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If you don't want to pay a lot for your place in the sun, Tobacco Caye may be for you. It's a tiny island—barely 4 acres, and a walk around the entire caye takes 10 minutes—but it's right on the reef, so you can wade in and snorkel all you want. Though the snorkeling off the caye is not as good as in some other areas of Belize (some of the coral is dead and most of the fish are small), you can see spotted eagle rays, moray eels, octopuses, and other sea life. All the accommodations—Tobacco Caye Lodge, Reef's End, Lana's on the Reef, Tobacco Caye Paradise, and Gaviota Coral Reef Resort—are budget places, basically simple wood cabins, some not much larger than sheds. Since a half-dozen hotels vie for space, the islet seems even smaller than it is. Periodically the hotels get blown away by storms but are rebuilt, usually a little better than they were before. Unfortunately, garbage tends to pile up on the island, and the hotels on the island don't always use the most ecologically sound methods of disposing of it.
Though some places are increasing rates, most prices remain affordably low, around BZ$80–BZ$145 a day per person, including meals. In 2007, several hotels on the island, including Tobacco Caye Lodge and Reef's End, began charging on the European Plan (EP), with meals extra. This—surprise!—generally had the effect of increasing total rates.
Hotels can be casual about reservations. After making reservations months in advance, you may arrive to find that your reservation has been lost and the hotel is fully occupied. Fortunately, it's usually easy to find a room in another hotel. Lana's on the Reef, Gaviota Coral Reef Resort, and Tobacco Caye Paradise are the cheapest hotels, with rates starting around BZ$70 per person, including meals, but with tiny rooms and shared baths. The island has no shops, or restaurants, except those at the hotels, and just a couple of bars, but there is one dive shop. Boats leave from the Riverside Café in Dangriga for the 30-minute, BZ$35 trip to Tobacco Caye. Get to the Riverside by 9 am; most boats leave around 9:30 (though at busy times such as Easter they come and go all day long). You can get information on the boats, as well as breakfast, at the Riverside Café.
Tobacco Caye is at the northern tip of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, a 62-square-mi (160-square-km) reserve that's popular for diving and fishing and has some of the most beautiful islands in Belize. Visitors to the South Water Caye Marine Reserve pay BZ$10 a day, for up to three days, or BZ$30 a week, park fee. Rangers come around and collect it from guests at the Tobacco Caye hotels.
Tobacco Caye at a Glance
Elsewhere in The Cayes and Atolls
- Ambergris Caye and San Pedro
- Caye Caulker
- Glover's Reef Atoll
- Lighthouse Reef Atoll, the Blue Hole, and Half Moon Caye
- Southern Cayes Off Placencia and Southern Coast
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