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Trip Report Diving, Fishing, Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

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I spent a great week in Caye Caulker – if you love to dive, snorkel, kayak, and fish, this is an incredibly beautiful (and affordable) way to do it without a single fast food chain, car, or cruise ship in sight. I was told the bugs were particularly bad during my visit as it had just rained and the wind also died completely for a couple of nights – I always had 80% Deet and baby oil on in the evenings to ward off no see ums and mosquitoes. This worked reasonably well and I came home with around 4 bites…. Not too bad although I had to shower every night to get all that goop off me.

I took Tropic Air to get here ($120 r/t with cash discount) although many people opt to cab from BZE to the port and ferry over. The golfcart cab from the CC airstrip to anywhere on the island is $2.50. It’s basically $2.50 to get anywhere all the time although I only used cabs to/from airport.

Accommodations: The most expensive places top out at around $150/night in the high season. (Caye Caulker Condos, cayereef, etc). I stayed in a small courtyard room at Sea Dreams which was a very comfortable place at $75/night (low season) – excellent A/C, beautiful rooftop decks with hammocks and plenty of tables and chairs. Breakfast was included (fresh baked goods, fresh fruit, OJ, good, strong coffee) as well as filtered water (refill your bottles in their office) and free bikes. They have a couple of complementary bottles of water and soda waiting for you in your fridge which was convenient. Bed was comfortable with very nice, soft sheets – I got a great night sleep here. Relatively spacious bathroom and cleanly tiled. The rooms are a bit small and dark and if I were a couple, I would have rented the cabana which looked great with its own huge shaded deck and hammocks. There are some cheaper places down the street that I’m going to try next time but I have a feeling I might really miss Sea Dreams and its many comforts. Things like bike rentals are expensive at around $50 USD/week – cheapest I saw were at Get Hooked Up ($40/week) – so I need to figure in these costs before deciding whether a cheaper place is really that much cheaper.

Diving: There are 3-4 major operations, including Frenchies, Belize Diving Services. They all have big boats and take out large groups of more than 10 people although they told me they are dropped off at different locations. (this doesn’t make complete sense to me as they can’t be spaced too far apart if the same boat needs to be there to pick everyone up). I lucked out by accidently stumbling onto Scuba Sensation, a small and well-equipped, locally owned outfit that takes out a max of 6 divers at a time. When I dove, I was with one other woman and we had 2 divemasters on board. The boat was new and offered plenty of shade, and the owner was incredibly professional and friendly.

I sometimes shy away from small places because I want to make sure I have access to good equipment but I ended up with a very nice BCD that fit me perfectly. I preferred the owner, Bert, as my divemaster (he had a younger DM on board too). Bert had a great eye for sealife, very professional, and really soothing. I was a little anxious about diving alone for the first time and he did a great job of relaxing me so that I had one of the best dives in memory. $85 for a 2 tank. For the surface interval, they took us to a reef for snorkeling – bring your own snacks and drinks. They had bananas and water for us. I’m definitely diving with these guys when I return.

Fishing: Incredible fishing whether from shore (tarpon, permit, snapper), from kayaks (jacks, snapper, etc) or from a boat (grouper, barracuda, etc). I’ve taken several fishing vacations (Islamorada in the keys, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, and Alaska) and I’ve never been someplace with such easy access to fishing in any form as Caye Caulker.

There’s an excellent new bait & tackle shop, Get Hooked Up, located across the street from the bank, and they carried all the rigs and gear I needed and also had pole/reel rentals by the day or week. (I brought my own). The local owner also offers inexpensive charters in his small boat as well as referrals to other outfits depending on what kind of fishing you want to do. Make sure to pick up a fryjack ($1 each) cooked and served out the window by a woman with a really beautiful smile – these were the best I’ve tasted in the Caribbean and stuffed with your choice of fillings. I loved the chicken and beans and the ham and cheese in the morning were also excellent. (I discovered the fryjacks hold up much better than my soggy $8 USD sandwich on boat trips.) While I was waiting out front, I watched a steady stream of locals pick up big orders of fryjacks to go.

There’s also the juice stand right next to the tackle shop – this guys sells fresh squeezed watermelon juice, OJ, papaya, and grapefruit juice and it’s literally ice cold. A one liter bottle was only $2.50 which I thought was amazing for fresh squeezed orange juice. (this will be a painful memory the next time I’m having brunch in the U.S.). Someone else ordered a small which was the size of a water bottle (12 or 14 oz?) and $1.25 so the large is a great deal. Loved the juice guy. Well, the guy himself isn’t super friendly but I love what he does…..


I guess I’ve already started talking about the food….. IME, Caye Caulker had way better food than what I had on Ambergris Caye 2 yrs ago which made me very happy as eating well is a big part of my vacations. (On AC, I ate at Estels, Blue Water Grill, Wild Mangos, and a couple others and thought only Wild Mangos was memorable.)

