If you look up “relaxing tropical island vacation” in the dictionary, it’s just a picture of Caye Caulker (Caye is pronounced “Key,” FYI). If you want to sip rum drinks, relax in a hammock, soak up the sun, or drift around in some teal blue water, look no further. Caye Caulker was so wonderful I would’ve personally skipped San Pedro altogether for the relaxed, laid back vibe of Caulker.
The only drawbacks are the water taxi ride there, and that fact that you’re slightly less in civilization, but that’s not something you should be super attached to if you’re going to Belize in the first place. It’s not like Mexico where you can still hit up McDonald’s or Starbucks. This only proved inconvenient when I came down with bronchitis (which should tell you how much I loved Caye Caulker that I still enjoyed it while I had bronchitis).
Once you fly into Belize City, you take a water taxi to Caye Caulker. It’s about a 45-minute ride, and while I did have bronchitis while doing it, I think it would’ve been unpleasant even under the best of circumstances. The water taxi between Ambergris Caye (where San Pedro is) and Caye Caulker was much larger and airy. Our water taxi from Caye Caulker back to Belize City was smaller and PACKED, but perhaps they shove less people in when you’re going the other direction?
When you get dropped off from the water taxi, you’ll be bombarded with taxi offers, but Caye Caulker is pretty small (everything’s within a mile or so of the water taxi dock) so you can easily walk to wherever you’re staying. There aren’t really many cars, and you don’t have the same level of golf cart traffic as in San Pedro, so it’s very pedestrian and bike-friendly. Once I came down with bronchitis we did get a taxi (actually a golf cart) back to the water taxi station, but we ordered it through our lodging.
Where to Stay
Colinda Cabanas was THE SPOT. It’s a little farther away from “downtown” Caye Caulker, but since they provide bikes it doesn’t matter. The cabanas are super cute, you feel like you’re in a tropical jungle paradise, and the service was fantastic.
We did splurge our first few nights on a Beach Front lower suite, which was honestly amazing, but we didn’t really *need* the full kitchen. We never used it. But the beach front deck was the perfect way to start our morning. The splurge was about the price of your average Hampton Inn.
We stayed in a Stand Alone Raised Budget Cabana for the second half of our stay, which was more of a studio apartment with a bathroom, but still really nice. Both had air conditioning (#blessed), private balconies, and hammocks. So how did we spend our time there? Read on:
Bike down to Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks for breakfast to get a taste of a local staple. Fry jacks are basically fried bread, so it’s hard to go wrong. Most importantly, immediately next door is a fruit stand that makes fresh smoothies every morning with any combination of fruit you want. I had one every morning and was never disappointed. They were cheaper and tastier than the smoothie places on the main drag, plus it was an easy way to kill time while waiting for your order to come up at Errolyn’s.
We headed back to our room to eat since it was pretty effing hot and humid even early in the morning. After you’ve got a full belly of fry jacks and smoothie, lather up and put your swimsuit on for a day at the Lazy Lizard. It’s on one side of “The Split,” which is a literal split in the island of Caye Caulker.
Make sure to try their signature lizard drink. It’s some lime green blended concoction that’s delicious and makes you feel very much on vacation. A pastry guy will make the rounds on his bike at least once. His snacks are a steal (bring cash) and delicious so stock up, particularly on the banana bread (it goes fast!). The Lazy Lizard also has its own kitchen you can order from.
We rotated for several hours between the bar, beach chairs, and floating in the clear blue water (or sitting at the bar in the water…Belize thinks of everything!). I thought Lazy Lizard would be much more belligerent than it actually was, so don’t be intimidated if, like me, you aren’t trying to get down with the frat boys.
I know it seems very “basic white girl” but I did get my hair braided. Honestly, I was so sweaty and it was so humid outside that I got tired of dealing with my hair, even in a bun. In retrospect, I would’ve showered before getting my hair done, but we were biking back from the Lizard and I couldn’t wait any longer.
Getting your hair braided will make you realize how much pain black women go through getting their hair done, but also why cornrows are really great. I just got two french braids, but since my hair is so thin, the braids were about as thick as cornrows. At first I thought I looked ridiculous, but then I didn’t care because my hair was FINALLY out of my face, and then I started to really like them. Plus I looked like I had a sweet perm when I finally took them out at the end of the trip.
After showers and ample time in the air conditioning, we lounged around in the hammocks on the end of the dock at Colinda and read. Top off your first day by going to Chef Juan’s for a laid back dinner. His food is fantastic, but his wife’s key lime pie is the real star of the show. It WILL run out so don’t miss it.
If you want a more traditional breakfast instead of fry jacks, try out Amor Y Cafe for a yummy start to the day (and coffee if you need it). Ice N Beans, as you may have guessed from the name, has yummy iced and blended coffee options too.
While at Lazy Lizard, you may have seen another beach establishment called Koko King. It’s the GREATEST. Take the water taxi from Lazy Lizard (the lack of competition concerns in Belize really blows me away) to Koko King in the morning and park it on the beach chairs for the day. You can also float around in an inner tube (highly recommended) or hang out on the swings (very good Insta opportunity) to get some shade.
Koko King was a little quieter than Lazy Lizard and had much more water access, but keep in mind the food service is slow and you’re stuck on the side of The Split without civilization (it’s just you and Koko King). So maybe just plan ahead a little further than I did (the classic waiting until “I’M STARVING AND HANGRY AND NEED FOOD NOW”).
We came back in time to shower and sleep off the sun exposure before dinner. I was feeling like having a nicer evening and some pizza, so we went to Il Pellicano Cucina Italiana, which was wonderful. They had really good live music and an overall nice, romantic ambiance. It was full of fellow gringos, though, if that’s something you’re not into. For a little more local touch, try Reina’s.
If you haven’t already gone to San Pedro and snorkeled, do it from Caye Caulker! You’d be insane not to go snorkeling while you’re in Belize, and I’ve already written a whole guide for that. Going snorkeling at Hol Chan Marine Reserve is hands down one of the coolest things I’ve EVER done. We went while we were in San Pedro, but our Airbnb host there (who was a pro diver) also recommended Anwar Tours for Caye Caulker trips. Book the morning snorkel trip to get the best chance at nice weather!
At this point, I was in the throes of full-blown bronchitis, so we mostly just napped. If I’d been feeling better, I would’ve gone snorkeling again and spent the afternoon at Koko King. Billy did coax me into leaving our cabana to get some lunch, and his choice of Chef Kareem’s didn’t disappoint.
This place may look suspect since it’s just a guy and his family in a tent cooking up some jerk chicken, but it’s SO GOOD. The BBQ was delicious, Kareem and his family are a delight, and one of his relatives will literally cut a coconut off a tree for you (it’s not free, just insanely fresh and delicious). Make sure to get a good photo op in at the Caye Caulker sign across the street.
One last note: Caye Caulker sunsets are beautiful, but you don’t need to go to Maggie’s Sunset Cafe to experience them. Their service is meh and the view of the sunset is actually quite narrow, so even if you get a table on the dock, you’ve got a bunch of people clamoring around you to get a view and a picture. My advice? Grab a Beliken at the Lazy Lizard and enjoy panoramic views from the sea wall. It’s the perfect way to cap off your trip.
Caye Caulker is everything I could’ve wanted in a tropical island vacation. I’d go back in a heartbeat, and still regularly dream about Chef Juan’s wife’s key lime pie. If you want a laidback trip on island time, spend some time in Caye Caulker. I guarantee you’ll be hooked!