Cinema, wine food, hideaways and adventure – what better tagline for two exotic Belize properties? Turtle Inn and Blancaneaux Lodge were created and are owned by the Coppola Family Hideaway group of properties. The perfect spilt between water and land adventures, stay at both and explore Mayan ruins, snorkel and swim, tube through caves or zip line through the treetops.
Belize is a place that eludes travel typecasts. An island myth, with more than 450 islands its location alone can be a mystery as its plopped in Caribbean in Central America, bordered to the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is a diverse country with various cultures and languages. The national language is English, this tiny country of 350,000 is a diverse blend of cuisine and customs stemming from communities of people beginning with the Mayans and Kriol, Garifuna, and mestizo backgrounds. The British established settlements as early as the late 18th Century.
Turtle Inn is an intimate luxury resort set alongside a beautiful stretch of the sun sparkled waters of the Caribbean Sea near Placencia Town. Kids are allowed to stay here and explore the seas and beaches. Twenty Balinese style resort cottages and villas each with a fabulous indoor/outdoor bathroom — separated by sand and stone walkways, provide a peaceful setting. Brilliantly colored hammocks are strung lazily between tilting palm trees. Three restaurants, two bars, two outdoor pools and a number of guided tours and excursions make the resort feel much bigger than it actually is. Excellent snorkeling and scuba diving at the Belize Barrier Reef is a short boat ride away. Turtle Inn has two pools – one a sea-green circle on the lawn by the bar, steps from the Sea, the other an infinity pool nestled between the cottages. You can cycle into the charming little Placencia town in ten minutes on a complimentary bike, which has plenty of small bars, restaurants, art galleries and crafts shops. Turtle Inn lies 18 miles from the reef with snorkeling and diving a major attraction – whale sharks can be seen between May and June during the full moon. Boats can be rented and there are excursions to Mayan ruins, zip lining and organic farms.
One of our favorite rooms for a family is Francis’ Family Pavilion. This exclusive Balinese-inspired pavilion, located at the southern edge of the property and surrounded on three sides by a high walled garden, is designed to maximize privacy. There are two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and a third loft bedroom accessed by a ladder. Francis’ Family Pavilion features antique hand-carved wooden doorways and detailing, stone sculptures, and artwork selected by Francis and Eleanor Coppola. The two spacious bathrooms feature indoor showers and beyond the airy bathrooms are private walled gardens with outdoor showers. The two bedrooms flank a living area and screened porch with comfortable sofas, writing desk, and wet bar area with an espresso machine and refrigerator.
Seafront Villas. The most desirable villas at the Belize luxury hotel are just a few steps from the Caribbean Sea. These Balinese themed 2-bedroom/2-en-suite bathroom villas provide luxurious proportions with a living room, separate sitting rooms, and an extended screened porch surrounded by a private walled garden with an outdoor shower. Ceiling fans and thatched roofs naturally cool the villas, as do the sea breezes.
Overlooking the pool is an open air, thatch-roofed dining terrace with a spectacular view over the beach to the Caribbean Sea. Below the dining terrace is the private pool crafted with original tile art and surrounded by a tropical walled garden.
Sofia’s Beach House is a one-of-a-kind modernist-tropical hideaway just steps from the Caribbean Sea and shares a beach and all the luxury amenities of Turtle Inn. Designed by architect Laurent Deroo as a stylish and soothing getaway, comprised of an open-plan main house and two guest bungalows, the Beach House opens to the ever-present sea breezes while connecting to the romantic, Balinese-styled hideaway it adjoins. Special features of Sofia’s Beach House include a full kitchen, an open-air living and dining room perfect for a few couples or a family’s enjoyment, a seafront media room ideal for a late-night movie or board game playing, and a full bathroom on the main floor. The second-floor master bedroom has a king bed with private bathroom and adjacent children’s bedroom (with bunk beds suitable for children up to age 14). The Beach House also provides bicycles, private butler, private entrance, a private pool, and outdoor barbeque. The two guest houses each feature one king bed, en-suite bathrooms, and decks. Stays of three nights or more include a private golf cart to use for trips into Placencia town.
From Turtle Inn mosey to the second Coppola Family Hideaway Blancaneux Lodge –either by private charter or on overland journey broken up by inner tubing water fall rappelling or zip lining!
