Trip to Punta Gorda
Toledo Cocoa Festival

The fifth annual Toledo Cacoa Festival was held in Punta Gorda, Toledo District from May 20 - 22rd. Joyce was told by one of the organizers that there would be a display area dedicated to quality arts and crafts. So we packed up about 12 of her best oil paintings and headed south, from the Northern most settlement in Belize to the Southern most settlement.

2011 has been the driest of dry seasons and we knew there were a few wildfires in the Cayo District. What were hadn't expected was the combined effects of this dry weather, the damage from last year's Hurricane Richard and the smoke from the many fires would have on the normally stunning beauty of the Hummingbird Highway.

We left on Thursday, May 20, not stopping to take photos of the once plush hillsides. We decided to spend the first night in Hopkins, one of our favorite coastal villages. Since it was still very hot and dry, we passed on the "Rustic" resorts that we tend to like best and checked in at the more upscale Hopkins Bay Resort. The room was elegant, the pool refreshing and the view was stunning. Surprisingly, the price was not much more than we've paid at some of the more rustic places we've visited in Belize.

There is a the very classy The Orange Grove Caribbean Café on the Hopkins Bay Resort property. If you are looking for fine Caribbean cuisine, this would be a great choice. We, however, opted for a Garlic Chicken Pizza at the Driftwood Beach Bar & Pizza Shack, just a 5 minute walk from our room. What a delight!

Sittee River - Stann Creek District

We left Hopkins early Friday morning, with plenty of time to spare, so we took a side trip down to Sittee Point. This is an easy drive down well maintained, though mostly dirt roads. There didn't seem to be much going on, but the area is quite beautiful. We took the time to look at a few of the properties for sale. There is gas and diesel available at the Sittee Point Marina.

Once back on the Southern Highway, we began the final 2 hour leg of our trip to Punta Gorda. Crossing the washed out Kendal Bridge (currently under reconstruction) the lack of water became painfully obvious. The further south we drove, the greener the countryside became, but it is nothing like ultra plush landscape we recalled from previous trips.

Toledo District

Finally, we arrived at Punta Gorda, Belize's southern most settlement. At first blush, this is a very picturesque little town. Unfortunately, it appeared no effort was made to clean the village up for the Cocoa Fest. This was the first of many disappointments encountered in this faze of the trip.

We stayed at The Coral House Inn. This is a beautiful property, well maintained with a refreshing pool. The Toledo Cacoa Festival's kickoff event was scheduled for that night (Friday) so everyone was busy making the necessary preparations. During our entire stay we felt like we were intruding. The hosts Darla and Rick Mallory were cordial but hardly what you might call friendly. Hosting the premier event of the totally disorganized Cacoa Festival probably had them on edge. None the less, we were not made to feel welcome.

The Wine and Chocolate Tasting Party at The Coral House was a smashing success, well attended and well organized. The food was delicious, and of course the Chocolate samples were outstanding. It is too bad the rest of the festival couldn't have been as well planned and executed. It is also too bad our new camera took this opportunity to act up (most likely operator error!), rendering most of the photos of this great Garden Party type social unusable. The fireworks display was spectacular.

We left Punta Gorda a day early. We decided to spend a couple of days in the jungle. We have visited Jaguar Paw Resort, which we loved, however they are no longer operating as a resort. This trip we gave Ian Anderson's Caves Branch Jungle Lodge a go. Visit our "Return From Punta Gorda" page for details. The bottom line, Caves Branch is awesome!

I was going to create a web page about the Toledo Cacao Festival, showing the many activities and events. Except no one seemed to know where any of the events were to be held, how to get to them, or when (or if) they would actually happen! The published schedule of events seemed to have little or no relationship to reality. If you are considering attending next year's Toledo Cacoa Festival, my advise is: "Don't Bother!"

Photos by: J. McMaster