Caye Caulker - You Better Belize It

May 10, 2014

Set apart from mainland Belize by a 40 minute water taxi ride is the tiny Rastafied island of Cay Caulker (pronounced KAY (like the overpriced, underwhelming national jewelery retailer) or KEY (you know the lock opener thing you get copies made of because you fell off your bike, fractured some ribs and somehow made it home and into your apartment, but then managed to throw them out while looking for the strongest pain reliever you have)) is a truly lovely place to spend some of your hard earned dollars. That is of course if you do not succumb to cabin fever very quickly.


Cay Cualker, like Manhattan, is set up in a handy grid system so finding your way around is quite easy. However, unlike The Big Apple the grid consists of Front, Middle and Back Street, crossed by as many as seven intersecting roads. The entire inhabited portion of Cay Caulker can be traversed by foot in less than an hour. That does of course account for the slowed walking pace due to extra hot conditions, and the need to find the cheapest Fry Jacks (see the food post for more info on those bad boys).


Time spent on Cay Caulker will (and did) mostly consist of lazing around, reading or listening to your current book, figuring out what to have/make for your next meal and sipping on a hopefully ice-cold Belikin (fully detailed in Magnum Drinking Opus: Belizean Edition). You could also go to the island's most popular bar/swimming spot The Split.

The Split is precisely what the name suggests. The part of the island where a hurricane back in the 60's literally split the island in twain. Now it is a "sunny place for shady people." Where locals and we gringos alike go swimmimg, trying to avoid the usually strong current and buying various adult libations, all while listening to reggae (if you are lucky) or thumping Belizean club music (if you are not so lucky). Beyond drinks and cooling off in the Caribbean Sea water, the split is an excellent place to get an unobstructed view of the sunset each night.


If the island life is getting to be a bit too stifling, virtually every building on Front Street offers day trips to go snorkelling, sailing, fishing or diving. The main off shore excursion from Cay Caulker is to visit the Blue Hole. It also is exactly as it is named, a Blue Hole in the middle of the sea. A cenote away from land that collapsed and created (...wait for it) a Blue Hole. It is a place divers note as a must see, but whispers from those who have gone tell tales that it is not worth the price as it is not as beautiful as it from the air and not nearly as spectacular as coursing through tropical reefs. 


Night life of Cay Caulker is less impressive than you might expect. There are only a couple spots for late night shenanigans. First is Voodoo Lounge on Front Street. A completely enclosed cinder block tomb, looked like an excellent place to either get raped, hepatitis, or both. Needless to say this establishment was not visited.

The second true late night option was I & I Reggae Bar. This was the place to go dancing until dehydration took over or your dance partner convinced you something more private would be better suited for further activites. 


If you want to buy anything on Cay Caulker you can go to one of several (probably 8-12) grocery stores all run by Asians. I kid you not, every single grocery store on the whole damn island is owned and run by someone of Asian descent. And with one last pass of my NYC analogy we can add Chinatown to how the two are alike. The best and most expansive retailer on the island is in Cay Caulker's Chinatown. Chinatown also consisted of shockingly a Chinese restaurant and the Chinatown Hotel. 


So, now that I have detailed what you can do on Cay Caulker, the question that needs to now be answered is what we actually did during our 12-ish days there. 

Honestly... not a whole hell of a lot. 

Mornings were spent making and eating breakfast. Typically eggs and toast. If feeling extra lazy, corn flakes. 

After breakfast spent checking email or conversing with our fast-friends, it would be time to sit by the water on either the beach or, personally preferred, the dock. This time was spent then occupied by novels or the splendor the sea sent your way. This I found particularly fascinating. There was a never ending parade of fish. Bone fish, needle fish, stingrays, cow fish, frog fish (which is one weird fucking creature) and even one lone puffer fish. I found the dock at the hostel to be the best part of the entire place, making it worth the stay just to go enjoy it for a a couple days and nights. 

Once dock time was over, a walk may ensue or if your name was Matt (hey that's me) or Teague then you might work of the various projects around the hostel out of boredom and because Madi (the owner of the hostel) is one of the most genuinely nice people you'll meet and helping her is something you feel virtually compelled to do. Besides how much can it hurt to clean a room, hang a window, and strip, repair and move a cabinet/counter section. Well if you are me, it can hurt quite a bit when you rip open your thumb (it's fully healed Mom, and really was not a big deal).


Once our shift of hostel improvement ended it was on to evening/nightly activities. This could be going to Syd's for dinner, or making our own version of Mexican Mush (watch your back John's Tex Mex).

On alternating nights many rounds of rum punch and beers would commence and the night would be spent discussing the foibles of every one's home countries. Much enjoyment was had. 


We were lucky enough to get to experience an amazing lunar eclipse while on the island. It was a magnificent to be able to lie on the top the the two story dock with friends old and new, watching the heavens provide the best cosmic show outside of anything hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. 


In summation - Cay Caulker is a nice place to visit. The best parts were the people we met, and the chance to truly feel like a traveller and not a tourist. I was glad to have it in my rearview mirror as we caught the ferry to the mainland, 12 days was a few too many in my estimation. But that is easily forgotten with good food and laughs with good people.


Category: Places

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