Copal Tree Lodge: About

Located in Punta Gorda, Belize

The best of Belize converges in its southernmost region. Here in the remote Toledo District—sometimes called the Forgotten District—thick tangles of rain forest meet the sparkling Caribbean coast, offshore isles and inland caves beckon in either direction, and Maya traditions meld with Garifuna, Creole, East Indian, and other local cultures. Few places on the planet offer such an astonishing diversity, from the cacophonous wildlife of the jungle and reef to the vibrant people of Toledo villages—and yet Copal Tree Lodge (formerly Belcampo Lodge) feels as if it’s tucked away at the end of the world.

From its hilltop roost, the main lodge looks out over a 12,000-acre nature reserve that encompasses pristine rain forest, tropical gardens, a sugar cane plantation, groves of cacao trees, a prolific organic farm, which feeds the lodge's farm-to-table cuisine. Villa-style private suites are hidden in the jungle here, and howler monkeys and toucans hop among the branches. The Rio Grande runs along the property’s eastern side, providing a short pathway to the Caribbean and excellent fishing opportunities. Serious anglers have a chance at catching (and releasing) the coveted Grand Slam—permit, tarpon, and bonefish.

Why We Love the Lodge

Edged by the Rio Grande, an important trade route since the Classic Maya period, Copal Tree Lodge reflects the history of the Toledo district through the ages. In the 1860s, Confederate settlers from Alabama and Texas retreated here to farm sugarcane, cattle, and rum. One of their descendants, Marie Louise Young, eventually bought the “Big Hill” property and started a rum distillery, called Rocky Run Rum, which operated here until the 1970s. The family ties continue today: Young’s grandson, known on the property as “Captain Jackie,” leads boat tours and shares local lore.

In 2005, marine conservationist Todd Robinson bought the land and transformed a rustic fly-fishing lodge on the property into a world-class eco resort, He worked with the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment to preserve more than 45,000 acres of surrounding rain forest, including 12,000 that belong to the lodge. In 2009 he joined forces with sustainable food expert Anya Fernald to help bring agriculture back to the heart of Copal Tree Lodge. These days, the lodge offers guests a fantastic experience in organic farming and artisan chocolate and rum production while providing good jobs for local people; nearly all of the lodge’s employees—from expert guides to kitchen staff—are from southern Belize.


  • Listen to the cries of howler monkeys in the jungle canopy just outside your suite, and sip coffee on your private veranda while watching for toucans and other colorful rain forest birds
  • Spot iguanas, tropical birds, and maybe even a crocodile as you paddle the path of ancient Maya traders on the Rio Grande River.
  • Learn about sustainable agriculture on a guided tour of the lodge’s farm, organic gardens, and coffee, cacao, and sugarcane plantations.
  • Join the lodge’s chef on a snorkeling boat trip on the Caribbean that ends with an on-board barbecue—of seafood you’ve watched the crew pull from the water.
  • Forage in the jungle for a heart of palm of the Cohune tree, and enjoy your fresh bounty, prepared specially for you by the chef.
  • Tour ancient Maya ruins and experience warm hospitality in the home of a local Maya family.
  • Try your hand at catch-and-release saltwater fly-fishing, angling for elusive permit in the coastal flats and casting for tarpon and snook on the river.

National Geographic Exclusive

Each of our lodges has created a special complimentary experience offered exclusively to guests who visit through a National Geographic Expedition. At Copal Tree Lodge, National Geographic guests enjoy a Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Class and a Coffee Cupping. Learn about Belize chocolate and its Maya roots: Visit the lodge’s cacao nursery, try your hand at grinding dried cacao beans on a traditional matate, and temper and mold a chocolate bar to take home. Later, join the lodge’s resident coffee expert for an in-depth coffee tasting.

Lodge Features

  • 16 elegant suites set in the jungle, plus a three-bedroom family villa
  • A hilltop main lodge with wraparound balcony, a swimming pool, and observation decks
  • Jungle Farm Restaurant and Rum Bar
  • Elevated tramways for easy access to the riverside dock and the Signature Canopy suites.
  • A full spa menu of innovative treatments and therapies using locally sourced botanicals
  • Kayaks, canoes, and mountain bikes for guest use, and a “Jungle Gym” exercise center
  • A working farm with organic gardens and orchards, livestock, and coffee, cacao, and sugarcane fields, plus a Farm Center that hosts chocolate-making classes and other culinary experiences
  • Free Wi-fi in all common areas and guest suites

Spotlight on Sustainability

Copal Tree Lodge is the largest employer in the Toledo District, and nearly all of its 140-member staff hails from the region. Employees receive a fair wage and are treated to a daily healthy lunch—the most important meal of the day in Belize. Many work on the farm, using sustainable methods to cultivate organic sugarcane, cacao, coffee, and other native and heirloom crops. The sugarcane planted here comes from two varieties with roots that date to the mid-19th century. The farm grows more than 70 percent of the food served to lodge guests.

The lodge minimizes its environmental impact with a rain-harvesting water system, recycling program, and efforts to reduce plastic and conserve electricity and water use. Solar water heating was integrated into the construction of the new Signature Canopy Suite. Food waste is fed to the farm livestock and composted for the organic gardens.

Awards and Recognitions

Condé Nast Johansens Best Green Hotel 2017

World Luxury Hotel Awards, Country Winner: Best Luxury Forest Resort 2016

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