Do you love it… the feeling of the vitamin D soaking into your skin, the breeze kissing your face as you float across the waves, the sand gently massaging your toes with each step? Remembering what it’s like to be relaxing in these conditions is something that always invades my mind when I’m most stressed. Everyone has their own mental escape to calm down and take a breath. Mine can be picturing myself back in the log cabin in the Adirondacks, smelling the air after it just rained, eyes closed to better hear to forest around me; it can be sitting on a bridge shadowing the Limmat River watching the sunset with champagne in my hand, but usually, it’s the beach. Any beach. I close my eyes and take myself into the memories of constellations over the quiet of my surroundings, nothing but the waves crashing in on one another.
Just recently I was able to add another memory to the pensieve of my mind. Caye Caulker – pronounced kee cawker as I was told by locals – was a place that I never even knew existed until about 2 weeks before I went there. Belize I knew of but nothing more.
Other Caribbean ideas bounced around our heads first… Curacao? She’d been there, done that. Aruba? I’d been there, done that. Cayman? Too damn expensive! St. John’s? Too much work to get to. In the end it was between St. Lucia and Belize. You know what we chose! We had 3 days to get there, enjoy ourselves and get back, and we sure as hell did it right!
My friend, D, and I took the 0530 flight out to Miami to meet S and head to Belize. Halfway through the hour and a half flight to Belize city we were buzzing with excitement and maybe a little booze.
Landing in Belize City around noon, we hastily grabbed 2 bottles of rum in duty free and a taxi for $10 US per person.
***They do use the US dollar in Belize, as well as, the Belize dollar. If you pay in American dollars, 90% of places will give you change in Belizean, but the exchange rate it easier than yo mama as $1 US = $2 Belize. It’s amazing!***
The taxi ride to the water taxi that would take us to Caye Caulker takes about 20-25 minutes from the BZE airport. Not bad at all. Horace was our driver who was just full of information about Belize and such a kind fellow! He didn’t seem at all bamboozled by my plethora of questions about his country as we legally passed around our bottle of Belizean rum (in which Horace did not partake, obviously). With my eyes and ears wide, I intently listened to all professor Horace had to teach us:
Belize was a British territory until September 21, 1981 – so just yesterday basically, and Horace says they fought for their independence for 51 years. Since September was their month of independence, every year from September 1st to the 21st is super duper festive! “There’s a party every day,” says Horace in his creole accent.
The main export used to be Mahogany until most was taken by the Brits. It’s still on the list, but now exports mostly include sugar, bananas, citrus, shrimp and lobster.
Traditional foods of Belize include rice… and beans. Haha. Apparently he was right, because you can get them everywhere, but they usually come together in one bowl. They’re like black beans, and I had them with coconut rice, mostly.
Raccoons are the most common animal you will see in Belize City – we did not stay in Belize City, so I cannot verify this, but Horace says so!
***According to locals, Belize City is the most unsafe part of the entire country, and being there for the hour that I was, I feel I can attest to that because of my gut feeling. That feeling of discomfort from your surroundings, and this feeling came before I even knew it was unsafe. Trust your gut, my darlings.***
Before piling into a taxi, check to make sure that the entire license plate is the color green. That means it’s a real taxi.
The national animal is the Tapir, otherwise known as a mountain cow. I think they’re precious!
There is a national bird, as well, and that is the Keel Billed Toucan!
English is the national language. Spanish is spoken some, along with Creole.
Apparently we came at a good time (end of August) because it’s not too crowded with tourists. Also, the weather had shown us it was supposed to be raining on our parade the whole time we would be here, but that was not the case! It rained once for about 10 minutes, so don’t let that bring you down if you see a similar forecast for your time here!
Horace threw a couple of suggestions our way about where to go in Caye Caulker, and we ended up going to the first place he told us about, the Sip n Dip.
Soon we bade Horace farewell. Once out of the taxi, there were men there to already take our bags for the water taxi. They placed them with others and gave us tickets with numbers matching the tags they placed on our bags. Then we proceeded to buy our tickets which were less than $15 US per person round trip!
