If you are looking to go diving, I would recommend scuba diving in Belize. Caye Caulker is a great choice if you are looking for a laid back island, good diving and less crowds than its neighboring island and diving mecca, Ambergris Caye.
From Caye Caulker you can dive the same sights as those staying on Ambergris since the 2 islands are only 11 miles apart.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker
Lay of the Land
Caye Caulker is actually 2 islands, separated by the "split" or the "cut" which is a small channel of water. The southern part is the "developed" portion of the caye and most of the northern part is now a marine reserve. The island was actually split in 2 by Hurricane Hattie in 1961.
Caye Caulker (this will now refer to the southern portion) is a small island, only about 4 miles long and less than half a mile wide at its widest point. So it is an easy island to get around. You can either walk, rent a bike or rent a golf cart.
There are beaches around the island, but this isn't the place to come if you want to hang out on a beautiful beach all day. The beaches are fairly narrow and not all that great, IMHO, and if the truth be told. There are much nice beaches in the Caribbean if that is what you are looking for.
There are only about 1,200 or so full time residents on Caye Caulker. The village itself has 3 main streets - Front, Middle and Back. They are parallel and Front Street is the one furthest east (or closest to the reef). Pretty easy. The barrier reef itself is only a mile or so off shore.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Location
Belize itself is situated on the Caribbean coast. It is bordered by Mexico in the north, Guatemala to the south and west and the Caribbean on the east. You can see where Belize is located on our page of Belize maps.
There are a range of hotels to choose from on Caye Caulker. Although you won't be finding any huge mega resorts here.
But how will you know you are getting the best deal? A good place to start is on our page about Caye Caulker hotels.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Weather
Like the rest of Central America, Caye Caulker has a tropical climate. Which basically means it can get hot and humid, especially in the summer months.
The average daytime temperature during the summer months is typically around the mid to high 80's F with temperatures in the 90's F not that uncommon. Things cool off a bit in the winter months with average temperatures closer to around 80F.
Belize and Caye Caulker have a rainy season from June to November with the most rainfall occurring in the September-November timeframe. The island does get hit by hurricanes during the hurrican season (June-November also).
According to hurricanecity.com the island is affected about every 4 years on average. Direct hits are about once every 15 years or so. So not as bad as some other Caribbean islands.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Water Temperature
Water temperatures around Caye Caulker are actually fairly constant. In the winter months (December to February), the water is around 75-80 F. It warms up a bit starting around April-May with temperatures from May-October in the 80-85F degree range. So if you go to dive Belize, you should be pretty comfortable underwater.
My husband and I don't tend to get cold easily so many times we will just wear a skin when we dive Belize. If you tend to get cold 2mm shorties or 3mm full scuba diving wetsuits should be more than sufficient depending on your comfort level.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Reefs and Rides
Caye Caulker Belize sits right off the second largest barrier reef in the world (the reef runs for 185 miles). The reef is only about a mile offshore from the island so boat rides to Caye Caulker dive sites can be short.
However, there are many places to dive off of Belize. To the east of the barrier reef, there are 3 atolls which are popular spots for diving. These are the Lighthouse Reef, Glovers Reef and Turneffe Reef.
If you go just out to the reef, some dive sights are less than a 10 minute ride away. If you go over toward the sites closer to Ambergris Caye, including the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the ride is closer to half an hour.
Dive shops on Caye Caulker also offer scuba diving trips out to Turneffe Reef and the Blue Hole. These are much further out (and, accordingly, cost more) and entail a longer ride. Our ride to Turneffe Reef took about an hour over some rough seas. A bumpy, rainy, uncomfortable ride. If you go, hopefully you will have better weather.
Well, I hate to say it, but we have been scuba diving Belize Caye Caulker and scuba diving in Ambergris Caye and have not yet dove the Blue Hole. We signed up for it 3 times while we were in Caye Caulker but it kept getting cancelled because not enough people were signed up to go. We even tried one day to go with a dive shop from Ambergris but noone was going out that day.
You know what happened, of course. The day we were leaving Caye Caulker was the day there was enough people to go to the Blue Hole. Guess we just have to go back.
If you do dive the Blue Hole, which is located in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, expect a boat ride of about 2 hours.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Diving
There is alot of variety in diving Belize. You can do canyons, tunnels, wrecks, blue hole, etc. Since it is such a popular diving destination, there are several dive operators to choose from on Caye Caulker. We dove with Big Fish and were, for the most part, happy with them (I'll go into more detail in my scuba diving trip report).
We saw a large variety of marine life on our dives. The most common sightings were of lobster, eagle rays, sharks, crabs, red-banded coral shrimp, grouper,eels, etc.
There is also some amazing coral to be seen. Gigantic barrel sponges, black coral, staghorn coral and brain coral to name a few.
The visibility is typically in the 50-100 foot range. During out last trip there (in March) our average visibility was about 70 feet.
Scuba Diving Belize: Caye Caulker Topside
The appeal of Caye Caulker is its' slow, laid back atmosphere. The main activity (besides scuba diving, of course) is going up the cut to watch the sunset. There is a bar right there so it's the main happy hour spot for sunset. Our schedule was usually dive, go for a swim (sounds redundant, doesn't it?), clean up, happy hour. Not too shabby.
The cut is where most people usually go for a swim. There really is no beach to speak of, just a broken down seawall (like I said before, don't come here for the beaches). But the water is shallow, warm and a beautiful shade of blue.
So if you like hanging out and don't need crazy nightlife or shopping, Caye Caulker could be a spot for your next scuba dive vacation.
Here are some books you might want to take a look at to help plan your Belize vacation. The Belize Survivor book is a little different but looks fascinating and gets rave reviews. I'll be ordering it: