Caye Caulker: The closest thing to paradise I've ever seen
Pulling up to Caye Caulker in Belize, there was one resounding first impression running through my mind: This. Is. Paradise.
Whenever I arrive in a new place I like to make a conscious effort to track my first impressions. I usually try and compare the place to others I’ve been so I can relate it to something in my mind. I was prepared for Caye Caulker to be a bit like Gili T just off of Bali, because I knew it was a small island with beautiful beaches and no cars.
However, I remember my first impressions of Gili T being… less than paradise. There are horse drawn carriages everywhere, which means horse poop everywhere. When it rained, the street got a bit flooded and we had to trek through shin-deep water on our way to the bar — which meant shin-deep floaty horse poop.
On top of that, the beach was filled with rocks that brushed up on your angles as the waves caressed the shore and TBH hurt like a bitch. I didn’t know why I hadn’t read any of that online.
ANYWAY enough pooping on Gili (I had an epic time there anyway) — but the point is, the critic in me honestly could find nothing to pick on upon arriving in Caye Caulker.
This place really is a freaking dream. The buildings were MADE for Instagram — cute pastel colours, stilted or propped up on blocks, cute Instagrammable signs. They knew exactly what they were doing with the aesthetics in this place! The streets are so quaint, lined with palm trees and flags. People whip around on golf carts or bikes or foot, because it takes about 3 mins to get from east to west of the island and the main strip, Front Street, takes about 10 mins.
There is freshly caught lobster being grilled up on the street. Cute bars with swings (because every island needs a bar with swings. It’s so much easier to drink that way). The sand is white and the water is literally turquoise in Belize. It’s a postcard.
Okay backing up, logistics: Fly into Belize City, 20 min cab ride to the ferry ($30 USD for 3 of us — I’m here with Carmy and we cabbed with Jalees, the queen of Caye Caulker). Grab yourself a ferry ticket and hop on the 45-min cruise to Caye Caulker island. The ferry guys invited us to the top so we had an epic dance party on the roof of the boat. The universe loves us.
Oh, but the universe love doesn’t stop there. We dropped our stuff off at the go-to hostel on the island, Bellas Backpackers. It’s a fun party hostel, but I wasn’t quite ready to dive right into hostel life. But that was okay because later we went to sunset at Iguana Reef Hotel (as everyone does, and rightfully so) and chatted to the owner who graciously invited us to stay in a room. At the hotel. For no reason at all.
This hotel has completely changed our trip. Yes, staying in a king bed, with a shower that works, and L’Occitane bath products, and air conditioning is a dream. Especially after long dive days or days like today when I probably have a mix of heat stroke/the flu/dehydration/ potentially dengue. Kidding. But it is a dream. But the thing about this hotel is the experience it provides, for guests or anyone stopping in to visit: it’s basically a Caribbean safari.
Every day at around 5 the pelicans come swarming in for feeding off of sardines. It’s a spectacle to say the least.
Then it’s dinnertime for the stingrays, and oh yes, you can sit down with them and they will brush up against you. It’s crazy. There is even a resident nurse shark and its baby that cruise under the dock as you’re dangling your feet. Plus a seahorse habitat: have you ever seen seahorses in the wild?! How adorable.
There are also swings and hammocks in the water for your Instagramming pleasure, they import soft white sand to create a beautiful beach, and the water is bathtub warm. I don’t think I have ever spent so much time just chillin in the water before in one place.
This hotel has completely made our stay, and some people may think it’s confusing, but I had a stranger gift me a helicopter ride in Cape Town for absolutely no reason other than good vibes, remember? I’m telling you, the universe loves me!
We have had an unbelievable time here on Caye Caulker.
First we went diving with Black Durgeon to the local reefs. It was just me and Carmy and our divemaster, so peaceful, the water was so beautiful, diving was so freeing. We also stopped and snorkelled with the nurse sharks and rays at Shark Ray Alley — now THAT was a trip.
Our next dive day was nothing short of FREAKING EPIC.
Woke up at 4:45am to catch a 6am boat over to the Blue Hole. It’s a giant sinkhole measuring 125 metres deep. I am only Open Water certified (the first time I have ever regretted this, but regretted it hard right about now!) but the advanced divers got to go down to 40 m deep, and swam alongside 2 giant sharks as they faded into the deep dark abyss. I saw them too, but from a bit higher up — was still epic. Felt like a scene from Jaws. The limestone wall is really cool too, and you can see stalactites that formed when the hole was apparently above water. We were the ONLY PEOPLE AT THE BLUE HOLE WHEN WE GOT THERE — that’s the beauty of slow season in Belize, I guess. People say the Blue Hole is overrated but I say they’re overrated.
But the best part of that day was actually the next dive, at the Half Moon Wall. This was my first REAL experience diving with sharks, and it was mind blowing. Actually, everyone in our group just kept doing the hand signal for mind blown. The reef sharks would just linger alongside us, it got to the point where I would just do a 360 degree twirl and yup there’s another shark coming at us. It was so so sosososo crazy.
We had lunch at Half Moon Caye which is stunning. Every caye (island) in Belize is stunning. Frenchies Diving gave us a good lunch and fuel for the next dive, which was at the Aquarium. An accurate name as as soon as you descend underwater, you are SURROUNDED BY SCHOOLS OF COLOURFUL FISH. It was awesome. We saw a shark on this dive as well, but the best part was a stunning eagle ray swooping by us in the deep dark sea. So mesmerizing. So obsessed. So blessed.
Diving was the reason I came and has definitely been the highlight, but the whole stay here has been incredible. We did a snorkel day with Salt Life Eco Tours (owned by Daniel who is an absolute gem) and saw DOLPHINS as we snorkelled! Plus sharks and an eagle ray but meh we’re over those, right? (Kidding). We’ve partied at Sports Bar, at the concert at the Split, had coffee at Ice and Beans, $2.50 street burritos, had a delish Asian salad at Hibiscus (expensive but I needed a feast. Also get the pina colada), had pizza at Mama Mia’s, a smoothie at Juicy. Carmy and I’s motto is “we don’t know anyone here” which excuses us being the only ones on the dance floor every time.
We ferried over to San Pedro on a 30-minute, 27 Belize dollar ($13.50 USD) ferry. Went for lunch (get the banana mango daiquiri - drooling) at La Palapa, rented a golf cart and cruised over to Secret Beach, which has lots of cute colourful chairs and bar stools in the water. Would have loved to lounge here but the show must go on and we had to get back!
I would recommend Caye Caulker to almost anyone. Unless you are super against touristy places, because I can imagine during peak season (November-August) it gets quite hectic. We are here in September and it is quite slow, but it works cause the motto here is “go slow” anyway.
About to embark on a 3-day, 2-night sailing tour so the Belizean adventure continues, mon!