Belize, you know, that tiny little country wedged in between Mexico and Guatemala? It doesn’t look like much and it is has a reputation for being riddled with gun crime and dangerous cities. Why the hell should you put Belize on your backpacking route? Well, let me explain. Central America is a clump of countries that are all woven from the same cloth. The language is the same, they share their Mayan roots and, with a few exceptions, the food will be similar across the region. While each Central American countries has it’s own unique selling point, Belize stands out like a sore thumb, and I say this in the nicest, most beautiful way imaginable. The official language of Belize is English, a huge relief for those of you who might struggle with the language barrier, and the culture is Caribbean rather than Latin. This country really couldn’t be more out of place if it tried, and this is why we love it so much.
There’s no doubt that mainland Belize has a lot to offer the urban-loving, adventurous backpacker, but Belize’s pièce de résistance is, unquestionably, Caye Caulker. This stunning island, located about 45 minutes by boat from Belize City, is quite possibly the closest you will get to paradise whilst still on planet Earth. Here are some of the reasons you should make Caye Caulker the top of your next backpacking hit list.
As I mentioned earlier, Belize boasts an authentic Caribbean culture so expect a very different atmosphere to the rest of Central America. The motto of the island is “Go Slow” and this is adhered to so strictly that it is basically a commandment. Anyone seen moving or behaving in a way that suggests that they are rushing or hurrying will be met with this motto being chanted at them from all directions. Everything is perfectly laid back, which makes this the ideal location to kick back in a hammock, in the sun and sip on a couple of rum cocktails.
The locals that I met on this island were probably the friendliest people I have ever met in the world. Everyone was so warm and welcoming that you instantly felt at home in the community. Of course there were a few dickhead tourists riding around in golf carts at full pelt, being noisy and annoying and generally disturbing the sleepy peace of the island. These people did not have such amicable experiences with the locals, or the other tourists on the island for that matter. Please don’t be one of these people. Everyone will hate you. So long as you go with the flow of the island, the locals will welcome you in with open arms and offer you all the help and advice you need. Also, if you ever find yourself with a craving for something sweet, the Cake Lady (my favourite person on the island) sits on the main road from about midday onwwards (until her stock runs out) and she sells the most incredible homemade pies and cakes. Seriously they are unreal and will cost you next to nothing.
Don’t expect rollercoasters and shopping malls. This little island is all about getting in touch with nature and they offer a huge number of snorkelling and scuba diving expeditions to offer tourists the chance to interact with the marine life of the island. E-Z boy tours offers several different types of tours including sailing expedition and overnight camping trips to other islands. If you decide to go snorkelling, be prepared to see sharks, sting rays, tropical fish, seahorses, and even manatees if you’re lucky! If you’re not so keen on getting in the water then take a stroll around the island and check out the little family-run boutiques and street markets.
Because that’s what holidays are all about right? At the end of the main road is a bar called the Lazy Lizard, located on what is known as The Split. There aren’t any actual beaches on this island so if you want to do some swimming and some hardcore sun-bathing, this is the place to go. The beer isn’t the cheapest on the island but you’re paying for the location and a prime sun-bathing spot. R&B and reggaeton pump out of the bar all day and if you play yours cards right you’ll probably make a few friends there who you can go out with that night. If you get restless jump off the dock into the sea and splash about for a bit. Beware though! The current is strong here so if you’re not a confident swimmer just stick to the shallow pool in the middle.
Oh yes. Belize has great food in general but this island is truly the crème de la crème. Feast each night on fresh fish and lobster that have been caught just hours before it is served. Relish in spicy chicken and beef dishes with coconut rice and fresh veggies. Delight your tastebuds with meals that are so jam-packed full of flavour and deliciousness that you will never want to eat anything else ever again. Check out Blue Water Deli, Enjoy and Rainbow Grill for some meals that will blow your mind. Don’t forget to order some fresh watermelon juice with your meal!
The two most popular backpacker haunts on the island are Dirty McNasty’s and Bella’s, which are located opposite each other. Dirty’s has more of a party vibe whereas Bella’s is better for people who want to chill in a hammock in the evenings. If you are in a couple or a small group, however, you might find cheaper deals in some of the guesthouses as they charge per room rather than per person like hostels usually do. Vista del Mar, located on the main road, has some very reasonably priced rooms and offers a free breakfast, which changes every day so you’ll never get bored eating the same thing each morning.
You won’t Belize how great this island is!