How To Do A Self-Guided Cruise Excursion To Caye Caulker, Belize

March 24, 2019
cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

As I prepped for my first cruise last fall, I struggled to find excursions that were up my alley.  But after a lot of research around Belize City excursions specifically, I finally decided to tackle a self-guided cruise excursion to Caye Caulker so I could show my mom the little island I’d visited just a few months prior.

There are a lot of reasons this is a bad idea, but it’s definitely not impossible, and since I couldn’t find a ton of good information while doing research myself, I wanted to provide a really detailed guide for other people trying this in the future.

self-guided cruise excursion to Caye Caulker - a how-to

Make sure you check out this ultimate packing list for a beach or pool vacay!

If you have any interest in the jungle, ruins, ziplining, caving, and such, taking a cruise-led or private excursion into the jungle could make a lot of sense.  I have trouble imagining how they could get you out to Hol Chan for snorkeling, but if a company is able to then do it—some of the best snorkeling in the world.

I also tried to get a charter flight out to the Great Blue Hole, but was visiting on the wrong day to make that happen.  I would also say that Belize City port day is a great one to have a deserted pool on the cruise ship all to yourself.

Everything You Need to Know to Do a Self-Guided Cruise Excursion to Caye Caulker, Belize | One Girl, Whole World

A couple other articles that may be helpful for your planning:

A Guide to (Chill) Caye Caulker (where to eat, drink, how to get around)

5 Reasons You Might *Not* Enjoy Caye Caulker

My Honest Review of Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas

BUT, if you decide you want to try a self-guided excursion to Caye Caulker, this article is for you.  It cannot be stated with enough emphasis—Belize City is a tough port to do self-guided excursions from, period.  But particularly out to Caye Caulker (and I wouldn’t even consider Ambergris Caye, just too far).

It can totally be done (I did it), but it’s really important to know that this comes with inherent risks.  I am a very confident traveler and had also visited Caye Caulker myself just a few months prior, so was already familiar with the water taxi companies, where to go on the island, and other details that helped make it more seamless.  And you will probably only have about 2.5 hours on Caye Caulker once you’re there.

self-guided cruise excursion belize city to caye caulker

Make sure you’re protected—here are 9 sunscreens I swear by for travel!

Considerations for self-guided cruise excursions to Caye Caulker

#1:  Belize City is a tender port.  That makes cruise excursions automatically more challenging because the cruise ships can’t come directly in and dock in the harbor.  That means you have to be assigned to a boat (tender) that will ferry you from the cruise ship to the port.  This adds anywhere from 20-45 minutes each way, plus whatever time you sit on the tender or in line waiting for everyone to board the tender.  This is something you just can’t control, and adds significant time and margin for error.

#2:  There is sometimes a time difference between the cruise ship and the mainland of Belize.  Belize is on Central time and does not participate in Daylight Savings.  And depending on where your cruise ship leaves from, that may mean your ship is on a different time zone.  You just need to be super sure you understand the time zone math to get back to the boat on time—my recommendation is to have a clock somewhere that is always showing you “ship time”.  This is something you *can* control, but need to be aware of.

#3:  Belize City itself is super sketchy and can be fairly dangerous and I would not recommend trying to navigate it yourself.  I heard people saying “we’ll just go into Belize City and walk around”.  I’d say…DON’T.  When I was visiting the first time, I even heard super experienced backpackers say that they got the hell out of Belize City as fast as they could.  My taxi driver also told me not to stay in the city.

#4:  Accidents happen.  There is always the chance of a water taxi breakdown between Caye Caulker and Belize City.  It’s not like it happens every day, but it does happen, and this could accidentally strand you out on the water (or waiting for a taxi) and delay you catching your cruise ship.  Make sure you have travel insurance that would cover missing your cruise ship on a port day (or live dangerously…I did).

#5:  Just as a reminder (as I mentioned in my “reasons you might not enjoy CC“), Caye Caulker doesn’t really have any beaches.  So if laying at the beach is your desire, this is not the place for you.

Everything You Need to Know to Do a Self-Guided Cruise Excursion to Caye Caulker, Belize | One Girl, Whole World

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  10 Things You Must Do Before Every Trip

Water Taxi Schedules

There are two companies that run water taxis over to Caye Caulker.  One is more frequent than the other, and is what I’ve taken on both of my trips.  It is San Pedro Belize Express, and runs about every hour or hour and a half depending on time of day.  You can check the schedule at the link above, and it costs $28 USD for a round trip.

