A chocolate adventure: Learn about cacao in Belize next month

Rachel Forrest
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Plaquemine Post South

Last February, I took a wonderful trip to Belize organized by Enna Grazier, of Enna Chocolate in Epping, New Hampshire, in which I had the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of cacao farming, processing and chocolate making, as well as experience all sorts of cultural and jungle adventures. Grazier is organizing the trip again this year, and I’m going once again. I hope you’ll come, too! Her Cacao Origins Adventure Trip runs from Feb. 22-29 and will be at Cotton Tree Lodge in the Toledo District, the heart of Belizean cacao farming and production. Sign up at

This year I gave everyone in my family at least one bar of Enna Chocolate, and each person was so happy to get some of Grazier’s single origin chocolate, some of which is made from cacao grown and harvested right near where we’ll be staying in Punta Gorda. While it was fun to be able to give my family this great chocolate, it was absolutely thrilling to watch Grazier give a bar of chocolate made from cacao to the people who actually farmed the cacao that went into it. I’m getting a little misty eyed just remembering it again.

During the week you’ll visit local cocoa farms — meeting the farmers, learning how cacao is harvested, fermented and processed — and enjoy fresh cacao right out of the pod. You’ll also learn how to make drinking chocolate and traditional foods with a Mayan family, in one of the few regions of the world where quality cacao is grown. There’s a fun visit to Punta Gorda to experience the farmer’s market and make your own chocolate. And there’s so much more adventure beyond chocolate.

The lodge is right on a river with a rope for swinging on and plunging into the water for a dip, and the cabanas are up off the ground in the jungle trees. Laze around in a hammock on the porch and listen to the parrots and maybe even a howler monkey. There’s a garden to explore that supplies the restaurant with ingredients for all of the meals, which are included in the cost of the trip. The food is delicious, and you’ll be able to taste fruits and vegetables you may have never encountered before. Booze and beer are extra, but my evening rum and cacao juice was quite inexpensive. You’ll also get to know your fellow Cacao Adventure travelers during the meals and activities, which is always fun.

This year, a few features are included that weren’t last year. After arriving in Belize City, you’ll take a puddle-jumper plane to Punta Gorda, included in the cost. I took that from Punta Gorda to Belize City last year and the flight is gorgeous. You see just how much land is still undeveloped in Belize and the coastline. Most of the adventure activities on the free days are included in price (not included are scuba or sea fishing) and out of the seven active days, there are three free days, so there is plenty of opportunity to explore the Nim Li Punit Mayan archeological site, waterfalls, cave exploration, sunset river cruises, fishing, night walks and even a jungle survival tour. Learn about the colorful birds of Belize and say “hey” to the iguanas all over the lodge property.

This is the perfect opportunity to explore a country that I constantly have to show people on a map because they have no idea where it is (it’s nestled under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, home to Cancun and Tulum). I sometimes call it the “less sexy Costa Rica” but I think it’s even sexier than Costa Rica because there’s a lot more mystery to it. It’s beautiful and always surprising.