Why the Toledo District?

First Published: 2024-01-31

Description: In this post we discuss how we got here, and why.

Author: Nate

Map of Belize with Toledo district highlighted


Why buy a rainforest lodge near Punta Gorda, Belize?

I first visited Belize about 20 years ago as of the time of this writing. My wife and I had been married for only a couple of years and she planned the trip. We traveled with a group that was made up of retired people, young musicians, middle-aged community planners, and us. At the time I was a full-time software engineer and my wife was working as an adminstrative assistant. Our tour had us camping in tents, right on the beach, on the beautiful cayes (pronounced ‘keys’) along the barrier reef. A week later we were camping in tents again, deep in the jungle, along the Macal river.

As a couple who had grown up relatively sheltered in the midwestern United States, this trip felt surreal to us at the time. I had only ever read about the rainforest in books. I had only ever seen crocodiles in zoos. I had only heard the sounds of the animals and insects of the jungle in movies. I had taken a trip or two to an ocean, sure, but I had never snorkeled in crystal clear azure waters and watched sea turtles and rays swimming beneath me as if I were swimming in an aquarium. I could not believe what I was experiencing was real life!

Needless to say, I fell in love with Belize. Years later we came back to see more of the country and to learn more about its culture. We visited some of the other districts: Belize, Stann Creek, Cayo…all are beautiful and have plenty to offer. In particular we really loved the village of Hopkins, which is in Stann Creek. We even purchased a small lot there and planned to build a vacation home. If things had gone as planned that might even have been where the story ended. But life rarely goes as planned.

My family and I (now 3 of us) took a vacation in the spring of 2023. At the end of the trip, as we were making our way home, I started to realize I was dreading going back to work. Don’t get me wrong, my employer was very good to me. It’s not that I was being mistreated, or even poorly compensated. My job was pretty cushy, to be honest, and I worked in cybersecurity at the time. I continue to believe cybersecurity is a good and noble field. Even so, I dreaded the idea of sitting behind a screen on my computer for hours, upon hours, upon hours…day after day, week after week. I knew I couldn’t do it forever and I knew the only person who could decide to make a change in my life was me. So I did.

I picked up my phone, tapped on the search box and quite literally typed in, “businesses for sale in Belize”. One of the results was, “https://businessesforsale.com” with a list narrowed to Belize. I started swiping through the list of results, most of which were way out of my price range, or they were businesses in which I had no interest. But a small handful seemed like reasonable, viable options! I was stunned.

Discussing with my wife the possibility of purchasing a business in Belize and quitting my full-time job to focus on it went much better than I expected. We agreed this pursuit would likely prove more fulfilling, which would make me a happier, more content person, which would in turn benefit the family. I think it was a nice way of her saying, “whatever will make you more pleasant to live with is worth the risk.”

Wildlife is what inspires my wife, so we narrowed our search to rainforest properties that were a reasonable distance from the sea. Ultimately we decided on one property that seemed right for us to pursue taking next steps. The price was on the higher end of our budget, but the property was compelling: around 37 acres of land, charming casitas with thatched roofs, a large lodge with plenty of space, and the owner had really highlighted that birdwatchers were the largest demographic of guests. Perfect! But where was it? We had never been to the Toledo district.

Toledo is the southernmost and least populated district of Belize, bordering Guatemala and the Caribbean Sea. It is also the most remote, the hardest to reach, and the poorest district in the country. It has a reputation of being the “forgotten land” of Belize, often overlooked by tourists and development. I needed to see for myself if it was worth investing in this “forgotten land.”

Following a few lengthy WhatsApp calls to the owner of the lodge, I put in a tentative offer and made my way to the lodge for a visit. I flew first to Belize City where I took a regional flight on a prop plane to small airstrip in Punta Gorda. I was picked up at the airport by the real estate agent who was representing the property. He generously shuttled me around for the entirety of my visit. Besides spending time walking the grounds at the lodge, we visited waterfalls, a spice farm, we ate lunch on the coast, and we met dozens of other business owners in the area.

You already know how this story ends, but let me finally tell you why. On that trip I learned that Toledo is home to some of the most pristine and diverse rainforests in the world, teeming with wildlife and plants. It has over 1700 species of trees, 400 species of birds, 100 species of mammals, and countless insects, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Some of the animals that live here are rare and endangered, such as the jaguar, the tapir, and the scarlet macaw. Toledo also has many rivers, waterfalls, caves, and lagoons, where you can swim, kayak, canoe, or fish.

Toledo is also home to some of the most ancient and fascinating Mayan sites in the world, dating back hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. Some of these sites are still being excavated and studied, revealing secrets and mysteries of the past. Some of the sites available to visit are Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit, Uxbenka, and Pusilha. Toledo also has many Mayan villages, where you can meet the descendants of the ancient civilization, and learn about their customs, beliefs, and languages.

Toledo is also home to some of the most diverse and vibrant cultures in the world, reflecting the melting pot of Belize. Besides the Mayans, Toledo has people of Garifuna, Creole, East Indian, Mennonite, and Chinese descent, among others. Each group has its own history, identity, and contribution to the society. Toledo is a place where you can experience different music, dance, art, and cuisine, and celebrate different festivals and holidays. Some of the events and holidays available are: the Chocolate Festival, the Battle of the Drums, the Deer Dance Festival, and the Garifuna Settlement Day.

Toledo is a place where I found what I was looking for: a connection with nature, a connection with history, and a connection with people. It is a place where I felt at home, where I felt inspired, and where I felt alive. It is a place where I decided to buy a lodge, and to share my passion and my vision with others.

My lodge is called Creekside Oasis, and it is located on approximately 37 acres of stunning rainforest. It is about 7 miles northwest of Punta Gorda along the Southern highway. It is a modest rainforest lodge, with 4 spacious and air conditioned rooms with a veranda overlooking the garden, 5 beautiful and comfortable thatched-roof casitas, all with a view of the garden, a restaurant area, a swimming hole in the adjacent creek, and numerous trails for hiking, birdwatching and wildlife viewing. It is also a base for adventure, with many activities and tours available in the area, such as hiking, birdwatching, zip-lining, horseback riding, caving, tubing, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and more.

I invite you to come and visit Creekside Oasis, and to discover the beauty and the magic of Toledo. I promise you that you will not regret it. Toledo is not the forgotten land of Belize, it is the unforgettable land of Belize. I hope you will love it as much as I do.