The other is Ocean Ferry Belize, and they run about every hour and a half to three hours, depending.  It’s kind of an odd schedule, though does hit some off times from the first company so could give you options.

Getting from the port to the water taxi

Thankfully, the water taxi is literally around the corner from the cruise port.  When you get off the ship, go straight to the end of the cruise pier (the water should be on your left as you’re walking) and out the cruise port gate and take a left, and you’re almost immediately at the water taxi pier (on your left).  It’s very easy, like literally next door.

Walk purposefully, like you know where you’re going.  Always make sure you’re aware of your purse or pockets.  Petty theft would be the most likely scenario here, just like in any highly touristed area.  Be prepared to have people trying to offer you tours, taxis, everything under the sun as you’re walking.

Once you get to the water taxi pier, you’ll be rushed by various people wanting you to get a regular (car) taxi or to take your bags.  It will probably be overwhelming, you just need to be prepared.  Since you’re coming from the cruise ship you don’t have any bags, so just wave them off and go directly to the end of the pier.

On your right is the San Pedro Belize Express office, where you can buy your tickets.  You’ll probably want to shoot for either the 9:00am or the 10:30am water taxi, depending on your docking and tender times.  If you end up having time to kill, Annie’s Lunchbox is a great little place to grab a bite to eat!

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  Everything You Need to Pack for a Chill Beach Vacay

What to do with ~2.5 hours on Caye Caulker

Okay, now you’ve made it…probably good to have a semi-game plan.  This post I did on Caye Caulker will help provide more info on where some of these places are and why they’re awesome.

#1 – Go slow.  Wander the streets.

One important caveat to #1 is that you may want to grab some cash from the ATM…but you also may be fine with just a credit card and U.S. dollars.  Your call.

But Caye Caulker is all about that “go slow” life.  Seriously, they’ll even shout it at you if they feel you’re walking too fast (which is really my MO in life).  Wander up the main drag and just enjoy the bright colors and sun.

How to do a self-guided cruise excursion to Caye Caulker from Belize City - everything you need to know!

You might also like:  My Favorite Summer Beach Reads

#2 – Get an iced coffee & some cinnamon sugar donuts

Guys, I LURRRVVVVVE Ice ‘N’ Beans.  It is literally the best iced coffee I’ve ever had, and they customize the sweetening to your palate.  They also have these totally delish little cinnamon-sugar covered donuts that you have to get.

Honestly, everything here is good…the bubble waffles, the smoothies, whatever.  Make this your first stop.

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  What to Listen to By the Ocean: The 15 Best Full Albums

#3 – Go snag a pic at The Split

If you get off the water taxi, take a right, and just walk up the main street, you will eventually hit The Split at the other end of the island.  It’s like…a 5-10 minute walk.  Remember, it’s a tiny island.  The main draw here is The Lazy Lizard bar, and the view.

If none of the cruise excursions from Belize City float your boat, you can consider a self-guided excursion to Caye Caulker.

If you wore your suit, feel free to jump in and cool off (with a drink, naturally)!

Everything You Need to Know to Do a Self-Guided Cruise Excursion to Caye Caulker, Belize | One Girl, Whole World

You might also like:  My Favorite Cross-Body Purse for Travel

#4 – Grab a drink at the Sip ‘N’ Dip

Personally, I prefer the Sip ‘N’ Dip’s vibe to The Lazy Lizard’s, but both have their charms.  The Sip ‘N’ Dip is on your right, right before you hit The Split.

Grab a drink in the shade of the bar, or wander out onto the pier for some sun…or jump in the water and float on a tube that’s tethered to the pier.  Definitely chill.

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  My Favorite Korean Face Sunscreens & Moisturizers

#5 – Get some lunch at Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen or Wish Willy

Or go get a fry jack from Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks (a traditional food here).  There are several good food options on the island, though they won’t be the ones you find super easily right by the water taxi.

I grabbed Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen this time, back on the corner of the island, and was super happy with it—I had missed it on my first trip and so was glad to give it a try.

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

#6 – See if the bakery is open (and maybe get another iced coffee…)

Sadly, it wasn’t the day we went on the cruise excursion, but I went by there every day to get a cinnamon roll when I had visited a few months prior.  Those cinnamon rolls are BOMB.  Also, go back to Ice ‘N’ Beans for another coffee.

