Just one by three miles in size, Caye Chapel is about 15 miles and 25 minutes by boat from Belize City . Until recently, the caye was owned by a wealthy Kentuckian trying to attract corporate America to the island’s exclusive 18-hole golf course and retreat. The island is currently closed, but still selling lots.
This small caye, nine miles from Belize City, is shaped something like a boomerang, with its open ends facing the mainland. St. George’s Caye Mangrove Reserve was established in 2005 and covers 12.5 acres on the southernmost point of the island. The caye is steeped in history and was the first capital of the British settlement (1650–1784). It was also the scene of the great sea battle between the Spaniards and the British settlers. Today, the small cemetery gives evidence of St. George’s heroic past. The historic cemetery on St. George’s Caye is Belize’s smallest archaeology reserve.
The St. George’s Caye Research Station and Field School, founded by ECOMAR in 2009, hosts a group of Texas State University professors and students who spend a month on the island to conduct research digs. They also conduct coral reef research and educational trips based here.
St. George’s Caye is far from commercialized—on the contrary, it’s very quiet, with mostly residential homes and their docks. There is one upscale resort with accommodations and full-service dive shop here, plus the vacation homes of quite a few of Belize’s elite. Check St. George’s Caye Resort (tel. 800/813-8498 or 501/220-4444, www.gooddiving.com , US$168 pp includes meals).
Scattered along the coast is a constellation of small cayes, some accessible by tourists, others only by drug traffickers. Seeking out accommodations on any of these islands is guaranteed to get you a unique Belize experience, as you’ll be well away from the crowds of the more standard island destinations.
The Bluefield Range is a group of cayes a short distance south of Belize City. On one of the islands, 21 miles south of the city, is Ricardo’s Beach Huts and Lobster Camp (tel. 501/227-8469 or 501/203-4970), the ultimate in funky. At last check, the accommodations were quite rustic and reasonably priced. Expect campout conditions: outhouse, bucket shower, bugs. Bring mosquito coils, repellent, and a mosquito net bed/tent.
On the upside, this is one of the few chances to experience outer island living just as it has been for the people who spend their lives fishing these waters.
Though this is just a small collection of palm trees, sand, and coral, an important lighthouse sits here at the entrance to the Belize City harbor from the Caribbean Sea. Large ships stop at English Caye to pick up one of the two pilots who navigate the 10 miles in and out of the busy harbor. Overnights are not allowed here, but it’s a pleasant day-trip location.
Near English Caye, Goff’s Caye is a favorite little island stop for picnics and day trips out of Caye Caulker  and Belize City , thanks to a beautiful sandy beach and promising snorkeling areas. Sailboats often stop overnight; camping can be arranged from Caye Caulker by talking with any reputable guide. Bring your own tent and supplies.
Goff’s is a protected caye, so note the rules posted by the pier. Goff’s has seen a major impact by the cruise ship industry, which sometimes sends thousands of people per week to snorkel around and party on the tiny piece of sand, and a few reports have said this is destroying the coral.
This is a 187-acre mangrove island, located at the southern tip of the Drowned Cayes, only 10 miles east of Belize City. There are many day trip possibilities to Spanish Lookout Caye, including the country’s first and only “dolphin encounter” program, a beach, kayaks, and snorkeling.
If you’re not researching manatees or mangroves with Earthwatch Institute, you’re most likely coming to meet the dolphins or stay at Belize Adventure Lodge (tel. 501/220-4024, U.S. reservations 888/223-5403, www.belizeadventurelodge.com ), a full-service island facility offering 12 quasi-colonial cabanas over the water, two student dormitories, classrooms, a restaurant, a bar, a gift shop, and a dive center.
Five colorful cabanas with 10 rooms, hot showers, and private baths are connected to the island by a dock. The resort offers popular three-night packages that include all meals and transfers to the island.
Diving is one of the favorite activities here, and guests can participate in educational and research programs. Manatees and dolphins are regularly seen foraging near the island. Juvenile reef fish, seahorses, lobster, and mollusks live among the red mangrove roots and sea grass beds. Tarpon and barracudas often come into the bay to feed on the abundant silversides. The resort is only one mile west of the main barrier reef and about eight miles west of central Turneffe Island .