If your tropical island dream includes sharing a small, rustic island with a few dozen travelers, snorkelers, divers, backpackers, and adventurous souls from around the world, then Tobacco Caye is your place. This tiny island, located within South Water Caye Marine Reserve, has long been a popular backpacker and Belizean tourism destination, especially for divers. Tobacco Caye is just north of Tobacco Cut (a “cut” is a break in the reef through which boats can navigate).

As part of a resort package, boats will whisk you each day to snorkeling and fishing trips or to Man-O-War Caye and Tobacco Range to look for manatees. Glover’s Reef, Blue Hole, and Turneffe trips are available (US$150-200); whale shark tours are usually running March-July.

Two chairs on a dock in clear shallow water surrounded by palm trees.

Tobacco Caye has an abundance of great spots to sit and enjoy the ocean.
Photo by Martjin Munneke licensed Creative Commons attribution.

Where to Stay

Tobacco Caye’s “resorts” offer similar packages but for a range of budgets. All accommodations are Belizean-run family affairs, each a bit different according to the owner’s vision, and are comfortably crowded together on the five acres of sand. Apart from some basic differences in room quality, the more you pay, the better the food you’ll be eating— a pretty important thing when checking into a guest room that also locks you into a meal plan. Some of the accommodation prices are per person per night and include three meals; always ask to be sure.

Tobacco Caye Paradise (tel. 501/532-2101 or 800/667-1630) occupies the northern tip of the island with six clean, basic cabins with porches built right over the sea (US$70 pp, includes 3 meals) that will make you want to stay forever.

Stepping things up a notch, find the renovated Reef’s End Lodge (tel. 501/542-2419, various packages include US$756 for 7 days or US$360 for 3 days, includes 3 meals) on the southern shore; seven guest rooms and cabanas have private balconies—with romantic sunset views—fans and hot and cold water with private baths. There is a bar and restaurant built over the water for those prepaid meals. Reef’s End has the caye’s only dive shop, which can be utilized by anyone on the island; this is an excellent location to begin a shore dive or snorkeling adventure. Dive packages are also available, ranging US$477-1,397 according to the number of days and include meals, transfers, and two local dives daily.

Joe Jo’s By The Reef (U.S. tel. 95954/249-5863, tel. 501/610-1647, US$75-95, includes 3 meals) welcomes you to one of its six new seafront cabanas with hardwood floors, hot water, and reef views from private decks.

Tobacco Caye Lodge (tel. 501/532-2033 or 501/223-6247, US$99 pp, includes 3 meals) occupies a middle strip of the island and offers six guest rooms in four colorful cabins facing the reef. You are summoned to meals by a dinner bell. There’s a small on-site bar and snack shop as well as hammocks on the beach. A few steps away, the Tobacco Marine Station (tel. 501/620-9116, www.tcmsbelize.org) hosts visiting scientists, and you can ask to check out their reference materials on the area’s habitats and species, use the Internet (US$5 per hour), rent snorkel gear (US$7.50 per day), or head out on a night snorkel (US$10 pp) with these experts.

Getting There

Water taxis to Tobacco Caye leave when the captain says there are enough passengers—usually around mid-afternoon from the Riverside Café or the Tackle Stop farther upstream. Captain Buck (tel. 501/669-0869) is one option, or try Fermin, a.k.a. Compa (tel. 501/666-8699). The trip costs US$15 one-way or US$35 round-trip, with a return trip usually made mid-morning. Captain Doggie (tel. 501/627-7443) is another charter option; he will take 1-3 people for US$70; groups of 4-12 can expect to pay US$17.50 per person. Compa has the newest, largest, and most comfortable boats. All the captains usually hang out by Riverside Café, either outside or inside.

By calling ahead to Blue Dolphin, Reef’s End Lodge, or Tobacco Caye Lodge, you can arrange a pickup any time from Dangriga and ensure a boat will still be there if you are arriving after midday. Be advised that if you need a boat after 3pm, you’ll pay a lot more—seas get rough, and a private charter is necessary. Plan accordingly.

Map of the Southern Coast of Belize

Southern Coast

Everything you need to know about Belize's Tobacco Caye

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Belize.