Caye Caulker – Belize Vacation

When most Belize travelers tell their friends where they are about to vacation, the first question is often, “Wait, where is Belize again?”. This is followed by the ever popular, “Oh, that’s an island right? I saw it while watching this season’s Bachelor”.

This guy is likely a bachelor

Truth is, Belize does have an amazing series of islands, and guests would be doing themselves a disservice by not visiting them. The Belize Barrier Reef runs the entire length of the country (over 190 miles). It extends past the borders of Belize into Mexico and Honduras, forming one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. In fact, there are over 450 islands (called cayes) that make up the reef system in Belize.

Caye Caulker Belize Vacation

No Caye is the same, and each stand out for both good and bad reasons. Ambergris Caye with the “bustling” tourist town of San Pedro is a bit crowded and hectic compared to the easy breezy feel of the rest of the country. Although San Pedro is the spot to get luxury treatment, it often comes at a steep price.

Sand Streets of Caye Caulker Belize

Comparatively, San Pedro’s sister to the south, Caye Caulker, captures the essence of Belize to it’s fullest. The motto of Caye Caulker is “Go slow”, and if  Belize tourists don’t understand that by the time they leave the country, well maybe they didn’t experience real Belize the right way!

"Go Slow" is the motto on Caye Caulker

At Lower Dover Jungle Lodge, we recommend the Caye Caulker beach and snorkel combination as the perfect compliment to our jungle lodge for an adventure packed week long Belize vacation. Hotel prices range from about $100USD and down just like Lower Dover. Plus the overall, laid back vibe, is comparable in both spots. You can still find great accommodations, but it’s often for a fraction of the price compared to San Pedro. You can also find some CHEAP accommodations on Caye Caulker.

Ignacio's Beach Cabana's on Caye Caulker in Belize

One of the most affordable places on Caye Caulker is the family run, Ignacio’s, found near the airport on the south side of the island. It is by no means a fancy spot, and rustic would be a generous description for some people. The most important part is that it costs $7.50USD a night for a double room right on the ocean! Double points for having to walk through a cemetery to get there!

Cemetary Road Caye Caulker on the way to Ignacio's

Great Beach Views on Caye Caulker

Now my bed did collapse while I was sleeping there last time, but I almost half expected that. In the end, it did not faze me in the slightest, IT’S A BUDGET ACCOMMODATION! Plus, they were happy to fix it right away when I told them about the predicament. With the money saved on accommodation, we gladly reinvested back into the local economy with some cold Belikin beers. It would have taken a lot more than my bed missing a leg to keep me from sleeping most nights.

Barrier Reef Sports Bar - Caye Caulker, Belize

One of the best places to get a cold beer on Caye Caulker is the Barrier Reef Sports Bar. It’s also the best place, maybe in the entire country, to watch a televised sporting event. With multiple flat screen televisions, a dart board, and sports memorabilia all over the wall, this place definitely will remind you of a sports bar back home. The only difference is the Barrier Reef Sports Bar opens up to the ocean!

Caye Caulker Water Taxi Stand near Barrier Reef Sports Bar

View of the Sports Bar from the Water Taxi Stand

The bar is located a little north of the water taxi stands on the main drag. FYI, they also do a fun trivia night Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with nice discounts on bar tabs to the winners. Our team, John the Baptist (a nick name earned on our friend’s Belize trip), had it wrapped up until the final bonus round when we took an epic dive while risking it all. Good thing for us the beers are also cheap!

Fresh Seafood BBQ Galore on Caye Caulker

BBQ Lobster is the best!!!!

Look for Jolly Roger when you want to eat on Caye Caulker

With the money we still were saving by choosing Caye Caulker over San Pedro, we decided to get some fresh seafood dinner. After sampling many of the places to eat on Caye Caulker, we have decided that Jolly Roger’s is the absolute best for value, taste, and portions!  Jolly Roger is a pretty large dude, so you know he has sampled every possible combination of seasonings to ensure the best quality food you could imagine. Fresh, whole lobster dinners, with rice, garlic bread, and chips is only $10USD! He barbecues the lobsters, cut in half, on the spot. It is a must for anyone staying on Caye Caulker. The same meal would probably run $35 plus dollars in San Pedro, and there is no telling it’s quality.

Jolly Roger's is the best place to go for BBQ

Whole Lobster Dinner for only $10USD!!! Beat that Red Lobster!

