Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
There's excellent diving and snorkeling close to Caye Caulker. Within a 5- to 20-minute boat ride from the pier lie some world-class dive sites, including Caye Caulker North Cut, Coral Gardens, Pyramid Flats, Sponge Avenue, and Amigos Wreck. As on Ambergris Caye, a day's diving here will almost always feature a mix of steep wall drops and coral caverns and tunnels. In addition, in Caye Caulker you can dive on the wreck of a 15m (50-ft.) boat, and amongst huge canyons of coral. You'll see brilliant coral and sponge formations, as well as a wealth of colorful marine life. The wreck and canyons are prime spots to spot giant grouper, and rays and turtles are fairly common here as well.
There are several dependable dive operators on Caye Caulker. Rates are pretty standardized, and you should be able to get deals on multiday, multidive packages. The best dive operations on the island are Belize Diving Services (tel. 226-0143; www.belizedivingservice.com), Big Fish Dive Center (tel. 226-0450; www.bigfishdivebelize.com), and Frenchie's Diving (tel. 226-0234; www.frenchiesdivingbelize.com). All of these operators charge BZ$100 to BZ$160 (US$50-US$80/£27-£42) for a local two-tank dive, with equipment rental running around BZ$50 (US$25/£13) for a complete package, and BZ$12 to BZ$20 (US$6-US$10/£3.20-£5.30) for a mask, snorkel, and fins.
For more adventurous diving, you'll probably want to head out to the Turneffe Island Atoll, Lighthouse Reef, and Blue Hole. All of the dive operations on Caye Caulker offer this trip or will subcontract it out. It's about a 2- to 3-hour ride each way -- depending upon the speed of your boat -- over sometimes rough seas. Most day trips out to Turneffe Island or Lighthouse Reef and Blue Hole run around BZ$300 to BZ$400 (US$150-US$200/£80-£106) per person, including transportation, two or three dives, tanks, and weights, as well as lunch and snacks.
Caye Caulker is another excellent place to learn how to scuba dive. Resort courses will give you an excellent 1-day introduction into the world of scuba diving, including a very controlled shallow-water boat dive. These courses cost BZ$200 to BZ$300 (US$100-US$150/£53-£80). In 3 to 4 days, however, you can get your full open-water certification. These courses cost between BZ$600 and BZ$800 (US$300-US$400/£159-£212), including all equipment rentals, class materials, and the processing of your certification, as well as four open-water and reef dives. All of the above-mentioned dive operations offer these courses.
There are a host of boats on Caye Caulker offering snorkeling trips, and most of the above dive operators also offer snorkeling trips and equipment rental. Snorkeling tours range in price from BZ$30 to BZ$60 (US$15-US$30/£7.95-£16) for short jaunts to half-day outings, and BZ$100 to BZ$160 (US$50-US$80/£27-£42) for full-day trips -- a bit more if you want to jump on a trip all the way out to the Blue Hole. A full set of mask, fins, and snorkel will usually cost from BZ$12 to BZ$20 (US$6-US$10/£3.20-£5.30) per person per day.
All of the Caye Caulker dive and snorkel operators offer trips to Shark-Ray Alley and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. These trips cost between BZ$90 and BZ$240 (US$45-US$120/£24-£64) per person, depending on whether it is a snorkel or scuba dive trip, how long the tour lasts, and whether or not there is a stop on Ambergris Caye. Many of these include a stop for lunch and a quick walk around town in San Pedro.
One of my favorite options for snorkelers is a day-cruise to Shark-Ray Alley and Hol Chan with Raggamuffin Tours (tel. 226-0348; www.raggamuffintours.com) aboard a classic wooden Belizean sloop. The trip makes three distinct snorkel stops, and includes lunch on board the boat, snorkeling gear, and the park entrance fee for BZ$90 (US$45/£24) per person.
The crystal-clear waters, calm seas, and excellent snorkeling spots around Caye Caulker make this an excellent place to go out for a sail. Unlike on Ambergris Caye, there's no organized bareboat charters available here, but you can go out on any number of different vessels for a half- or full-day sail, a sunset cruise, a moonlight cruise, or a combined sailing and snorkeling adventure.
A day cruise including lunch, drinks, and snorkeling gear should run between BZ$100 and BZ$220 (US$50-US$110/£27-£58) per person; a half-day tour including drinks, a snack, and snorkeling gear should cost between BZ$70 and BZ$120 (US$35-US$60/£19-£32). Most hotels and tour operators around town can hook you up with an appropriate captain and craft. Or you can head out on the Shark-Ray Alley and Hol Chan tour with Raggamuffin Tours (tel. 226-0348; www.raggamuffintours.com).
