If your tropical island dream includes sharing said island with a few dozen fellow travelers, snorkelers, divers, rum drinkers, and hammock sitters from around the world, then Tobacco Caye is your place.
This tiny island, located within South Water Caye Marine Reserve, perched practically on top of the Belize Barrier Reef has long been a popular backpacker and Belizean tourist destination, especially for divers.
Tobacco Caye is just north of Tobacco Cut (a “cut” is a break in the reef through which boats navigate). Guesthouse owners have boats to whisk you each day to snorkeling and fishing trips or to Man-O-War Caye and Tobacco Range to look for manatees. Glover’s Reef, Blue Hole, and Turneffe trips are available for US$150–200; whale shark tours are usually running March–July.
Tobacco Caye Hotels
Tobacco Caye’s “resorts” offer similar packages but for a range of budgets. All six places are Belizean-run family affairs, each a bit different according to the owner’s vision, and are comfortably crowded together on the five acres of sand. Apart from some basic differences in room quality, the more you pay, the better food you’ll be eating—a pretty important thing when checking into a room that also locks you into a meal plan. Some of the accommodation prices are per person per night and include three meals; always ask to be sure.
Gaviota Coral Reef Resort welcomes you to “the Lifestyle of a Chosen Few” in one of four rooms or five cabanas (tel. 501/509-5032, US$45 pp, shared bath); there are three boats that can be used for visiting the reef and cayes. An on-site marine station often hosts visiting scientists, and you can ask to check out their reference materials on the area’s habitats and species. There is also a snack shop and beach volleyball court.
Paradise Lodge (tel. 501/520-5101 or 501/621-1953, resmanagerdean [at] yahoo [dot] com) occupies the northern tip of the island with rooms for US$12.50 per person and six cabins with porches built over the sea (US$48 pp); Lana’s on the Reef (tel. 501/520-5036 or 501/522-2571) has four basic rooms for US$40.
Stepping things up a notch, find Reef’s End Lodge (tel. 501/670-3919 or 501/522-2419, www.reefsendlodge.com) on the southern shore; rooms (US$40, meals not included) and cabanas (US$50) have fans and hot and cold water with private baths. The newest cabana (US$100) is clean, spacious, and has air-conditioning; take in the romantic sunset view from your seaside veranda. There is a bar and restaurant built over the water, and prepaid meal plans are available. Reef’s End has the caye’s only dive shop, which can be utilized by anyone on the island; this is an excellent location to begin a shore dive or snorkeling adventure. Dive master Eric can take you to his favorite local dive sites; two-tank dives range US$100–150.
Tobacco Caye Lodge (tel. 501/520-5033 or 501/623-0998, www.tclodgebelize.com, US$55 pp) occupies a middle strip of the island and offers three cabins facing the reef. Meals are included and a dinner bell will ring.
On the western side are the Sunset Bar and a popular swimming area. Fairweather Place (tel. 501/802-00300 or 660-6870, hevf7 [at] yahoo [dot] com, US$20 pp) has four basic rooms and camping; meals are not included.
Getting to Tobacco Caye
Water taxis to Tobacco Caye leave when the captain says there are enough passengers; usually around mid-afternoon from the Riverside Café or the Tackle Stop farther upstream. Captain Buck (tel. 501/607-6578) is one option, or try Fermin, a.k.a. Compa (tel. 501/509-5032). The trip costs US$35 round-trip, with a return trip usually made midmorning.
Captain Doggie (tel. 501/627-7443) is another and will charter 1–3 persons for US$70; groups of 4–12 can expect to pay US$17.50 per person. Compa has the newest, largest, and most comfortable boats.
By calling ahead to Gaviota Coral Reef Resort, Reef’s End Lodge, or Tobacco Caye Lodge you can arrange a pickup any time from Dangriga and ensure a boat will still be there if you are arriving after midday.
Be advised; if you need a boat after 3 p.m., you’ll pay a lot more—seas get rough and a private charter is necessary. Plan accordingly.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition