Go slow. That’s the motto on Caye Caulker, a small charming island off the coast of Belize. Indeed, once you pass a few days here, your pace will surely slow down. This palm fringed island is truly small, meaning it is only 5 miles long by not much wide with a population of just over 1000. It’s sand roads are only traversed by foot, bicycle or golf cart…and you can truly walk all over this island without much effort. Caye Caulker is intensely laid back and, while there is not a ton to do on this island, there is just enough. Laze in a hammock. Go for a swim at the Split. Kayak in the mangroves. Spend the day snorkeling or diving in the amazing surrounding reef. Sail into the sunset. Sip delicious rum while swinging on the roof of the I&I Reggae Bar until the wee hours. This island has a vibe all its own. It feels like an oversized sandbar surrounded by clear turquoise waters and permeated by warm ocean breezes mixed with reggae beats…where nothing short of relaxation feels quite right.
Some would say that Raggamuffin Tours is too well known to be considered a “gem.” But I would have to agree to disagree. Raggamuffin Tours offer great day and overnight tours. While both are awesome, I have to say that on a sweltering day where there seems to be no breeze blowing through Caye Caulker, there is no other snorkeling tour I’d rather be on…even if I don’t feel like snorkeling. The ability to lay back on deck and relax while sailing inside the reef offers a day of relaxation notches above many of the other tours (many which I have gone on and have enjoyed immensely) that go out on motor boats where you sit on the bench while you speed from spot to spot with little time to relax and enjoy the view…and breeze…in between.
Where to eat…
Havenly Sweetness. If she is out, you will not likely miss her. My first encounter with her was priceless. I was walking down the street with my new found friends, who I’ve now renamed Cora and Laurie, and she yells over to us, “You. Yes, you. You need to come over here. You won’t want to miss this.” And, oh boy, was she right. She bakes up cakes every morning and carts them around selling them by the slice or the pie. Chocolate coconut pie. Lemon merengue pie. Chocolate caramel cake. Carrot cake. Brownies. You name it. She makes it, and you’ll love it. I literally got cake from her daily for like 2 weeks, and if I missed a day, she noticed…and so did I!
One of my favorite places to grab breakfast on Caye Caulker is at Martinez’s. This man appears to be as old as time, but is absolutely adorable. He and his family serve up great local food just around the corner from Oceanside. For just a few dollars (USD), I could fill up on a breakfast burrito or eggs, beans and fryjacks. They also serve up a very tasty lunch. For $3-4, you can get yourself a heaping plate of stewed chicken, rice and beans or a burrito. If you are aiming to spend less than $10 per day on food, this stop is a must.
Across the street from Martinez, there is a lady who sells waffles and coffee in the morning. Hearty and tasty. Likely the cheapest breakfast I’ve found on Corker.
Reina’s is a great little place down on Middle Street closer to the I&I Reggae Bar. I have only eaten there for breakfast. But, I can say that they serve up a tasty basic egg sandwich for just a few bucks. They’ve obviously got a few other things on the menu…meat pies, pastries…and I’m sure they are just as tasty.
Mama Starr is a force. If you visit Caye Caulker, you need to keep an eye out for her. Where she is cooking, you wanna be. Last I knew, she was helping out at Wish Willie’s, but I have no idea what she is up to these days. She lives across from Sponge Bob, in the building where lives the wooden statue (below). You can usually catch her out in front braiding hair during the day, and she’s usually up to cook you up some chicken or fish for lunch. And, if your braids or dreads are looking nappy, she will not want to let you get out of her sight without cleaning you up….so be warned.
The Budget Man makes it on my list, because he serves up good food for a good price and delivers it with such great personality. This man sets up shop across from Oceanside during the lunch hours, and he has always got a few different mains to offer up with rice and plantains. If I remember correctly, he serves up a heaping plate for about USD7. Don’t wait until too late in the afternoon to stop by, as the food is gone when the food is gone….and it will be gone. Being of the habit to go looking for lunch at 2 or 3 when on vacation, I was burnt so many times trying to grab some eats from this man. Another great thing about the Budget Man is that he fancies himself a bit of a performer…and he is a real crowd pleaser at Oceanside’s karaoke night on Thursdays.
If you wander down Front Street, you’ll encounter the bright orange Julia’s Fruit Stand. While there is always an array of fresh fruit to be had, the real treat is the freshly squeezed fruit juice sold in large plastic water bottles. She always has a variety of juices available, but my favorite was the lime juice, minimal sugar added, but a really delicious thirst quencher on a steaming hot day. If you’ve got a few hammock mates, keep your own hammock side bar with a bottle or two of freshly squeezed OJ from Julia and a bottle of rum from the convenience store…makes for a great afternoon lounging around.
Fu-goh, back by the bank, is a little restaurant run by a European expat who is particularly interested in nutritious quality foods. She makes up great granola, salads, and a variety of other delicious foods. She is a great option for vegetarian eats or for anyone looking for a break from the typical Belizean fare.
Wish Willies, a spot a hop skip off of Front Street up near the Split. Maurice, the owner, offers up breakfast (lobster omelettes…whaaaat?!), lunch (if you’re lucky, he’s there and in the mood to fix it), and dinner at his digs, where you can pull up a chair to one of the many tables out in his yard and order up some delicious food for really decent prices. Dinner of a main with a rum drink goes for BD19, ie USD 9.50. I remember my first of many meals at Wish Willies, where I demolished the above shrimp stir-fry with my mouth watering and no time to spare. Maurice might be a bit rough around the edges, but I think that adds to the charm…and if you get to know him, it adds to the entertainment. Definitely worth a stop for any traveler passing through Caye Caulker.
The Split has got it all…a beach, a sea wall (for lazing), an upstairs deck, tables in the water, good drink, decent food, reggae music blaring from the radio…and amazing views of the sunset. It is a great place to hang out all day…until the sun sets and the hunger strikes. Check out their buckets of beer (Belikin Stout is like an amber and is a tasty cheap one!) and the lizard juice…their fluorescent green concoction that will hit you as quick and hard as a Long Island Iced Tea (beware).
I need to acknowledge that there are many other great places to eat on this island. Many people plug the bakery and Glenda’s, for instance. The above are simply my gems, the food, places and people that shaped my memories of Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker, Belize has been one of my favorite places I’ve visited. There will surely be more posts to come about this charming spot in the Caribbean Sea.