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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."

-Chris Crowell-Founder

Cotton Tree Lodge was founded in 2006 by Chris Crowell and Jeff Pzena. Chris had previously "discovered" Belize while traveling through Mexico and Guatemala. In his travels he noticed a unique quality that made this little country somehow different than the rest of Central America.

Later he returned with his sailboat looking for something he could do that would make a difference in the world. He found what he was looking for while traveling up the Moho River-a beautiful farm nestled on the bank of the slow moving river beneath a towering Cotton Tree. Not only was his breath taken away, he had a dream of sharing the magic and mystique of Belize with others. He saw a chance to create an atmosphere where people could appreciate other cultures and learn something about their own spirit. A dream of impacting lives… of exploring new terrain… of creating stories for a lifetime.

After three years of formulating ideas with his longtime friend and business partner Jeff Pzena they formed Cotton Tree Lodge.  It took them another three years until they opened the doors in December 2006.

Chris now resides in Mankato Minnesota with his wife Kristin (they met at Cotton Tree Lodge). Jeff and his wife, Tanya, live in New York City. Jeff has now turned all his attention to Cotton Tree Chocolate and is the owner of the Cotton Tree Chocolate factory in Punta Gorda as well as the Moho Chocolate Company.

Our Family

As a kid I wanted to be an archeologist. Favorite movie was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Around the time I graduated high school I realized that archeology was nothing like Indiana Jones. I didn't want to work at a desk or write papers. I wanted to explore and see new places. I decided travel and tourism was better suited for me.

I saw my first Mayan Pyramid in 2003(Chacchoben). I was thrilled. In 2004 I visited Tikal. Mind blown. In 2005 it was Chichen Itza. And so it continued...

Adam-Cotton Tree Lodge Steward

In 2012 Kasey and I took a vacation to Belize. We had previously traveled to various locations in Mexico and Guatemala and were excited to see a new country. What we saw was indescribable. We snorkeled pristine coral reefs, hiked/swam deep into caves, played in waterfalls, enjoyed open air markets, climbed to the top of pyramids, and fell asleep listening to the sounds of the jungle.

Ever since that trip we talked about moving our family to Belize. We own a small resort in Minnesota and while we love Minnesota, the winters are fierce. And long. And very cold. We always thought the perfect life would be to run our little resort in Minnesota in the summers and operate a jungle lodge in the winters. For years we talked. And talked.

In the fall of 2018 we decided to take another look at Belize. I flew down to meet with the owner of a resort in the Cayo we were interested in. But I didn't love it there. Crowded, noisy, too developed. San Pedro was worse. I felt impressed to travel down to Toledo and so I did. As soon as I got to Cotton Tree Lodge I knew my search was over. I texted Kasey immediately. "Now this is a real jungle lodge!". Kasey joined me for a later trip in early 2019 and she too was blown away by Cotton Tree Lodge. We knew we had found something special. In August of 2019 we made it official and purchased Cotton Tree Lodge. Along with our three children-Adyson (12), Brock (9) and Chase (3) we are extremely excited to work with the crew at Cotton Tree Lodge sharing something we love-with you.

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.

Birch Forest Lodge

Birch Forest Lodge-A family oriented outdoor recreation resort in Minnesota

Our family loves outdoor recreation. Adam especially is an avid fisherman and loves taking pictures of the Northern Lights. Kasey enjoys picking blueberries and hiking. When our family isn't at Cotton Tree Lodge, we operate a small resort in northern Minnesota-Birch Forest Lodge. There we share what we love with others who want to relax on a lake with people they love. You can check us out at birchforestlodge.com.

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