Arriving on the Belizean island of Caye Caulker was like stepping into paradise. I arrived after a 45-minute boat ride on some of the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. I hadn’t even stepped off the boat when one of the boat operators in an island accent said to me, “welcome to Caye Caulker my sweet, go slow take your time.” I had my porter 45 bag on my back and was attempting to get off the rocking boat onto the pier. He put his hand out to assist me up onto the pier and with a warm smile said, “Go Slow.” I laughed thanked him and soon came to find out this is the island’s mantra and I spent the next four days doing just that.
Caye Caulker is a small island where you will find no cars, just locals and tourists walking around barefoot or riding beach cruisers, and a few golf carts being used as taxies. Upon exiting the pier you can go down one of the three main roads. My guesthouse instructions were basic, “turn right and walk up Front Street till you see a sign for Sea n Sun. If you reach the split you’ve gone too far.” I began walking down the street admiring the colorful guesthouses and restaurants with swing seats to my left….and palm trees, hammocks and ocean to my right. I slowly strolled along and was instantly relaxed. There was a warm breeze and the smell of barbecuing jerk chicken in the air.
After a slow 15 minute stroll, I arrived at my guesthouse, the Sea n Sun. I checked into a bright pink bungalow and after a day of traveling, I was in need of a nap. I promptly dropped my bag inside my room went out onto the front porch. I jumped into a hammock and dozed off to the sounds of birds, bikes slowly pedaling by, and the rustling of leaves in the warm breeze.
I woke up hungry, quickly threw on my swimsuit, and headed down to the Split (an area once connected but due to a hurricane long ago it split the island in two). Since that split, it has become one of the best places to take a dip in the water. At the Split, you will find one of the island’s most famous bars, The Lazy Lizard. I ordered a beer, relaxed in the water and ate some fresh seafood. I spent the rest of my day listening to reggae music watching as kayakers, paddle-boarders, sailboats and small speed boats filled with tourists heading out to snorkel the barrier reef.
The next day I was up early and headed out for a morning walk around the island. I found a quiet breakfast spot, sat under a palm tree and ordered up some traditional Belizean breakfast, fry jacks YUM! After breakfast, I stopped at the Ice n Beans for a refreshing iced tea and sat with some travelers from London chatting about how was my country going to survive Trump. I laughed and said I didn’t know or care cause I would be here on Caye Caulker for the next four years – okay maybe not but I could easily see myself staying on the island for the rest of my life!
With no set itinerary, I found myself on an island that is hassle free of vendors or pushy tour operators all trying to get you to ride off on an excursion. I ended up standing outside of the legendary Caveman Snorkeling tour hut. The caveman himself came out and asked if I was heading out on one of his tours that morning. I did not have anything booked his tours were full for the day and as he was about to give me a recommendation to another tour operator he told me to wait a few minutes. He went inside his hut returned and asked if I wanted to jump on a boat that was scheduled to leave in 10 minutes.
I joined a family of 5 visiting from Pennsylvania and a couple from Portugal for a day of snorkeling the barrier reef. It was a small boat and I will admit, I have done many snorkeling excursions but found this particular boat to be my most challenging yet. As a plus size woman, I was concerned about the ease of getting in and out of the boat but decided I would somehow make it work. At our 1st stop we were instructed to jump off the side of the boat and begin exploring the reef. It was crystal clear as I swam along admiring the coral and fish swimming around me. The other members of the group swam out further than I did, I was staying close to the boat, not sure why but I was a bit nervous that morning. I was swimming back to the boat when I noticed a fish that was much larger and, well, scarier looking than the others I’d seen on the reef. I popped my head up and shouted to the tour operator up on the boat that there was a scarier and much bigger looking fish down here, he did not hesitate for a second to say “oh, it’s a barracuda.” Oh just a barracuda, huh?!
The day continued, we stopped to swim with nurse sharks and stingrays. Never in my life did I think I would be swimming out in the ocean completely surrounded by sharks and stingrays. The rays will come so close to you that they brush your face. We ended the day cruising the mangroves searching for saltwater crocodiles and feeding tarpon fish sardines. I was not prepared for how high the tarpon would jump out of the water as the tour guide instructed me to place my hand out over the boat….seconds later the fish quickly jumped up and snatched the sardine from my hand. It was an adrenaline filled day for sure. We then cruised through the split as the sun was setting and headed back to the pier. It was an epically awesome day!
I woke up early on New Year’s Eve and walked over to one of the piers to watch the sunrise. Relaxed while listening to the water as the island slowly began to wake up, I pondered what would be the best way to close out the last day of the year? I decided I would go for a bike ride around the island. I purchased freshly made stuffed fry jacks from a street cart, bought fresh fruit juice, chatted with some local Rastafarians before making my way over to the Sip n Dip for a day of lounging in a hammock swinging over the water.
My day at the Sip n Dip was blissful. I lost count of the number of rum drinks I sipped on. I read a book, chatted with travelers visiting from all over the world, and lounged in one of the hammocks for so long I fell asleep and woke up to find a fellow traveler replacing the empty cup in my hand with yet another drink. We quickly became friends after that kind gesture!
I took a break from my day of lounging to go eat some of the island’s most delicious barbecue at the well know place called Wish Willy. It is one of the island’s most popular spots where you sit at communal tables chatting with locals and travelers, stuffing yourself with what I have to say is the best jerk chicken I have ever had in my life.
2016 ended in true Caye Caulker style… I moved slowly enjoying the sweetness that is life. I left the island with my fresh sun-kissed skin feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on 2017. If you are looking for a true island life experience then, by all means, come to Caye Caulker. And remember GO SLOW!