Stepping off the boat, it was instantly obvious that there were backpackers and young people on the island. In fact, on the first day there was an obscene amount of European girls running alone in packs, speaking German or French. They vaporized the second day, but I swear we saw 'em.
Caulker is a laid back place. We complained that San Pedro was too laid back, and everyone warned us that Caulker was even more so. We should have clarified that we found San Pedro *dead*, not laid back, and though there were more people there, Caulker had a better vibe.
Unfortunately, both islands really were down in tourism. We found the same thing in Placencia when we were through there. I don't know why this is, nor did anyone there. Some theories were:
The hurricanes that ravaged New Orleans , Texas , the Yucatan, Guatemala , and Honduras (though Belize was fine).
The war in Iraq .
Economic downturn (everyone's favorite catch-all).
No one ever mentioned the taxes and that Belize was now "expensive" by Central American standards, but that's my guess.
Finally found a hotel at the Hotel Tropical, or something like that. At the south end of the island. There's a hostel that wasn't in our book that's a few block north of the front water taxi pier. Lots of people hanging out there, should've stayed there. Ours was $25/night, fan (didn't need it) on the beach, cabana style. They have a restaurant staffed by rude, fat locals.
Bar scene: Lazy Lizard is a dive style bar, right at the split. The Split is where a hurricane washed out a "river" separating the north part of the island from the south. It's the only place deep enough to swim. People hang out on some kind of concrete wall that looks like it may have gone the whole way across at some point, but no longer does either.
Visibility when snorkeling at the Split isn't great, but you can see bonefish, spotted rays, snapper, etc. Then you can drink and eat at the Lazy Lizard. Then you can hit on the girls out of the concrete embankment. "The Split : It's got it all!" Or so should the tourism brochure read.
Front street, Caye Caulker is long. There's small sail boat rentals, guys with BBQ pits selling "finga lick'n chik'n!" and Rastas selling some art, but really drugs.
There are a lot of docks, as well. And from the looks of some of these boats, people that sailed down here and never left. That or they decided that their boats aren't sea worthy anymore. Maybe both. Some look pretty bad.
The sport's bar across the street from Lighthouse Ice Cream is pretty good for food. The ice cream place is great. The internet place is fucking expensive, and if you want to open an internet place, that's the town to do it in. Always people in there, and they're charging $2 US/15 minutes, $0.5 US each additional 3 minutes. Unbelievable. They have a nice looking bar in the back, and a big screen TV, but they don't seem to be using it. Should be packed back there, too, but it's deserted.
You can walk a long way down the island, to the southern tip, and it's a pretty cool walk. You can see the crappy airport, but what's neat are the plants and mangroves. Amazing that anything can grow where the salt water table is just a foot or so down below the surface. Takes about half an hour to get to the tip, maybe less. Do it.
There's a supermarket somewhere in town. We were there and met some American that is down there working, doing something, and talked with her a few minutes. My "crazy chick" radar is honed after this trip, I swear. Didn't take more than a few sentences and mannerisms and she was pegged. After a few more minutes, all signed pointed to "nutzo" and the first impression was proven. There are simply weird people that you meet in these other countries.
On that note, I'll wager that it's not the fact that there are more of these weird people. Well. OK, let's say that among travelers there are not more of them. Among people that move to these countries, OK maybe there are. But maybe you're just more apt to talk to someone because it's obvious they're not from there (duh, they're white!) and therefore you meet more of them. I don't know, let's just leave it at that for now.
After a couple of days, finding no fishing, and generally not being in the mood for "chill out island culture", we decided that it was time to bring this trip to an end.
OK, so the bar scene: Like all these island places - take a nap if you have trouble staying up till midnight or later. There's just no nightlife until 10 or so, which is hard when you're up early and kicking ass all day walking, snorkeling, fishing, whatever.
The I&I bar is the place to be for late night. Unfortunately, they also close fairly early. 11pm or midnight . So you'll get an hour or two of good times. The smart traveler will buy a bottle of rum and mixers beforehand, and then invite the party crowd down to the beach. We had the crowd, but no booze. So I went to bed.