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The main activities on Caye Caulker itself are strolling up and down the sand streets, and swimming and sunbathing off the docks. The most popular spot is at the north end of the island by the Split. The Split was formed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie literally split the island in two. You'll find the water's edge rimmed with a nice wooden dock, and there's even a decent little patch of beach and a roped-off swimming area. The water is very calm by the Split, making it a good place to practice if you're an inexperienced snorkeler. Take care when swimming off the docks here. The split is an active channel with regular boat traffic. At least one swimmer was killed by a boat, so stick to designated swimming areas, away from obvious boat channels. Also, when the tides are running strong, there's quite a bit of current through the split, and it's easy to get dragged along for a few hundred yards or so. If you do get caught in this current, treat it like any riptide: Don't panic, and swim diagonally across the current to get out of it.

Aside from the Split, and as on Ambergris Caye, there is not much beach to speak of on the rest of the island. There is a narrow strip of sand for much of the length of the island, where the land meets the sea, but even at low tide it isn't wide enough for you to unroll a beach towel on in most places. In fact, along most of its length this is a small bike and footpath that is probably the busiest thoroughfare on Caye Caulker. Just off the coast, for 100 yards or more out from shore, the bottom is covered with sea grass. Beneath the grass is a layer of spongy roots and organic matter topped with a thin layer of white sand. Walking on this spongy sand is somewhat unnerving, as you might encounter a sea urchin or stingray, and it's easy to trip and stumble.

Several of the hotels have built long piers out into the sea, with steps down into the water, and swimming is best here. Beyond this, some of the best swimming can be had from boats anchored out in the turquoise waters between the shore and the reef, or by taking a kayak offshore a little ways.

As on Ambergris Caye, snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing are the main draws here. All are excellent.

Excursions on the Mainland

If you've got island fever or Caye Caulker is your only destination, and you want to see more of Belize, several tour operators on Caye Caulker offer excursions to all of the major attractions and destinations around the country, including Altun Ha, Lamanai, Xunantunich, Mountain Pine Ridge, and Tikal. You can also go cave tubing in the Caves Branch region. Most of these tours involve a flight or two in a small charter plane.

The most popular and economical tours are to the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha or Lamanai, or a spa package and lunch at Maruba Jungle Resort. Various operators offer a combined trip visiting both Altun Ha and Maruba. These trips begin with a short boat ride to the mainland, followed by a minibus ride to the selected attraction. Prices for these trips run BZ$140 to BZ$200 (US$70-US$100/£37-£53), although the spa treatments are extra.

For trips involving a flight, prices range from BZ$200 to BZ$400 (US$100-US$200/£53-£106) per person, depending on the distance traveled and number of activities and attractions crammed into 1 day. Any hotel or tour operator on the island can help you arrange any number of these tours. In most cases, these trips are subcontracted out to an operator based either in Belize City or on Ambergris Caye.

In addition to the dive and watersports tour operators listed above, Tsunami Adventures (tel. 226-0462; www.tsunamiadventures.com) is good, all-purpose operator with an extensive list of offerings on and under the water, and all around the cayes and mainland, as well.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.