Caye Caulker, 35km northeast of Belize City, is relaxed, easy-going and more than merits its “Go Slow” motto. The reef, 1.5km offshore, is a marine reserve, offering unbelievable opportunities for any imaginable watersport. Even so, in general, the island is affordable, with an abundance of inexpensive accommodation and tour operators, though the number of expensive places is also increasing. The island is now a firm favourite on the backpacker trail, although up until about fifteen years ago, tourism existed almost as a sideline to the island’s main source of income, lobster fishing. The money might be coming from tourists these days but there are still plenty of the spiny creatures around, most notably at the annual Lobster Fest, normally held in the third weekend of June to celebrate the opening of the season.
The caye is a little over 8km long. A settlement lies at its southern end, which curves west like a hook; the northern tip forms the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve, designated to protect the caye litoral forest, one of the rarest habitats in Belize. At the northern end of the village lies “the Split”, a narrow (but widening) channel cut by Hurricane Hattie in 1961; it’s a popular place to relax and swim. Although there’s a reasonable beach along the front of the caye (created by pumping sand from the back of the island), the sea nearby is full of seagrass, so head to the Split or hop off the end of a dock if you want to go for a dip.