Caye Caulker is a dream. That is the best way to describe it. This tiny island about an hour off the coast by boat from Belize City is exactly what you would picture when imagining an island paradise. Only five miles long, Caye Caulker has no roads or cars – people get around on foot, by bike or, if in a hurry, by golf cart. But speed isn’t the name of the game here. The island’s motto is “go slow”, which we were introduced to very early on when, as we were walking to our guest house, a man shouted over to us, “hey, slow down! We go slow on Caye Caulker!”. Advice we took very much to heart for the next few days.
We decided to spend five nights on the island, as until that point we had been hopping from place to place and hadn’t spent more than three nights in one spot. Our agenda for our stay involved eating copious amounts of delicious Caribbean food, wandering along the coast, snorkelling, and…that was about it. If you want to go somewhere to completely relax, Caye Caulker is the place.
We stayed in Sandy Lane Guest House, which we found through doing a bit of digging online – it isn’t listed on Hostel World, but we got a private room with bathroom there and it cost less than a dorm bed in any of the hostels on the island. The location was great, just a short distance away from the main strip of bars and restaurants – but then, as the island is so small, you can’t really go wrong with where you stay in terms of location!
On our first wander around the island we came across a little shop that caught my attention immediately. On a large red sign outside the door was the bold promise, “get the world’s best insect repellent here – all natural ingredients!”. Having spent the first few weeks in Central America acting as a walking buffet for mosquitoes, and not really wanting to use too much DEET (I find it hard to see how a substance that melts plastic and damages electrical appliances can be in any way good for our skin), we decided to go in and check it out.
The owner of the shop was another expat from the USA. She had come to visit the island a few years before, and just like the expats we met in Corozal she had fallen in love with Belize and decided to move there. Not only was she a biochemist (hence creating her own mosquito repellent) she was also an incredible artist, and had set up an art gallery alongside her insect repellent business. After chatting to her for a while I decided to buy a bottle of her repellent – and I am pleased to say it worked a treat, though as it is made entirely of natural oils I did sport a very shiny look for the duration of our island stay.
On our second full day Dan decided to take a boat trip to do some snorkelling – there is a huge variety of aquatic life surrounding the island, including stingrays, tropical fish and sharks. Given my previously mentioned aversion to such creatures I decided to sit the trip out, and spent my day ambling around in the sunshine and reading my book. Meanwhile, Dan was being treated to rum punch and ceviche in between getting up close and personal with sharks in the beautiful turquoise water.
When he got back he told me that he had met another couple, Chris and Ana, on the boat who had invited us out for beers with them. The evening that followed started with a questionable drink called “lizard juice” and ended…well, none of us really remember exactly where or how it ended, but we all felt atrocious the next day. Unfortunately for Chris and Ana, they were scheduled to leave in the morning and had a 5 hour journey to Flores to sit through – they are also travelling down through Central and South America but are on a bit of a tighter timescale. We also found out that they lived in Finsbury Park while we were there, and only one street away from us!
Our last couple of days involved more of the same – chilling, eating and drinking cervezas (once the hangovers wore off) – but we also spent a bit of time doing some trip planning. Unfortunately Belize turned out to be a lot more expensive than we originally anticipated and was completely blowing our budget, so we decided to head straight to Guatemala from Caye Caulker rather than head south as we had originally planned. We booked a direct shuttle bus for $25 USD each, and before we knew it we were en route to Flores.