Our Story

While traveling through Mexico and Guatemala in 1979, I ventured into Belize and noticed a unique quality that made this little country somehow different and special.

Six years later I came to Belize with a sailboat and a dream to impact lives and do something that somehow mattered.  I found this beautiful farm along the banks of the Moho River. Looming high above was a huge Cottonwood Tree – my breath was taken away!

The dream I had was about sharing the magic and mystique of Belize. I saw a chance to create an atmosphere where people could appreciate other cultures and learn something about their own spirit. It’s a dream of impacting lives… of exploring new terrain… of creating stories for a lifetime.

After three years of formulating ideas with my longtime friend and business partner Jeff Pzena we formed Cotton Tree Lodge.  It took us another three years until we opened our doors in December 2006. We have enjoyed every minute of it.

We invite you to visit our unique Belize lodge and become part of our story!
- Chris Crowell

Supporting the Cotton Tree Community

Cotton Tree Lodge is located between two Maya villages, San Felipe and Santa Ana. Many lodge employees come from these villages, and Cotton Tree Lodge strives to be a good neighbor.

Both the lodge and guests have made donations of sports equipment and school supplies to the local primary schools. Several tours visit Mayan homes and farms in these villages, giving guests an unusual opportunity for cultural interaction and understanding, as well as sending money into the local economy. Cotton Tree Lodge partners with Pack for a Purpose to manage the donations.

Many guests have asked how they can give something back to the communities near Cotton Tree Lodge. You can also donate school supplies to the local primary schools in the villages of Santa Anna and San Felipe. The most requested items include math workbooks, notebooks, pencils, and any other general school supplies. Please do not bring anything requiring batteries or replacement parts. Please pack your donations in your luggage and do not mail them – the recipients of international packages are often taxed on the contents. It is sometimes possible to arrange a brief visit for you to personally deliver your donations to the local schools. Please e-mail us stay@cottontreelodge.com for more information about appropriate contributions.

Cotton Tree Chocolate

In 2006, when Cotton Tree Lodge was still under construction, Jeff Pzena bought what he thought were almonds in the Punta Gorda farmers market and discovered that he actually had cocoa beans.

He became more and more interested in chocolate, visiting cacao farms around Toledo. He learned how to make it himself in his apartment using equipment purchased online.

Jeff began producing Cotton Tree Chocolate’ at the lodge as a casual side-project and part of the Chocolate Week Itinerary. Two participants on the February 2008 Chocolate Week thought the product had potential. They decided to invest with Jeff and launched Cotton Tree Chocolate the May 2008 Toledo Cacao Festival.

For the first few months, Cotton Tree Chocolate was produced in a small, climate-controlled room behind the Main Lodge. In less than a year, the company was selling its bars all over Belize and moved into its own factory space in Punta Gorda in April 2009. The factory is open to Cotton Tree Lodge guests, and tours of the facilities are regularly scheduled.

Each batch of Cotton Tree Chocolate is made from a single harvest from a single farmer. The beans are purchased through local farmers and all beans are organic. Cotton Tree Chocolate is available in 70% Dark, 55% Dark Milk, and 40% Light Milk bars, and Cocoa Nibs 44%.

For more information about Cotton Tree Chocolate, go to www.cottontreechocolate.com or contact:

Lydia Saki Sales, Marketing & Distribution. E-mail: lydia@cottontreechocolate.com