Chocolate & the Manatees -- Sure you can get candy bars and cakes and a whole host of products derived from the fruit of the cacao tree here. But on Caye Caulker, when someone mentions "Chocolate," they are almost inevitably referring to pioneering guide and boat captain Lionel "Chocolate" Heredia. Chocolate began his career as a fisherman, but he soon dedicated himself to the fledgling business of taxiing folks by speedboat back and forth between Belize City and Caye Caulker. This business soon expanded to include guided tours, snorkeling outings, and fishing adventures. Chocolate was also probably the first guide to introduce the popular day trip to see manatees and do some snorkeling at remote cayes. He and his wife, Annie, also led the battle to protect these gentle sea mammals and their feeding grounds, finally seeing the dedication of the Swallow Caye Manatee Reserve (www.swallowcayemanatees.org) in 1999.
Chocolate (tel. 226-0151; firstname.lastname@example.org) still leads manatee and snorkel tours. These tours begin with a stop at the manatee-feeding site on Swallow Caye, before heading to either Goff's or Sergeant's cayes, which are little more than football field-size patches of sand with a few palm trees. The afternoons are usually spent snorkeling in the clear waters off these cayes, and lunching on the sand. These trips, which are also offered by most other tour operators on the island, include all transportation, lunch on one of the cayes, and several snorkel stops, and cost between BZ$120 and BZ$160 (US$60-US$80/£30-£40) per person.
Although not nearly as developed or popular on Caye Caulker, sport fishing for tarpon, permit, and bonefish is still excellent around the caye, and on the reefs and flats. There are several dedicated fishing guides on the island, and almost every hotel, tour operator, or dive shop can hook you up with a captain and crew for some angling. If you're looking for a specific recommendation, check out Gabriel at Gabriel's Fishing Trips (tel. 206-0131) or Porfilio Guzmán (tel. 226-0152); both are excellent guides. You can also check in with the folks at Angler's Abroad Fly Shop (tel. 226-0303; www.anglersabroad.com)
A half-day reef trolling, casting, or fly-fishing for bonefish or tarpon costs between BZ$250 and BZ$400 (US$125-US$200/£66-£106), a full day between BZ$400 and BZ$800 (US$200-US$400/£106-£212). Deep-sea trolling for larger game runs around BZ$800 to BZ$1,200 (US$400-US$600/£212-£318) for a half-day, BZ$1,600 to BZ$2,400 (US$800-US$1,200/£424-£636) for a full day. These prices are per boat for two to four fishermen and usually include drinks, tackle, and lunch.
Kitesurfing & Sailboarding
With strong, steady, but not overpowering winds, Caye Caulker is a great place to learn or practice kitesurfing. The folks at Kitexplorer (tel. 602-9297; www.kitexplorer.com) rent out both kitesurfing and sailboarding equipment. They also offer an intensive 9-hour course in kitesurfing for BZ$720 (US$360/£191) that is guaranteed to get you up and skimming across the sea.
Kayaks & Other Watercraft
The calm, protected waters just offshore are wonderful for any number of watersports vehicles. Several hotels and tour operators around Caye Caulker have various types of watercraft for guest use, or general rental. Rates run around BZ$20 to BZ$30 (US$10-US$15/£5.30-£7.95) per hour for a kayak; BZ$40 to BZ$60 (US$15-US$30/£7.95-£16) per hour for a Hobie Cat or small sailboat; and BZ$60 to BZ$80 (US$30-US$40/£16-£21) per hour for a jet ski.
Fun on Dry Land
Aside from sunbathing, reading, and relaxing, there's very little to do on Caye Caulker. However, you should be sure to head south of town to the Caye Caulker Mini-Reserve. Located on the southern outskirts of the town, the term "mini" is certainly fitting. Nevertheless, this local endeavor features a few gentle and well-cleared paths through a small stand of littoral forest. More serious bird-watchers might want to grab a boat and a guide and head to the northern half of the island, where 40 hectares (100 acres) on the very northern tip have been declared the Caye Caulker Forest Reserve. As of yet, no admission fees are being charged at either of these reserves, but that could change. In all, over 130 species of resident and migrant birds have been spotted on and around Caye Caulker. Another option for bird-watchers and nature lovers is to rent a kayak for paddling around on the lagoon and mangrove side of the island.
Yoga -- Located on the southwestern part of the island, Great Island Yoga (tel. 660-0411; www.greatislandyoga.com) has a lovely ocean-facing yoga studio. While they specialize in weeklong retreats, depending upon who's teaching, you can sometimes just pop in for a class. Currently, public classes are offered January through May, on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 10am, but it's always best to confirm in advance. Cost is BZ$40 (US$20/£11) per class.