Copal Tree Lodge, (formerly Belcampo) Belize

Ask for whatever Mark the bartender is making that day, with a sugar cane swizzle stick!
— Gibson Thomas
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: AT LEAST FOUR DAYS, AND AS LONG AS A WEEK.

to & from

American Airlines from SFO through DFW (or Miami) to Belize City, then Maya Air to Punta Gorda

stay

Belcampo Belize, Punta Gorda– This is a destination resort in an out of the way destination in southern Belize usually only frequented by avid fly fishermen. High on a hilltop, Belcampo is surrounded by 12,000 acres of nature preserve, protected by Belcampo’s owner.

eat and drink

Belcampo Belize is owned by the same partners who own Belcampo Meat Co., based in the Bay Area. The lodge’s gorgeous open air restaurant is supplied by the extensive onsite organic farm. Current chef Renee Everett is originally from Chicago and started her culinary career there before moving to LA where she worked for celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre at Trois Mec. Chef Everett incorporates local Mayan and Garifuna food traditions, as well as the Caribbean spices we expect in this part of the world. The included breakfast is one of the best anywhere. The farm fresh egg dishes, hand made tortillas and locally cured bacon are amazing. My son had cacao nib waffles every day (more on the cacao below). Freshly caught seafood offerings change daily. The farm-driven cocktails are delicious, too. Ask for whatever Mark the bartender is making that day, with a sugar cane swizzle stick! Ask for Belcampo’s own rum, distilled on site (still under construction when we were there in January 2017). Very inventive GF options, too.

do

  • Birds and Monkeys - Our family loves birds. At Belcampo, there are lots of parrots and other birds and, at the right time of the year, toucans and aracaris. The property is so lush that the hummingbirds and their cousins the larger hermits, buzz around like it's an airport. Hire a birding guide for a half day and you will explore the lodge grounds and the farm. You won't have to look for the Howler monkeys in the trees above the lodge, you will hear them first.
  • Bean to Bar chocolate making - Belcampo is a burgeoning cacao farm, and the chocolate experience starts with a tour and very educational talk in the cacao nursery and ends with you pouring your own chocolate bars. Do not miss this!
  • Snorkeling with the Chef -We are all scuba divers, and had been diving in another part of Belize before we got to Belcampo, so we initially turned up our noses at the "Snorkeling with the Chef" offering, but after we met the effusive Chef Renee, and saw her Instagram feed (#snorkelingwiththechef), we had to do it. It was the best activity we did. The day starts with a leisurely ride down the river on the lodge's comfortable pontoon boat (It reminded me of the Bogart/Hepburn movie "The African Queen."), sighting crocodiles and birds pointed out by 3rd generation Belizean Captain Jack. Accompanied by a bartender (love Mark!), expert guide Desmond, Chef Renee and the captain, it was like our own floating resort. Captain Jack speared a tremendous spiny lobster and a huge Hog snapper, which Chef Renee fired up on the wood grill at the back of the boat. On the trip back up river, we snacked on fresh conch ceviche made with conch that we (our 14-year old included) had "caught." Watching Captain Jack clean the conch was a treat!
  • Visit to a Mayan village/home and cave swim - This tour takes you to the authentic Mayan village home of a former Belcampo guide who is an expert on and ambassador for Mayan culture. In his home, the guide's wife shows you how they dry, boil then mash corn for masa, then teaches you how to make your own tortillas to be cooked on the wood-fired comal. After a delicious lunch of authentic Mayan dishes, you hike into the jungle to the mouth of a cave. There, you suit up with life jackets (thankfully), helmets and headlamps, and swim into the 4-mile long cave. The current is so strong that you must be pulled in on hand-held ropes part of the way. At the end, you let yourself be "swept" into the current back out of the cave. Chilly, but a great adventure!

inside scoop

If you can swing it, the Four Ridge Suites are well worth the extra money. Their canopy level views are exquisite. And the infinity pool reserved just for those four suites. The rooms are plenty large enough for a family of four, if the kids don’t mind sleeping on the comfortable day beds. The outdoor bathtub alone is worth the trip! There is also a larger house that will accommodate a larger family, with kitchen. But you will want to eat your meals in the lodge!

skip it

If you want to scuba dive, do that before or after your stay at Belcampo Belize. It is very expensive because of the distance from the reef, and too long of a trip. Enjoy the unique jungle and farm opportunities!

Copal Tree Lodge, (formerly Belcampo) Belize - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Cynthia Pillsbury Says

    We LOVED our time at Copal Tree Lodge– we went bc of Gibson’s guide! FYI they are going through a rebranding from Belcampo to Copal Tree Lodge.

    A few additions/suggestions:

    The staff at Copal Tree are all so warm, lovely, inviting and engaging. I cannot emphasize how special it is to learn about Belize through their experience growing up there– everything from Mayan history, nature (birding, fishing, plant life, animal spotting) and culture. Get to know them, it will be the highlight of your trip. We also brought clothes, balls, books and school supplies for the staffs’ children. They are a grateful hard-working and lovely bunch.

    Elan does an incredible “Rain Forest Remedy” tour that included the “bean” part of the Bean to Bar Experience. He was so knowledgable about the natural remedies in the rain forest– and put them to use during our tour when some nasty ants bit our youngest.

    The Mayan ruins are not beyond impressive, but with Jose he brought to life what happened on the site many thousand of years ago– and we loved our tortilla making experience with Yona in her home and then cave swimming with Vince- the water level was low in April so we did to have to use ropes and felt very safe with Vince and Jose in command.

    We loved our snorkle with the chef excursion. If you are going with kids younger than 10, or have small feet in your family, bring flippers. If you want something other than wine/beer (like rum!) ask them!

    We zip lined with Andrew — it was a safe and fun experience for the whole family.

    While I LOVED the drinks Bartender Ducky and Tim prepared, I ended up drinking the rum made at Copal Tree’s Distillery on the rocks with a lime wedge. It’s smooth and delicious.

    Kids get a discount on the activities– we didn’t know that/realize it so it was a nice treat at bill time!

    We didn’t do it, but guests we met loved their coffee tasting experience– for coffee lovers it’s a must do!

    Food is really delicious and FRESH! About 75% of the food we ate is grown on the farm or caught in the sea. The gazpacho and children nachos are a must for lunch by the pool and the eggs are the most fresh, delicious eggs I have ever tasted. I tried to incorporate them into every meal!

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