Why not read our Retirement Reviews.
I made my way from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye to Caye Caulker by water taxi.
I got the Ocean Paradise at a discounted rate of BZ$65 / night (US$32.50).
It was time to move on to Caye Caulker to compare the two islands …
SAN PEDRO TO CAYE CAULKER:
You can catch a water taxi from the Ocean Ferry Terminal. The ticket is BZ$19 one way (BZ$29 return).
ABOUT CAYE CAULKER:
The island measures about 8.0 km (north to south) by up to 1.6 km (east to west). A narrow waterway known as ‘the Split’ divides the island in two. You can walk around the southern island in less than 2 hours.
The island is basically a sand bar over a limestone shelf. Underwater caves are found in the limestone (which have claimed the lives of several SCUBA divers exploring them).
In front of the village, a shallow lagoon, between 6 inches (150 mm) and 14 feet (4.3 m) deep, meets the Belize Barrier Reef to the east. In front of the village, the reef is known as a dry reef with the reef exposed at the surface, while further north the reef is a deep reef and lies under 2 to 8 feet (0.61 to 2.44 m) of water.
In recent years the island has become a popular destination for backpackers; other tourists are starting to join them as the quality offered by the resorts improves. There are over 30 hotels, and a number of restaurants and shops.
The main supplier in Belize is BTL. For the widest coverage, I decided to go with them. I found the BTL shop in San Pedro and bought a new SIMcard (BZ$22.50 including BZ$10 call credit) and purchased their 1 month 1GB Data Plan.
Internet was widely available in the Caye Caulker Hotels and more upmarket restaurants / bars. But, not in the cheaper places.
I got a good BTL signal in Caye Caulker.
There aren’t any good beaches. Sure, there is sand underfoot as you enter the water but there is a lot of sea grass too … the best swimming is done off the ends of the piers.
I doubled back southward down the west coast. You can’t go far. There is a small area of beach here that’s about 100-200 metres south of the Lazy Lizard, but it quickly gives way to just piers out over the water amongst the trees.
The private homes are set in low-lying puddled land. I wondered how these properties got on with mosquitos.
I got a good view of the Village across the water, but the rest of the west coast heading north is swampland with more private housing. You cannot walk up the coast. I had to cut back inland and make my way home.
Most people are lazing around in their accommodation or sitting out on loungers at the end of the piers.
WHERE TO STAY:
I kept my eye on Caye Caulker hotel prices for several weeks. I waited for last minute ‘specials’ in any of them without success … the cheap options had been booked out weeks (if not months) in advance. I saw some of them online but did not book early enough.
I nearly pre-booked Sophie’s Guest Rooms a few weeks before but decided against it … I didn’t know my exact dates at the time. Sophie’s offered me a Double Room for US$30 / night for 14 nights but 4 of those nights required me to upgrade to a US$40 room. I am glad that I didn’t book it. Sophie’s is on the north west side of the island, I didn’t like its location and the place looked run down.
In Caye Caulker, most (if not all) of the budget accommodation is in the Village. GRANDPAckers should look for accommodation north of the airstrip between the Tropical Paradise (south) and the Lazy Lizard (north).
Accommodation-wise, below is typical of what you find … this is still Shoulder Season (mid November) … the rains have (literally) only just stopped …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You, usually, have to add 9-12.5% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AIRBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
What had been available on AirBnB a few weeks before was already booked.
Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required). BUT, the displayed price may be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, in Mexico they are definitely worth a look. I am, yet, to discover how they compare in Belize.
As you can see, there are almost no accommodation options available to GRANDPAckers who only have a budget of US$55 / day.
There are a very few places not listed on the internet search engines; but, I walked past a few and none of them look any good. Judging from their exteriors, they are unlikely to meet GRANDPAcking Standards.
The usual Hotel Search Engines tend to list the same hotels and tend to compete very little on price … but, now and again, one may ‘stick its head up’ and offer a ‘member only special deal’ … the Axios Sun Apartments (above) is a perfect example.
However, I wouldn’t bank on big discounts though … Caye Caulker is very popular and gets full quickly.
Vacation Rentals are usually a good way to go … but you are not going to find one that you can afford on Caye Caulker.
I booked 4 days before my arrival.
I used BOOKING.COM to book 3 nights in the Axios Sun Apartments. I booked a 1 bedroom apartment at US$40 / night. I missed out on the 45% discount (above) because I booked too late. I actually booked it for US$32 / night but 9% tax was added to that PLUS a ‘hidden’ US$15 / stay cleaning fee.
