Francis Coppola’s Belize Resorts, Where to go now!

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.

Francis Coppola’s Belize Resorts

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!

Tubing in the caves, Belize

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.

Francis Ford Coppola’s Villa, Blancaneaux Lodge

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. 

Enchanted Cottage, Blancaneaux Lodge

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!

Pony rides at Coppola Family Hideway, Belize

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

Beautiful Belize

This week doesn’t mark our first request to the unspoiled Belize, here is a look at excursions and lodging. Tropical reefs and rain forests with world class fishing, hiking, caving and Mayan sites.

The Cayo / Mountain Pine region offers a variety of high end deluxe accommodations including one of our favorites owned by Francis Ford Coppola – Blancaneaux Lodge is a great choice with good service and staff. We especially like  a couple of specific rooms: The Enchanted Cottage is a little more remotely located in terms of the rest of the property, and this accommodation includes a golf cart for guests to move between their room and the main area of the lodge. Also recommend Francis Ford Coppola’s two bedroom villa.

Blancaneaux Lodge has a private helipad and is also located opposite a private landing strip which means we can offer the option of arriving via helicopter (direct flight or with sightseeing included) or via private charter flight.

Optional Excursions ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) – cave adventure.

This is one of the highlights in the Cayo District area; transfer time from Blancaneaux Lodge to the cave is about 1hr 30 mins each way; we might be able to offer as a day trip with helicopter flights.

Description: Actun Tunichil Muknal “Cave of the Stone Sepulcher” is one of the most impressive caves in the Maya lowland. Located in the heart of the Belizean Rain forest, this cave was a sacred place to the prehispanic Mayas of Belize, who first began to use the entrance during the early classic period (300-600AD). The cave system consists of a series of chambers, ending in a 300 by 50 meter Cathedral where sacrificial ceremonies once took place. Visitors to this cave have the opportunity to travel into the Maya past and witness a living museum where the human sacrifices and artifacts can be viewed in their original context. On the tour guests will drive to the trail head and trek for 45 minutes through dense Jungle in the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve, wading across three streams and learning about the plants and animals of the Jungle. At the entrance of the Cave guests are outfitted in the necessary equipment. Some swimming will be required and also climbing and caving activity. Guests will spend 3 hours in the cave after which they may also visit a nearby dry cave to see ancient inscriptions and hand-prints of which the origins are unknown. This is a first class caving and archaeological experience. Time inside the cave is about 3hrs.  It is completely dark and the only light comes from each visitors headlamp.

Belize’s most popular on-shore activity for cruise ships while visiting the country. In order to miss the crowds for this amazing experience, Blancaneaux Lodge offers an early morning option for all guests who wish to do this tour as a full day activity. After a 2 hour drive you stop at the Nohoch Che’en Reserve for an hour’s float along the Caves Branch River and a gentle 45 minutes jungle walk to reach the starting point for cave tubing. Each participant has a special ‘tube’ for the float, a headlamp, life vest and ‘water shoes.’ The float goes through a series of huge inter-connection caves separated by open sections where the river is flanked by high jungle.

Perhaps the most visually stunning of all Maya sites, Tikal’s five monolithic temples pierce the jungle canopy (Temple IV reaching a height of almost 230 feet) and ancient plazas, stelae and ball courts tell of a rich and powerful history when Tikal’s population reached almost 100,000. By the beginning of the Classic Period (AD 250) Tikal was competing for regional domination with Uaxactun and Calakmul and later Tikal was briefly dominated by a powerful alliance of Caracol and Calakmul from AD 562 until AD 682. From AD 682 onward Tikal flourished again under Lord Ah Cacau and continued to dominate the region into the 9th Century. Today the site is justifiably recognized as one of the archeological wonders of the Americas. Its unspoiled jungle setting within the Tikal National Park makes it a paradise for birders, nature lovers and amateur archaeologists. This tour takes an entire day, leaving the Lodge after a quick Continental breakfast and returning around 5 – 6 pm in the evening. On the return trip, you have the chance to do some shopping in the Guatemalan town of Melchor.

Add a few days visit to nearby San Pedro Island

We have a few recommendations on San Pedro Island after you fly or travel by water ferry to the island. Victoria House is a great high-end property, a larger hotel offering individual rooms as well as several villas, some with private pools.  They have a couple of swimming pools, restaurant & bar, dive shop.

Another hotel that we really like is Matachica; this is a more adult oriented property (they don’t accept children under 14yrs) and is a popular choice for honeymoons and romantic getaways.  The property comprises 31 individual thatch cabanas and one two-bedroom villa and offers a high level of service.

Important to note is that although there is a great restaurant and several easily accessible restaurants close to Matachica, the transfer into town takes about 20 mins and is by water taxi. Victoria House on the other hand is a comfortable walk, bicycle or golf cart ride away from the small island town of San Pedro.