***We went ahead and bought our return tickets to not worry about it later; if you do this, the return is not for any specific time. you just go. It is cheaper to buy them in person than online, but if you wish to purchase early, review the 3 possible destinations from Belize City or would like to see the schedule, you may do so here.***
We still had about an hour until our the boat left, and we were ravenous! There are a couple of restaurants right in front of the departure dock, and they are fighting for your business to the point where I thought they were going to physically pull us in! We ate at a restaurant named Anna’s where we gorged on jerk lobster (right) washed down with colorful rum punch that honestly tasted like juice, but they say it hits you when you least expect it. Don’t lie to me, ho. Maybe this is true for individuals with a low tolerance like my beloved mother! Love ya, mama.
By the way, we’re not rich, lobster is just super cheap in Belize because it is so easily accessible!
***Rum punch is the favored happy hour beverage throughout Caye Caulker. It’s usually orange, sweet and you get two for one! Bottoms up, y’all.***
Before hopping onto our chariot, we grabbed a can of bug spray in a convenience store next to Anna’s. I only knew to do this because our AirBnB host told us we’d need it, and thank sweet baby Jesus that she did! Heads up, fam, you CANNOT step outside of your house/hostel/apartment without spraying every inch of your exposed skin with repellant unless you want to become a walking blood bag for those devilish mosquitos.
These woes did not yet fall upon us as we were enjoying our rum punch on the water taxi, skipping across the turquoise water towards the island of Caye Caulker. This boat ride takes 45 minutes to an hour, so plan ahead.
After disembarking, we collected our belongings and took our golf cart taxi to our AirBnB. I saw just one small truck the entire time we were on Caye Caulker. The whole island is teeming with old school bicycles adorned with baskets, and there are golf carts galore. Our ride to our rental was about 7 minutes and cost us a total of $13 Belizean. So that’s what in US dollars…? Bueller? That’s right. $6.50. So easy! Getting to our place was like tubing on a choppy lake; the road could’ve been on the moon with how many potholes we dipped in and out of! We embraced our roller coaster ride with laughter as we tried to keep ahold of each other and the cart itself to not fall. Being tipsy made it more enjoyable, as well!
***The three aspects that I don’t like about Caye Caulker are the war on mosquitos, the moon craters and the pungent, fishy smell that accompanies most dock areas. Keep the latter in mind when choosing accommodations. ***
The first thing we did upon arrival after claiming our rooms was rush into our swim suits, stir up some rum only cocktails (basically large shots over ice) and jump willie nilly into the pool located in our very own backyard, trying not to step on our new iguana
friends on the way – they were too fast for us to catch if we wanted! You can see three of them in the picture to the left. Once we rinsed off our sweat in the pool, we rented bikes from our host for $5 US a day per bike and went forth on our adventure to find this mysterious Sip n Dip that our Horace had mentioned.
Even though we were wearing nothing more than our swim suits as we biked up the island avoiding potholes as best as we could, we didn’t stand out in this small island crowd of tourists and locals. After stopping to ask once for directions, we found it. The place where we’d be spending the remainder of our evening without our knowledge. The place where we would meet fun, carefree humans from all over the world. The place where we would take shots of rum like it was tequila, dressing it up for a ball with salt and lime. The place called the Sip n Dip.
We came here because we heard we could use our snorkels and our girl, D, had to leave the next day, so we wanted to get some quality snorkel time before then. Yeah. We didn’t snorkel. First, feeding the anger of our hunger was necessary so we ordered shrimp ceviche, shrimp quesadillas, a cheese burger and chicken nachos. The food was alright.
The reason this place is so attractive is because it has a nice rooftop patio, a dock, shallow water that you can wade into with your drinks where there’s a table to place them wile you squeeze into one of the tubes, chill your tush on a swing or stretch out in a hammock that immediately puts you at peace.
