Caye Caulker is a small island located five miles (eight kilometers) off the coast of the Belizean mainland. Often described as Ambergris Caye’s hipper, younger sibling, Caye Caulker’s unofficial motto is “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem.”
Far less built up and crowded than Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker has managed to successfully hang onto its roots as a laid-back destination popular with backpackers and budget travelers. Caye Caulker is home to one of the liveliest Lobsterfests in the country where locals and visitors alike spend three days every summer celebrating the opening of the lobster fishing season with music, dance, drinks, and lots of savory lobster dishes.
On Caye Caulker, there are no cars. To get around, locals use golf carts or bicycles to negotiate the dirt roads. Caye Caulker is far from glamorous or glitzy, which is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for nature lovers.
Food and lodging options are limited, but it’s still possible to stay at an affordable guest house. Several restaurants offer a variety of local cuisines for around $10. Caye Caulker is also an ideal place to enjoy a beach barbecue of fresh-caught seafood brought in daily by local fishermen.
Despite being reachable in 30 minutes by water taxi from Belize City, Caye Caulker is still almost entirely pristine. Gorgeous, white sand beaches ring the small island, and the crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkeling.
The most popular hangout area on the island is known simply as The Split, a narrow channel of water that bisects the island. The deep waters in The Split mean that it’s free of marine plants, and it is one of the best areas to enjoy some swimming.
There’s also a protected forest reserve at the northernmost tip of the island that serves as an important nesting and feeding site for bird species like the mangrove warbler, black catbird, and the tri-colored heron.
Caye Caulker lies along popular water taxi routes that travel onward to Ambergris Caye. Between Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye is the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a protected marine area that is very popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. Inside the Hol Chan Marine Reserve lies Shark Ray Alley, a natural cut in the reef that attracts huge schools of nurse sharks and stingrays.
Also close to Caye Caulker is the Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary. This uninhabited area is where you can find vast beds of seagrass that support a thriving population of manatees.