There is a guy called Banana Bread Man who wanders up and down the main drag selling banana bread, and there’s Cake Lady who does the same with various desserts as well.  I wasn’t quite as into their wares (a bit sweet for my tastes), but it’s quite the local novelty and worth sampling 🙂

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  11 of My Best Tips for ANY Trip

#7 – Wait for your water taxi with a drink at Bamboozle

This is one of the closest restaurants to the water taxi, so you can grab a seat (or a swing, if you prefer) and a drink to wait.  I somehow managed to accidentally order the exact same chocolate peanut butter milkshake with added booze as I had 6 months prior…which is weird and apparently I’m super consistent.

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

You might also like:  7 Travel Intentions for 2020

When you get back to the water taxi pier in Belize City, just re-trace your steps…walk back to the main road, hang a right, and you’ll see the cruise port terminal basically right there (on your right).

You’ll have to go through security, and then make sure you’ve remembered which terminal your tender is going out from.  Queue in line to get back on the boat (and look for folks with the same cruise ship card as you have).  Easy peasy.

Whew!  We accomplished a lot in a short period of time, and everything worked out well.  That wasn’t guaranteed, but we had a plan and that helped a lot.

It’s challenging to know what cruise excursions in Belize City will be best for you, but if you’re set on Caye Caulker then this should equip you for success.  Hopefully this has helped you in your planning, but please feel free to shoot me a note in the comments with any questions!

You might also like:  

Pin this image!

How to take a self-guided cruise excursion Caye Caulker from Belize City

Comments (19)

  • LISA R

    April 24, 2024 at 11:36 am

    HI! I really wanted to the Nina’s Tiki Cruise to see some fish, sharks and Rays but they don’t start until 2pm Belize time. Do you know if once on Caye Caulker you can rent a boat for an hour to see some fish/sharks?

    1. Jessica

      April 25, 2024 at 9:57 pm

      Hi Lisa! I don’t know for sure, the TripAdvisor forums could maybe help you. I’m not sure what fish or sharks you’d see right around the island, and also wonder if Ambergris Caye might be a good option for you? I hope you find something great!

  • Carla

    April 20, 2024 at 11:36 am

    Next time you’re there, I’ve had one of the best chickens I’ve ever had in Cay Caulker. We did an excursion but didn’t want to do the lunch there bc it was expensive burgers and I asked our guide what he’d recommend. He said to take the street to the left of where we were and I’d see Kareem barbecue. I thought it was a restaurant but it was just a guy with a smoker outside, but his jerk chicken was spectacular and had to go back for repeats. We still talk about it.

    1. Jessica

      April 21, 2024 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Carla! That sounds DELISH.

  • Amanda

    March 20, 2024 at 4:35 pm

    I’ve cruised on Carnival multiple times to Belize and have done the Water Taxi to Caye Caulker, it’s my favorite Caye for many reasons. Your review and detailed information is spot on from my experiences. The times I’ve been to Caye Caulker via water taxi, it was always a group of 3-4 women and other than being asked to buy things/cab ride offers, we had no issue walking to/from the water taxi location. I never felt fear or unease while walking around the Caye, and if you are in a pinch to get from one side of the island to the other, there’s usually a golf cart ‘taxi’ available to get you there quicker.

    The ride to Caye Caulker is quite bumpy like others have mentioned, but otherwise it’s a rather easy/seamless way to do your own shore excursion. Keep your watch, phone, etc… on boat time and set an alarm or two so you get back to the Taxi location on time. I personally carry my passport “just in case” and second the insurance suggestion.

  • Claire

    March 2, 2024 at 7:27 pm

    How much did the water shuttle cost?

    1. Jessica

      March 5, 2024 at 7:31 pm

      Hi Claire! I would definitely check the actual websites for the most up-to-date info, but I believe it should be $20-25 per person. It may depend on the company as well, there are two different ones that run the shuttles.

  • Racquel Conn

    November 30, 2023 at 7:30 am

    Hi! Thanks for this content. It was super helpful. I am definitely looking to simply hang out in the Caribbean Sea for a few hours. Would a self-guided tour to Caye Caulker be a good option for this? If not, what would be a great self-guided option for a day in the water while my cruise ship is in Belize? TIA!!!!!

    1. Jessica

      December 2, 2023 at 8:18 am

      Hi Racquel! If your goal is to just hang out in/on the sea, I don’t think that trying to do a Caye Caulker self-guided tour is worth the risk and time…instead, I’d look into some kind of boating excursion, such as to the Hol Chan reef, or possibly something to Ambergris Caye? The beaches in this part of Belize aren’t very good but the water is amazing, so my recommendation would be to get out on the water and enjoy!

