The gourmands and oenophiles of the world travel all the time to get a taste of the best culinary delicacies and wines. So, why not travel for chocolate, too? The cacao bean has been revered for millennia. And today, many view the art of making chocolate as akin to making wine. Perhaps that’s why more and more travel destinations have been turning chocolate, and the chocolate making process, into an experience that goes far beyond just tasting it. One of those destinations, of course, lies right in the heart of the Cacao Belt. Once believed to be “the world’s true cradle of chocolate”, as mentioned by the BBC, Belize is a burgeoning destination for chocolate lovers across the globe.
Belize’s “Chocolate Capital”, As Featured in Forbes
The “Chocolate Capital” of Belize, as Forbes put it this week, is the Toledo district. This southernmost district is home to a large population of the country’s Maya people. It’s is also where the majority of the country’s cacao production takes place.
At first, in the 90s, cacao was harvested and shipped off to Europe for production and consumption of chocolate bars. Today, though, Belize is proudly the location of a number of chocolate companies, some of which, like Ixcacao and Che’il, are Maya owned.
There are nearly a dozen artisan chocolate companies in Belize taking cacao from bean to bar, part of a robust movement to reclaim the small country’s rich chocolate heritage.
-Maggie Downs, BBC
The Toledo district is a cultural and culinary haven. More than just ancient Maya sites and lush rainforests, it offers a glimpse into the lives of Belize’s indigenous people. And it also grants first hand experiences surrounding the quickly growing chocolate scene.
Chocolate Travel Experiences in Belize
While organizations like the Toledo Cacao Growers Association help farmers source premium beans for shipping to chocolate makers beyond Belize’s borders, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the Maya “food of the gods” right where it’s grown.
According to the World Food Travel Association, food travel is “the pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.” And chocolate travel is, essentially, the same. If you consider yourself a “chocolate traveler” or are a chocolate-lover, then here are some of the best chocolate travel experiences to have in Belize.
Attend the Chocolate Festival
With the lifting of pandemic restrictions in 2022, Belize’s annual chocolate festival saw a well-welcomed return. This beloved two-day festival takes place in Punta Gorda Town during the month of May. It is the brainchild of a group of cacao farmers and chocolate makers who wished to showcase the quality of their product to the rest of the world in 2007. Today, it features countless cacao products, local foods, drinks, performances, and more.
Take a Chocolate Farm Tour
Get up close and personal with the chocolate harvesting, drying, and making process from farm to bean to bar. This creative cultural experience is sure to bring out the artist in you. In the Toledo district, luxury resort Copal Tree Lodge offers a Bean to Bar Chocolate class, complete with a visit to the cacao nursery. Participants also get to taste the fresh pulp from the cacao pod.
Make Your Own Chocolate
Witness the care and reverence with which chocolate is still made by small bean to bar companies when you book a chocolate making experience. With resorts like Sirenian Bay in Placencia and Hamanasi in Hopkins , guests get to make their own bar of chocolate with the help of the makers at Cheil Mayan Products.
Shop Local Chocolate
Since the early 2000s, a number of artisan chocolate makers and chocolate companies have established themselves in Belize. And locally made chocolate products can be found in just about any major supermarket or store. Hoping to get a taste of some local Belizean chocolate? Here’s a list of some chocolate makers:
- Cotton Tree Chocolate
- AJAW Chocolate
- Cheil Mayan Chocolate
- Goss Chocolate
- Belize Chocolate Company
- Lamanai Chocolate
- Dragon Chocolate
- La Especial Chocolate
- Moho Chocolate Company
- Copal Tree
Featured photo by Itz’ana Resort & Residences