My apartment was small but comfortable and functional.
The ensuite was a good size with plenty of hot water (albeit on a low water pressure).
Have a look yourself:
You can walk around the island on foot.
Eating out in Caye Caulker is cheaper than it is in San Pedro. But, still expensive compared to other GRANDPAcking destinations.
STREET FOOD / FAST FOOD:
As usual for these types of places, the cheap food can be found in the back streets.
You can find something like a Cheese Fryjack for BZ$1.50; BZ$5 for fancier fillings (e.g. Ham, Egg, and Cheese).
Another cheap place is Chan’s Takeout where you can get meals from BZ$8 to BZ$15.
A typical ‘lower quartile’ meal in a budget restaurant will set you back BZ$15-20. Add another BZ$5 to that if you want to eat on the beachfront. The average price of a main meal on a menu is about BZ$25-30.
If you budget BZ$10 average per meal, you will be eating as cheaply as possible; any less than that, you will not be getting a balanced diet. Even at BZ$10, that would be debatable.
The standard price for a small, 300ml local beer is BZ$5. Everywhere. Cocktails are BZ$10-15.
You will find some places that do Happy Hour. Most end at 6:00pm. Some at 7:00pm. Most Happy Hours do not include beer and usually only cover drinks made from ‘local’ spirits.
There are a few exceptions:
Some places do a Bucket of 5 beers for BZ$20. Less ‘atmospheric’ places do 6 for BZ$20. Some of these are on the waterfront.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe here. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
You don’t get the ‘smart’ comments from the young guys like you do in San Pedro. Which is nice. It makes Caye Caulker seem a lot more relaxed and friendly.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
SCUBA and snorkel.
There are, basically, only about 4 bars that attract the crowds: the Lazy Lizard, the Sports Bar and the Reggae Bar being 3 of them.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There is a Dual Currency system operating in Belize where US$s and BZ$s are interchangeable at an exchange rate of US$1 = BZ$2.
But, because the exchange rate is slightly better than that (in favour of the US$), you will find that you only get small US$ notes back … the locals keep all of the bigger notes.
There is one Bank with an ATM; it doesn’t always work and it runs out of money now and again … so get to it before your money runs out.
There are 2 other ATMs found in upmarket hotels … but I didn’t locate which.
The cost of goods on the Cayes is more expensive than back on the mainland.
There are several Supermarkets around the Village; they are all owned by the same Chinese family who, pretty much, have a monopoly.
Typical Shop Prices:
- 6 small beers: BZ$15 (including bottle deposit)
- 4L bottle of water: BZ$4
The best way to get your water is to buy a 5 Gallon container. You can see them everywhere. This costs BZ$5 plus BZ$15 deposit on the container (which is refunded when you return it).
WHEN TO GO:
The rainy season is June through October.
I arrived late November (2016) … the rains had stopped a couple of weeks before my arrival.
The high season is December through June as these are the months with the most temperate and driest weather.
High Season prices generally ‘kick in’ on 1st December; some earlier. The place starts filling up from Thanksgiving onwards. Christmas, New Year, March and April are particularly busy (and expensive).
GRANDPAckers have very few ‘windows of opportunity’ to come to Caye Caulker. The best time for GRANDPAckers to come is early November; the same as Ambergris Caye. This means that you will miss the rains but still be able to negotiate a good price on accommodation before it becomes impossible to do so.
Early November hotels are eager to start filling up as Peak Season becomes imminent. Deals can be found. All GRANDPAcking standard accommodation is listed on the internet … there are no ‘hidden gems’ to be found walking the streets.
HINT: Get on to internet Hotel Search Engines at least 2 months before your planned arrival date. Plan to arrive in the first half of November. Monitor those sites regularly. Wait until someone offers a ‘deep discount’. Book 2 nights. Once here, go to all of the hotels offering big discounts. Offer them BZ$60 / night, cash up front, for your longer term 28 day stay. One of them will take it.
My next destination is Hopkins.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
I don’t understand why the Caye Islands get such good reviews from people. I can only assume that the people that have written those reviews haven’t travelled much.
I have travelled a lot … it is what I do. For me, Caye Caulker (and San Pedro), is over-priced for what it offers … the beaches are average at best.
There are much better places to go that offer the same (if not better) at half the price. I list them in my San Pedro post.
As for the rest of Belize?