A dramatic hideaway in a rainforest wonderland, ringed with pine trees, Blancaneaux Lodge has 20 charming thatched cabanas set beside a river. Waterfalls tumble into turquoise pools above the deep jungle canopy. Two pools, a spa, horse stables and a long list of fun activities, this is a memorable getaway. The rustic luxe decor includes colorful Guatemalan textiles, providing an authentic sense of place.
The Lodge enjoys a marvelously lush location beside a creek in the country’s Mountain Pine Ridge. Unprecedented luxury on a wild and remote hillside where native palm trees meet pines. The lodge itself is nestled on the banks of Privassion Creek and is set among tropical pines, oaks, palmetto, craboo, and ancient melastome shrubs. Within a few miles of the boutique hotel in Belize you will find the steep limestone hills and valleys of the 13,000-acre Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park. The dense jungle, steep ravines, spectacular waterfalls, and fast flowing rivers are home to many rare or endangered species of flora and fauna.
The Lodge’s 20 villas and cabanas are dotted alongside the meandering Privasson River, with water pure enough to drink and waterfall pools perfect for back-to-nature bathing. Visit ancient Mayan ruins at Caracol, explore the jungle on horseback or just lounge in a hammock and follow the hummingbirds as they plunder the colorful vegetation, flitting from bush to bush.
Coppola bought this property in 1981 as a writing retreat then opened it to guests 12 years later. His quirky tastes and passions are everywhere, from a love of color reflected in the widespread use of Guatemalan tiles and textiles to the eccentric ‘shellphones’, which guests can use to call reception. The lodge is heralded by an avenue of palms and set on a hillside overlooking the Privasson River. Splendid gardens frame a central wooden building housing an all-day restaurant, a gift shop, a large fireplace and the Jaguar bar, decorated with photos of early explorers and archaeologists. In the immediate area you can enjoy horse riding, mountain biking, complimentary birdwatching and an hour-long self-guided walk to Big Rock Falls. A one-room spa overlooking the river offers treatments using local products such as coffee and coconut.
Guests eat and drink well here thanks to Coppola’s Italian heritage and passion for winemaking, all backed up with a magnificent organic garden. The main, candle-lit Montagna Restaurant serves Italian cuisine including dishes such as Mrs. Scorsese’s chicken and pizzas from a wood-fired oven. On some nights the Guatemaltequa restaurant is open for dinner, a simple wooden building that specializes in Guatemalan dishes such as pepian (a root vegetable stew).
A plethora of garden view cabañas, riverfront cabanas and two Luxury Cabañas plus several noted villas for families. The Luxury Cabañas have quickly become the most sought-after accommodations on the property. The two Luxury Cabañas offer a secluded setting at the far eastern end of the property overlooking Privassion Creek and feature their own private plunge pools, king-size beds, Guatemalan décor, and a second shower outdoors.
Family Cabaña. A queen-size bed, sleeper sofa and a twin bed highlight the spacious Family Cabaña. A large screened-in porch overlooks the beautiful gardens of the Coppola’s Belize family hideaway, which may also be viewed while idly swaying in the room’s hammock.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Villa. Enjoy dramatic views from the elevated open-plan living area, take a dip in the private plunge pool, or relax on the hardwood sun deck set in a lush tropical garden. This Villa features a small kitchen. A hand-carved antique dining table with seating for up to 14 people overlooks the tumbling waterfalls and deep rock pools of Privassion Creek. The luxury accommodations in Belize include two large bedrooms, each with a spacious bathroom featuring showers with hand-painted tiles and a Japanese tub. The eclectically furnished Villa combines regional antiques, Guatemalan fabrics, artisan masks, and hand-carved figurines. Francis’s personal art and antiques are displayed throughout, adding a unique touch to an already comfortable and stylish environment.
