What’s A Caye, Anyway?
This article is intended to compare what it’s like to visit the Belizean islands of Caye Caulker and San Pedro, also called Ambergris Caye (used interchangeably here). A “Caye” is an island and it’s pronounced like “key“. It’s defined as being a small, low-elevation, sandy island on the surface of a coral reef.
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Caye Caulker vs. San Pedro
Let’s break down how these two islands compare by category.
As you can see, San Pedro is MUCH bigger than Caye Caulker. San Pedro is 25 miles long, a mile wide, and the biggest Caye in the Belizean islands.
Caye Caulker is 5 miles long and a mile wide.
As far as the cost of everything, I think it’s comparable on both islands. You will pay a premium for everything since you’re on an island, but supply and demand is a huge factor here. I would say because of this San Pedro is probably cheaper.
Accessibility Options & Costs
Both cayes can be accessed by water taxis leaving from Belize City and surrounding areas, or by plane. Reference the chart below for more info, note that the flight costs don’t ever seem to change based on dates. This is based on adults, one-way trips.
Hotel Prices & Availability
Since San Pedro is so much bigger, there are more hotels. More supply=cheaper prices. You’ll find hotels for both across the typical booking sites (find out our favorite), Air B&B, and even in Facebook groups. You will also notice many of the same properties called different names across sites – for example, “Lydia’s Guesthouse” and “Lydia’s Island Retreat Room 1D” are probably the same place.
Popularity + How Busy Is Each?
Caye Caulker has about 2,000 residents since it’s much smaller. For this reason, it’s much less busy! It’s known as a “Backpacker’s island” so the demographic tends to skew younger – I’d guess most visitors are under 40 years old.
San Pedro has a year-round population of about 10,000 people. This Caye feels more “Disney-fied” and set up for tourists. Most travelers to the Belizean islands come here.
For reference, the whole country of Belize has about 328,000 people. I couldn’t find any stats on how many people visit each Caye, but here’s some info on general visitors to Belize from 2018.
Getting Around the Cayes
Caye Caulker has very few cars, we only saw a few trash trucks wandering around in our 4-day stay. Most people walk around, bike, or rent a golf cart but walking is the best way to see the island. I recommend renting a bike for a day or two and walking the rest of the time.
You’ll find more restaurants in Ambergris Caye area, Caye Caulker is much smaller. Both offer great Caribbean/Creole style food such as Jerk Chicken, Rice and Beans, and Stewed Chicken. During Lobster season (June) you can get conch and lobster almost anywhere from the roadside BBQ stand to the fanciest of restaurants.
The island motto of Caye Caulker is “Go Slow“. Ambergris Caye is a much faster-paced place – busier, with more to do – maybe even “Go Faster“. This is a great way to decide which one to visit. Both islands feel very “Rasta”, fun, and touristy. Caye Caulker is definitely more laid back.
Caye Caulker = Go Slow
Ambergris Caye = Go FasterOn island culture and vibes
Things to Do
Both Cayes offer similar activities such as snorkeling at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, going to the beach, boating, scuba diving at the Blue Hole, doing a Blue Hole aerial tour, chocolate tasting, adventures to the mainland such as the ATM tour or cave tubing, and of course eating and drinking (so many bars to choose from!). Essentially, there’s just much more of everything on Ambergris Caye.
Regardless of where you decide to go, you’ll be on a tropical island in the sea so it can’t be that bad. I would say if you’re looking for a younger, chill vibe go with Caye Caulker. If you want an older or more established location with more going on, choose San Pedro.
Other Belize Tips
Planning to rent a car in Belize? Find out how to do it without getting scammed, and don’t forget to check out our packing list. Finally, check off these items before traveling internationally. If you’re worried about safety, see how safe I felt in Belize.