Hopping over from Guatemala to the Caribbean coast of Belize, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t welcome the transition. From grinding on the chaotic and bumpy streets of Northern Guatemala, we arrived to the breezy reggae beats and killer beaches on Caye Caulker. I threw my hands in the sky and let the wind take me.
Caye Caulker is the Caribbean without pretentious hotels and snobbish holidaymakers. Put a bunch of hippies, laid-back hostels and clear sea – that’s Caye Caulker. There are no roads, no pollution, no loud noises. Just soft winds, light music and the endless sea. For those who want to get to know the island inside out, here are 10 ways to do so.
1. Snorkeling with Sharks
You heard me. You get to literally swim around schools of nurse sharks and large stingrays at the famed Shark-Ray Alley. Don’t worry, they don’t bite.Visibility in the water is as clear as it can get and snorkeling conditions are close to perfect. Snorkeling trips that take you out here also bring you to nearby Hol-Chan marine reserve. Marine life is proliferate here – we even got to swim beside a manatee. A surreal experience as the giant slowly glides past you.
2. Wish Willy’s BBQ Seafood
BBQ Seafood on Belize is like paella in Spain – the best thing ever. Wish Willy’s on Caye Caulker definitely stands out as the cheapest, tastiest and most characteristic. Talking about personality, Wish Willy’s tops everyone else; the friendly owner welcomes everyone like an old friend. Try the seafood buffet, with lobster, fish, meat included for 35 Belizean Dollar.
3. Diving the Blue Hole
This submarine cave is legendary. If you’re a diver, you’re not leaving without diving the Great Blue Hole. The circular Blue Hole is over 330m in diameter and 120m deep. From the air, the round patch of dark blue waters surrounded by shallow turquoise sea looks unbelievable. It was formed when the roof of a limestone cave system collapsed during the ice age. A natural phenomenon as it is, submerging as deep as 45m amongst stalactites is wild. Warning – not for beginners.
4. Chilling at the Split
The Belizeans’ cheery attitude show turned the result of a disaster into something beautiful. The Split was formed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie hit, splitting Caye Caulker in two. At the northern end of Front Street, it’s a popular place to chill, snorkel and hang out. The shallow waters are clear, refreshing and full of marine life.
5. Grooving to Reggae
Knock back a Belikin (local beer) or two at I&I Reggae Bar on the southern end of the caye. There’s nothing like this hippie haven – swings hanging from the ceiling, hammocks on the rooftop, oh and a perfect spot to catch the sunset. Ask around, and all the locals will point you in this direction. It’s got good vibes baby!
6. Sunset Sailing
Sailing off into the wind, with rum punch and shrimp cerviche in hand and a Rastafarian captain – the sunset sails are a great way to get under Belize’s skin. Instead of bus-ing it, 4-day sailboat trips are also an excellent alternative to get from Caye Caulker to other parts of Belize. Ragga Muffin Tours arrange overnight sailboat trips to Placencia. What’s on the itinerary? Fishing, chilling, island-hopping and fresh seafood everyday.
Alternatively, daytrips on the sailboats can also be organized, with snorkeling at Shark Ray Alley included.
7. Trying Street Tacos
Oh street food’s always tops on my list of getting to know a country. Tacos stands are set up across the marine terminal where the main pier is at. These are usually really cheap, 3 tacos for 2 Belizean dollars. At San Pedro, a bigger town on Ambergris Caye, the town’s plaza is lined with tons of tacos stands, in true Mexican style.
8. Kayaking to the Northern Mangrove Reserve
The northern end of Caye Caulker is uninhabited, occupied by dense mangrove swamps. Kayaking to the mangrove reserve makes for a fun excursion, especially in the mornings when birdlife is rich. Tsunami Adventures arrange kayaking trips for B$15 first hour and B$10 for subsequent hours.
9. Riding A Golf Cart
While there aren’t any golf courses on Caye Caulker, you’ll see golf carts all over the island. These carts are the islanders’ main mode of transport – there are no cars or scooters on Caye Caulker; just picture how clean the air is without any pollution.
10. Mingle with the Locals
Belizeans are one of the friendliest buncha people around – they ain’t called the Caribbean for nothing. They love making jokes, chatting anyone up on the streets and just having a good time. We had dinner with our boat man, he told us stories about Caye Caulker and how it was lk growing up here. Like they say, the best way to know a country is through its people.
Sometimes life really is a beach, especially on Belize. It’s hard to believe what Caye Caulker does to you. It turns you into a hippie! No war, only positivity and goodness in your mind. Oh, a joint or two does the trick too. I’m going back there someday – with my reggae music, a dreadlocks wig and a fake Caribbean accent. Wanna join me?
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