The reef you see from Caye Caulker’s eastern shore provides fantastic diving right in your front yard. The most popular sites are Hol Chan Marine Park, Caye Chapel Canyons, and the reefs around St. George’s Caye, Long Caye Wall, and Sergeant’s Caye.
Many visitors are willing to brave four hours (two each way) on a boat in mostly open ocean to dive the Blue Hole and Turneffe Islands sites. There is no “best” dive site, as every diver is looking for something different—just be sure to discuss the options before booking the trip (and make sure you’re comfortable with the boat, guides, and gear).
Caye Caulker’s three dive shops offer similarly priced tours: Hol Chan (US$100 for two tanks); Blue Hole, Half Moon, and Lighthouse (US$190 for three tanks); Turneffe day trips (US$125 North and US$150 South); certification courses (US$325 for open water and US$300 for advanced, US$100 for a Discover Scuba single-tank dive); as well as a variety of snorkeling excursions and other trips.
Frenchie’s (tel. 501/226-0234, frenchies [at] btl [dot] net, www.frenchiesdivingbelize.com) has a rock-solid reputation for quality service. Owner and operator Abel Novelo has been diving these waters since he was a child.
Belize Diving Services (behind the soccer field, tel. 501/226-0143, www.belizedivingservices.net) is another excellent operation that is all computerized and offers both recreational and technical dives at Miner’s Gold and Treasure Hunt dive sites.
Big Fish Dive Center (tel. 501/226-0450, info [at] bigfishdivecenter [dot] com, www.bigfishdivecenter.com) is a PADI Dive Resort with a 45-foot dive boat with an onboard restroom and shower that is ideal for farther destinations, such as the Blue Hole.
Albert Pacheco’s Extreme Tours (tel. 501/226-0127) offers small private certification classes (three students with one instructor).
Snorkeling and Swimming
Masks and fins are available for US$5 per day and can be used off almost any dock or at the island’s most popular beach and snorkel spot: the split. You’ll see flocks of sunbathers here on any given day, lounging like reptiles atop the various chunks of sand and cement, getting up only to splash on some more oil or order another Panty Ripper at the Lazy Lizard Bar, which provides mellow music for the scene.
Be aware that swimming in the channel can be dangerous; this is a shallow and heavily trafficked area. The pull of the current can be enough to overpower children or weak swimmers. Also be aware of boat traffic, as serious accidents have occurred here. Around the bend only a few yards out of the channel, the water is calm and safer. However, old construction materials have been dumped here for fill, so be careful where you step or dive.
Boating and Snorkeling Tours
At least a dozen shops on the island rent gear and offer half-day snorkeling trips to the local reef and full-day trips to Hol Chan Marine Reserve (with snorkel stops at Shark and Sting Ray Alley and the Coral Gardens; lunch, not included, is in San Pedro). Many guides conclude their tours with a visit to the tiny Sea Horse Sanctuary behind the split.
The cheerful, capable guides at Raggamuffin Tours (tel. 501/226-0348, www.raggamuffintours.com) will take you out on RaggaGal, Ragga Prince, RaggaQueen, or RaggaKing—beautiful, Belizean-built boats designed especially to access shallow snorkeling spots. Raggamuffin regularly sails to Hol Chan (full-day trip includes lunch and rum punch on board) and offers sunset island cruises. The best adventure tour has to be the utterly unique overnight sailing trip south to Placencia (Tuesday and Friday departures), where you’ll be dropped off to continue your travels; three days of sun and sea, and two nights camping out in style on idyllic cayes (US$300 pp includes all gear, food, snorkeling, and fishing).
Belizean guide Shedrack Ash offers friendly, professional snorkeling, manatee watching, and fishing trips through his company, French Angel Expeditions (tel. 501/670-7506 or 501/670-9155, www.frenchangelexp.com), which gets rave reviews from past clients. Walk straight down the street from the water taxi, on Calle del Sol.
For a reggae vibe, join Ras Creek on his boat Heritage Cruze, docked at the Lazy Lizard Bar when not plying the reef with happy, reggae-crazy customers; this is one of the best ways to tour the Caye Caulker Marine Reserve (US$30). Ras Creek was the first to guide tourists to the Sea Horse Sanctuary behind the split.
