Tobacco Caye (pronounced key) is a five acre, palm-fringed patch of white sand surrounded by dazzling turquoise waters. Part of the allure for Tobacco Caye is the fact that the island is located directly on the Belize Great Barrier Reef, so opportunities for diving and snorkeling are plentiful and can be done directly from the beach, unlike more popular destinations such as Ambergris or Caye Caulker.
Tobacco Caye has traditionally been known as a backpacker destination, but its unique allure that makes it worth considering for any adventureous traveller.
Most of the resorts here consist of a small dining area, and a lodge or some cabanas/cottages on the beach. With the exception of a small dive shop and the snack stand at Gaviota’s there are no shops on the island, so if you need something specific be sure to bring it with you.
The island has six separate resorts whose accommodations vary, and although reservations are recommended if you want to stay at a specific resort, if you aren't too particular about where you stay, often it is possible to just show up and find a place. Due to the limited options for dining, most places include meals in the cost of your accommodations, and as a result most resorts charge per person, per night with a good portion of that cost going towards meals.
If you are looking for a change of pace you can make special arrangements to eat at various resorts on the island but you will need to let them know well ahead of time so that they can prepare enough food, as most places are usually only planning a meal for a handful of people staying there. In addition there is generally not a menu, meaning you get served what has been planned for that meal, which could be difficult for picky eaters. Seafood, fish and chicken are often a mainstay of the meals on the islands because it is readily available.
It is possible to visit the island for a day if you do not wish to stay overnight, you will just need to make arrangements with one of the captains (see 'Getting There') to bring you out in the morning, and then pick you up in the afternoon or evening if you just want to go out for the day and do some snorkeling or soak up the island atmosphere. If you do decide to go out for that day I would recommend packing your own food, as the resort restaurants are not set up for walk ins.
There is one pay phone on the island available in front of the office of Tobacco Caye Lodge, however it was my understanding that although it was working while I was there, it had previously been out of service for a number of weeks.
The mosquitoes and sand flies that plague other areas in Belize are quite thankfully nearly non-existent here.
Tobacco Caye is also located inside the South Water Marine Reserve; as a result you will be required to pay a reserve entry fee. This fee is collected by rangers who visit the islands on a daily basis. The fees to visit the reserve are per person:
$10.00 BZ per day for up to 3 days
$30.00 BZ for 4 - 7 days
$36.00 BZ for 8-10 days
There is also a student rate for $20.00 BZ for 10 days. It is a small price to pay to enjoy the beauty of Tobacco Caye, and the funds go towards the protection and management of this World Heritage site.