Another attractive alternative is Cayo Espanto. Cayo Espanto is an exclusive, villa only property on a small, private island close to Ambergris Caye. Guests can choose from 7 different 1 or 2 bedroom villas – all but one have a private splash pool. Guests are given  very personalized service and privacy is of the utmost importance. All activities and meals are arranged so that guests do not come into contact with one another. All meals and drinks (except wine & champagne) are included in the rate for this property and guests are given a radio so that they can access staff.  This property is for couples that want complete isolation and tranquility. Guests can fly to Ambergris Caye and transfer to the island by boat or arrive directly to the island by helicopter.

Facilities: 7 villas, most with splash pools. Fully catered meal service and bar. Helipad Location: 20min flight from Belize City to Ambergris Caye and 20min boat ride. 30min helicopter flight. The property is designed so that you don’t see anyone else on the island. The island has no main common areas such as lounge, bar, restaurant so clients mingle with your own group.

The pools in the villas are tiny – just splash pools really and there is not good swimming from the island as it is surrounded by very shallow water for a long way out and it is very silty so you come up to your shins in silt when you walk out.

Activities: Snorkeling from Cayo Espanto and San Pedro, in general we can offer snorkeling trips, most of which are half day.  Ambergris Caye runs parallel to the magnificent Belize Barrier Reef, part of the second largest reef system in the world.  Belize is home to the northern hemisphere’s largest barrier reef system and the enormous kaleidoscope of fish, sponges, crustaceans, and plants that inhabit it.

Snorkel trips are usually half day activities which can be arranged on private basis – a couple of the most popular excursions include: Hol Chan Marine Park & Shark Ray Alley, where guests will have the chance to swim alongside harmless nurse sharks and appreciate a myriad of colorful fish and coral formations.

Mexico Rocks, which is often described as a similar experience to swimming in an aquarium – this less visited site also offers the chance to see amazing coral formations, many tropical fish, nurse sharks and sting rays.

Blue Hole – Day trips to the Blue Hole are possible although they are mainly recommended for divers.  The day trip is usually taken by boat and is a trip that departs around 6am from Ambergris Caye hotels, returning around 5:30pm so it’s a long day.  Transfer time to the Blue Hole takes roughly 2 – 2.5hrs depending on whether conditions, and a minimum of 10 divers is required in order to confirm a collective departure.  The trip is usually  recommended for divers, as the amazing creatures that live within its depths can only truly be appreciated by going deep.  Snorkelers will be hard pushed to appreciate all that is on offer at the Blue Hole as they stay just below the surface of the water.

We have the option to organize day trips via boat transfers on group or private basis with dive master or with a snorkel guide.  Other options include helicopter day trips – either to simply fly over the Blue Hole or to land on a nearby caye and further explore the Blue Hole by boat (for snorkeling or diving).

The third option, if you wish to only see the Blue Hole from the air, we can arrange a private charter flight over the Blue Hole.

Trekking / Jaguar Jaguar sightings are the most sought-out of the large cats for visitors to Belize.  Although jaguar sightings are extremely rare as these creatures are not in captivity we can never make any guarantees.

A few options that we can offer: Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve, noted as the first jaguar reserve in the world this national park offers the chance for hikes in search of these elusive creatures.  The park is open from 8am – 4:30pm although the ideal time to go in search of jaguars is the early morning and evening, as they are mainly nocturnal creatures and most active during the night and early / late hours – they have a tendency to sleep through the heat of the day.  It may be possible to offer a night tour.

Chan Chich Lodge, located in northern Belize and accessible via private charter flights. Chan Chich / Gallon Jug Estate is located within the largest contiguous forest north of the Amazon basin. Conservation efforts to sustain and preserve the tri-national Maya Forest (“La Selva Maya”) are underway with collaborative efforts undertaken in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. Gallon Jug Estate enjoys a fortunate location at the heart of La Selva Maya, buffered on all sides by forest and/or protected areas. Thanks to the efforts of owner, Barry Bowen, to control hunting and other illegal activities over the past 20+ years, wildlife has thrived.

Gallon Jug Estate is also an important component in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a regional conservation effort that seeks to link green areas throughout the region to promote biological and genetic diversity as well as healthy ecosystems. With its excellent diversity and species numbers, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists believe that the Gallon Jug Estate provides a safe haven for “source” populations to disperse to outlying areas in La Selva Maya that are more impacted by human activities.

Blancaneaux Lodge offers a “Moonlight Jaguar Quest”: As darkness covers the rain-forest, 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. After a short drive from the lodge, our guided walk begins along the edge of the pine forest and into the jungle. At a slow and quiet pace, we search the forest for gibnuts, armadillos, peccaries, and other wildlife, including the elusive jaguar.

 Weather July to November is considered to be the rainy season in Belize when the possibility or tropical storms, hurricanes and tropical depressions exists.  The worst time is not until end of September / beginning of October and some hotels, particularly on the coast and the cayes, take the opportunity to close for 2 – 3 weeks in order to undertake maintenance, etc.One thing to note, as we can never predict the weather, is that in the event of heavy rains, some excursions such as cave adventures, may not be possible if the level of the water is too high.  Another thing to bear in mind is that helicopter flights are also weather dependent.  July / August is still a good time to visit.