Did you know I got zika on my latest trip through Central American and the Caribbean? I knew it was a risk when I left, but I went anyway. I tried to spray myself with DEET as much as possible, but what most people don’t know is that in the tropics, it’s virtually impossible to protect yourself 24/7. The symptoms first kicked in in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, and followed me into Belize. It put me out of commission for a week, but I still wouldn’t trade my trip for anything. For me, it’s just part of being a traveler, but not everyone feels the same. My latest piece for Oyster explains everything:
Caye Caulker is becoming one of the most popular destinations in Belize for people heading down the Central American “gringo trail.” Its location on the coral reef make it an amazing destination for diving, snorkeling, and sailing.
I came there on a sailboat and we anchored in the harbor for almost a week, taking in the scene, amazed by the friendliness of the people and the laid-back island vibes along the main drag, enjoying rum punches from Margarita Mike’s, jerk chicken from Belizean Flava and deep-fried Snickers bars from Best of the Fair.
But a couple of things surprised me, too. Here’s what you must know before visiting Caye Caulker:
- It’s only 10 minutes away by boat from the larger city of San Pedro. I met locals who said they had been able to jetski or windsurf there.
- It’s surprisingly easy to get to Yucatan, Mexico. You can catch the once-a-day Water Jets Ferry to Chetumal, Mexico, and from there get an ADO bus to Cancun.
- Like a lot of the Caribbean resort towns (Utila specifically) there isn’t enough nightlife to pack every club every night, so the bars in town have an an unspoken agreement that they each get a specific night of the week to be the “place to go.” The first night we were there, it was Barrier Reef Sports Bar, the next night, I&I Reggae Bar. All you have to do is ask around to find “the scene”–or it may just find you.
- Although there’s no real “beach” to speak of, it’s a popular destination for kiteboarders, who launch off the split on the north end of the main drag. We went to a BBQ and met people from all over the world to come to Belize to try this thrilling extreme sport. The flat conditions make it an excellent place to learn I’m told. There are at least two companies who offer lessons, but be sure to get up early for the best wind!
- That “street food” you see may not actually be street food. On the main drag, a couple of guys stood outside near two huge grills, calling to passersby, saying “follow your nose!” We did, and ended up a short flight of stairs at Belizean Flava (right next to the Sports Bar) enjoying the best BBQ and jerk chicken in town for $15 Belize ($7.50 US) complete with two sides (I chose coconut rice and salad; my friends had garlic mashed potatoes) and two rum punches. It’s a family affair–the cook was the waiter’s mother, who’s lent her secret spices in top restaurants all over Belize, and she was back in the kitchen. (The guys outside were just grilling and yelling!)
- It’s dusty! The roads aren’t paved, and the sand and dust from the beach gets everywhere, including on every product in the supermarket, making everything seem much older than it is. After walking around all day, my feet and flip-flops were practically white with dust. You’ll want to rinse off every time you get back to your hotel (or in my case, boat).