Are you looking for a vacation destination where you can live in your bathing suit and flip-flops, with no cars or trucks allowed? Have you ever seen signs posted that say, ‘No shirt, No shoes, No problem’? Caye Caulker, Belize, is that kind of place. In this two-part post, I’ll tell you why you should visit Belize and other sites in the area.
Visit Caye Caulker, Belize
This limestone coral island is just off of mainland Belize in the Caribbean Sea. A forty-five-minute boat ride from Belize City, my first impression of the village was that it was built with a fluorescent-colored Lego set. The turquoise water, white sand, and swaying palm trees announced that I’d arrived in paradise.
Because the island is five miles long and about a half-mile wide, you can actually see one side from the other. Golf carts and bicycles are for rent, but you can easily cover the inhabited part of the island barefoot or in flip-flops. The island has a small airport for those who wish to fly. Caye Caulker is laid back and the perfect place to veg, but there are lots of things to see and do.
The main beach is called The Split, aptly named after a hurricane ripped through the island, severing it in two. The Lazy Lizard Beach Bar is the place to see and be seen at the Split. They offer cold drinks, good food, picnic tables right in the water, and a great view from the upper deck. Gazing out to sea, you’ll discover shades of blue that defy description.
Accommodations on Caye Caulker range from a simple one-room ocean-front bungalow on stilts to upscale condos with amazing sea views and amenities like pools and beachfront bars. Short and long-term rentals can be found through VRBO and Airbnb. There are some places where you can step off your porch and into the ocean.
With the exception of coconuts and some tropical fruit, food has to be imported onto the island. Fortunately, there is no reason to go hungry with everything from pizza and burgers to pasta and steak. It’s a seafood haven, and lobster is abundant (when in season). We found lobster at beachside barbeques and restaurants, grilled, baked, or put into things, like fritters and salads. Our favorite was the lobster nachos.
The ocean side of Caye Caulker is protected by a barrier reef. It is a diving and snorkeling mecca, and, according to some, is only second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The half-day snorkel trip was our best underwater experience ever, bar none. We saw giant sea turtles and stingrays, all sorts of colorful fish, and even got to pet an eight-foot nurse shark. There are a handful of dive shops in the village, offering snorkeling, diving, and fishing packages.
Pops’ Fishing Charter
Belize was the first big trip that Cathryn and I took together so I wanted to do something special. I booked a fishing charter with a local guy named Pops. Not the one-eyed peg-legged pirate we expected, the handsome young man offered an afternoon of fishing, quickly followed by a trip to his family island, where he prepared us dinner. Cathryn landed two barracuda. While Pops hoped to add lobster to the menu, his traps didn’t offer any of appropriate size.
Pops’ island was nothing more than a sand spit two miles off-shore, with a coconut tree in the middle and mangroves at one end. Island security greeted us at the dock — five mixed-breed dogs who were all happy to see Pops, and quickly warmed to us. They lived on the island, keeping an eye on things when dad wasn’t around.
We made quick work of exploring the island, which was less than the length of a football field and barely wide enough to support a game of horseshoes. The only buildings were a bunkhouse, work shack, and an outdoor kitchen, powered by a homemade solar and wind system. Taking it all in, I had to wonder if my surprise to Cathryn was a good idea — I’d made arrangements with Pops to spend the night there by ourselves.
Fresh Catch for Dinner
Spike, the pit bull and head of security, stood guard on the end of the dock while our host cleaned our fresh catch. It was awesome and scary at the same time when a nurse shark showed up for the tasty scraps. What happened next is something I would never have believed if I didn’t see it for myself. Spike lunged from the pier onto the sharks back, sending it into a frenzy, splashing us with seawater. Pops laughed. Apparently, Spike didn’t like sharks.
Our host made us fresh salsa from scratch as an appetizer. While we snacked, he started a fire with coconut husks and filleted one fish and cut the other into steaks. He marinated one and fried the other. It was an amazing meal. Pops left us food for breakfast and said he’d be back by noon the next day. With the nearest person and/or phone two miles away by water, I figured the only danger would be pirates or a freak storm.
I went to the outhouse after Pops disappeared on the horizon. It was typical of the old outdoor structures I’d used before, with one distinct difference. It was built on stilts in the water, and only accessible by walking a wooden plank. Flushing was taken care of by Mother Nature. When I stepped off the plank, I saw Cathryn wearing nothing but a smile. Moby was playing over Pops’ sound system.
Like Adam and Eve, we sat in our personal paradise watching the millions of stars in the Milky Way appear like twinkle lights on a giant black velvet canvas. It was the most amazing display I’ve ever witnessed. Our minds melded with the sounds of Pink Floyd, aided by a mixture of wacky tobacky that our host had left us. Life was contemplated, and in that moment, we were one with the universe.
We spent the night in the bunkhouse, with an ocean breeze blowing through the open windows. The puppy we named Blue curled up on the floor beside our bed. Spike took his job seriously, and slept on the top porch step, blocking entry to our door. He was one of a kind. When we went for a swim the next morning, he acted as shark patrol and swam in circles around us.
We spent a month on Caye Caulker, but traveled to Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize for cave tubing. We also visited Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal. Check out part two of our trip to Belize for the rest of our adventure.
If you want to read about any of my southeast Asian adventures take a look at the travel section of my website at www.edmondgagnon.com.