Tucked away in a pristine rain forest where the Rio Grande meets the Caribbean, Copal Tree Lodge offers unparalleled access to both land and sea. Walk down 365 steps or take the electric tram to the dock, where you can exercise in the aptly named Jungle Gym or explore the river by kayak, canoe, or on a guided fishing excursion. Go on a guided hike; meander through tropical gardens; and discover heritage crops such as coffee, chocolate, and rum at the organic farm. Peer at rare and common species on a birding walk, or test your fly-fishing skills with a pro. Not far from the lodge, the world of the ancient Maya beckons, with impressive ruins, modern-day villages, and sacred caves.
See our sample itinerary describing how you would experience this lodge during a 6-day stay.
The following experiences are included in the cost of your stay.
Paddle the gently winding Rio Grande—once a vital route for Maya traders and seafarers—in a kayak or canoe. Set out in the early morning or late afternoon and watch for iguanas, howler monkeys, birds, rolling tarpons, crocodiles, and other jungle creatures.
Join an expert guide on the hiking trails that meander around the property, and learn to identify the tracks of tapirs and jaguars as well as medicinal and edible plants and mushrooms. With a guide or on your own, explore the cacao plantation and sugarcane fields or head down to the river dock.
Grab a mountain bike and helmet from the rack stationed down the hill from the main lodge, and hit the narrow lanes of nearby Punta Gorda.
Head down to the river to the air-conditioned exercise center, stocked with free weights, a treadmill and stationary bike, yoga mats, straps, exercise balls, and resistance tubing.
The following experiences, as well as excursions by canoe/kayak with a private guide, are offered at an additional cost.
Visit the lodge’s working farm on a 90-minute guided tour. Learn about organic farming, see the egg mobile, and watch pigs play in the mud and lambs roam freely. Stop by the gardens to sniff the limes, coconut, and pitaya (dragon fruit) that will later infuse cocktails at the rum bar, and to taste tropical flavors that will be blended with high-quality cacao in chocolate-making classes.
Explore the fruits of the jungle on a guided foraging excursion. Help extract a Cohune heart of palm—traditionally cut after a new moon—and enjoy the fresh bounty at lunch or dinner, prepared specially for you by the chef.
Learn the art of mixing cocktails made with farm-fresh ingredients, Caribbean rums, and local spirits.
Join a local guide on a safari-style inland drive to the Spice Farm in Golden Stream. Explore the edible landscape on foot—walking among the fragrant rows of black peppercorns, vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, and cinnamon—as you learn about growing, pollination, harvest, and post-harvesting techniques. Enjoy lunch at a traditional village cafe, then visit the San Pedro Columbia home of a charismatic Belizean chocolate-maker who grinds cacao by hand on a metate (a flat, oblong stone).
Whether on a morning walk around the grounds or on a full-day outing, join a certified birding guide on an avian adventure. Fix your binoculars on the jungle canopy and along the river’s edge for the chance to spot native and migratory species including toucans, raptors, kingfishers, trogans, euphonias, hummingbirds, herons, manikins, and parrots. More than 200 species have been spotted here in a single day.
Saddle up for a guided horse ride, wending through Copal Tree Lodge’s tropical rain forest, cacao plantation, and sugarcane fields. The leisurely hour-long trail ride passes massive Cohune palms and giant fig, ceiba, and gumbo-limbo trees; howler monkeys, parrots, and toucans often make appearances.
Experience the world-class catch-and-release permit fishing that attracts flocks of anglers to this prime position on the Rio Grande, just minutes upstream from the Caribbean Sea. Meet with a local expert guide before your excursion, and visit the fly shop stocked with gear and flies particular to the southern Belize waters. Cast for tarpon and snook on the river and in the mangroves; angle for elusive permit in the flats; spin-fish for barracuda, jacks, snapper, grouper, and mackerel; and (weather permitting) wade for bonefish along the white-sand beaches of the Sapodilla Cayes.
Experience market day in nearby Punta Gorda, about six miles away, with a local guide. Watch this sleepy coastal town spring to life as villagers and fishermen converge here in school buses and boats laden with fruits, vegetables, spices, and fish.
Pass through Toledo villages on a half-day excursion to your choice of ancient ruins: Lubaantun, the region’s largest Maya site where a mysterious crystal skull was discovered in the 1920s; or the hilltop Nim Li Punit, notable for its 26 stelae (sculpted monuments). For lunch, choose to enjoy local cuisine at Coleman’s Cafe in Big Falls village, pack a picnic, or return to the lodge restaurant.
Explore the Maya ruins of Lubaantun—which flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries—with a local guide, then visit the authentic village of Blue Creek. Join a traditional Maya family for lunch in their home, and try your hand at making corn tortillas. In the afternoon, hike through the jungle to Hokeb Ha Cave, a mystical underground realm with a waterfall inside where you can go for a dip.
