Belize certainly isn’t short on selling points. It has wild jungles, ancient ruins, a rich cultural heritage, and the northern hemisphere’s largest stretch of barrier reef. And now, two upcoming food festivals promise to make it a mouthwatering destination, too. In May, the southern department of Toledo will host the Chocolate Festival of Belize, a sweet, three-day extravaganza dedicated to cacao-based confections. In June, the beach town of Placencia will host Lobsterfest, a colorful, weekend-long party designed to celebrate all-things lobster. Come for one festival or come for both, but don’t forget to come hungry.
When: May 24-26, 2013
Where: Southern Belize’s Toledo District, in and around the town of Punta Gorda (a one-hour flight from Belize City).
What: Formerly known as the Toledo Cacao Festival, the Chocolate Festival of Belize was founded in 2007 as a way to celebrate the southern district of Toledo and the Toledo Cacao Growers’ Association.
Highlights: Belcampo—a lodge, farm, and 6,070-hectare (15,000-acre) rainforest preserve located just outside of the town of Punta Gorda—will host an evening tasting during which visitors will try confections from Belize’s top chocolatiers, chocolate stout by Belikin (Belize’s leading beer brand), and cacao-infused hors d’oeuvres. Punta Gorda will host the Taste of Toledo street fair, a celebration of the district’s cultural diversity with art, music, entertainment, and food (try the traditional Garífuna fish dish, hudut). Cooking competitions will judge contestants on their use of cacao and chocolate in both sweet and savory fare. The Lubaantun Cultural Day at the Lubaantun ruins in the Maya village of San Pedro Columbia will highlight indigenous music, dance, and crafts, as well as cacao’s importance in the Maya culture.
When: June 28-30, 2013
Where: Belize’s southern coast, in the town of Placencia (a 35-minute flight from Belize City).
What: For the past 15 years, Lobsterfest has celebrated the start of the lobster-fishing season and raised money for the local tourism board and the Placencia Village council.
Highlights: Festival-goers can expect to find dozens of cooking stations serving up lobster in a variety of creative ways—think lobster tacos, pizza, and stew, grilled lobster tails, and curried lobster. The granddaddy of all lobsters will be selected at the biggest lobster contest (see last year’s winner at right). There will be musical performances by Caribbean steel drum and punta bands (punta is the music of the local Garífuna people). During the third annual lionfish tournament, fishermen will compete to see who can catch the greatest number of lionfish, an invasive (but delicious) fish species that’s detrimental to the barrier reef. A beach duathlon will help visitors burn off all the succulent fare.
*All Lobsterfest photos by Muzamanzie Photography.