The relaxation police will bust you for being in any kind of hurry on this Belizean isle

On this island off the Caribbean coast of Belize, you'll hear it almost as soon as you step off the water taxi dock: "Go slow."

Stride too purposefully down a sandy street, as if you actually were headed somewhere, and someone will toss a "Go slow, mon" from a doorstep or window, busting you for being wired into some far-off, faster-paced place. All mechanisms of life on Caye Caulker have but one gear: slow.

Like during breakfast at an open-air beachside bar. At 10 on a brilliant morning, nothing on the menu was available. No beer, no bread, no fish, no lobster, no pastries. "Staff didn't show up this morning," the owner said with a shrug.

Caye Caulker is an anachronism in the world of slick, want-it-now Caribbean mega-tourism. Veteran backpackers compare it with Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of Cancun, about 20 years ago or Cancun itself 25 years before that.

"Caye Caulker? There's nothing there!" sniffed a bow-tied bartender at a white-tablecloth brasserie in the town of San Pedro on nearby Ambergris Caye. San Pedro is big enough to have cars, fancy resort hotels, villas and the feel of Puerto Vallarta's old town.

Caye Caulker, by contrast, is so low key as to be subterranean. It has no cars; just bicycles, a few golf carts (but no golf courses) and a collection of weathered low-rise buildings lining its sand streets. Its 2,000 permanent residents oppose construction of anything more than two stories high. In groceries, bars and restaurants, they freely admit their dilemma: how to profit from tourism without being consumed by it.

Physical constraints have helped. Caye Caulker is only a mile-and-a-half long and a few hundred yards wide at its widest point, room enough for a few hotels, hostels, restaurants, bars and dive and snorkel shops. Three days is enough to see everything on the island, including the crocodiles that live at the landfill. If you're not into water sports, bring plenty of e-books.

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