I recently left my job of almost 12 years, and I was dying to get in a quick trip before the insanity of uprooting my life, moving to Louisville, and starting my new job. Here were the problems I faced:
- I had less than 2 weeks between jobs, so only about 3 days to spare for a trip
- I was booking less than 2 weeks before going, so flights were expensive
Stubbornly, though, I was set on getting *some* kind of trip in. The travel times on Europe flights had gotten out of control for my short timeframe, and then I stumbled on a flight to Belize City that was under $1,000 (still expensive, but we’re talking 2 weeks out) and under 3 hours non-stop. SOLD.
But I didn’t know anything about Belize and had to read up quickly. I decided to base myself in Caye Caulker for the entire time, since I was really needing some R&R. But as I read through a ton of blog posts, I didn’t really see any tips beyond “go slow” for how to have yourself a really chill trip—what to do if you just want to relax and avoid the party crowd. So as I researched, I mentally filed away the things that sounded cool, and when I arrived I made it up as I went along.
So here are my recommendations for a super chill, non-party Caye Caulker trip…
How to get to Caye Caulker
Unless you’re coming from another country, you’ll almost certainly fly into Belize City. There is technically a small airport on Caye Caulker for a puddle jumper connecting flight, but the airport on the island has been closed for quite a while for “renovations” (the locals say politics; I think it’s been like 2 years??) and so the water taxi is the only way.
When you get to the baggage claim and ground transportation part of the airport, you’ll see a little taxi stand. It should be a standard $25 taxi ride to the water taxi terminal. You pay the guy and he’ll give you a little slip of paper to show the taxi driver. It’s about a 30-45 minute ride to the water taxi. You can look up the times ahead, but I landed around 12:05pm and made the 1:30 water taxi with about 20 minutes to spare.
When you get to the water taxi terminal, you’ll be bum rushed by a bunch of people taking your bags. Just know that there are TWO water taxi companies. I’d done my research ahead of time and so when a guy from the bigger company came to grab my bag I asked how much it was, and the price he gave wasn’t as low as the other company, which I told him so he gave me a coupon for $28 BZD round trip. Just do your research on times and prices ahead of time.
If you have time, grab lunch at Annie’s Lunchbox there on the pier. Great food and the staff there was super cool. There are also some water taxis (I think) from the Tulum area or from Guatemala that go to Caye Caulker if you’re coming either of those routes, but I can’t speak to them in detail myself.
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How to have a chill Caye Caulker solo trip
OKAY, now that we know how to get to the island, how do we have a super chill and not party vacation on the island? Glad you asked…
First, where to sunset…
Ohhhh you gotta have a sunset strategy in Caye Caulker. Good thing is, it’s a small island and the sunset lasts FOREVER, so you can optimize your strategy as you go.
You can go to The Split and have sunset with 100 of your closest friends at the Lazy Lizard. They have 2-for-1 happy hour specials and it’s pretty roomy. Not really comfy though, concrete mostly. It’s what I would consider the backpacker and hostel crowd, which there’s nothing wrong with but it’s a bit too communal and young-feeling for me. I went the first night I was in Caye Caulker because I just happened to be there and I wanted to try it once, but it wasn’t my strategy the rest of the time.
That first night I thought the sunset was done, so I left the Lazy Lizard and walked back to the Sip ‘N Dip to sip on a mojito. Then as I was walking looking for dinner, I realized that the sunset was somehow still going on! It’s like the polar opposite of Aruba, where the sunset lasts five minutes if you’re lucky. I headed the three minutes’ walk back across the island and got to watch the colors deepen and turn to indigo. It was awesome. It’s like they have a first sunset and a second sunset, somehow.
So what was my chill sunset strategy? For me, it was all about The Iguana Reef Inn. Just down the shore a tiny bit from The Lazy Lizard is a really lovely hotel with a great waterfront bar and lounge setup, as well as a bunch of pelicans and a sea horse sanctuary.
My afternoon ritual became bellying up to the bar around 4:00pm, grabbing a drink (or two) and an Adirondack chair, and reading my Kindle for a couple hours. Then watching a beautiful Belizean sunset with a generally chill, slightly older crowd. I love watching all the little lights come on at the top of the sailboats as it gets dark.
Stay somewhere nice and simple
And don’t overthink it. I overthought it. And I’m not saying that I regret it, because I don’t. I stayed at the Rainbow Hotel which is super centrally located (but, what isn’t?), right across from the water, has A/C, offered beach chair cushions, and overall was really lovely. Plus, look at those happy colors!
However, here’s what I realized didn’t matter:
- The beaches in Caye Caulker aren’t nice, so beachfront isn’t really that critical. And because of the palm trees, beach view isn’t really a major deal either.
- Everything is suuuuuper close. Literally like a 3-5 minute walk. So proximity shouldn’t be a big consideration.
- Honestly, outside of air conditioning, I wouldn’t focus much on amenities.
