When you think of overwater bungalows, is your mind picturing tropical exotic destinations like the Maldives and French Polynesia that take 156 days to get to?! Well I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to travel that far to experience it (nor burn a hole in your pocket).This hidden gem you are looking at right now is on a small remote island off the coast of Belize, and costs just $80/night! The island in question is called Tobacco Caye.
Belize is an incredibly accessible destination, with their international airport putting you within an under 2 hour cab ride of most tourist hot spots. If off the beaten path is more your thing there are a number of small regional aircraft that will get you close to where you need to go. The acceptance of the US dollar in the majority of places and having English as their official language makes it even more of a perfect vacation spot. Not to mention the diverse range of ecosystems they support – there’s jungle, beaches, remote islands, fishing villages, you name it – Belize has got it!
Tobacco Caye is only accessible by boat; with most boats leaving from Dangriga. The journey to this island paradise is just half of the adventure!
Once you fly in to Belize City International Airport, you have two options –
1 – you can take a short 15 min flight in a small puddle jumper (run by Maya Airways or Tropic Air) down to Dangriga and then take a taxi to the marina to catch your boat to the island.
2 – you can go by road – either by bus or private transfer – this route goes down the scenic Hummingbird Highway and I highly recommend taking this route at least once, it will take 2-3 hours but it’s fascinating to see how the topography of the country changes!
I should add here that we were staying in Hopkins, which is a village 30 minutes south of Dangriga. We managed to secure a boat transfer from the dock at our hotel straight to Tobacco Caye without the need to pass through Dangriga which was extremely convenient. We used a local tour group called Happy Go Luckie tours and couldn’t recommend them more, they were punctual, highly professional and gave us a tour of the islands we passed by during the boat ride out there.
Staying in Hopkins is another great alternative for lodging before your transfer to Tobbaco Caye – you don’t necessarily have to stay in Dangriga. There are a lot more accomodation options in Hopkins and it’s just as easy to get to the island. The journey from Hopkins to Tobacco Caye took about 30 minutes, but can vary based on the current weather and tidal conditions! We passed through some very picturesque private island resorts including Coco Plum, Thatch Caye and a rather extraordinary “island” that had no land to speak of, just a small cluster of trees poking up through the waters that were absolutely covered in birds, aptly named Bird Island.
On arriving at the island it really is just like the pictures. As we unloaded our luggage we were greeted by management who welcomed us like old friends and showed us the ropes. The lodge consists of six overwater bungalows, one of which is a double family bungalow and a few budget rooms a ways back from the water edge. There is a communal dining room, with a wonderful deck that overlooks the Belizean Barrier Reef.
Food and Drink
The meals we ate at Tobacco Caye Paradise were some of the best we experienced in Belize, and we never went hungry! I am gluten free and am always wary of going somewhere new but I need not have worried. I had emailed the resort ahead of time to which they said it would be of no trouble to accommodate my dietary needs. Every day our chef Jackie made individual gluten free alternatives for me – ranging from burger buns (made out of potatoes – these were the bomb and I still dream about these), johnny cakes, pancakes and zucchini cake.
With the purchase of your cabin, it’s compulsory to buy a meal plan with your booking – but you will be pleased you did! This is a remote island, it has only one other restaurant and two bars on the island, however the hours can vary based on the number of guests staying on the island. It’s also nice to not have to worry about how much money you will need for dinner, etc. Meals are served at a set time, and announced through the blowing of a conch (it’s loud, you will not miss it!) and everyone eats together to share stories of the day’s activities. We were the only couple staying for the majority of our trip, but the food was still exemplary!
I would recommend bringing a couple of bottles of alcohol from the mainland if you like a nice tipple while lying in your hammock in the afternoon – the bars can be a bit unreliable with their opening hours, and there are some great fruit concentrates that they have in the dining room that works fantastic as a mixer with your liquor of choice.
They have free filtered water for use by the guests in the dining room. I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle so that you can fill it up during the day. You’re in the tropics and it gets very hot during the day- you will need to stay hydrated!
Now, these are not your 5* luxury overwater bungalows that you will find in the Maldives. They are rustic, basic but extremely clean and functional. Each cabana has a private bathroom with toilet, shower and sink. Our room had two beds and an awe-inspiring deck that perched over the ocean complete with hammock and two outdoor lounge chairs – a feature that truly was priceless!
I will have to mention here that the cabins do not have air conditioning. To be honest, I was actually dreading this aspect of the trip. I have English blood and do not cope well when the temperatures exceed 80F; but it turned out to be not half as bad as I first thought. Each room is equipped with a standing fan, which may turn off in the night depending on the generator usage as the lodge is off the grid and utilizes solar energy as much as possible. However, we found that if we left both the door to our cabin open and the door to the deck open it creates the most amazing breeze that kept us cool during the day! You also have the option to jump into the ocean and cool down whenever you get too hot! We spoke to a few people on our arrival as they were leaving and most of them either slept with their doors open or slept outside on their hammocks.
Another thing to mention is that we felt incredibly safe here. I would consider ourselves pretty well travelled and at no point did I feel unsafe here or uncertain about leaving our valuables in the cabin; there is actually a lockable safe that you can use.
If lying in a hammock overlooking the ocean isn’t enough, there’s a wide plethora of activities for you to enjoy. For a small fee you can rent out kayaks to take around the island or even try your luck with a spot of fishing. There’s also a handful of fishermen on the island that would be happy to take you out on their fishing boats, they might even teach you traditional hand net fishing!
All in all, this was a fantastic trip. A true once in a lifetime experience (that I hope to experience again!). It really is just as awe-inspiring as the pictures, if not more so. And the fact that this piece of paradise is just $80/night is a deal maker! If you’re up for some adventure in paradise, look no further than Tobacco Caye Paradise!
Oh, and if this wasn’t enough, fancy staying in the accommodation that’s literally on the cover of Lonely Planet’s Belize travel guide? That’s right Tobacco Caye Paradise made the front page feature!
Have I persuaded you yet to come and visit? Comment below, I’d love to know if you’d be willing to take up the adventure!
- ACCOMODATION – Tobacco Caye Paradise – https://www.tobaccocaye.com/
- WATER TAXI – Happy Go Luckie Tours –http://www.hgltours.com/
- DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
For even more pictures and videos of my experience, be sure to check out my Belize Highlights on Instagram – @chase.the.rainbows