Finally, no trip to Caye Caulker would be complete without snorkeling the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan is located half way between San Pedro and Caye Caulker, and it’s area is protected from fishing by park rangers to ensure seeing more fish than you could possibly imagine!

Look for the Black Hawk Tour sign opposite of Jolly Roger's BBQ

Black Hawk can also sail you from Caye Caulker to Placencia

The best Hol Chan tour, for the overall experience and value, is operated by Black Hawk Tours, located right across from Jolly Roger’s BBQ place. The tour company gets its name from the small sail boat, the Black Hawk, which carries the guests to three different snorkeling locations on the trip. “Big Steve” is the captain and a pretty engaging guy. He mans the boat while his cousin guides the snorkel trip.

The Black Hawk sailboat

Big Steve of Black Hawk Hol Chan Tour fame

The first stop is a location where it is occasionally possible to spot and swim with live manatees! Occasional, because I have seen them only once in 3 trips. The one time was really magical though. Swimming only 10 feet away from a manatee is a life experience that is unforgettable. It is also possible to spot a sea turtle or two if you don’t see manatees.

Hol Chan Marine Reserve Sea Turtle

Swimming with Sea Turtles in Belize

Luckily for manatees, the sharks hang out at the next dive spot. Dubbed, Shark Ray Alley, because of the extensive sting rays and nurse sharks that congregate in the location, it is here that you can actually touch the sharks as they swim by. The guide will even coax a stingray from the bottom of the ocean in order to feel their sandpaper like skin. Watch out so you don’t get Irwined!

Sailing on the Sea Hawk in Belize on the way to Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The last spot on the Black Hawk sailboat and snorkel trip is the reef channel, where most of the fish are seen. It’s not uncommon to see huge groupers, barracuda, and massive schools of yellow-tailed snappers. The reef goes from five feet and drops rapidly to a depth of 40+ feet. Massive Brain coral and tiny reef fish are everywhere. Extra care needs to be made not to touch the coral, because they die when disturbed. It is still possible to dive and get close enough to snap some photos with an underwater camera if you have one!

Yellow-Tail Snapper at Hol Chan while snorkeling in Belize

On the way back, enjoy the sunset on the sailboat as you munch on freshly caught conch ceviche. Just make sure to save enough room for the rum punch! You might also consider not drinking and eating 3 whole lobster dinners instead. That’s what we did. If you plan it right, there will be enough time to catch an outdoor movie at Paradiso, the new beach theater. Lucky for us, they were playing Apocalypto, getting us primed for the December 21, 2012 party in Belize. Hopefully it turns out better for us than those Mayan dudes in the movie!

Caye Caulker Sunset

Caye Caulker Sunset 10 minutes later

New beachside movie theater on Caye Caulker

There is only one bank & atm machine on the island. Power outages have been known to happen, so make sure you carry at least enough cash to pay for a days worth of fun when you get there.

The only ATM machine on Caye Caulker is at Atlantic Bank

On a side note, its only $5USD to rent a bike for the day from most hotels. This is a great way to see the island and beats walking back and forth all day in the sun. We suggest you try it out and see every corner of the island if you have a day to burn.

Caye Caulker Bike Rental

Some photos from this story are from friend and photographer Caroline Dixey’s site The Youth Chronicles. More of her photos of Caye Caulker and Lower Dover Jungle Lodge can be viewed here.

3rd Annual Sacred Heart Dog Show – San Ignacio, Belize

Independence - Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize

We have a couple of dogs here at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize (6 if anyone is counting). One of our first posts covered one of our all time favorites, Lassie. This time it’s Independence, our 5 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.  She was born on September 21, 2011, which is also Belize’s Independence Day, making her name selection easier than our sheep.

3rd Annual Scared Heart Dog Show - San Ignacio, Belize

This past Sunday we took her to San Ignacio for the 3rd annual Sacred Heart Dog Show, to see what our little girl had in her. Independence got the call over our other puppy, because she seemed to want it more when we tried them on the leash. 4 month old Bo Bo (short for Bodacious Bojangles) is going to be a Paul Bunyan sized German Shepherd and will certainly get his chance to shine in the future…

Puppies playing at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

Sunday, though, it was all Independence. She had only been on a leash 2 times before, once to go to the vet to get her shots, and one 10 minute training session the day before. Plus, she had never even left the Jungle Lodge so everything was surely an overload for our little puppy. In San Ignacio she walked alongside speeding trucks to get to the competition. At our farm she chases chickens and only leaves the couch to bite Bo Bo.