Climb aboard the Gypsy with Carlos Tours (tel. 501/226-0458 or 501/600-1654, carlosayala [at] hotmail [dot] com), which has an excellent reputation for personal attention and a focus on safety. Carlos loves underwater photography and will share and sell photo CDs immediately after a trip. His office is on Front Street next to the Sand Box.
A pair of local brothers run Anwar Tours (tel. 501/226-0327, www.anwartours.page.tl) and, with 15 years experience, they get positive reviews for both snorkel trips and inland tours. Tsunami Adventures (tel. 501/226-0462, www.tsunamiadventures.com) is located near the split, books snorkel and inland trips, and rents underwater cameras. EZ Boy Tours (tel. 501/226-0349, ezboytours-bze [at] yahoo [dot] com) offers all the standard snorkel tours as well as overnight camping trips and night snorkeling.
Try to catch your dinner off one of the island’s many piers. You can buy bait and rent fishing rods at the Badillos’ house near the soccer field (look for a small porch sign). Or fish like a local with a hook, line, and weight. Or take a walk to the back side of the island, where you’ll find fishers cleaning their fish, working on lobster traps, or mending their nets in the morning. Many will be willing to take you out for a reasonable fee. The main trophies are groupers, barracuda, snapper, and amberjack—all good eating. Small boats are available for rent by the hour.
For professional fishing tours, go to Anglers Abroad (tel. 501/226-0602, www.anglersabroad.com) near the split. Owner Haywood Curry rents and sells a complete selection of fly and spin gear, and he is happy to give advice for the novice or expert fisher. He offers lessons and DIY instruction by canoe or foot and sets up half-day, full-day, and overnight adventure trips. Group tours, as well as private lessons, are available. The shop works with well-known and experienced reefs and flats fishing guides, including Parnel and Kenan Coc, Rafael Alamilla and Eloy Badillo.
Shadrack Ash, owner of French Angel Expeditions (tel. 501/670-7506 or 501/670-9155, www.frenchangelexp.com), can take you fly fishing (catch and release), spin casting (with an option to grill your catch for you), and lobster fishing (seasonal June 15 to February 15).
Other Water Sports
Toucan Canoe and Kayaks (Palapa Gardens on Front St.) has the most comprehensive canoe and kayak tours and rentals on the island (US$5/hour single, US$7.50/hour double, US$10/hour triple canoe). Private and group lessons are offered by Canadian-Belizean owner Allie Ifield, who is a top-placing international canoe racer and licensed tour guide and naturalist. All two-hour tours are US$25. Ask Allie about moonlight or stargazing options, mangrove and seahorse tours, and individual custom tours.
Rudolfo can teach you windsurfing and kite-boarding at Kitexplorer (www.kitexplorer.com), located on Front Street near the split (seasonal). Stuart Trent Adventures (on the beach in front of Sandbox Restaurant, tel. 501/631-9134, trenteesh [at] yahoo [dot] com) offers instruction and rentals of small sailing boats.
Massage, Yoga, and Fitness
You’ll feel like a new person after a session at Eva McFarlane’s Healing Touch Day Spa (tel. 501/601-9731 or 501/226-0208, edenbelize [at] hotmail [dot] com) on Front Street. She does everything from deep tissue and Swedish massage to reiki, reflexology, aura cleansing, waxing, manicures, and facials. All treatments are US$30 for 30 minutes and US$50 for a full hour.
Coco Plum Garden Cafe, Spa & Gallery (Ave. Mulche, tel. 501/226-0226, www.cocoplum.typepad.com) offers massage by Chriss Roggema (US$65 for 90 minutes), tarot readings, and spa services.
Great Island Yoga (www.greatislandyoga.com) offers classes from Christmas to Easter at a beautiful ocean-front location (Coco Plum can provide a schedule and map). Drop-in classes are US$6, and organized groups are also welcome.
RandOM Yoga (www.randomyoga.com) is a donation-based outdoor yoga studio; for schedules look for their sign on Front Street by Anwar Tours (seasonal).
For those feeling more energetic, there is Louise’s step aerobics Monday to Thursday (5–6 p.m.), upstairs from the Village Council Office. You can register or just drop in for US$1.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition