Greg and I are currently in the middle of a three month stay in Caye Caulker, Belize. This is my fourth time visiting this special island, but I’ve never stayed more than a week before. Since we’re traveling full time now, budget is much more important and seeking out Caye Caulker bargains has become somewhat of a sport with us. If you’re planning a trip to this island paradise anytime soon, here’s how to do Caye Caulker on a budget.
Getting Around Caye Caulker on a Budget
Caye Caulker is a tiny island, just 8 km from one end of the south island to the other. Golf cart taxis are cheap enough – just $2.50 US per person, anywhere you want to go. But why not save that $2.50 and buy yourself something nice? I suggest walking for errands and renting a bike for exploring. Bikes can be rented at many places on the island, usually for about $2.50 US per hour or $10 US per day.
If your plans include Belize City or San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, I suggest opting for the Ocean Ferry rather than the Belize City Express. There aren’t quite as many departure options, but you’ll save yourself $3 US on a round trip fare to Belize City.
Eating on Caye Caulker on a Budget
First of all, if you think you can book accommodations with a kitchenette and cook while you’re here to save money, you may want to reconsider. I’m from the US and immediately found that shopping to cook meals familiar to us was very expensive. Unless you plan to cook and eat pretty much what the locals eat, you’re going to spend a lot on home cooked meals. And if you do plan to eat what the locals eat you might as well eat out. If you’re judicious about where and what you eat, you can do quite well on $5 – $10 US per meal.
Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks – I love fry jacks, and you can get them here for prices starting as low as $0.75 US. (One is a complete breakfast or lunch.) They close at 2:00 pm each day and are not open on Mondays.
La Cubana on Front Street – The secret at La Cubana is to flip to the center of their menu and find their “Specials” pages. You can get your entrée (roasted pork, whole snapper, etc.) plus three sides (rice and beans, mashed potatoes, small salad, etc.) and three 8-oz. house rum drinks for $10 US.
Auntie’s – We get take out from here all the time. They serve a fairly good hamburger, a few assorted Chinese dishes and my husband’s favorite – fried chicken which comes with French fries and a small portion of pasta salad or cole slaw. Most items we get there are less than $5 US.
Street Vendors – You can find many good and cheap eats on the streets of Caye Caulker, and many are a real bargain. From tamales to hot-off-the-grill jerk chicken, from fish kabobs to grilled lobster. Ask the price before you buy and if it seems high, bargain with them a little.
Additional Tips for Eating on Caye Caulker on a Budget
- Do your research first. If you’re not careful you can easily end up ordering a $25 US meal that doesn’t even include your drinks.
- Always carry your filled water bottle. That will save you from having to buy water from a restaurant. (There’s no free restaurant water here on Caye Caulker.)
- If you’re here for a while and are a beer or soda drinker, buy them at the distributor rather than at the grocery stores – you’ll save between 20 and 30 percent.
- Forget about your favorite liquor brands from home and embrace local rum. It’s priced well and will save you 100 percent or more, depending on what you drink at home.
Activities on Caye Caulker on a Budget
North Island Koko King Resort – There’s a boat that leaves from the back side bridge (by the gas station) that will take you to Koko King for free. The first boat leaves at 11 am and they run every half hour after that. Once there you can eat, drink and/or play. But skip the eating and drinking part and just play, because that’s free.
Snorkeling, Swimming and Platform Diving at the Split – At the very north tip of the south island you will find The Split. It has the best beach on Caye Caulker with volleyball nets, covered picnic areas, rest rooms and a diving platform. You can also snorkel there, although the fish are limited.
Fishing – All you need is a long length of fishing line, a hook and some bait. No need to bother with fishing poles and such. You can buy sardines – the preferred snapper bait here – for $1 US per dozen. Use your pocket knife or multi-tool to cut them into pieces and fish from any dock on the island. (I’m told they are open to the public, even if they were privately built.)
Biking – Because the island is small (about 8 km from north to south) there’s not a whole lot of biking you can do without repeating your route. But it is worth an hour or so of your time to explore and get a feel for the island as a whole. Again, bikes can be rented at a reasonable cost and can be found at lots of places on the island.
Kayaking – Some of the hostels on the island have kayaks and life jackets you can check out for free if you’re staying there.
Bird Watching – Depending on the time of year, Caye Caulker hosts dozens of beautiful bird species. Bring your binoculars and work on your life list. (Especially in the mangroves on the north island)
Accommodations for Caye Caulker on a Budget
There are lots of hostels and budget accommodations here on Caye Caulker. But because I’ve never stayed at any of them, I can’t recommend one over the other. I advise you to consider all details though before making a decision. Some have great views, some offer free kayaks, some have A/C and some offer discounts on other items such as food and drink. And don’t forget about laundry – you’ll save even more if your accommodation provides a washing machine and clothes line.