking at most of the hostels and getting a pretty dodgy vibe from them all (especially Dirty McNasty’s), we were lucky enough to run into a volunteer conservation diver who recommended Sandy Lane to us, owned by a very old Belizean couple. Sandy lane is the place to be if you’re looking for a cheap bed, you can get a small double bed private room with a sink for the equivalent of 15USD per night – that’s 7.50 if you can find yourself a bed buddy! This was the best price of anywhere that we could find (elsewhere was about $15 each) and it came without the seedy, creepy atmosphere that a few other places reeked of – Bonus!
As an Aussie I had never heard of fry jacks, but Penelope (being Canadian) tried fairly unsuccessfully to describe to me the food that ended up being a daily ritual. Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks around the corner from Sandy Lane makes the best, cheapest breakfast, lunch or dinner meal on the island starting from $0.75USD for a simple bean or cheese fry jack all the way up to $2.50 for one containing eggs, ham, cheese, beans and chicken! I’d describe them as a savoury doughnut batter, fried in oil and then wrapped around your filling of choice. Probably not going to win any nutrition awards but you’re on holiday, remember?!
If you’re a little bit savvy and willing to search for a good deal, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the stunning island lifestyle of Caye Caulker without breaking the bank! Although you should treat yourself to the barbequed lobster at one of the street grills – after a day of snorkeling you’ve earned it!
After one week in Caye Caulker I had seen whales, dolphins, manatees, turtles, eels, rays of all kinds, sharks of all kinds, sea horses and enough fish to satisfy any diver! Like I’ve said before, the marine life here is un-BELIZE-able!!! (Sorry not sorry, had to squeeze it in there somehow!)