Caye Caulker: a grand finale
If we’d felt like sticky-sweet tourism was fantastically absent from our travels through mainland Belize, the boat station for the islands made up for that within minutes. One step through the gated entryway felt like entering an amusement park: little tourist shops selling cheesy gifts and kitschy postcards, overpriced bars with frothy drinks, and a waiting area so clean and well kept that it could be anywhere other than in Central America. It felt strangely enticing and horribly fake all at once. Luckily the fake luxuries of the waiting area was not a precursor to more of the same– once on the island everything seemed to mesh well into the Belize we’ve grown to admire and love.
Caye Caulker has that friendly Caribbean feel to it that we’ve come to crave. Sandy walkways and narrow roads used mainly by golf carts and scooters. Turquoise blue water, palm trees bending in every direction, simple little buildings housing family businesses, and tiny beachside restaurants with one or two dishes on the menu.
The smell of slow stewed chicken, spicy gingerade, and salty sea water fill the air. Locals and tourists walk the main promenade without shoes. The sky is a clear blue, the sun covers everything with color, and all around the vibe suggests you to relax, forget about everything else, and focus on only what’s in front of you. It’s a place heavily funded by tourism, but not ruined by it.
There are no huge hotels or corporate chains. The beachfront is scattered with little guesthouses and food huts. Kids play basketball in the local beachfront court, and signs all over promote the upcoming local election. Caye Caulker is just as real as it is dreamlike. It’s the type of thing movies are made of.