It’s been a month since I’ve returned to Belize, and what a whirlwind. Those of you who follow my Facebook Page know that I’m back in the Jewel to begin updating and writing my second edition of Moon Belize, due out in November 2015. Yes, already!
In general, the updates I expect are of the restaurant closure, hotel openings and new attractions type.
But there’s one particular big update coming to Belize’s social scene that many folks have been anticipating, including this caye lover, since first hearing about it this past summer. And some updates are just too good to keep until publication (which, after all, won’t be until Fall of next year).
It’s a change coming to Belize’s most popular seafront bar and social hub. A place that serves as a weekend and at times weekday, getaway for Belizeans, expats and tourists. From solo travelers to families and tired business owners taking a break, many hop here for some sun, sea and merriment. I’ve written about this dreamy spot countless times, with articles or photographs published in various outlets, from Viator Travel to American Way Magazine.
If you’ve traveled to Caye Caulker before–one of the two most visited islands off the coast of Belize–then you know all about The Split.
And if you’ve read my numerous posts or viewed my photographs of Belize, or those of tourists and bloggers posted all over the Internet, you’ll recognize this often photographed plot of land.
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic, Caribbean postcard-perfect place to spend the day.
My first time stepping foot on The Split was in 2010, long before I knew the role Belize would play in my life. And like many–not to even mention those who grew up knowing how The Split came to be–it’s a place I’ve come to count as synonymous with Belize travel. More importantly, I’ve come to associate it with my favorite place in the country: Caye Caulker.
It’s no secret to those who know me, that Caye Caulker is where I stay put to write up my books–after the weeks of research and circling all of Belize each winter season. It’s also the first place I usually head to and relax my mind and body before braving Cayo’s rainforest trails, pounding the pavements of San Pedro, snorkeling the southern reefs or cycling along dirt paths of Hopkins and Punta Gorda to find the latest and greatest things to do, see and eat for my readers.
Caye Caulker is also the island where I have my “Belizean family” and closest friends. The Split is a part of it all. It’s where we all kick back and where I’m reminded, gazing into the horizon toward the not too distant reef, how blessed I am to be in Belize and get to explore it every year for my work.
Beyond that, The Split encapsulates the spirit of being in the Jewel. It’s not just a plot of land splitting the island in two, or just a sandy corner with a crowded, funky beach bar. It’s about “going slow”–Belizean time–by the sea, throwing back a couple of Belikins at sunset while the music thumps, splashing about in the water with family and making new friends among locals and tourists.
It’s one of the most fun outdoor gathering spots and bars I’ve experienced to date in the Caribbean–even after the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica or Grenada, and other similar island escapes I’ve explored over the past 10 years. The current beach at The Split isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and the benches and setting are rustic. But the scenery, the people and the energy make it a good time. The Split is an experience. A Belizean experience.
So when I heard that physical changes were coming to my favorite island’s and Belize’s most famous spot–I was curious to find out about the new plans and the new management team taking over the hottest bar and sandy plot in Belize.
As fate would have it, our paths crossed in less than a week after I arrived last month, thanks to my good friend Stacy Badillo, who is a Caye Caulker native, a fierce enterpreneur who owns Purple Passion Beauty Studio and the dynamic Chairman of the Belize Tourism Industry Association’s branch on the island.
The new Split team has been forthcoming with me about their plans so I can accurately update MOON BELIZE. They also graciously answered my Belizean friends’ questions (born out of numerous, unfounded rumors swirling about the “new” Split), and listened to my humble Belize travel journalist-input about the culture here, Caye Caulker’s close community and the importance of The Split to the island and its residents first, then to Belizeans and to the country’s tourism. Of course, they were aware of it all and to my relief, in agreement.
General Manager James (“Jim”) Lynskey and his partners have 30 years of experience working in the hospitality, and food and beverage industries in the Caribbean and Central America. Jim moved to Nassau when he was just three years old, grew up in the Caribbean and has spent his years working in the area since the 1990s, from Costa Rica to Turks and Caicos.
