Hi friends!! As I’m sure you all know, I just recently got back from a nine day vacation in Caye Caulker, Belize and I wanted to recap my trip and share some helpful tips on what to pack, what to expect, and how to save some money. Our trip was absolutely wonderful and I couldn’t have asked for a better trip (minus the sunburn of course, haha, but that wasn’t our fault and I found a way to keep that from happening in the future). So let’s talk about this Belize Travel Guide!
Belize Travel Guide: The Island
By the way, Caye Caulker is pronounced “Key Caulker”. It is a fairly small island and all of the locals speak a form of Creole English. Caye Caulker used to be a larger island but was split in half in 1961 by a hurricane so now there is a North island and a South island separated by a very small channel called “The Split”. The South island is the fun island, in my opinion. There are a few big resorts on the North island, but really nothing else besides that, and I would much rather go on vacation to explore and spend my time NOT in the hotel room so I prefer the fun, adventurous island.
There are no paved roads in Caye Caulker, only packed sand/dirt and there are no cars; maybe a few work trucks here and there but everyone gets around by walking, bicycles, or golf carts. All of the locals are super friendly and helpful. You will walk down the street and every local that passes you will say “hey buddy”.
Belize and Caye Caulker are third world countries so almost all of the locals live in poverty. There is also a very delicate sewage system on the island so you cannot flush toilet paper in the toilet and hot water is a HUGE luxury there. But it’s also pretty warm during the day so you don’t really need hot water if you shower during the day. After my first “cold” shower, I was completely used to it and didn’t mind it at all. A/C is also a huge luxury. Most restaurants are outside on patios and if you do pay extra for A/C (yes you have to pay extra) you can’t leave it on all day, you have to turn it off if you are leaving the room for over an hour. But at night, the temperature drops low enough that you don’t need A/C if you just open a window. We honestly didn’t need A/C because it got so cold at night.
Belize Travel Guide: The Hostel
So I’ve never stayed at a hostel before. And honestly, before I met my boyfriend, I had no intention whatsoever to stay in one. BUT!! I think hostels have a really bad reputation with us Americans because we think of that scary movie… But let me just say, that the hostel was absolutely AMAZING!! I actually think that I would prefer to stay in hostels now as opposed to a hotel room.
First of all, everyone else staying in the hostel is in their 20s-30s so it’s all young people close to your age who like the same things, have the same schedule, etc. It’s like staying in a college dorm. No screaming babies or old people yelling to turn your music down. We actually had a beer pong tournament one night in the hostel with just about everyone staying in the hostel. There’s a full kitchen in most hostels, so if you don’t want to go out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day, then you can easily make food in the kitchen and save a sh*t ton of money! That’s what we ended up doing. We only ate one meal out per day and made our other meals in the hostel and we ended up saving a lot of money.
So for those of you who don’t know what a hostel is, it’s basically like a dorm room for people travelling. There are rooms with bunk beds for solo-travelers or groups of friends and you rent the bed, not the room. They’re usually under $20. The ones at the hostel we stayed at were only $12 a night. Can you imagine going on vacation and staying somewhere with your friends for only $12 a night?! You can also get a private room if you are traveling as a couple or if you really want your privacy, but those will be a little more. Our private room was $31 per night (in Belize money so only $15 USD).
The hostel also has a community bathroom, even if you have a private room. But they clean the bathrooms like 2-3 times each day so it’s not gross. You can get a private suite that comes with a private bathroom but that’s going to be about the cost of just getting a hotel room. We also had the option to pay extra for A/C but the temperature dropped so much at night that we didn’t need it so we saved that money also.
I absolutely LOVED the hostel. Everyone was so nice and we met so many awesome people literally from all over the world: Australia, Germany, Ireland, UK, South Africa, France, Canada. It was so cool making friends with all of these people that I otherwise would not have met if I hadn’t been staying in the hostel. And everyone staying there all had the same motives to be there (to travel and have a good time) so there were no creepers or thieves or anything, just a bunch of young people trying to live their best life.
There were also two puppies living at the hostel and they were oh so very cute and playful. You can also rent the bikes and kayaks.
Belize Travel Guide: The Private Hut
Wednesday morning we packed up and moved our stuff to the Barefoot Beach Huts. This room came with A/C included plus hot water! The hut also came with two bikes so we got to ride around on bikes every day, which was a lot of fun, plus it saved us from a lot of walking or having to spend money on renting bikes.
The room was very minimalist. The owner described it as the “backpackers” room, which was perfect for us. We didn’t come on vacation to spend all of our time in the hotel room. We came to spend all of our time outside, so the minimalist aspect was perfect. There were other suites, houses, and larger huts that were available but, of course, they cost more money and we were just looking to get away on vacation for as affordably as possible.
In addition to the complimentary bikes, there was a private beach area just for the Barefoot Beach Huts residents that came with a lot of lounging/tanning chairs plus a covered hammock area on the dock. You could also jump right off the dock into a really cool snorkeling area with about a million fish. There were also two or three cats living at the property (someone’s pets) so we would be chilling out on the lounge chairs reading and a kitty would come up to use and hop up on our chair and lay with us. It was freakin’ adorable.
