I’ve discussed it in other posts but I follow the website secretflying.com to find cheap flight deals when they happen to come up. Well a couple weeks ago I saw a deal from United for San Francisco to Belize for only $340 round trip! I had seen this before and it seems to come and go on a whim. This time I managed to catch it in time and was able to make the shifts work out to get a long weekend in Belize. So, two weeks later I left SFO Thursday night, had an overnight layover in Houston and made it to Belize by 10AM on Friday morning!
I found it rather difficult to find any sort of mention on things to do in Belize for a weekend or find out what other people did for a weekend in Belize so hopefully this piece will help someone out there plan their own little weekend getaway to Belize!
When arriving in Belize by air you’ll be arriving at the Philip SW Golden airport just outside of Belize City. I have to say, this is one of the most expensive airports I’ve ever been to in terms of getting from the airport to the city.
You could walk a couple miles from the airport to the main highway and catch a public bus from there for a couple dollars but by and large you’ll be taking a taxi in to the city which costs an expensive $50 BZ ($25 USD).
Unless you’re heading somewhere inland to the caves, Mayan sites, jungle or other locale, you’ll likely only be going in to Belize city to the docks where the boats take you out to the islands of Ambergris Caye (pronounced key) or Caye Caulker (more on these later!). Belize city is a shithole (I apologize to those who live there) and there really isn’t anything to see/do there whatsoever so don’t plan for or waste any time here!
Belize has to be one of the easiest countries I’ve ever been to in terms of doing the mental currency conversion calculations. This is due to the fact that the Belize dollar is pegged at a 2:1 rate with the US dollar (IE. $50 BZ == $25 USD). Because of this both the USD and the Belize Dollar are both accepted here.
Since this post talks about spending a weekend (4 days in Belize) I’ll stick to that time line and my own experience. By all means you could go to Belize and spend the 4 days on the mainland visiting any of the many old Mayan sites or doing the many adventure tours in the jungles but for my visit I decided to head out to the islands off the coast of Belize. Reason being? Since visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia I’ve wanted to visit the Belize Barrier Reef too! With the rate our world is going these reefs won’t be around in their pristine beauty that they are now and this is vastly evident already at the Great Barrier Reef where signs of bleaching and dying coral are already widespread.
There are two primary Cayes that people visit off the coast. Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. The main town on Ambergris is called San Pedro and this was described by many as an “American town”. If I wanted that I’d stay at home in San Francisco! With all the American tourists and resorts here, prices are disproportionately high even compared to the rest of Belize (which in itself is expensive compared to the rest of central America).
An alternative to this then is Caye Caulker! Caulker is like the little brother of Ambergris. A very small island you can walk around in all of about half an hour but unlike it’s brother it is much cheaper! An island paradise where you tend to find a younger crowd and lots of backpackers! This was why I chose Caulker! And besides, whichever one you choose, both have MANY tour operators running the same kinds of tours out to the reef and the other nearby islands, Cayes, and Atolls.
There are several backpacker hostel’s in Caye Caulker including:
– Pause Hostel (also known as Pause Animal Sanctuary)
– Dirty McNastys
– Yuma’s House
– Juan in a Million
A room in a shared dorm at each of these hostel’s will generally set you back under $20 USD per night.
I opted to stay at Pause in part because it was the cheapest, Yuma’s and Juan’s were full (according to Hostelworld) and I wasn’t really keen on staying at a party hostel so Dirty McNastys was off.
Plus, Pause is an animal sanctuary for many of the homeless cats and dogs on the island. I thought this initiative in and of itself was pretty amazing! Not to mention, Pause had great reviews online and everyone mentioned the amazing sunset you could watch every night from this hostel.
I absolutely loved staying at Pause. I’m so happy I chose to stay here. The reviews were not wrong and the sunset every night was indeed incredible! Add to that, it’s right on the water and there are lots of cute little cats and dogs always wandering around. It truly was a little slice of paradise.
The hostel is run by a very nice woman named Madi who was such a sweetheart. She was so kind and welcoming to everyone coming to stay at her home! I originally booked only 2 nights but then extended for my 3rd night and she was more than accommodating. Then, on my fourth day my flight leaving Belize was cancelled due to bad weather in Houston so I went back to Caulker for the night and again she was so kind and was quick to hook me up with my same bed again. It really does make all the difference in the world when you have such warm, kindhearted people running the hostel.
The sunset from Pause was incredible! Pause is located on the west side of the island and I actually believe this is the best side of the island. The east side where most things are located is more open to the ocean so there are bigger waves, rougher water and more wind most of the time. However, the west side is sheltered by the island and by the fact that the island itself is a bit of a crescent shape with the west side being in the middle of the cove. The water is always pretty calm on this side and it provides the perfect place to view the sunset from.
A picture speaks a thousand words so I’ll let the following few pictures speak the rest on this.