Not surprisingly, Belize and The Split struck them as a unique spot in the region.
After speaking with the team, including meeting one-on-one, I was thrilled to learn of the positive changes coming to Caye Caulker’s and Belize’s magical corner.
The current Split and Lazy Lizard will officially change management hands as of November 1, 2014.
While wider renovations and a rebuilt Lazy Lizard are planned over the next six months–including a reclaimed wider, public beach–the first, smaller phase of changes will take place as early as next month.
Rather than close the area completely for months to rebuild the restaurant and build the seawall, the team has decided not to shut down for too long so near the start of the high season. Instead, the current Lazy Lizard Bar and Restaurant–which will retain its name–will undergo an initial facelift during a one-week close. As early as next month, customers will be able to return to enjoy The Split under new ownership (new menu and chef, among other changes) at least through the busy season, including the December holidays and the crowded peak-tourism months of January and February. New staff have already been hired–all of whom are from Caye Caulker–and they are ready to start next month.
So mark your calendars: The Split will re-open again on November 7.
There will be a reopening event–stay tuned for the link to The Split’s upcoming new Facebook Page, where they’ll share frequent updates.
On November 7, we’ll see the Lazy Lizard Bar and Restaurant with some upgrades and renovations– redecorating touches, as well as installations of a new kitchen, a new menu and new seating areas for customers. Eventually, the current Lazy Lizard will be taken down and rebuilt (with a similar look but with thatch roof and a sturdier structure).
Here’s more on the second phase of “bigger” changes coming gradually early 2015:
- A reclaimed, wider, public beach for everyone to enjoy. The seawall near the entrance will be pushed out to 10 feet and a professionally engineered, permitted seawall will be reinstalled. There will be 10,000 square feet of beach to enjoy (starting on the right hand side of the entrance). There will also be more beach on the eastern side of the Split. The work will begin later in the season, but the team hopes for this beach part of the project to be completed around the end of March 2015.
- A wooden deck up front, just as there is now, for those wishing to sun themselves towel-free or leap into the water.
- A cleaned up and new swim out seating area (as there used to be beside the Lazy Lizard), with steps for families and kids to easily enter.
- A brand new, rebuilt Lazy Lizard Bar and Restaurant–still in the wood and thatch design. The second level will include an open deck and a second bar. Beach bar foods will be served, but a real twist–while retaining the culinary taste of the island. Prices will cater to every budget. To quote GM Lynskey, the goal is not to be a “Four Seasons” at all, but to have really good beach side food, courtesy of a five-star chef with ten years of experience in Costa Rica, and who will train his staff.
- Regular events at the Lazy Lizard, including monthly full moon parties and live music at dinner, with seafront picnic tables.
- The Lizard Juice will remain (yes, I asked!)–it might still be green, but will have a different recipe (no complaints here).
When I asked GM Jim to give me the team’s final thoughts on the revamped Split, he emphasized that “the idea is is to create a true destination for Caye Caulker and Belize.” He added, that “[t]he Split is already a world class site and we just want to enhance the existing site, and take it to where it could be.”
The team also made it clear to me that the idea is to make improvements–the most exciting of which is the reclaimed, new and wider public beach–but to still have people come back and recognize where they are: The Split.
So it’s not “the end” of The Split or even The Lazy Lizard (in fact, as I mentioned above, the name first created by the landowner 18 years ago will remain).
Knowing that the changes will keep with the laid back spirit of Caye Caulker and the original Split, as well as bring a much needed boost to the area, is a wonderful guidebook update to make, in my humble opinion.
Thanks to the new team at The Split for letting me share the news and for taking the time to answer each and every one of my questions.
I’m looking forward to experiencing a gradually revamped Split, making new memories at the one and only “sunny place for shady people” and sharing new photos with my readers in the next edition of MOON BELIZE.
All comments and views are welcome — please keep it on-topic/relevant.
An update: The good news is the Split has reopened, after temporarily closing due to landlord tenant issues. Let’s hope it stays open and the fun spot we know regardless of who ends up owning it.