Caye Caulker, Belize
Belize has a wonderfully unique landscape that can cater to any traveler. For our trip, we decided to focus our time on the jungle and in the ocean. For the ocean portion of the trip, there are two major islands people travel to – Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. Ambergris Caye is the more established resort island with a big town of San Pedro. Caye Caulker is more laid back, there are no cars on the island, and has the “go slow” island mentality. When it comes to activities, you have access to all of them from either island. Based on what I read, Caye Caulker was more the vibe we were looking for. From relaxing on the beach with a beverage to snorkeling the second largest barrier reef in the world or diving at the famous Blue Hole, the world is your oyster.
And with that, we traded the jungle for the Caribbean Sea.
The water from the sky was a stunning blue color – so clear you could see the patches where darker grass, coral, and deeper portions of the ocean were located. Funny to think this was actually my first time in the Caribbean!
An easy thirty minute flight landed us right on the island of Caye Caulker. We grabbed our bags and walked over to our Airbnb under ten minutes away. You will not find any cars on Caye Caulker. Modes of transportation here are golf cars, bikes, or those two feet. Another thing to note are the dogs of Caye Caulker. They roam freely here, many are owned and a few are stray, but these dogs are living the island life. Everyone knows them and they get all the doggie love they could ever want, including from Kevin.
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Our Airbnb at The Gumbo Limbo was just the best! A small complex of three bungalows with the host’s property at the front with hammocks, a bar, and lounge area all for guest use. And our bungalow itself was wonderful! Named “The Dreaded Grape” as the house was actually a wine bar located at the other side of the island. It went out of business and the hosts liked it so much they moved it to this property and converted it into this Airbnb. We got a wonderful overview of the property and the island as well as a few recommendations from our hosts Ben and Aria before heading out to explore the island ourselves.
The island is not large – five miles long with only a mile of it developed and then one mile wide – so we had no issues going on foot. We walked along the shore line to get acquainted with the island. The island ironically does not have any proper beaches but there are tons of places to hang out, especially if you patronize a location with a great outdoor space.
We walked the entire island making it to the Split. A famous spot on Caye Caulker, this was a man-made “split” of the island to allow fishermen to avoid having to go all the way around the island each time. However, a hurricane that devastated Belize made this small canal a large hole which now divided Caye Caulker into two. There is a free ferry that transports people from one side of the island to the other but almost everything there is to do is in the southern part of the island.
While it was a bit too early for dinner, we decided to grab a drink at the Barrier Reef Sports Bar and Grill. While happy hour was still going on, we decided to splurge and get frozen beverages – we were in the Caribbean after all! We sat outside, enjoyed our drinks and the live music. This was clearly a local spot as everyone knew each other. I am glad we were able to fit in a moment for this!
Our eyes were set on sunset and in looking at the time, we walked over to The Pelican Sunset Bar for dinner. We grabbed what was the last table and the best seats in the house to watch the sunset – just spectacular!
We ordered the seafood special with shrimp kabob, fish filet, conch filet, stone crab claw, potato and coleslaw to share. Everything was delicious but it did take a full hour to come out. I read that it is island time here and the motto is “go slow” but I was not expecting an hour! Luckily we had the sunset to entertain us while we waited. The place was packed so this is clearly a popular spot.
Another jam-packed day set us immediately to bed when we arrived at the Airbnb.
We had a long day ahead so we wanted to grab a proper breakfast before heading out. Around the corner from the Airbnb was Caribbean Colors Art Cafe. At a recommendation, they were supposed to have good coffee but Kevin had to disagree. It was strange that we have been unable to find a good cup of coffee with Belize being nearby some of the best coffee producers in the world.
The food was good and luckily did not take an hour to come out. We ordered the “continental breakfast” with fruit, eggs, and a toast of choice – Kevin went homemade tortilla, and I went banana bread. A healthy breakfast to start off the day.
Today we were snorkeling the second biggest barrier reef in the world – Hol Chan Marine Reserve!
Read about our experience snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve – here!
Wow, what an amazing day snorkeling around Belize! Definitely way better than I expected and it was an extremely full day.
Since Kevin’s first coffee of the day was a flop, we headed over to Ice and Beans Coffee Shop nearby in hopes of some redemption. Luckily, his iced coffee – though expensive – was the best coffee he had on the trip.
We returned to the Airbnb to rinse off the literal salt of the ocean where we noted some spots of sunburn much to our disappointment. We applied regularly but there must be a combination of being in and out of the water and being closer to the equator that no amount of sunscreen can battle. Regardless, we felt refreshed and ready for dinner.
