CAYE CAULKER, Belize, April 20, 2011 — A welcoming December day filled with island pleasantries lies ahead, with an exhaustive list of things to do. While choices can take you back to the mainland for tree top zip-lining or exploring Mayan temples, this island is my home for the next twenty-four hours.
Breakfast is at Amor Y Café, where freshly baked grain bread is thickly cut and grilled, while cheeses and ham lie nestled within in. Served with a healthy fruit plate and rich coffee, your island day begins.
A trip to the Belize Barrier Reef is on the schedule, along with time just sitting at the “split,” a spot designed to inspire. Here, one can easily imagine one of the beat generation poets, enjoying the romantic view of the shallow, turquoise waters that intersects the island.
The split is a perfect place to laze the day, scuba, kayak, or just swim around. Water trapped inside a concrete barrier creates a shallow eco-system where you can stand and watch the tube fish swim around your ankles, or take a seat on the picnic table set like an island in the water and just lean back and soak in the peace.
Walking up Front Street, the island’s easterly side toward the split, there are plenty of places to stop, interact with the island population, and eat. Choices range from restaurants to industrious entrepreneurs who navigate the island with freshly made delicacies sequestered in warming “coolers.”
Taking time to talk to the artisans and vendors along the way is a multicultural experience. Before heading to Front Street is a stop at Tortilleria La Asuncion, where corn is ground in an ancient machine, and corn meal is turned into large balls of dough.
The larger balls are divided into golf-ball sized portions, which are slapped into rounds and then baked on an ancient-looking, wood oven with a rotating stone baking surface, to be purchased later in the day by restaurants and food vendors that dot the island.
A young woman from Guatemala sells brightly embroidered purses, blankets and table runners and multi-colored beads, while a talented Rastafarian man creates bowls, walking sticks and leaping dolphin statues from native hardwoods. Nearby are various sellers of trinkets – necklaces, blouses, knick-knacks and bric-a-bracs to help travelers remember their island sojourn.
Most fun are the men who sell freshly-opened coconuts that walkers purchase to sip the refreshing juice through long straws.
While luncheon choices are numerous, we opt to stop at the Rainbow Grill, perched over the water next to a long pier that beckons one to walk its uneven planks for a moment alone with the sun and sparkling waves.
While not the most special of island choices, the Rainbow allows for wonderful views from a covered porch. The day is slightly cool, and our grup chooses to sit next to clear vinyl shades that are designed to help stop some of the flowing breeze.
Here at the Rainbow, the conch cerviche tastes fresh with nice lime tones; don’t however, come here looking for warm, or quick service. The view from our porch, however, is incredible.
Travelers will, if they take the time, meet many interesting people along Front Street, including “Mr. Chocolate,” whose passion as steward of the manatees, is strong.
Those lucky enough to get on one of his tours to Swallow Caye will learn much more than facts and figures, because this life-long island resident speaks of his beloved manatees, ocean, and emphasizes the need to protect all that lives in the water and on land.
A frequent spokesperson for environmental awareness, Mr. Chocolate appeared on Planet Earth and Discovery nature shows, hoping to spread his love for the sea, the marine park, and all the creatures, great and small, who dwell there. You can contact him for the tour, which is based on decades of watching his beloved country’s most bountiful resource.
A choice for dinner, following a full day of moving slowly, is the Italian joint, “Don Corleone’s Caribbean Trattoria,” where an island much farther north, Manhattan, inspires wonderful pasts and classic dishes. Their bountiful and rich, but moderately priced wine list is the best on the island.
An incredible treat was the Cestini di Gamberi, a puff pastry filled with finely diced shrimp, carrots and celery, topped with capers and just the lightest touch of honey.
Not to be missed are the bountiful stuffed Portobello mushrooms, topped with breadcrumbs, garlic, mozzarella and Parmigianino reggiano cheeses or the whole lobster thermidor, which is served with a Caribbean sea lobster split open and filled to overflowing with large chunks of lobster, delicately seasoned in a double cream sauce to create a rich, luxurious feast.
Our repast was filled with incredible tastes some of my favorite including the Watermelon Salad, chunks or sweet red melon tossed with feta cheese, black olives, red onion, fresh mint and basil leaves, drizzled with lime juice and extra virgin olive oil.
People, sun, water, sand and incredible foods, from freshly made fry jacks and rich yellow eggs in the morning to incredible cuisines served with festive island cocktails at night, Caye Caulker is a destination that will come home with you in your heart, always a reminder that its time go back, to go slow.
Read Part One: Belize: Caye Caulker Island in the Sun.
Jacquie Kubin is a 15-year, award-winning veteran of travel and culinary writing. Today, Jacquie edits and directs a staff of writers for Donne Tempo Magazine, where you can read more of her entertainment, travel and culinary reviews. Jacquie is always looking for new talents who want to expand their horizons.
- Toucan carved from native Mahogany and other hard woods found in Belize are quite lovely. A twisted walking stick with Toucan top came home with me (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Using freshly ground corn from Tortilleria La Asuncion, these freshly made Chicken/Corn tamales were sold by a vendor who travels Front Street. He offered chicken, beef and vegetable tamales. Again, incredible food on the island of Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Cestini di Gamberi, a puff pastry filled with chopped shrimp and other delectables and topped with caper at Don Corleon Caribbean Trattoria on Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Desert, home made ice cream and chocolate crumble, at Don Corleon Caribbean Trattoria on Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- These beautiful children are practicing a formal ball-room dance for their school pageant (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Fernando is a local businessman, council member for Caye Caulker and artist who designs and paints clothing perfect for bringing the island home with you. (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Foxy, her owner told me, was rescued after being abused on mainland Belize. She is now living a "dog's life" on Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- This friendly chap had incense, and CD's from his rasta band, to sell (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- An expat loving life on Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Long piers are inviting for an afternoon of sun and wave watching (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- One of the beautiful dogs of Caye Caulker (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Beautiful flowers in a variety of colors are everywhere on Caye Caulker. (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Brightly embroidered purses sold by a vendor along First Street (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- The Rainbow Bar and Grill offers incredible views with lunch (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Conch ceviche at Rainbow Grill. The freshly caught conch is "cooked" in lime juice and the tossed with chopped red and green peppers and onion. It is very, very good. (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Lunch at the Rainbow Grill included flattened chicken breasts, grilled and served with both butter and a red "gravy" that is served with almost everything (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- The split was created when a hurricane washed out a narrow strip of landing, splitting the island. It is now a perfect place to snorkel, kayak, wade, swim, float or.... (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- A concrete wall creates a shall wading area perfect for getting close to the plentiful tube fish (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- The rotating wood fueled baker at Tortillieria La Asuncion (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Ramon, who owns Tortillieria La Asuncion (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
- Corn grinder at Tortillieria La Asuncion (Photo: Jacquie Kubin)
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