Enchanted Cottage, Blancaneaux Lodge’s ultimate retreat reflects Francis’s desire for a haven in which to reflect and create. The cottage sits atop a steep forested bluff offering panoramic views over the tumbling waterfalls of Privassion Creek and the distant jungle-clad Maya Mountains. With an emphasis on luxury, this stone cottage embodies the quaint elegance of a Belize boutique hotel, featuring a bedroom with a king-size bed, writing desk, and fireplace. The bath house provides understated luxury with under floor heating, open fire, shower, Japanese tub, and steam room. There is a second half-bathroom in the entry of the cottage. Adjacent to the kitchen is an airy day room with a sofa bed, large coffee table, and comfortable armchair. Screened doors open onto the hardwood deck and the infinity pool. The Enchanted Cottage is secluded and surrounded by lush tropical gardens and spectacular panoramic views. Explore Belize activities and unwind in your personal hammock. The cottage also includes a full-time attendant to light fires, cook breakfast, prepare cocktails, and anticipate your every need.
Activities: besides mountain bike riding, hiking, horseback riding and the visit to the ancient Mayan site, plan your jungle night excursion with the Chiquibul Night Expedition. Departing the property before sunset, arriving at the Chiquibul Forest, where you can hike to an amazing birding tower. Here one can enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the thick luscious rainforest. This is the perfect time as it is a relaxing experience to watch the sunset along with different species of birds making their way back to their nests. As darkness covers the rainforest, the predators start to roam their kingdom in search of prey. As most of Belize’s large mammals are nocturnal this is your best chance to actually see them in their natural habitat.
Over a thousand streams begin their journey in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve while smooth granite boulders, sandy beaches, and waterfalls of Privassion Creek provide some of the Reserve’s best natural swimming holes. You can swim in the deep, cool pools close to the lodge or explore the hidden rock pools leading to the stunning Big Rock Falls, a must see for the adventurous.
Driving from the pine forest to the rainforest at a slow and quiet pace, stealthily search the forest for gibnut, armadillos, peccaries and other wildlife. Although seldom seen, the elusive jaguar leaves enough tracks behind for us to understand that this is his realm. Keep an open eye for the national animal the Tapir, who forages on trail-side vegetation.
Coppola Family Hideaways encompass mountain & beach. From the natural serenity of the Maya Mountains to the shores of Placencia Lagoon, one is reminded that paradise can exist in more than one locale.
The Coppola Family Hideaways can also be found in Tikal in Guatemala which has just opened to travelers. La Lancha is an intimate and romantic retreat beside a magical lake. Set in the rainforest high above the shores of Lago Petén Itzá. La Lancha, is a quaint, 10-room lodge decorated with furniture, fabrics, and carvings from Guatemala personally selected by the Coppola family. Nearby is Tikal, the epicenter of Maya spirituality. Buried deep within the rainforest, the ruins include more than 3,000 structures where moss clings to the steps of ancient temples and plazas.
With its beautiful lakeshore setting, relaxed ambiance, and close proximity to the lost world of Maya, La Lancha is an ideal destination to both enjoy a languid pace and explore the many adventures of the Petén region. With a few weeks of exploring time, we can coordinate all three resorts for an unforgettable Journey!
Belize has an unparalleled uniqueness of geographic and wildlife diversity. It offers visitors the very best of the Central American and Caribbean worlds. On the Belize mainland, the rain forests provide a unique opportunity to observe life in all of its manifold and perplexing beauty, including rare and beautiful tropical birds and elusive cats, underwater caves, impressive rivers and majestic waterfalls. Mystical Maya Sites with their temples towering above the surrounding jungle add mystery to the majesty of this unusual and complex ecosystem.
Seasonal Features: Belize’s high season for tourism runs from late November to mid April. The best time to visit Belize is during the dry season, which is between January and May. Although you can enjoy warm temperatures across the country, the type of weather you get will depend on the region. Expect clear, sunny days in the Cayo District and on the Cayes. The Toledo District and Placencia enjoy a more tropical climate where there’s a chance of rain at any time of year, but this is what gives these regions their lush beauty. The wet season runs from June to December, but travel is still possible until early August, with rain mostly falling in the afternoon.The best time to visit Belize may depend on what you want to do. For example if you are an avid SCUBA diver, the best time may be when the waters are generally calm and this is in summer which is the off season for tourism. Belize can be attractive for those seeking a summer break. During the summer months Belize receives less visitors giving travelers the opportunity to find more privacy in areas such as the beaches, caves and Maya Ruins.
In all, the Family Coppola Hideaways total seven escapes around the world. In his home town of Bernalda in southern Italy, his charming palazzo is available as a short stay or as a private palazzo- it’s charming, I’ve stayed!
Photos courtesy of Family Coppola Hideaways