The alarm sounds a little bit sweeter when you know the end result is Belize, so jumping out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3am to ensure that we made our 5:45 flight was just about bearable. There are numerous ways to get to Belize.... our chosen route was Newark NJ - Houston TX - Belize City. The connection couldn’t have been more seamless with us deplaning, only to return to the very same gate after grabbing a coffee and perusing duty free.
The process through customs is as breezy as the Belizean air…our contact Emilio was waiting for us as we de-planed & whisked us through security to await our Tropic Air flight down to Copal Tree Lodge. The wait however, was not in vain as we stumbled upon this quaint bar in a nook of the airport, famous for its local cocktails and the owners party tricks - quite the character himself! The flight to the jungle, saw us witnessing some of the most epic landscapes that Belize has to offer.
This 16-key ‘diamond in the rough’ sits nestled in the heart of the “jungle canopy” of Belize, Punta Gorda, surrounded solely by 3000 acres of organic farmland dating back to the Classic Maya period. What greets the eye is nothing less than spectacular.
As we approached the lobby area (affectionately named ‘a personal tree house’ by our CEO Kristen), we were greeted with cold towels/ginger drinks. and the kindest, smiling faces. Ervina gave us our orientation & showed us to our Jungle Suite accommodations. Whilst the exterior is quite simple, aimed at sympathetically blending into the jungle, inside is a sumptuous, well appointed suite replete with walk in spa showers with a glass wall allowing you the luxury of an outdoor view into the flora & fauna. Perched atop the hillside are 4 Signature Canopy Suites which provide these lucky guests with their own private pool, bar & unobstructed views of the insta-worthy jungle landscape 📸.
The suites were only the beginning. Within 24 hours we truly understood how Copal incorporates culture, cuisine & customization into their guests' experiences. We feasted like queens on the freshest produce (all lovingly grown right on the grounds) & were introduced to the masterful art that is “coffee cupping.” French Press & Chemex lovers look no further.
Insider Insight: Copal grows their own coffee beans & guests can witness the roasting process along with taking home a special bag of Copal Tree Coffee from the Barista team.
From there it was a wonderful whirlwind as we tried almost all of the bespoke tours that the lodge has to offer (Swim/Snorkel with the Chef, Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Class, mixology class sampling the delicious Copali Rum distilled right on site & an authentic Belizean Cultural Cooking experience right on the resort’s very own Mayan Comal.
The swim and snorkel was truly a highlight as Captain Jack gave us so many amazing tidbits about the local wildlife and steered us to the best location for catching the juiciest lobster and conch. Our fresh catch was then whipped into a gourmet meal over an open fire on the back of the boat. We were in disbelief that this feast had been prepared in only 2 pans (this was the moment everyone asked themselves the question - could I have been capable of that? … the unanimous answer was a resounding no..)
The staff got to know us personally & made sure our stay left nothing to be desired. The only thing left for us to do was hop over to our next stop. Royal Belize.
There’s something to be said about destinations that take a plane & boat ride to get to…worth every second.
From our first glimpse of Royal Belize we knew the group was in for the treat of a lifetime. Royal Belize is a private “exclusive use” island 9 miles off the coast of Belize mainland. This 7.5 acre dream Is all yours…at all times. 5 suites sit nestled into the pristinely combed sand & will cater to 5 couples/10 adults or a group of up to 16 with kids that can have a sleepover that dreams are made of in the islands bunk room. Fresh coconut cocktails greeted us as we walked onto the breathtaking white sanded beach (in my head , I was already thinking that one day wasn’t going to be long enough).
This is a fully inclusive island where the drinks flow & food is prepared by the resident Chef. Groups are encouraged to participate in all of the water sports available to them including motorized jet skis, waterskiing and tubing at no extra cost.
We opted for the more relaxed approach & swayed peacefully in our hammocks sipping bubbles in the breeze.
That old adage - you don't even have to think - rang true here. Our group was catered to at every step of the way & just when our minds drifted to something sweet & cool…a tray of watermelon ice pops appeared to quench our thirst. The chef is always on hand to make some fresh guacamole using local avocados or whatever your taste buds desire. If you feel like something a little more ‘conventional’ there are baskets full of chips and treats throughout the island so your cravings are never around for too long!
Dinner was a 'degustation' feast, beginning with shrimp summer rolls moving to fresh lobster and fish and ending with a coconut chocolate cake and ice cream I will dream of until the next time I’m on the island.
The day seemed complete until we were surprised with a beach bonfire perfect for feasting on s’mores made with chefs famous cookies and the very chocolate that Copal Tree creates while listening to everyone’s favorite playlists (happy sigh).
Belize offers so much for the adventure seekers, epicurean elites & for those looking for the “outside of the box” getaway. The destination continues to be one of the most diverse islands, with multiple cultures to become immersed in, yet is the only country in South America that has English as its dominant language (a definite plus for those of us who don’t have the language bug).
Belize is on the rise as a tourist destination, currently with under a million visitors per year, most of whom are cruise passengers. Thus, the beaches remain untouched and serene for those who prefer to laze with only a few as opposed to the dozens (or even none on your own private island). Belize is the hidden gem and in my opinion one of the most spectacular countries in the world for you to visit. It’s safe to say, we will be back soon!
Happy traveling #packlighttraveldeep