- Basically, as soon as you find a place that gets decent reviews and is in your price range, I’d book it.
I just spent way too much time poring over different hotels and Airbnbs and comparing tiny details, when I could have saved myself some time.
I’m not a hostel person myself and I’m thankfully in a place in my life where I don’t have to be from a finances standpoint. There are a bunch of hostels and rooms for rent on the island, and everyone I talked to said really positive things about them. But to me being around that many people and more of the backpacker crowd is the opposite of chill. #introvert
Enjoy the beautiful water views
They’re everywhere you look. It’s such a tiny island that you can walk around the whole perimeter in like a half hour. Depending on time of day, the colors of the water and sky will change, and each little stretch of beach gives you a little slice of paradise.
Wander. Sit. Get a fruit smoothie. Wander some more. Enjoy.
Drink all the coffee!
Seriously, all of it. I tried a few places, and for me, there is NO other place for coffee in Caye Caulker except Ice ‘N’ Beans. It is the BOMB. Normally I never touch flavored lattes, but their flavored iced lattes are soooo yummy, without that fake flavor and weird syrupy taste I usually get. They sweeten your iced latte exactly to your taste each time you order. Man, I miss those iced lattes…
Ice ‘N’ Beans also has food, from delicious bagel sandwiches to fruit smoothies to these amazing bubble waffles topped with whatever you want. One pro tip: when they say “whipped cream”, it’s not what I typically think of as whipped cream but this thick, sweet cream like in the pic below (I tell you this for your ordering strategy, I would have gone less sweet on everything else). The staff also offers you a free mini cinnamon sugar donut when you walk in, and they are DELISH. You can order a whole bag of those if you want. (YOU WANT)
Ice ‘N’ Beans has a loyalty punch card they give you, and I actually filled the whole thing up in my three days there. I may have had a slight problem…
Wander the island
It’s so small! I know I already said this about the beach and water views, but now I’m talking about the actual streets and shops and vendors.
One of the things that made me so happy was all the bright colors! I just walked around and took pics of signs and buildings and tried different foods.
Do wander up to The Split at least once and catch the vibe, have a drink and enjoy the people watching. Decide if it’s for you (it’s not for me as I’ve mentioned, but to each his own).
Eat ALL THE THINGS
Obviously, fresh seafood is going to be one of your biggest finds here, as well as a fairly traditional rice and beans sort of cuisine. I wanted to try as many different restaurants as I could to get a sense for what’s good here. Below I’ve outlined where I ate and my thoughts.
I started at Brisas del Mar when I arrived, for a late lunch. It wasn’t anything earthshattering but I had a decent grouper, some rice and beans, and a free mojito. It gave me a minute to just start to unwind and get adjusted to the “go slow” mentality on Caye Caulker.
A couple of local celebrities you’ll hear about are Banana Bread Man and Cake Lady, who set up shop or wander the main drag. I grabbed a little something from each, and enjoyed it. BUT what no one told me about was the cinnamon rolls from Caye Caulker Bakery! It’s a little unassuming building in the middle of the island, and their cinnamon rolls are so good! Get them with frosting and get as many as you can.
One thing you’ll hear a lot about is fry jacks. I grabbed one from Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks, stuffed full of eggs, cheese, and refried beans. It’s definitely interesting. The main thing I did wrong is that I didn’t eat it right away, but brought it back to my hotel room (so it got really soggy). It’s a must-try in Caye Caulker.
Also a must-try? Fresh fruit smoothies. I could drink those all day! Just wander around, there are tons of vendors all over the island whipping them up customized and fresh.
At night, you have lots of options. One that you definitely need to try is Fran’s Beachside Grill. She sets up shop along the main drag and writes up her menu. I had a snapper filet in coconut curry sauce with vegetables and it was SO GOOD. Seriously, probably the best meal I had on the island. Run don’t walk to Fran’s. It’s not a “nice” dinner setup (just picnic tables outside, they bring rum punch around, you pay up front at the kiosk), but delicious food.
One place I definitely recommend is Pasta per Caso, run by Armando and Anna. You’ll need to make a reservation generally, but delicious, simple, authentic pasta.
One note on drinking water. You won’t want to drink the tap water in Caye Caulker (like most places in Latin America). If you have room, bring a reusable water bottle because you will find places to fill it up for free, or for cheap. They have a lot of issues keeping trash like water bottles contained and not impacting the environment, so do your part when you can.
Get your “ommmm” on in rooftop yoga
One great thing to do if you’re here for a relaxing vacation is to go to rooftop yoga. It’s donation-based and every day, often twice a day. The breeze flies through the covered rooftop area to keep you cool, and mats are provided if you don’t have one with you. The style of yoga changes up, from what I can tell, but is fairly traditional vinyasa-based yoga. It’s on the rooftop of Namaste Cafe, called RandOM Yoga. Get there 15 minutes ahead to make sure you nab a spot, and make sure to check the signs there because the website isn’t always up to date on times.
