Barefoot in Belize: A Trip to Caye Caulker

Are you looking for a vacation destination where you can live in your bathing suit and flip-flops, with no cars or trucks allowed? Have you ever seen signs posted that say, ‘No shirt, No shoes, No problem’? Caye Caulker, Belize, is that kind of place. In this two-part post, I’ll tell you why you should visit Belize and other sites in the area. 

Visit Caye Caulker, Belize

This limestone coral island is just off of mainland Belize in the Caribbean Sea. A forty-five-minute boat ride from Belize City, my first impression of the village was that it was built with a fluorescent-colored Lego set. The turquoise water, white sand, and swaying palm trees announced that I’d arrived in paradise.  

Because the island is five miles long and about a half-mile wide, you can actually see one side from the other. Golf carts and bicycles are for rent, but you can easily cover the inhabited part of the island barefoot or in flip-flops. The island has a small airport for those who wish to fly. Caye Caulker is laid back and the perfect place to veg, but there are lots of things to see and do.

Lazy Lizard Beach Bar, Belize

The Split

The main beach is called The Split, aptly named after a hurricane ripped through the island, severing it in two. The Lazy Lizard Beach Bar is the place to see and be seen at the Split. They offer cold drinks, good food, picnic tables right in the water, and a great view from the upper deck. Gazing out to sea, you’ll discover shades of blue that defy description. 

Accommodations on Caye Caulker range from a simple one-room ocean-front bungalow on stilts to upscale condos with amazing sea views and amenities like pools and beachfront bars. Short and long-term rentals can be found through VRBO and Airbnb. There are some places where you can step off your porch and into the ocean. 

The Split, Belize

With the exception of coconuts and some tropical fruit, food has to be imported onto the island. Fortunately, there is no reason to go hungry with everything from pizza and burgers to pasta and steak. It’s a seafood haven, and lobster is abundant (when in season). We found lobster at beachside barbeques and restaurants, grilled, baked, or put into things, like fritters and salads. Our favorite was the lobster nachos. 

The ocean side of Caye Caulker is protected by a barrier reef. It is a diving and snorkeling mecca, and, according to some, is only second to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The half-day snorkel trip was our best underwater experience ever, bar none. We saw giant sea turtles and stingrays, all sorts of colorful fish, and even got to pet an eight-foot nurse shark. There are a handful of dive shops in the village, offering snorkeling, diving, and fishing packages. 

Pops’ Fishing Charter

Belize was the first big trip that Cathryn and I took together so I wanted to do something special. I booked a fishing charter with a local guy named Pops. Not the one-eyed peg-legged pirate we expected, the handsome young man offered an afternoon of fishing, quickly followed by a trip to his family island, where he prepared us dinner. Cathryn landed two barracuda. While Pops hoped to add lobster to the menu, his traps didn’t offer any of appropriate size. 

Pops’ island was nothing more than a sand spit two miles off-shore, with a coconut tree in the middle and mangroves at one end. Island security greeted us at the dock — five mixed-breed dogs who were all happy to see Pops, and quickly warmed to us. They lived on the island, keeping an eye on things when dad wasn’t around. 

Boat in Caye Caulker

We made quick work of exploring the island, which was less than the length of a football field and barely wide enough to support a game of horseshoes. The only buildings were a bunkhouse, work shack, and an outdoor kitchen, powered by a homemade solar and wind system. Taking it all in, I had to wonder if my surprise to Cathryn was a good idea — I’d made arrangements with Pops to spend the night there by ourselves. 

Fresh Catch for Dinner

Spike, the pit bull and head of security, stood guard on the end of the dock while our host cleaned our fresh catch. It was awesome and scary at the same time when a nurse shark showed up for the tasty scraps. What happened next is something I would never have believed if I didn’t see it for myself. Spike lunged from the pier onto the sharks back, sending it into a frenzy, splashing us with seawater. Pops laughed. Apparently, Spike didn’t like sharks. 

Our host made us fresh salsa from scratch as an appetizer. While we snacked, he started a fire with coconut husks and filleted one fish and cut the other into steaks. He marinated one and fried the other. It was an amazing meal. Pops left us food for breakfast and said he’d be back by noon the next day. With the nearest person and/or phone two miles away by water, I figured the only danger would be pirates or a freak storm. 

I went to the outhouse after Pops disappeared on the horizon. It was typical of the old outdoor structures I’d used before, with one distinct difference. It was built on stilts in the water, and only accessible by walking a wooden plank. Flushing was taken care of by Mother Nature. When I stepped off the plank, I saw Cathryn wearing nothing but a smile. Moby was playing over Pops’ sound system. 

 

True Paradise

Like Adam and Eve, we sat in our personal paradise watching the millions of stars in the Milky Way appear like twinkle lights on a giant black velvet canvas. It was the most amazing display I’ve ever witnessed. Our minds melded with the sounds of Pink Floyd, aided by a mixture of wacky tobacky that our host had left us. Life was contemplated, and in that moment, we were one with the universe. 

