When our friend Samantha Schmidt returned from her trip to Belize, we couldn’t wait to hear about her stay at Francis Ford Coppola’s seafront and rainforest hideaways. These two tucked away resorts – Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn – are definitely the epitome of ‘rustic luxury’, offering an authentic retreat with personal touches by both Francis and his wife, Eleanor (yes, we’re on a first name basis!).
The story of how both properties came to be is inspiring (check out the full story on their website) – it has been a true labor of love since the 1980’s when Francis first visited and became enamored with Belize. Both lodges have received numerous ecotourism awards and accolades over the year as two of the best resorts in Central & South America.
Every year my friends and I take a trip together so we’re always on the hunt for new places. Having been to Tulum many times, we decided to venture further south this year and explore Belize. We wanted to do a mix of the jungle and beach and discovered the Francis Ford Coppola lodges through our online research.
Starting our journey at the Blancaneaux Lodge in the jungle with backdrops of the Maya Mountains, we got a better feel for Coppola’s love for this once abandoned lodge. However, as beautiful as the location is, I recommend planning ahead as the airport is about a 2.5 hour drive through rough terrain before you get to the lodge. You can also charter a flight into the Blancaneaux airstrip which we highly recommend to avoid the long drive.
At the lodge, there are 20 types of cabanas and villas to choose from at various price points, but we ultimately selected Francis Ford Coppola’s Villa. The director’s personal quarters didn’t disappoint – there is a private plunge pool, high ceilings, a charming kitchen, open-air living areas and a 24-hour attendant. What made our stay feel extra special and personal were Francis’s personal art and antiques displayed throughout.
For those looking for total seclusion and ultimate privacy, there is also the Enchanted Cottage (once owned by author Ian McLeich). We were given a tour, but no one is allowed to approach it without permission. If your life is in the limelight and you need to get away, this is the place!
Overall, the natural surroundings were great for hiking, horseback riding and guided cave explorations. We even enjoyed walking through the organic gardens (an impressive 3.5 acres) and horse stables on the property. And of course, we made time to relax by the pool, drink Jaguar Juice (a concoction of local craboo liqueur, aged rum, and fresh pineapple juice and a specialty at the Jaguar Bar) and play games.
If you plan on visiting both the jungle and beach, which many guests do, it’s a good idea to visit the jungle first as that is the more active part of the trip. A private charter flight between Blancaneaux and Turtle Inn can be arranged (for an additional fee) and we highly recommend it to avoid the drive through rough terrain.
Once we arrived at the Turtle Inn, we really got to relax. Each of the 25 rooms at this resort is Balinese-inspired with artisan-crafted furnishings. We stayed in a beautiful cottage on the beach that had incredible views of the Caribbean Sea. Each cottage has a variety of amenities, but we especially loved the shell-phone – now this is how you call the front desk!
Turtle Inn was the perfect place to lounge around, swim, read and enjoy spa services after our adventures in the jungle. In addition, we loved paddle boarding, swimming to the floating dock, buying local wares on the beach, taking a trip to the Monkey River and who could forget, the mint and basil mojitos!
What We Loved:
- The accommodations and service at both resorts were excellent. Everyone seems so happy to work there and they are all so nice – more like family than staff. They are authentic and genuine and therefore take phenomenal care of the guests.
- We loved the Francis Ford Coppola Villa and the 24-hour attendant at the Blancaneaux Lodge. We had a guy named “Mikey” who was fantastic! He was knowledgeable, interesting and helped us plan our days. He is even able to escort you on hikes and bring lunch, if you’d like.
- Getting a Thai massage at the Sunset Spa (Turtle Inn) was amazing!
What We Didn’t Love:
- I wish they had advertised the conservation lecture(s) at Blancaneaux a bit better to guests as it was not well attended. The lodges go out of their way to help in the conservation efforts and I know guests would love to learn more.
- There are lots of stairs at Blancaneaux, so if you have bad knees or easily experience any shortness of breath, this could be difficult.
- Mosquitos! We were surprised that the mosquitos were much worse at the beach than at the jungle, so be extra prepared when visiting Turtle Inn.
- It can get warm at the beach at night which did not bother me, but my friend did not sleep well. The good thing is that there are many fans to use in the room just in case.
What Not To Miss:
- Exploring the Barton Creek Cave once used by the ancient Mayans was fun, educational and our guide, Jorge “Lion”, was fantastic.
- Horseback riding in the jungle/rainforest which the lodge offers in all lengths and experience levels. They take great care of their horses and the equipment is in good condition (something I do not often find on my travels).
- Hike to the Big Rock Falls. We enjoyed a great hike, but be prepared to get muddy and wear actual hiking shoes or boots – no sandals! You can have a swim and rest at the waterfalls before heading back. Really beautiful!
- Conservationist Lecture. We attended a lecture given by their local conservationist, Ron, about jaguars. They conduct the lectures on a regular basis and we really enjoyed it. The people that live there seem very knowledgeable about the value of the animal world and how to live in peace with them. We also learned about the poaching of the Scarlett Macaws.
- The Sunset Spa is a must!
- Take a trip to the Monkey River to hear the howler monkeys (and see other animals in their natural habitat).
What To Skip:
- The facial at the Blancaneaux Lodge is nothing to write home about. Save your money for the Sunset Spa at Turtle Inn.
- Depends who you ask, but the zip lining was scary and there were many mosquitos.
- We found the town of Placencia hot and not terribly interesting. We could have skipped this.
Post By: Samantha Schmidt
Inviato Note: The website for both Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn is actually quite fun to navigate and you can book directly on the site and browse through the many specials offered. One of our favorites: The Family Mountain & Beach Package that accommodates the whole family at the jungle and beach and includes breakfasts, lunches, dinners and transfers. The music on the site definitely helps set the mood, so turn up the volume, grab a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (from the Coppola winery reserve, of course) and you’re ready to go.