First of all, I should disclose my bias. I love Caye Caulker, my home since May 2010. However, I also love visiting San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. IL’s postcards editor, Len Galvin, asked me to compare the two islands for you, and I’ll do my best to be impartial.
Ambergris Caye is the biggest island of all of the cayes in Belize. It is 25 miles long and very narrow, with a bustling city—San Pedro—where most people live. (The unofficial head count is 20,000.)
It is easily reached by water taxi or plane from Belize City. It’s only a 25-minute water taxi ride from Caye Caulker.
San Pedro has cobblestone streets. Locals drive golf carts or bicycles. Ambergris has lots of hotels and a few five-star luxury hotels [Ed. Note: I’ve stayed in Victoria House—highly recommended].
You’ll find excellent restaurants up and down all the main streets in the center of town: European, Cajun, Indian, Chinese and Jamaican food. This is also where to go for Internet cafes and tourist shops. Also, plenty of docks devoted to diving, snorkeling and fishing.
The island I live on—Caye Caulker—is very different from Ambergris Caye. It is much smaller, more to my liking.
The total length of the island is a little less than five miles long. Thanks to Hurricane Hattie in 1961, the island split into two parts with inches of water separating them. The locals hand dredged the channel and now over time through the currents and erosion, the split is approximately 20 feet deep.
I live in Caye Caulker Village. We get city water and electricity from a city generator. This half of the island is two miles long and a half-mile wide—with a population of 1,200 people. It has white sandy streets (no cobblestones) called Front Street, Middle Street and Back Street.
Caye Caulker was first visited by tourists who came as backpackers in the 1960s. To this day, some Caye Caulker hotels still have signs boasting “hot water and cold water”. (About 30 tiny hotels and one luxury hotel are on the island.)
I regularly ask tourists who come here from all over the world: “What do you think of Caye Caulker?” Every one has stated with enthusiasm that they absolutely love the kick-back and low-key pace that is unique and savored by all who visit.
I didn’t plan on coming to Belize to buy a property (200 feet from the ocean). I was on vacation, staying at a five-star hotel in Ambergris Caye. During that 12-day visit with my husband, we made about six trips to Caye Caulker. I knew that fancy accommodations are my treat, but gentle low key quietness is my soulful preference.
Editor’s note: Whether you’re drawn to Caye Caulker or Ambergris…or any of the other affordable Caribbean options in Belize…get everything you need in our Belize report.