Belize Travel Guide: The Food
The food was pretty delicious. There isn’t really a huge variety of different kinds of food because it is a small island, but what they did have was great. Lots of chicken, lots of fish, lots of rice. We were most excited about the lobster, but lobsters are out-of-season from February to June so we just missed it. But the chicken stew at Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen, the Creamy Cajun Shrimp and Chicken Alfredo at Food Republic, and the jerk chicken skewers from Kareem’s were my absolute favorites.
On the main road (dirt path) there are a few different guys posted up with grills and tents grilling up chicken, fish, pork, crab legs, etc. and those are where you want to be. It might look sketch, but trust me, that is the best food! Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen, Nora’s, Food Republic, Paradiso Cafe, and Namaste Cafe were also top on my list of where to eat.
Namaste Cafe was my little slice of heaven on the island. Like if you were to just take the Namaste Cafe in Belize and move it to Houston, Texas, I would be there every day. The vibe of the cafe was incredible. The breakfast was phenomenal. The coffee was fantastic. And the yoga was superb. I would ride my bike there in the morning, get some coffee, a bagel, fresh orange juice, and fresh fruit and sit and read my book with the island breeze hitting me and then at 10am I would go upstairs and do some yoga. Like if that’s not my ideal life, then I don’t know what is. The yoga is also donation based and open to everyone on the island. I even saw locals taking the class. It was awesome. If you’re ever in Caye Caulker, Belize, you have to go to Namaste Cafe!
Belize Travel Guide: The Activities
So, Caye Caulker doesn’t really have beaches. Like the sand meets the water type of beach. You pretty much have to jump off of the dock or pier to get into the water. But that was fine with me. The island is above the water so there are mostly cement ledges everywhere that you can tan on or jump off of into the water.
The Split / The Lazy Lizard has a lot of sand and a volleyball net, a bar, lots of tables and chairs and those tanning “lay-out” chairs. Plus a platform to climb up and jump off and there are stairs that lead down into the water where there is a table and bar stools partially submerged to hang out on. If you don’t want to jump into the water you can use the stairs but the water is really cold so I would suggest jumping 😉
Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world and it is very well protected and preserved so snorkeling is a HUGE activity here. Every time you get into the water there is something cool to see: starfish everywhere, needlefish, bright blue, purple, green, yellow fish, puffer fish, spotted leopard rays, coral, (friendly) barracudas, and so much more. And I’m just talking about at The Split or right off the island.
If you go on a snorkeling tip, which I highly recommend, you will swim with manatees, dolphins, turtles, sharks, octopus, eels, seahorses, puffer fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, grouper the size of a tire, stingrays, manta rays, whiprays, and so many other types of fish that I can’t name. We saw a shipwreck and the most amazing coral. It was like watching a YouTube video of coral but like, it was our own eyes and we were right there. Insane. We did the Salt Life Eco Tours: Hol Chan Bucket List Tour, which was so amazing. Definitely go to them. They are very eco-friendly and try to preserve the reef and the sea life as best as they can and will teach you how to preserve it as well.
Side note, you can help preserve the reefs and sea life by shopping at Sand Cloud. They have amazing towels (I have two myself), reusable water bottles (I have two), reusable straws (I have three), leggings made out of recycled material (I have two pairs), lots of cute tops, and a lot of other eco-friendly products and 10% of your purchase will go towards marine life conservation!! Use code “LOCKARDKELSIE182” for 20% off. #SaveTheFishies
The island itself is amazing also. One of my favorite activities that we did was renting the bicycles from the hostel and riding around the entire island for the day. We saw some amazing houses, more iguanas than I can count, we found the airstrip at the southern tip of the island and watched the little plane take off, lots of shells, crabs, massive conch shells, cool architecture, and so much more.
There are also airplane tours that will take you over the Blue Hole and sunset cruises, kayaking, paddle boarding, party boats, sailing, kite sailing lessons, spear fishing, etc. There’s literally so much to do on the island and everything is in Belizean dollars so it’s very affordable.
Belize Travel Guide: The Animals
Oh my gosh, the animals were almost my favorite part of the island. There are animals everywhere! And not just all of the water animals I talked about earlier but all over the island there are cats and dogs just hanging out and being super cute and friendly. I was talking to a lady that owned a shop and she was telling us how a while back, all of the animals on the island were poisoned and killed and ever since, the people of the island have been bringing cats and dogs onto the island and protecting them. I swear, the animals run this island and the people come second. Like the dogs and cats will literally lay down in the middle of the street (dirt path) and the people on golf carts will stop and go around them super slowly so as not to disturb the sleeping dog or cat in the road.
It is the cutest thing ever. Caye Caulker also has a no-kill shelter (Caye Caulker Animal Shelter Belize) and you can stop by and pet the animals and volunteer to help out or even adopt them and take them home with you. They are all super friendly and cute. It took everything in Bryan and me not to bring one of them back to America with us, haha! The same lady was telling us how all of the animals on the streets are actually peoples’ pets and they bring their dogs to work with them and they (the dogs) just wander around the island and meet everyone and hang out with people.
