We Made It!
After waiting and waiting to begin our epic honeymoon, we were a little bummed when our flight time dictated that we spend the first day of our trip in charmless Belize City. Our first night was very noisy. Hello barking dogs and screaming Belizians! But we felt instantly more relaxed stepping off the water taxi onto the sleepy island of Caye Caulker.
Caye Caulker is a small island close to mainland Belize known for lobster and great diving/snorkeling. Its neighbor Ambergris Caye is larger, ritzier, more popular, and more expensive. Both have great access to amazing underwater sightseeing, including accessibility to the famous Blue Hole. We opted for Caye Caulker for it’s laid back vibe and affordable price tag. The motto of Caye Caulker is “Go Slow”, and that was just what we intended to do.
Not in any rush to do much of anything, we moseyed over to a very small café (Belita’s Deli) for some delicious breakfast burritos. Everything from the tortillas to the salsa was made fresh in a tiny, two burner kitchen and served quickly to the four customers who could comfortably sit in the restaurant. With our bellies full of delicious burrito we ready to wander around the tiny island looking for somewhere to stay.
Rookie Mistake #1
Wanting to set a flexible and laid back tone for our first backpacking trip, we had not booked a room for our stay on Caye Caulker (or anywhere else for that matter). This was a ROOKIE MISTAKE. While there is normally a plethora of cheap(ish) accommodation on the island, we had arrived on January 2nd, which is on the tail end of the holiday high season, making finding a room much more difficult.
Our first stop was the highly rated Yuma’s Hostel, and its popularity was evident when we were told that they were booked for at least two weeks. We were warned that finding somewhere cheap may be difficult, but we persevered and made the tortuous 2-minute trek past a couple of chickens and down a little alley to Sandy Lane Guest House and Cabanas. We lucked out hardcore and snagged a room, equipped with our very own Belizean pet!
The room would not be ready until later in the day (how dare they not spontaneously have a room ready at 10:30 am for guests with no reservation!), so we left our bags and took a morning stroll around the main part of town; walking down the dusty, car-less roads, past small shops playing Rastafarian music, and along the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We could tell right away that this whole “go slow” thing would not prove to be too difficult.
After two-ish hours of wandering (during which we saw a vast majority of the main part of the island) it was time to meander back to our guesthouse and check into our room. For $10 a night on Caye Caulker we got a private room with full-sized bed, a sink, a fan, and a shared bathroom with HOT water.
Out and About
After settling in a bit, we decided to head out for a swim. It turns out that there is not really a beach on Caye Caulker. Instead, there are privately owned docks jutting out into the crystal clear blue water. The few public docks (meaning those not owned by a specific hotel) were packed with people, including the one at The Lazy Lizard (a backpacker favorite), so we instead focused on finding a delicious snack. Our search ended in the extremely touristy and cheesily named bar, Bambooze (I mean come on!!) where we sat on swings instead of chairs, drank our first (of MANY) rum punches, and ate ceviche and popcorn lobster. YUM!!
Feeling fat and happy we took a leisurely nap (because why not?) before heading back out to the The Lazy Lizard to watch the sunset and enjoy another rum punch. Unfortunately, The Lazy Lizard does not serve lobster, and being that we were lobster lovers on an island known for lobster we set out to find a savory meal centered on the delicious red crustaceans.
Rookie Mistake #2
We settled on a restaurant called Rainbow Grill and Bar, ordered lobsters stuffed with shrimp (!!!) and settled in on a bench overlooking the water. After putting in our order, the chef/owner/waiter (?) came out to tell us he only had two lobsters left, but that they were very large, and therefore more expensive than the prices listed on the menu. We decided to split one (to save money, right?) but we did not ask how much more these superior sized lobsters would cost. Rookie mistake (!). After enjoying a delicious dinner we coughed up 67 BZE ($33 US) for ONE lobster!! That may not seem crazy by American restaurant standards, but two days later we paid 35 BZE ($17 US) for an even bigger lobster WITH three sides. Always make sure you know what you are paying for.
We left the restaurant feeling like dumb tourists. Dumb tourists who were still a little hungry, meaning we needed to make a quick stop for some snacks before heading back to our guesthouse to hide our embarrassment. Really we are just an “old” married couple who needed to go to bed.
On our first full day as backpackers we made a couple rookie mistakes, like not knowing how much your meal is going to cost. We also fell into a few tourist traps (I’m looking at you Bambooze), but we learned from those mishaps and woke up the next day feeling much better rested, well-fed and wiser than we had the day before. Getting our footing as travelers would take some time, but Caye Caulker was a great place to get our feet wet (and as you’ll see in the next post, a few other things got wet, too).
Dollars and Sense
Water ferry Belize City to Caye Caulker- $30/ person, round trip
Breakfast burrito and coffee- $4
TIP: If swimming is high on your Caye Caulker to do list then consider paying a bit more for a hotel with a private dock. OR make sure you book ahead and stay at Yuma’s Hostel, which has hammocks right on the water. OR get your lazy butt away from your guesthouse (a task we failed at) and go to the Lazy Lizard, which is located right at the Split and is a great place to hang out, swim, snorkel and drink. We only accomplished that last one…