Besides those fryjacks at Get Hooked Up and the juice stand next door, these were my good dining out experiences:

Wish Willy’s: This guy cooks fresh fish perfectly, whether grilled or fried, it's kinda amazing, i have no idea how he was so consistent. I have been all over the Caribbean eating fresh seafood and hate when fish or lobster is overcooked. He made me whole fried fish when I was there alone (with rice and chopped veggies) and another time he grilled a bunch of snapper I caught with a friend (with rice and grilled veggies) – they were all perfect. He also makes a nice sauce that you might want to ask for on the side -- it's kinda of a jerk, brandy, honey blend and he also has a wicked chili oil that's great. (You probably want to go in when not starving as it’s quite slow.) The Belizian owner (he lived in Chicago for quite a while) has his own little boat and it's easy to go out and catch snapper off shore -- he doesn't always have grouper as that's more difficult to catch although he buys it when local fisherman bring it in. He pretty much improvises on the rest of the menu, including sides cuz it's whatever he has on hand but it was always good. When I asked what sodas he had, he answered, "what soda do u want" -- I think he was gonna send the kid out to get it at the store for me. I told him a fresh sweetened lime soda would work and he made it for me -- awesome. The fried whole snapper dish was only $5 but his prices change and I’m not sure if there’s a set menu.... The atmosphere is like someone's backyard (cuz it's his backyard) but if you want coconut water he'll try to hack one off his tree for you and if you're burnt and ask for aloe, he'll go hack off a piece from one of his plants in the back. Reviews seem to indicate inconsistency which I didn’t experience (I ate there three times that week) but at his low prices, he’s definitely worth a shot for the fish and lobster. When he’s on, the fresh fish is wonderful.

Syd’s: Really great fried chicken with stew beans and rice on the side. $4.50 It sounds weird to seek out fried chicken in Belize, but all such thoughts disappear when you start eating. Someone else ordered the stewed chicken which was all right, but not a standout IMO. Cute little sit-down place with locals inside as well. The pina colada was considerably more expensive than my entire meal – might have been $6 USD. I will always stop here on my future trips…..

Happy Lobster: Ate here twice and had grilled lobster both times. First night ordered a Small (which turned out to not be small, I was really wondering what a large would look like) and it was slightly overcooked but I was happy anyway as it was my first night and I was eating lobster. Maybe around $12 USD with a couple of sides. Second time we brought in our own tails and ordered the sides (they just charge for the sides - I think - when you do this) and the lobster was cooked perfectly. Absolutely great. So like most places, consistency is an issue although some of the American business owners I met said it’s where they always go for lobster. Definitely worth a try – nice setting on Front St near the water.

Lazy Lizard: the main bar on the Caye up at the Split and which honestly looks like they’d serve terrible bar food but it was surprisingly good. The grouper burrito is huge and comes on a thick tortilla that’s a cross between a fryjack and naan bread. Think that was $3 or less and was delicious. Woman I met diving ordered the stewed chicken which we shared and it was the best I tried during my stay there – really well seasoned and juicy – IIRC $6. Anyone visiting will probably end up at the Lazy Lizard at some point – definitely try at least a burrito.

Caye Caulker Pizza: Great pizza – when I was there he didn’t open til 4 pm so I was disappointed when I hoped to grab a slice after my dive, but he had really great pizza when I needed a break from eating fish every single meal. If you have a kitchen (or a minibar fridge) definitely consider bringing some home to have on hand as a snack after swimming or laying out.

Bread lady: all her stuff is great with morning coffee or after a meal – she parks out with a cart type thing near one of the convenience stores on Front St.

Pineapple Cake guy – I don’t even like pineapple cake but this was great. Very rich though and one piece for 2 people was more than enough. He was walking around near the Lazy Lizard when we saw him – totally worth a try.

Convenience Stores: Almost all the stores are owned and operated by recently arrived merchants. A few of the business owners haven’t fostered great relations with the locals but I was told that Chans Market (on Middle St) is well supported as the owner puts a lot of money into community projects for the children, including the new school. His store is the largest with the lowest prices as it’s not right on Front St. Generally, grocery prices aren’t super high here as is the case on many island locales – a can of Pringles 2.50, my baby oil was 1.25 as was my toothbrush. Bug repellent was expensive though. I tend to like renting cabanas with kitchens but the low cost of dining out on Caye Caulker makes me feel like I might not even use the kitchen if I went that route.

I’m definitely returning to Caye Caulker as I’m a water activities person and not interested in nightlife (prefer to fish after dinner). This is one of the cheaper destinations I’ve been to in the Caribbean, even less expensive than Cozumel, with great diving, fishing, and food and with no mass tourism traffic. Airfare is expensive though so it’s a great place to use your FF miles. I really liked the relaxed vibe on CC – for example, morning dives are scheduled for around 9 am so you’re not getting up at the crack of dawn. I told one local business owner that I wanted to review him on the internet and he told me he’s happy with the level of business he has and wasn’t interested in expanding and making more money if it meant more stress -- it was such a refreshingly non-American worldview. I also loved riding a bike here – I’ve never done this before and haven’t been on a bike in 15 yrs and it was really fun and made getting around the island totally effortless. For solo women, you’ll get a lot of attention at bars and around the island in general. It’s a very playful and non-threatening dynamic but I wouldn’t stay out late alone either.

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