Indy gets another bite in on fat Bo Bo

Francisco from PACZ Tours signing in while we entered Independence.

We entered her In the hound category, and due to lack of puppy participants, she was forced to compete with the older dogs. Fortunate for her, she was up against a couple of Dachshunds and a Beagle and towered over the competition the first time through. She took home first place in both the puppy category, and in the hound group, earning her a nice certificate, medal, and sizable trophy.

Hound Group Showing: Dachshund and Rhodesian Ridgeback

Judging Independence at the Sacred Heart Dog Show

Best hound dog in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize

By winning the hound group she earned the rite to compete in best of show. Unfortunately for us, that meant waiting around all day, in the 90+ degree sun, for all the other dogs to compete.  Needless to say she was pooped. By the time her name was called for the final showing a couple of hours and 3 beers later (handlers need to celebrate too!), my treat coaxing wouldn’t even do the trick. She needed a nap!

Best in show judging for our Rhodesian Ridgeback Independence

Coincidentally, she was up against a huge Pit Bull male that was owned by Francisco our ATM Cave tour guide from the story we wrote recently. The big boy was clearly intimidating our little girl, even showing the crowd his pink thing!  She did not like that one bit, and refused to enter the ring next to him. We gave her the special treatment, like an unruly racehorse, and finally coaxed her into the ring last in line.

Best in show - 2nd place is not so bad for the first time out!

At last, she gave it her all, only to fall just short, second place overall to Francisco’s Pit Bull. It was an amazing effort for having only been on a leash twice. The judge told me she couldn’t give her the win because she wasn’t ready, but when she filled out she would be the champion of Belize! We will see what Bo Bo has to say about that…

Name the sheep contest winners

Thanks to everyone that participated in the name the sheep contest. It was a tough choice. In the end we still like two of our names and that complicates the voting a bit.

the Baby, two females, and the ram.

The new ram will be called…JED! Congrats to Nick enjoy your 3 nights free stay at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize.

Our new ewe will be called… LADY BAA BAA! Congrats Debbie. Looks like we will see you and Chris again soon!

As for the white ewe sisters, we decided to go our own route and name them the GABOR SISTERS after the famous Hollywood socialites. Farm living is the life for me!

Everyone that participated is welcome to a t-shirt or a night’s bar tab on the house, your choice. But because we are declaring everyone a winner, you have to pick it up here.

Sunday Snapshots: Guest Photos from Lower Dover

Recently a friend and photographer, Christy Brinnehl, came to Lower Dover looking to escape the winter up north in Chicago. Here are some of the photos she took while hanging out on the farm at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize.

Sheep Farm at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge - Christy Brinnehl

Turkey Picture from Lower Dover Jungle Lodge - Christy Brinnehl

And she took these photos of Jungle Lodge.

Arriving at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

Red Cabana and an Orange at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

Rasta cabana at night - Christy Brinnehl - UFO?

And everyone loves dog photos.

Chaya and Independence at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge - Christy Brinnehl

Puppies playing at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

She got some good photos of the jungle on our nature hike through the 100 acres.

Jungle Hike at Lower Dover in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

Jungle Trail at Lower Dover in Belize - Christy Brinnehl

Jungle pictures from Belize nature hike - Christy Brinnehl

And managed to get some nice shots of the view from the unexcavated Mayan site on our property. This Maya temple is alongside the Belize River overlooking modern day Spanish Lookout.

View of Barton Ramie Maya Settlement from Lower Dover Plaza H - Christy Brinnehl

Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout aka Barton Ramie Mayan Site seen from Lower Dover

For more photos from Christy click here.

 

Foto Friday: Full Moon Pictures from the Jungle

Guests at Lower Dover Jungle Lodge in Belize are often surprised to see how vivid the light can be from a full moon here in the jungle. It is even more striking because the full moon always rises in the east over the library (on top of a Mayan temple), making for excellent views (and photos if you have the right filter). When the full moon is directly overhead, flashlights are almost unnecessary, due to the extreme brightness the sun’s reflection.

The full moon is the best time to turn into half woman half snake ;)

During the winter solstice of 2010, the moon was in total lunar eclipse for the first time in 372 years! We only assume the Maya knew this was going to happen when they built their settlement at Lower Dover, especially the temple where the library sits. Dust particles in the atmosphere gives the moon it’s reddish tint. The next total lunar eclipse can be seen in Belize on April 15, 2014 so if your calendar is longer than the Mayan’s mark the date!

2010 Winter Socstice Lunar Eclipse