Throughout the night we experienced the following:
I slipped down some algae covered steps into the ocean and obtained a gnarly bruise, the largest I’ve ever had the privilege to house on my body, and I was sober when this happened.
We made friends with some Irish, Aussies, Brits and a Guatemalan, all of which were amazingly sweet and know how to enjoy life. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. One of the many reason why I enjoy traveling so much is because of the incredible humans you can meet along the way. About 99% of travelers are the same, quirky, gregarious and spontaneous which is why we as a collective group tend to get along so well. We’re all out there to make memories and gain experiences.
If Mary Jane is your friend, she’s not hard to find here.
We paid a total of $75 US between the 3 of us for the entire night, for all of our food and an insurmountable number of adult beverages. CHEAP.
Everyone danced together – some on tables, shared stories, cheers-ed to each other, made jokes, made memories – for those of us that can remember!
Getting lost and separated on our way back to our house, but making it back safely with everything we brought plus new stories to tell.
Sunlight. Bright. Hunger. Thirst. Y’all know the drill. After rousing the troops, we rode our bikes to The Happy Lobster for a super cheap and delicious breakfast of eggs; there were more things, but let’s be honest. The eggs are what matter most. D left at 0900 to go back to Belize City. S and I chilled in our house for a bit, preparing for the day ahead. Regardless of the consequences from the night before, we had a long day scheduled of snorkeling.
From 10:00 to 16:00 we were on the ocean, in the ocean and by the end of the day we were the ocean. Smugglers Cove is a small family business next to Crepes ‘n More. They are kind and professional, and our guide, Chris, is superb at his job. He made it an amazing day for us because of his vast knowledge about the ocean and his intense passion for it and all that lives in it. We learned that Belize’s reef system is the second largest in the world; we learned about all of the reef and the different types of coral it contains from brain and fire coral to elk horn and boulder coral; we learned that the purple sea fans are only purple when they’re eating and are brown otherwise; we learned about the different types of fish, how they help or hinder the corals, how they get lighter in the sunlight and darker in the shadows, how to know which ones to eat and when to not eat a barracuda (during the summer and if they’re really big) since they can be poisonous to humans; we learned about the secrets of Belize’s ocean from the underwater cave to why the Split exists. The Split was formed after 2 hurricanes ripped the island into 2 pieces and then erosion followed taking them even further apart. To the right in the blue circle is the Split which has led to the identification of North Caye Caulker and South Caye Caulker. Not a bad day for just $65 US.
***Underneath Caye Caulker, there is a giant underwater cave that has not even been fully discovered. The entrance is right at the Split. Chris, our guide, divulged to us that every so often, qualified Belizean divers go into the cave to change the lines out, and each time, they get to go a little bit further. Isn’t it wonderful to know there are places that haven’t been touched by man?***
Six hours later, we came out of the briny water, full of smiles and weighed down by tired limbs, burnt backs and broader minds. One of my new friends, Pat, had invited us out to dinner earlier that morning with the peeps we’d met the night before in our inebriated state, so that was our next plan.
Drinks were consumed at the Split sitting at the Lazy Lizard bar, mosquitos attacked by the bonfire, and soon we were off to a restaurant called Maggie’s where we ate seafood and had merry conversation full of inquisitive topics and goofy aspirations. What a fantastic way to end our night.
The next morning, S and I awoke at the crack of dawn. On purpose.
We wanted to see a sunrise before we left. For 35-40 minutes, we sat staring in awe at the ever changing colors of the sky and the reflections in the ocean from the clouds and light. That sunrise will forever be imprinted in my mind as a calming moment for stress and relaxation as it is one of the most marvelous, maybe THE most marvelous, sunrise I have yet to experience in my 26 years on our earth, but I am still itching to add more views like this to my minds eye.
From where have your mental escapes stemmed? If you don’t have one, go make one.
Check out my video on YouTube about our Belizean shenanigans!
*Want more Caribbean fun? Check out my article “Las Tortugas – 14 Interesting Facts of the Caymans“*