Board a covered 12-seat catamaran for a late afternoon cruise on the Rio Grande. Toast the sunset with wine or beer and snacks.
Spend the afternoon cooling off in the blue waters of San Antonio Waterfall, a 45-minute ride from Copal Tree Lodge. Climb and relax on large boulders in the shallow pool below the waterfall, which cascades over moss-covered limestone rock.
Head off-shore on a half-day snorkeling and reef tour of the small pristine islands of Snake Cayes and Moho Caye, fringed by white coral sand beaches. Encounter the sea fans, coral, colorful tropical fish, rays, and turtles of these sparkling waters.
Take to the water on a shaded eight-seat riverboat, cruising down the river to the Gulf of Honduras with an expert guide, barman, and chef. Spend the morning snorkeling the open ocean and encounter a dazzling array of sea life and coral. Watch the crew dive for conch, lobster, crab, and maybe even the invasive lion fish. The boat is equipped with tables and benches, a grill, and steps that allow easy access into the water, so you can spend as much or as little time in the water as you’d like. After you’ve had your fill of swimming, relax while the barman mixes a tropical drink to enjoy while the chef fires up the catch of the day.
Begin this full-day excursion at the ruins of Nim Li Punit, named for the elaborate headdress sculpted in of one of the Maya world’s largest stelae monuments. Enjoy a traditional Belizean lunch at Coleman’s Cafe, a favorite village eatery, then follow the new Pan American Highway to Rio Blanco Water Falls Park. Go for a dip in the cool, refreshing water; jump from a cliff; or simply enjoy the view of the waterfalls and jungle surroundings.
Explore the world’s second largest barrier reef on a two-dive outing led by PADI-certified instructors and dive masters. Between March and June, divers often encounter gentle whale sharks just off the coast. Dives are suitable for beginners to experts, but no dive courses are available so you must bring your certification card.
Fly through the jungle canopy on the lodge’s nine zip lines, with 15 platforms high above the rain forest.
Meet the farm’s lambs, piglets, and baby chicks on a 90-minute guided family tour of the farm. Little tour-goers will learn about healthy eating while exploring the vegetable gardens and tasting produce straight off the vines.
Young guests put on aprons for a variety of cooking classes available on request (subject to availability). Kids can create chocolate from scratch, learn to make tortillas the traditional way, try their hand at making organic fruit roll-ups using ripe fruit from the garden, and cool off making chocolate bananas and popsicles.
Take to the Rio Grande on a pontoon boat, watching for tarpon, howler monkeys, and crocodiles. Kids can try their luck trolling for snook, snapper, or jack fish with spinner rods.
From the moment you arrive at Copal Tree Lodge, passing orchards and an organic farm on the way to the main lodge, an emphasis on local cuisine is clear. Sustainable food pioneer and Copal Tree Lodge CEO Anya Fernald takes farm-to-table cuisine seriously; she planned the lodge’s crops around the menus of the lodge’s restaurant and rum bar. Whenever possible sourcing ingredients directly from its own fields—from compassionately raised pastured chickens, sheep, and pigs to tropical produce such as cassava, mangoes, and passion fruit—the culinary team at Copal Tree Lodge prepares meals based on what’s fresh and what’s true to Belize cuisine. Inspired by the rich melting pot of Belizean heritage, chefs merge traditional and modern cooking techniques to prepare dishes that blend Mayan, East Indian, Creole, Garifuna, Latin, and Indo-Caribbean flavors. Local fishermen supply the lodge with sustainable fish, conch, lobster, and wild shrimp. The restaurant supports conservation efforts by serving lion fish on the menu whenever possible, helping to protect the reefs from this invasive species.
Guests wake up to coffee or tea in their rooms (upon request) and a full breakfast at the Jungle Farm Restaurant, where eating on the wraparound balcony often means being serenaded by the roar of howler monkeys in the trees. Inside, soft music and lighting sets a more subdued scene. The bar staff at the Rum Bar mixes up Caribbean cocktails concocted with fruits and herbs from the gardens. House and premium liquors, wine, beer, and liqueurs are also available.
The Rainforest Spa harnesses the soothing power of the surrounding jungle. Inside the sumptuous space, a glass wall looks out onto the tree canopy, candles flicker, and a babbling fountain carved from a weathered tree trunk provides a tranquil sound track. Locally grown brown sugar and cacao nibs create rehydrating scrubs, while violet-hued clay collected from nearby forms the base of exfoliating mud wraps. Get enveloped in a deliciously detoxifying cocoon of organic whipped hot chocolate; rejuvenate your skin with an all-natural coconut mojito body scrub; or perk up your face with a coffee ground facial. Dr. Mandy Tsang and Dr. Alessandro Mascia, a husband-and-wife team of medical doctors that have been farming in Southern Belize for the past decade, make all the botanical products at the lodge using hand-picked plants from their farm.
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