Snorkeling in Caye Caulker

One of the things that Belize is known for is being a premiere destination for diving. We don’t dive, but we do like to snorkel, so we figured we had to try it out while we were in Caye Caulker. Spoiler alert: it was awesome!

Our traveling partners from the Caracol journey had been to Caye Caulker a week earlier and had recommended a variety of places to us. For snorkeling, they gave a big recommendation for Blackhawk sailing tours. We decided it looked good to us as well, mainly because it seemed like a smaller, more personal experience than going with one of the big companies.

We set up the snorkel trip a couple of days in advance with captain Steve. We were also able to get our friends from Hopkins to come along, and they also invited along four people from their hostel. No one else had signed up for the day so we would have the boat to ourselves.

The day of the tour it had rained early, so we worried that the tour might be cancelled, but Steve said we could still go out.Steve fitted us with snorkels and fins and we went out to the boat, named the Seahawk.

Our crew for the day was Captain Steve and his helper / snorkel guide Charlie. The boat had a sail, but the conditions dictated that to get out to our snorkel destinations we had to use the motor instead.

Stop 1: Manatee Viewing

The Caye Caulker area is known for having a small number of manatees in some areas of the reef. It is hit-or-miss on whether they will be there on any given day, but Steve had heard that they were there on this day so our first stop was to where one was supposedly hanging out. When we got there, Charlie hurried us into the water because he could see the big tour on its way. We rushed out to the spot and saw the manatee! This was especially exciting for Della because she had written a big report on manatees in grade school. We weren’t supposed to get too close, so we kept our distance. But then the manatee swam towards us! We had to back up quickly. We then left the area and got back on the boat.

Stop 2: Shark Ray Alley

We then travelled along the reef to our next stop, called Shark Ray Alley. This was a place that local fisherman had used to clean their daily catch, and as a result nurse sharks and rays had known to congregate there. They get so excited when they hear a boat coming that they swim right up to it. Charlie just had us jump right in with them, which was a little scary! Luckily, they are not aggressive towards humans. We spent some time swimming among the sharks, some big rays, and a lot of fish.

Stop 3: Conch Shell Graveyard

The next stop was only a short distance away. Here there were a ton of empty conch shells that fisherman had discarded. The highlight of this stop was getting to swim with a giant sea turtle! After this stop, we had a provided lunch on our way to the next stop.

Stop 4: Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The final stop was in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a part of the reef where the wildlife is protected. Our snorkeling stop was near the “Cut,” a channel that goes through the reef. The wildlife is especially vibrant here. You do have to be a little careful because there is a strong current coming through the cut, so we stuck together with Charlie. We saw a lot of different fish and even some more turtles. Some of the fish would even get close enough to touch!

After we were done snorkeling, Captain Steve and Charlie put up the sail and we sailed all the way back to Caye Caulker. They also put on some reggae music and passed around some rum punch. It was a very relaxing end to the day.

The only negative of the trip for us was that the cloudier conditions early in the day resulted in us not putting on much sunscreen. Bad idea! Eric wore a shirt so his main issue was the backs of his legs, but Della had a bad back burn herself.

Looking back on the trip,  we thought was perhaps the best snorkeling trip we had done. It certainly was the widest variety of marine life that we have ever seen snorkeling. Plus, the water was a pleasant temperature, the currents weren’t too bad, and the boat ride itself was not too long or bumpy. Highly recommended!


From Hopkins to Caye Caulker via Belize City

We decided to leave Hopkins by taxi. At this point, we had begun to travel with the couple that went with us on our crazy day in Placencia. We figured that with four people, the taxi expense would not be too bad. Plus, it might be hard to catch a hitch all the way out to the main road. We were leaving on a Sunday, which unfortunately meant that the bus to Dangriga straight out of Hopkins was not running at all. We could have waited until Monday, but we knew that LobsterFest was big in Caye Caulker and it would still be going on through the weekend. We really wanted to make it! We had some sketchy information that the bus on the main road would pass by the Hopkins turn off at about 7 am. So, we woke up early and grabbed our taxi. The driver wanted to take us all the way to Dangriga, but we decided to risk it and see if the bus came. We were shocked when the bus showed up… exactly on time!! It was an easy bus ride that stopped in both Dangriga and Belmopan all the way to Belize City. We arrived at 10:30 am and got a cab to the water taxi terminal headed for Caye Caulker (~45 min boat ride).