Make a four-footed friend
Right in the middle of the bustling main drag is Caye Caulker Animal Shelter, run by Kenny Sampson. It’s a donation-run no-kill shelter for dogs, cats, and iguanas, and you can go and grab a dog to take for a walk if you want. I don’t think I’d ever actually walked a dog before (my furbabies are kitties), but Sheba and I got along just fine. It helps socialize the dogs and make them more adoptable, and you get to make a new friend.
Pull up a seat at The Sip ‘N’ Dip
Like The Lazy Lizard, The Sip ‘N’ Dip is an institution in Caye Caulker. From covered open-air seating to dock chairs to a swing in the water, all your seating options are covered. You could lounge around here all day if you wanted. MUCH more of a chill vibe than The Lazy Lizard, in my opinion.
Have an incredible, CHILL day sailing & snorkeling with Carlos Tours
Did you know that Belize has the second-largest barrier reef in the WORLD (after Australia’s)?! There are like a thousand options for snorkeling trips in Caye Caulker. I’m sure a lot of them are awesome, and I rarely heard a bad thing while I was there (though I read a ton of reviews and some of them made me nervous).
However, what I was looking for was threefold—I wanted to actually go sailing not motorboating, wanted to have shade available so I didn’t get sunburned before my first day at a new job, and didn’t want to be on a rowdy party boat.
Enter Carlos Tours.
Just like finding a hotel, I did a TON of research on snorkel and sail companies. However, unlike my hotel, I actually think doing all that research was good for me because I knew exactly what I was looking for and didn’t end up disappointed. And I’m super happy I took the time to do it, because Carlos was the perfect tour for me. He has a big catamaran, which means we had a ton more shade to work with throughout the day, and space to spread out as a group.
Our crew for the day was Carlos, Carlos Jr., Juan Carlos, and Benny. It was a chill group made up of some families with younger kids (not super young), young & older couples, and a few singles like me (also younger and older). Carlos blasted everything from David Gray to old school blues rock all day, a welcome auditory palate cleanser from the reggaeton that’s omnipresent in Caye Caulker.
The full-day tour has three main stops. First, we went to the Coral Reef Gardens and got to see all the amazing coral in addition to some pretty cool wildlife. I stayed with Benny all day, vs. switching groups (they broke our group of 30 or so people into 4 groups while underwater). It was amazing because I would NEVER have seen all the different things without Benny pointing them out. He’d surface frequently to explain what we were seeing and I learned a ton throughout the tour. After the Coral Reef Gardens we went and got to swim with nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley, and then after a delicious lunch swam through the big channel in Hol Chan Marine Reserve. That current is not messing around. All-in-all an amazing trip and I’d highly recommend it to anyone (as long as you’re not a super nervous/weak swimmer).
Enjoy the charming signs
I’m a sucker for cute signs, and Caye Caulker really leans into this. These are just a few of the cute ones I saw in my wanderings.
Consider taking the shuttle over to Koko King
Koko King is a resort, beach, and restaurant on the basically-uninhabited north island of Caye Caulker. It’s just north of “The Split”, and you can catch a water shuttle over (free if you spend $10 USD per person at the bar/restaurant). It’s supposed to have a nicer beach, though still not amazing by nice beach standards. The restaurant was painfully slow but, to be fair, it was a holiday weekend and they were pretty busy. If you really want to lay out, it could be a good option since it seems pretty protected from wind, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go here on a weekend when it’s busier.
So that’s how I spent my super chill Caye Caulker getaway:
- Have an awesome sunset strategy (I recommend The Iguana Reef Inn)
- Stay somewhere simple & don’t overthink it (the Rainbow Hotel worked for me)
- Spend time just wandering the island & enjoying the bright colors, funny signs, and all the different water views
- Pulling up a chair & drinking the best iced lattes on island (from Ice ‘N’ Beans)
- Eating everything in sight, including cinnamon rolls from the bakery, Fran’s for dinner, & fruit smoothies all day, err’day
- Spending a gorgeous day on the water with Carlos Tours
- Avoiding the party crowd of The Lazy Lizard and opting instead for The Sip ‘N’ Dip
- Enjoying the views and the ommms at rooftop yoga
- Taking a shelter dog for a walk around the island (I mean, you DO need some exercise…)
- *Maybe* heading over to Koko King for a different view
The link to the Rainbow Hotel above is an affiliate link (meaning I may make a small commission if you book, but at no additional cost to you), and this link also gives you $15 off your stay if you’re interested. What other super chill tips for Caye Caulker have I missed? I hope to return some day because I wasn’t able to get a flight over the Blue Hole booked and I am DYING to do that!
Other chill warm weather inspiration:
- 9 Tips For A Perfect DIY Vacay In Aruba
- Finding My Happy Place: My First All-Inclusive Resort
- How To Have a Chill Long Weekend in Cancun
- Everything You Need To Pack For a Beach Vacation
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