Belize | A Romantic SUP Respite in Caribbean Seas
A couple explores the pristine reef and primitive isles of Belize’s Caye Caulker
The tiny islands of Caye Caulker have a simple maxim—“Go Slow.” And it couldn’t be more apropos.
The coral island—one of 200 that comprise the Caribbean nation—is located 21 miles northeast of Belize City, stretching only five miles long and one mile wide. There are no paved roads. Bikes and golf carts serve as the only form of transportation through the sandy streets.
Belize boasts the second largest reef in the world, second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The water temperature averages 82°F (28°C) year round and its brilliant blue translucent hue can’t be conveyed in any postcard. Nurse sharks, rays and parrotfish are among the common sightings at the reef which is teeming with life.
Upon learning of this tropical paradise, I immediately wanted to plan a trip there. Three months later, my boyfriend and I were on a plane with a bag full of bikinis and boardshorts in the overhead compartment.
We flew into Belize City and felt the island vibe as soon as we touched down. A boisterous taxi driver with a sweet, Caribbean accent drove us to the water taxi, where we boarded the boat with thirty other excited travelers–many with the local beer, Belikin, already in hand.
Next stop: Caye Caulker.
Upon our arrival, we got acquainted with the standup paddle shops the island had to offer. A small, beachfront shop—Contour—quickly became our favorite. They had a wide selection of boards, friendly staff and their products and rentals were reasonably priced. We were tempted to partake in one of the company’s renowned SUP tours, no doubt a fascinating way to learn more about the area and its history, we opted to rent boards and go it alone. I find, more often than not, the best traveling SUP adventures don’t always come with a tour guide.
In 1961 Caye Caulker was hit by a hurricane that split it into two islands. Today, the south island is the larger and more popular of the two, while the north island remains mostly untouched with only a few inhabitants and one resort.
Warm, tropical wind made the paddling itself a real breeze (pun indeed) as we set off to explore the north island. Our strokes took us past colorful homes and over sea grass, trumpet fish, tarpon and yellow stingrays. Despite the beauty of the north island, eventually we were lured to the south island.
Once past the resort, the only sounds audible were those of the wind and the wildlife. We hugged the coast and paddled through small inlets in the mangroves until the water got too shallow and then simply turned around and found a new one. Although we didn’t happen upon any manatees, the experience was perfect.
We spent ten days snorkeling, paddling, kayaking, biking and exploring Caye Caulker. We made friends with the locals, tried new foods, acquired mosquito bites, got burnt by the sun and loved every minute of it. Who knows, maybe 30 years from now I’ll become one of the retired expats calling the island home. Regardless, I’ll surely be back someday.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of options on the island, all at an affordable price. You can get a hostel for as cheap as $13 a night or choose from one of the many colorful guest houses.
What To Drink
When you visit the Cayes, it’s all about the rum. The Panty Ripper, a mix of pineapple juice and coconut rum, is a local favorite. Or if you’re in the mood for a beer, the Belikin is the brew of choice. At $2.50 USD for most beverages, the prices can’t be beat. Just be sure to pace yourself.
Where To Eat
Seafood is probably your best bet. There are tons of restaurants, but the best dinner I had was from the taco carts that line the streets at night. For breakfast, definitely try the fry jack place, a little hole in the wall on one of the back streets. If you’ve never had a fry jack, you should. It’s a thin circle of fried bread, filled with eggs, beans, meat, and salsa.
Aside from standup paddling, our favorite excursion was a trip to the Great Blue Hole–a massive sinkhole about 45 miles east of Caye Caulker. It provides a great destination for both snorkeling and diving. Our other favorite outing was a visit to the Lamanai–a Mayan ruins site. We took a boat to the mainland and then boarded another boat that navigated 20 miles through the jungle to the site. The jungle cruise was beautiful and the ruins were absolutely breathtaking.
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Explopre more Belize: Belize—A Beginner SUP Trip, the digital feature originally from our 2014 Beginner’s Guide