During our last trip I have come to realize that Belize is very popular both for the beautiful mainland as well as the islands. As I was searching for hotels, I found some very expensive ones that had a tiny island all to themselves! We definitely need to win the lottery so we can book a stay there…..
Anyway there are 2 very popular and very different islands that most people visit: Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. Both are very touristy all year around, as we were told by locals. The first is smaller, easy to walk around and populated only by golf carts. On the other hand the second is much bigger and there are both golf carts and cars, plus it is considered more of a party island and a little more expansive. We decided to explore both for a few days, to have our own experience of them.
It is a 45 minute water taxi drive from Belize City. There is also an air strip but it was under construction when we were there.
Caye Caulker’s official motto is “Go Slow”, so all that craziness you might have in your life needs to change once you get here! You need to slow down and enjoy the atmosphere and most of all life!
As you get off the boat there are plenty of golf cart taxis ready to drive you to your hotel. Or you can simply walk, since the town is very small and very pleasant to go through. There is one main street where you can find lots of people selling arts and crafts and most of them are extremely friendly. Most of the time they try to strike a conversation with you, just to remind you to be happy and enjoy Belize. Some tourists will just speed up and walk away trying to ignore them! Others, like us, will stop and engage because it is the best way to feel part of the place you are visiting. After half a day of walking up and down the street people will say hi and it will feel like you have been there forever!
On this little island there are lots of places to eat, drink, listen to music. There are plenty of grocery stores, some have only food and some have souvenirs as well, a few boutiques, lots of booths offering boat rides, snorkeling and scuba diving day trips. Very popular is diving in the Blue Hole, I wrote a whole post about it, click here to check it out! It is 2 hours away so it is a long day on the boat but I have heard it is worth it. My husband booked the trip, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the rough weather. Check out the video of our flight!
Since our kids are not in a diving age yet, the only option for them to venture a little around the barrier reef was snorkeling. Luckily we had a chance to book a half day tour to Hol Chan.
On Caye Caulker you won’t find real beaches, the closest thing you can find to beaches are meter-long strips of brief sand interspersed with docks. So our day trip was perfect for getting us out in the water! However our kids also loved island life, just walking up and down the town saying hi to everyone and running after dogs on the streets!
Snorkling at Hol Chan
Hot Chan is the most popular diving and snorkeling spots in Belize. It is located between Caye Ambergris and Caye Caulker. We were a little tour of only 10 people, but there are so many companies that offer the same snorkeling experience. So once you get to the place it is a full house!
Hol Chan was the first stop, where everyone, except Luca and I, jumped in and ventured towards the coral reef. The guide was pretty awesome and took everyone to explore some very cool spots, far away from all the other groups.
The Belize Barrier Reef is such an amazing beauty of nature to explore! It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNSECO in 1996. It is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The Belize Barrier Reef is composed of 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish and hundreds of invertebrate species. It was such a blessing for our kids to have the opportunity to witness some of this beauty.
In the meantime Luca andI were stuck on the boat, but he was having a blast anyway! He loved throwing everyone’s flip-flops in the water. SoI had to dive in and get them, I got my work out for the day! Once everyone got back on the boat we headed out to Shark-Ray Alley, where you can swim with dozens of Nurse Sharks and Stingrays. They are so used to human contact that they barely react when you swim near them. Cosimo and Mass swam very close, but believe me they came back home with every part of their body intact!
In another spot we were able to see a beautiful sea turtle. Unfortunately there were lots of boats looking for her. I it felt like she was trying to escape from the craziness. I often wonder what fish think of all these people swimming around them with all this weird-looking gear! In the last spot of our snorkeling tour the kids got to swim in another part of the coral reef and explore a shipwreck as well. It was an amazing day!!!!
Our last stop on our Belize adventure was Ambergris Caye. It is 25 miles long, and is Belize’s largest and most developed island. It is about a 60 minute boat ride from Caye Caulker.
This island is bigger then the previous one and the look and feel is so much different. You definitely cannot walk everywhere, you will need a car, golf cart or moped and it is so much busier. When I booked our resort I didn’t realize how far out it was from downtown. The taxi ride there was a little expensive, $50 each way! The ride was very bumpy because the roads are all dirt except for downtown and there were some huge holes!!!! Once we got to the resort though, we had a very pleasant surprise! It was beautiful and we were the only ones there!!!! They had just changed managment and most of the families that spent Christmas and New Years there were now gone. We got to enjoy it all to ourselves!!!
In order to wander around and explore a bit of the surroundings, we decided to rent a golf cart for our 2 days stay. It cost us about US$150. We let our kids drive it too, of course under our supervision and in side roads. We all had a blast and a bit of a panic attack at times!
Our opinion about the island experience
The only flaw of the island experience for us? They weren’t really kid friendly. People were very nice to our kids but there wasn’t much for them to do specially for the younger ones. Plus the wait time at restaurants once we ordered our food was very long. Not the best for very hungry kids!
On the other hand though it was also an amazing time! They were so different from one another, that is even hard to see which one we liked the most. Probably Caye Caulker was more our style, because of the friendliness of the people and that we would walk everywhere. On the other hand, we really loved the area we were staying at on Ambergris Caye. It was a little far out but it was magical to be there!
Definitely explore Belize mainland as well as the islands!!!!
Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Belize!!!
Check out the hotel we stayed at Jan’s Hotel!!!