I bought a t-shirt from the lady telling us all of this and all of the proceeds went to the Caye Caulker Humane Society. If you want to donate also, you can do so here!
Belize Travel Guide: Helpful Tips
Tip # 1 – If you have to take a cold or lukewarm shower, which you most likely will, it is a lot more bearable to take the shower RIGHT after you get back from being outside. Don’t take a cold shower in the morning and don’t take it at night after you have been inside for a while. When you get home from being outside in the sun all day, it will feel a lot nicer to take a cold shower. Believe me!
Tip # 2 – Bring swim shirts and leggings if you don’t want to fry while snorkelling. Bryan and I made this mistake and the whole backsides of our bodies were burnt to a crisp. So the first thing we did when we got home was buy swim shirts for our next trip.
Tip # 3 – USE ECO FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN!! Sunscreen kills the reef and coral so when you put that on and go snorkeling, you are helping to kill the reef… Bummer! That’s why we got so sun burned on our snorkeling trip day because the Salt Life Eco Tours informed us that regular sunscreen kills the reef!! So of course we didn’t use it. I’m not a reef and animal killer… You can get eco-friendly or reef-friendly sunscreen for the same price as regular sunscreen. I just got this kind off of Amazon for only $17. Blue Lizard is also a great brand that is a little more affordable. This wouldn’t be a typical Kelsie-style Belize Travel Guide without me mentioning how to save the animals and environment… #SaveTheFishies!!!
Tip # 4 – Bring a travel backpack instead of a rolling suitcase. I had to learn this the hard way. Like I said, there are no paved roads in Caye Caulker, so I was trying to roll my suitcase through the sandy, dirt roads and it was a nightmare. So another thing I bought immediately when I got back from the trip was this travel backpack. This thing actually fits more than my suitcase does anyways so I won’t have to bring as many extra bags next time I go on vacation (hopefully). Everyone else on the island was using a travel backpack and no rolling suitcases, except for me, so save yourself some trouble and embarrassment and get the travel backpack, haha!
Tip # 5 – Bring a smaller, regular size backpack to carry during the day. Especially if you are using a bicycle to get around, it is much easier to put the backpack on your back than to try to balance a purse. Plus when you have the backpack, your hands/arms are free to move about and explore everything. Bryan and I ended up putting all of our stuff into my backpack and I would carry it around the island all day and it was perfect. It fit both of our massive books, sunscreen, towels, phone, wallet, sunglasses, food, etc. and it wasn’t overly bulky. Plus, this one is water resistant so my stuff inside stayed dry. And it folds up into the little pocket inside so it’s easy to store in your luggage (travel backpack!!).
Tip # 6 – Bring a lock. I brought a lock to put on my suitcase but I ended up putting it on the nightstand drawer in both the hostel and the private hut. We kept our passports, wallets, prescriptions, bluetooth speaker, GoPRO, chargers, and Bryan’s phone in there while we were out all day. I don’t think anyone would have stolen them, but it just gave us peace of mind knowing it was locked up.
Tip # 7 – Bring a big book. We did A LOT of reading while we were there. Mostly because we got really sunburned and had to hide from the sun, but also we would read while laying out, sitting on the porch at the hostel, laying in the hammocks on the dock, or just in the room if we were exhausted. It was very peaceful and I’m glad I brought a big book or else I would have finished it within the first few days.
Belize Travel Guide: How to Save Money
#1 – Stay in a hostel instead of a hotel or resort. The Go Slow Hostel was awesome and we met so many cool people. We had a private room to ourselves, wifi, and A/C was available but we didn’t need it. You can also get the suite with a private bathroom but we didn’t really care to spend that extra money.
#2 – Stay somewhere with a kitchen available. At the hostel, we had a fully equipped kitchen so we made a lot of meals at the hostel from stuff we bought from the store and it was about $4 USD for one meal that we made at the hostel instead of going out to eat and spending $30+ USD each meal. Plus it was a lot of fun to make Belizean food ourselves in a real kitchen. It felt very homey.
#3 – Buy snorkel gear before going on the trip. Trust me, you will want to bring your own snorkel gear so you won’t have to rent it on the island or have to buy it there where they are more expensive. Bryan already had his own snorkel gear and I borrowed his mom’s snorkel gear. But I am planning on buying some of my own so I’ll always have it.
#4 – Bring food in your luggage (travel backpack). I brought protein bars and poptarts in my suitcase and we had that for breakfast most days or if we were feeling snacky and it saved us so much money.
So that’s it for my Belize Travel Guide! We had so much fun on this trip and it was the perfect vacation for us and our budget. We got to adventure and relax and just enjoy being outside and stress-free. We didn’t make an itinerary and we played everything by ear so we literally had zero worries and zero stress. The motto on the island is “go slow” and that is EXACTLY what we did all nine days we were there. And it was perfect 🙂
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Where will your next vacation destination be?!