      1. Lou

        January 15, 2024 at 12:09 pm

        We found that it was a bumpy 50 minute boat ride from the cruise port in Belize City out to Caye Caulker. I agree, there are no real beaches and the tour guide told us you had to go “way out” to see anything while snorkeling. What areas there were to sit and look at the ocean, only had wooden (many broken down) wooden Adirondack chairs. We saw someone drown by the “Split”, and the medical help (a modified golf cart with a stretcher) took over 25 minutes to arrive and by then it was too late.

        The Caye is picturesque, but not worth the long ride to get there.

        1. Jessica

          January 16, 2024 at 7:38 pm

          Hi Lou! Yes, I’d generally agree. It’s an interesting experience and pretty place, but on a cruise excursion it can be pretty risky–it’s an option but most cruisers will have more/better ones!

  • Karly

    September 1, 2023 at 6:32 pm

    Hey there!!
    My husband and I will be in Belize on September 20th, with Carnival. We are wanting to go to Caye Caulker, but I’m a nervous wreck, I don’t want to be one of those dock runners lol. Is the hassle worth going? I don’t know what else we’d do if we don’t go, it definitely looks like our kind of place.

    1. Jessica

      September 6, 2023 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Karly! It definitely is a gamble. I mean…it’s really hard to say whether it’s worth it. It’s a cute little island (emphasis on “little”, there’s not much to actually DO). You could do an excursion to ruins or maybe a flight to the Blue Hole, or a snorkeling excursion? But I know what you mean, I”m not a big fan of the cruise excursions from that port. It just really depends on how much time you have and there’s always the chance that a ferry back has an issue. I’d definitely look up alternative times. I hope you guys have a great time, whatever you decide!

      1. Kim

        October 29, 2023 at 9:52 pm

        We are on a Carnival cruise in December and wanting to go straight to Caye Caulker. We have been there many times for extended stays but never from a Carnival cruise to the water taxi. How would we get there from the Carnival port and would it be walkable with children?

        1. Jessica

          November 3, 2023 at 8:28 am

          Hi Kim! All cruise ships use the same port in Belize City (it’s a “tender port”, meaning they have to dock offshore and everyone ferries you to the port/pier in smaller boats). So the instructions I provided in the article would be the same. I can’t tell you exactly what berth your tender will arrive at for Carnival (my guess is it varies, regardless), but you should be able to get out of the port walking and over to the water ferry using the same directions. It’s a short distance so should be walkable with children without issue (just a bit crazy and right on the road, so keep a tight grasp on them). Hope that helps!

  • Julia

    June 13, 2022 at 11:56 am

    How long was the water taxi ride?

    1. Jessica

      June 13, 2022 at 9:44 pm

      It takes 30-45 minutes (barring any mechanical issues, which I didn’t experience, but are always a possibility).

  • Lil

    May 18, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Hi Jessica, I’m doing a cruise in February and I’m debating on whether I should do a snorkeling excursion or a self guided tour to Caye Caulker. If I decide to go to Caye Caulker, can you snorkel off the shoreline? And if I decide to do a snorkeling excursion, do you have to be a strong swimmer? I have kids, I just want to make sure they are safe.

    1. Jessica

      May 18, 2019 at 11:44 am

      Hi Lil! No, you can’t just do any snorkeling off the shoreline in Caye Caulker…there really isn’t any beach or nice snorkeling right there. You need to take a boat out to the nice snorkeling. In this case I’d strongly recommend doing the snorkeling excursion. Snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve off the coast of Belize is absolutely AMAZING, some of the best in the world! I’d say you’d want to be an adequate swimmer, but not expert. The individual excursion companies should tell you whether you need to be a strong swimmer on their sites, and there were kids on the sailing/snorkeling excursion I did (I have a separate post about that on the site). The snorkeling excursion is definitely the safer bet in terms of getting back to the boat too, and is something your kids should love! I think they might be a bit bored with Caye Caulker, as there isn’t a ton to do. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Prev Post

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

Blown Away By Norway's Fjords: Norway In A Nutshell Tour In Winter

March 19, 2019

Next Post

cruise excursions in belize city,self-guided cruise excursion caye caulker

The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary: Highlands & Islands

March 30, 2019