Before dinner, we had to take care of our return home COVID test. For this trip, entry into the USA required a COVID test within 24 hours of travel. Since we were unable to find a place in Canada that administered COVID tests for travel, we purchased eMed rapid tests that are approved for travel use. While they were a bit expensive – six tests for $150 – it was very easy to use with camera surveillance and were given the paperwork needed to upload to the airline website.
With only one meal remaining, it was a tough call but I went with my research and selected Reina’s. There is a very popular and highly recommended pasta spot by multiple people – Pasta per Caso – but it felt so wrong for us to be eating pasta in Belize. So we went with the Belizean option.
On our way to Reina’s, we realized the air conditioner was not turned off so we doubled back to turn it off. One rule in Belize is to turn off the a/c when it is not being used which I completely get behind. This detail is important for the story, trust me. With the a/c turned off, we set back out and made it Reina’s. As we made the turn into the restaurant, a couple just barely in front of us grabbed the last table. We stood there like two dogs in the rain amazed at how the a/c screwed us out of dinner. But with no other choices, I was willing to wait. Kevin got our names on a list for the next available table which would be thirty minutes tops.
And in an unexpected turn of events, the women in the couple came up to us and offered us to sit at the table with them as they felt bad for us waiting there. It was exceptionally nice of them to even consider that as an option. Kevin and I took them up on their offer and shared a seat as there was only one left unoccupied in the restaurant. Would we have done the same? Belize has taught us something tonight.
We ordered a round of rum punch and exchanged various life and travel related stories for the next hour while we enjoyed dinner together. I could not believe how packed this place was as people continued to arrive and wait for tables to open. The chef here cannot be working on island time as dishes are being churned out one after the next. I ordered the garlic shrimp and Kevin ordered the jerk chicken. Both came with sides of vegetables and rice.
We both loved our dishes so much we left the plates clean. The garlic shrimp had just the right level of buttery garlic juices to saturate the shrimp and the rice. Kevin enjoyed getting a spicy kick out of the jerk chicken – a specialty of Caye Caulker. He said the chicken was tender, flavorful, and the heat level was a six out of ten on his scale which was perfect. We definitely made a good decision tonight.
Stuffed from another delicious meal, we headed back to the Airbnb to pack up for our departure.
We woke up early to make the most out of the few hours we had left before leaving Caye Caulker and Belize. It was a gorgeous morning with cloud cover and a humid breeze that made wandering around so enjoyable. We first headed to the water to enjoy a few moments watching the water and the birds. Then our mission was fry jacks. We walked along the water for our final morning on Caye Caulker.
Fry jacks are a Belizean specialty often eaten at breakfast time. It is fried dough in a half moon shape that is stuffed with eggs, meat, beans, or any combination.
There were two places I had marked for fry jacks and I may be biased, but I think we made the superior choice. Jenny’s Food To-Go has an efficient set up and a crowded around the stand as everyone waited for their food. Done and done! We put in our orders for fry jacks – rather than getting them stuffed, we decided on going with the sweet approach – one with honey and cinnamon, the other with sugar. As we waited and noted everyone else’s order, I figured it was time to double down and take advantage of “food to-go” for our travel day. We added two breakfast burritos on top of our order and for less than $9 USD we left Jenny’s with so much food!
We rounded the corner to find a place along the water to eat and noted Cafe by the Sea. Kevin grabbed an ice coffee here (a bit too sweet for his liking but a decent coffee still) which allowed us to enjoy sitting at their outdoor area. We dug in and this food looked amazing!
The fry jacks were an enormous portion but they were both so delicious. We saved our burritos for later and enjoyed nom’ing on these fry jacks. We tried grabbing another coffee at Namaste, also highly recommended but they were closed. Instead, we hit up Ice and Beans one more time for the final coffee of the trip.
We stopped into a grocery store to see if we were able to find the recado that Charles mentioned made the stewed chicken so delicious and low and behold, it was there. We grabbed a bag in hopes of attempting to create the dish – wish us luck! They also love Marie Sharp’s hot sauce – you can find it everywhere.
And with that, we packed up our things and checked out of the Airbnb. Our original plan was to take the forty-five minute ferry to Belize City then take a car to the airport. We had such a pleasant experience flying from San Ignacio to Caye Caulker that we decided to just do that instead which would take us directly to the airport. We took a golf cart taxi to the small airport where we waited for our larger size plane seating twelve this time. It was a fully packed flight as Sunday’s popular departure day transported guests to Belize International airport.
I am so happy we ended up at Caye Caulker for the second half of this trip. There is a magic there that is hard to describe. Similar to San Ignacio, everyone is so stinking friendly, everyone says “hello” when passing, and there is a calmness in the air. While we did not venture to San Pedro, I am certainly biased to the smaller island living of Caye Caulker.