We are so glad that we made it to Caye Caulker for LobsterFest. It was such a fun day. One whole end of the island was set up with stalls of trinkets or food… soooo much lobster! We wandered through the activities enjoying music, beer, and ice cream.

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There was also an entertainment tent set up with music and some dancing. We enjoyed several silly songs by a man who called himself the “Donkey Man.” But, then it really got good! They did several silly games.

Limbo!  Della played but didn't win.

Limbo! Della played but didn’t win.

A weird game involving swinging a banana between your legs to hit a ball into a hula hoop.

A weird game involving swinging a banana between your legs to hit a mango to roll it into a hula hoop.

Tug of War!

Tug of War!

Largest Lobster!  Wow! That's a lobster!

Largest Lobster! Wow! That’s a lobster!

Climbing a greased pole. There was a bag of money on the top. Four teams tried over and over again, falling increasingly far and scaring the crap out of us. No one made it in the end. =(

Climbing a greased pole. There was a bag of money on the top. Four teams tried over and over again, falling increasingly far and scaring the crap out of us. No one made it in the end. =(

It was a great day! IMG_8390

Hopkins Overview

The second major town we stayed in on our Belize trip was the town of Hopkins. We had read in the Lonely Planet that this small fishing village was a good place to chill out at the beach and to experience the unique Garifuna culture.

Where We Slept

The Funky Dodo.This is the main hostel in town and seemed like a good place for the cost. We paid BZ $38/night for a private room (shared bathroom). The setup felt appropriate for the beach location: instead of a rooms in one big building, the different rooms were in their own small buildings that are connected with a wooden boardwalk over sand. The common areas are basically just tables scattered around the sandy courtyard. There are some nice hammocks as well, although we got seriously eaten by mosquitoes when we tried to use them. (This was common throughout Hopkins – we seem to have hit the high mosquito season). There is also a bar in the hostel with reasonably-priced drinks that we went to a couple of times. The hostel isn’t on the beach like some other properties, but it is a quick walk there. The shared bathrooms are accessed via the boardwalks as well, so they felt a bit rustic. Same with the communal kitchen, which is located outdoors.

Favorite Place to Eat

Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack. After our stressful 24 Hours in Guatemala and our adventures hitchhiking into Hopkins, we were ready to relax for a while. On our first evening in Hopkins, we made our way through town and eventually found our way to the Driftwood. The pizza is a little on the pricey side, but it is very good. Since it was the low season, we were the only patrons for dinner that night, so we got to take the best beach chairs and sit by the ocean, enjoying the nice cool sea breeze (good for keeping the mosquitoes away!) and some rum cocktails while the sun set. It was a perfect introduction to Hopkins. We enjoyed the vibe so much that we came back two more times.

Things to Do

Go to the Beach

Hopkins is a beach town, and has a reputation for being one of the better white sandy beaches in Belize. Unfortunately, we can’t really confirm this reputation. There had been a storm the previous week, and most of the beach was covered in driftwood and some trash. A few places that had been cleaned up were nice, but this wasn’t the case for most of the beach. We spent one day exploring the beach – first walking quite a ways south to some resort areas. We felt out of place there, so we headed all the way back and then up in the opposite direction to the Driftwood, which had cleaned up its stretch of beach. We spent the rest of the day lounging in beach chairs, reading, and exploring the water.

Garifuna Culture

Only spending two and a half days here didn’t really give us enough time to learn too much about this culture that is quite different that we had experienced in San Ignacio. If we had more time, we would have enjoyed sampling a few more local delicacies or learning more about the Garifuna drumming. Still, we enjoyed the friendly nature of the people, who gave us plenty of greetings on the street. It was also fun to buy some homemade snacks from a group of kids who rode around selling them from their bikes.


A nice beach town not too far away. Just think carefully about your transportation options


Hopkins provided a nice opportunity to relax on the beach and get away from the hustle and bustle of the first week of our trip. In the end, there wasn’t as much to do there as we had hoped, but sometimes it is nice to just relax!