We spent the night in the bunkhouse, with an ocean breeze blowing through the open windows. The puppy we named Blue curled up on the floor beside our bed. Spike took his job seriously, and slept on the top porch step, blocking entry to our door. He was one of a kind. When we went for a swim the next morning, he acted as shark patrol and swam in circles around us. 

We spent a month on Caye Caulker, but traveled to Ambergris Caye and mainland Belize for cave tubing. We also visited Guatemala to see the Mayan ruins at Tikal. Check out part two of our trip to Belize for the rest of our adventure. 

If you want to read about any of my southeast Asian adventures take a look at the travel section of my website at www.edmondgagnon.com.

by Edmond Gagnon

Bali, Indonesia: On an Island, Under the Sun

Taylor SimpsonWe set off traveling with a desire to share in the human experience. We wanted to discover new places, taste new cuisine, and connect with new people; purposefully making ourselves uncomfortable and pushing our limits. Ultimately, we traveled to meet ourselves in our truest form. The familiar adage ‘travel far enough you meet yourself’ will always remind me of my time on an island, under the sun in Bali, Indonesia

My husband owns an online business. This has allowed us to travel extensively over the years. This fits perfectly with my dreams of being a travel writer and photographer. We decided there was no time like the present to traipse through southeast Asia. It was then that we packed up our life in sunny California. Our goal was to cut our living expenses in half so that we might live a freer, more fulfilling life. 

Breaking Free from the Grind

With nothing but fifteen pounds on our backs and a sense of adventure, my husband and I set off to new horizons. We hoped to escape the rat race of America, pay off our student debt, and to embrace a quieting of the mind and soul. We flew to Hong Kong and spent a month in northern Vietnam. Additionally, we traveled south through Singapore before we finally made it to Bali, Indonesia. 

It is no secret that Bali is a beloved destination for travelers of all kinds. Adventure seekers, soul searchers, digital nomads, and even the rich and famous all have a place on this island in Indonesia. We were drawn to the island for the weather, the especially unrivaled natural beauty, and the whisper that magical things happen on the ‘island of the gods.’ We were hoping some of those magical things might include trekking through the jungles, spending all day at the beach, and making large payments on our student loans. 

Photo by Taylor Simpson of a beach in Bali, Indonesia
Photo by Taylor Simpson

We rented a small furnished apartment a few minutes’ walk from the beach for five hundred dollars a month. We ate one meal a day at the warung two houses down for three dollars a day. Not surprisingly, I have yet to find better chicken fried rice than what the locals whipped up. Days in Bali, Indonesia pass slowly, guided mostly by the rising and setting of the sun. Power outages are frequent, locals tend their rice paddies barefoot in the heat of the day, and stray dogs are taken in as neighborhood pets. 

Island Life in Bali, Indonesia

As the days turned into weeks, we found ourselves settling into the comfortable rhythm of island life. What was it that made this island so special? For starters, the spirit of the locals set the tone for a relaxed and unquestionably pleasant environment. They are kind, giving, slow to speak, and always smiling. They perform ceremonies for the phases of the moon and to celebrate life and loss. Children meditate on the beach during the school day — a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of the average American city. The neighbors all know each other — Their children play together in the streets while parents share in the day’s adventures over a cup of coffee. I have yet to experience this in any place I’ve lived in the US. In fact, I have rarely known my next-door neighbor’s name. 

Photo by Taylor Simpson
Photo by Taylor Simpson

The tiny neighborhood we were part of, even if just for two months, made it clear how influential a sense of community and togetherness can be. We felt a sense of safety and ease I have yet to encounter anywhere else. And slowly, I began to feel happy and truly content. It turns out you don’t need a large home, multiple cars, a closet full of clothes, or a climb up the corporate ladder.

I wore the same thing every day, worked on what I am most passionate about, and got plenty of exercise and time outdoors. I was finally able to sit down and read some books (and a lot of them, at that)! Plus, I had time to connect with family and friends back home as well as make new friends over chicken satay and broken English. All of this while simultaneously paying off significant portions of our exorbitant university costs from years prior. 

Photo by Taylor Simpson
Photo by Taylor Simpson

Returning Stateside

I would spend a lifetime in Bali if I could. As a matter of fact, we talk frequently about moving to Bali full time. Since returning to the United States, I have experienced the reality of reverse culture shock. Often, I daydream about walking down to the beach to sit by the ocean to meditate on all the things I’m grateful for. I dream of stepping into a life of presence and true joy. I found what my truest self could be in Bali, Indonesia. When I reflect on my time there, I find I always long to return to that island, under the sun.

Taylor’s experience in Bali is truly inspiring. With absolutely stunning photography, her visit there came to life. Visit Taylor’s website to see more photos from Taylor!

by Taylor Simpson