Caye Caulker’s Split and The Lazy Lizard: An Exclusive Update

Excerpt from Lily at Sunshine and Stilettos

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.

CLICK HERE for the whole story, and lots of awesome photos!