There are an abundance of dining options on Caulker especially considering how small it is. If you are visiting and are on more of a budget, one thing I noticed was the difference in price one block can make. Anything right along the beach on the east side along Front Street was generally more expensive. Located on the water and on the main strip can attribute to that.
However, go inland one block (there are only 3 main streets running the length of the island) or off the beaten path and you’ll find prices can drop dramatically.
My favorite place to go for breakfast was Errolyn’s House of Fry Jacks. Located just around the corner from Pause, they made a very delicious item called a fry jack. This is basically a deep fried tortilla filled with your choice of eggs, ham, cheese, beans, and chicken (or any subset thereof). A fry jack ranged from $2.5 BZ to $5 BZ ($1.25 to $2.5 USD). One is enough to be filling and add on to that a morning coffee for $2 BZ, an entire breakfast meal could be had for under $3 USD.
Before arriving in Caulker I had read a lot about Wish Willy’s and the delicious food they served up so I just had to try it out. I arrived on Caulker Friday afternoon and walking around the island I came across signs that mentioned Willy’s was having a buffet fish and chicken BBQ that night all for a mere $20 BZ.
I headed to Willy’s after sunset around 6:30. They were just getting started and a few people trickling in. I grabbed a rum punch ($3 BZ for a glass of rum and punch) and started chatting with a few other travellers who were here for the BBQ too.
One thing I liked about Willy’s is it is a very communal space. Comprised of a couple tables and two huge rows of picnic tables it is a very open space and one very conducive for open communication and meeting fellow travellers.
The BBQ was incredible. Very fresh fish (catch of the day) and fresh chicken all cooked on a smoker grill.
I returned to Willy’s on Sunday night as well. I had read they had amazing BBQ lobster but unfortunately I was there out of season for lobster so I settled for some more BBQ and jerk chicken again meeting some new compatriots over the meal.
Willy is a very laid back, chill dude which made ordering a little confusing. When you sit down he or one of the other guys working there will come around to take your order at some point. On Friday we were a little confused about how to pay. Willy nor anyone else ever came by or mentioned anything about money and a dishonest person could have easily just walked out. However just find Willy yourself and settle the bill. As an example of how carefree Willy is, on Sunday I went to pay up. I had $22 BZ in my had and he told me the price was $25. As I reached for more money Willy says “$22 is good, it’s Sunday, fuck it”! On an island full of money and tourism his laid back ways were so refreshing. I never had a bad meal or experience at Willy’s and for the $20BZ it was well worth it. If you’re in Caulker definitely go to Wish Willy’s at least once!
There isn’t a whole lot of nightlife on Caulker and most things close around 8 or 9pm. That is why everyone always ends up at two places during the night. In the earlier evening hours everyone heads to sports bar which is a hopping bar right on the beach. Once this closes at midnight everyone moves on to Reggae bar which is sort of a mix between a bar and a club. It’s a very cool place full of swing sets around the bar for people to sit instead of bar stools and then towards the back they have a dance floor where Reggae music or modern hit songs overlaid with reggae plays in to the night.
Both places were great to spend an evening at enjoying life in paradise but if you are looking for more variety in your nightlife or more of a club scene then this island may not be for you.
There are a TON of tour operators on even this small island all offering about the same sort of thing. Most places offer full or half day reef tours visiting 3 sites: Coral Gardens, Shark and Ray Alley and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve! Expect the full day tour to cost you around $120-$140 BZ (maybe more in high season) and a half day tour costing roughly $60 to $70 BZ. If you are here definitely pay a little more and opt for the full day tour. Trust me, it is well worth the price for what you all get to see.
For those who know how to dive or want to drop a lot more cash you can also do a lot of diving around the reef, take a helicopter ride over the Great Blue Hole or charter a boat and go spearfishing for a day!
On the North end of the island there is an area known as the split. Here Caye Caulker is literally split in half by a Hurricane that once passed near the island. On the other side of the split, Caulker continues, undeveloped and almost completely uninhabited. On that side there are mangroves a far distance away where crocodiles nest but not to worry this is far away from the split and the tourists enjoying themselves in the crystal blue Caribbean waters!
On the split is a great bar called the Lazy Lizard. Come here for an afternoon of relaxation in the sun, swim across the split or kick back with a nice cold Belikin beer (the official beer of Belize, produced right here in country!). It’s a beautiful place on the water just to relax and unwind.
The Island Life
Something else I really loved and appreciated about Caye Caulker was the laid back island lifestyle of it all. Sometimes we just need a break from the daily hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Sometimes we forget that there is more to life than just working ourselves to death. This island really lets you unwind and let go of it all!
Here there are no cars and there are no paved roads. All the roads are sand/gravel and the only transportation around the island other than your own legs are bicycles and golf carts! Living in a bustling city, this was such a reprieve. Add to that, the motto of the island is “Go Slow” this place really forces you to just take it easy and unwind even if only for a few days.
If ever you visit Belize I can’t recommend Caye Caulker enough! It is honestly a little island paradise!