Water Taxi, Caye Caulker
These boats are how you get from Caye Caulker to Belize City or to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. They run every hour or hour and a half, depending on the time of day, and cost $35BZ roundtrip, $20 BZ one-way. It's 45 minutes to Belize City, 25 to San Pedro.
Don’t worry, if a boat fills up, they'll take a second one, so everyone will get on and you don't need to reserve a space. The people-watching is good here, from locals commuting to the occasional cruise-ship passenger on a daytrip. You’ll likely share your ride with crates of fruit and other cargo going between islands and the mainland. Obviously the ride is windy, and there might be a few bumps, but it’s a lot more colorful and enjoyable than taking the cramped little prop plane.
Our failure to catch a water taxi at the beginning of our Belize trip was rectified a few days later when it was time for us to leave Caye Caulker and head further north, to San Pedro on Ambergris Cay. The day had started with the first grey skies of the trip and was a bit cool as well, so it was a good day to leave the sunny beaches for the slightly more 'upscale' northern Cay!
I walked across the beach from our hotel to buy our tickets (US$10 each, credit cards accepted) for the 10 AM departure, giving us plenty of time to pack our backpacks for the short ride. It was not long before our departure time that we were standing at the end of the wharf with the other passengers waiting for the incoming craft. Upon boarding, the crew stowed the various backpacks under the seats and down a hatch inside the cabin while we grabbed a couple of seats just at the edge of the cabin in case it was a rough crossing. They have life-jackets aboard (check out the front window!) but none were required to be worn.
We were soon underway on what turned out to be a choppy sea, with the 3x200 HP outboard engines powering us along quite nicely. The 35 minute run to San Pedro stayed on the lee side-side of the coastal barrier reef to shelter us from the worst of the waves of the Caribbean Sea, so the ride was quite comfortable. As always on this vacation, the crossing time passed quickly as we compared notes with the other travellers and their adventures.
If you get the chance, be sure to take a water taxi ride at least once - they are fun, fast and cheap!
There are two ways to get to the island. Unless you are an olympic swimmer... The rest of us have to take boat or plane. There are watertaxis leaving from Belize City and Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) almost every hour. It costs 10 USD one way, and 17,50 USD for a roundtrip. You can also take a plane if you prefer. It's a little more expensive, but it goes a bit faster.
The watertaxi takes about 45 minutes, and it's a great ride. On the way from Belize City you pass by many smaller cayes, some are just a tiny bit of sand sticking up from the sea with just a palmtree or two. I thought islands like that just exsisted in cartoons where someone got stuck alone after a plane- or shipwreck... ;)
There are two ways of reaching Caye Caulker: by plane or by watertaxi. Since I don't like flying all that much, I picked the second option and it turned out to be a great way to travel. All the locals travel by watertaxi and there's just something really nice about reaching an island by boat, so as soon as we got on board it felt as though our trip had officially begun!
The watertaxi terminal is located about 20 minutes away from the airport, and the taxi ride to get there usually costs US$25. There are two watertaxi companies: the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Association (http://www.cayecaulkerwatertaxi.com) and the San Pedro-Belize Express (http://www.sanpedrowatertaxi.com). Both have very similar schedules, with taxis leaving every 90 minutes or so between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, and both make stops in Caye Caulker and San Pedro. The San Pedro Express is slightly cheaper ($US11 for a roundtrip ticket instead of $US15) and the terminal in Belize City is much nicer than the CCWTA one, with clean restrooms, a nice waiting area, a cafe and a bar, but the CCWTA has been around for a while and it is still the most popular company. We travelled with both companies during our stay in Belize and found the staff of the San Pedro Express to be friendlier, but both companies are equally efficient when it comes to being on time and travelling safely. The 45-minute boat ride sure is a nice way to begin your trip to Caye Caulker!
The're severall compagnies offering a place on their boats to the cayes. The biggest has a terminal just over the bridge (comming from the center). A one way trip will cost you around $7,5. If you by a round trip you'll get reduction.
The trip itself is also very nice passing many other cayes and the mainland at the horizon.
You'll need to take a water taxi (they run every half hour if I remember correctly) You catch this at the city docks in Belize City.
They are trustworthy and reliable for the most part (I freaked the first time they wanted to take my pack (large) and put it in the boat's locker) You get over this too and realize they are just like any cabby in any city, they really aren't interested in your stuff and they want it out of the way.
If it rains, the open part of the boat has a very fun silver tarp that magically appears and everyone on board holds it up (not very successfully) to keep dry - real ice breaker - everyone laughs.
"Help" awaits you at the docks, but it is laid back, all you need to say is no, NOTHING like in Mexico.
They have a deal if you buy more than a one way ticket - subject to change of course.
To get to Caye Caulker, you must take one of the boats that leaves from Belize City. These boats leave from right by the "Swing Bridge" where the river enters the sea.
The boat ride takes about 20-30 minutes from what I remember. They toss all your luggage into a compartment (or wherever it will fit!) in the big open boat (hopefully, it won't be raining when you go!), and pile on as many people as they can.
A few years ago, my friend George said they were regularly overloading the boats, creating a safety hazard. But I think that has changed now.
There is a cheaper water taxi service on the other side of the harbour in Belize City (I forgot the name unfortunately) that was not mentioned in my Lonely Planet guidebook (Belize/Guatemala). Instead of crossing the Swing Bridge to get to Front Street, stay on the the other side of the harbour and head right down Regent Street from Albert Street. The taxi terminal will come up on your left. A fellow traveller gave us this tip. If you're out there, we thank you!
From the Belize City airport you can catch a taxi for approximately $20.00BZE to the water front where the water taxi's are located. Depending on where you want to go, prices will vary. To and from Belize City to Caye Caulker will cost appx $9.00us one way and $15.00us round trip. These speedboats will weave you in and around the small little atolls and islands that exist out at sea. It's a beautiful ride, often crowded as sometimes the local folks use these taxis to commute to and from work.
Getting to the Cayes is very easy, there are taxis every hour (almost), it only takes 30 minutes to get to Caye Caulker and about an hour to Ambergris, but you don’t want to bother going there anyway. If you want to get off at any of the other cayes you just have to ask the captain.
To/From Belize City to Caye Calker/San Pedro- take the Caye Calker Water Taxi; it's more comfortable, and I believe they stole my iPod out of my bag on the other, more uncomfortable San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi.
Caye Caulker is easily accessible by a myriad of water taxis from the Belize City pier. Moreover, for the travelers coming from Guatemala via Flores there is a connection around noon. Connection is a bit of exaggeration since there is no responsibility of the Guatemalan bus to deliver you in the hands of the water taxi drivers but this is hardly a problem when taxis are plying the waters between Belize City and Caye Caulker every hour on the hour. Return tickets are advertised as better option and in most of the cases this is true unless you intend to go further north to Ambergris Caye or return by plane directly to the Belize City Airport.
Getting to Caye Caulker is a snap. Getting to the marine terminal to board a water taxi is pricey, though. It cost $20 US + tip to go from the airport to the terminal. But, there didn't seem to be another way. A one-way ticket to the island will cost $20BZ. Be wary of bringing luggage. I just had a backpack. If you must, tell the staff if you want them to be careful with your bag 'cause they just throw them around. They'll also expect a tip.
The two options for getting the island are by turboprop to a small airstrip or via water taxi for a 45 minute ride to Belize city.