You have to see it to Belize it, Part I
This sophisticated Central American experience feeds our adventurous spirit and rustic soul.
Nestled next to the small beach town of Placencia is The Family Coppola Resorts Turtle Inn, with the mind of the mainland and the heart of a small island, beating to the easy pace of waves lapping up onshore, rustling palm fronds, and hammocks swaying in the calm breeze. The resort is located on the 26-mile Placencia Peninsula, which carves a mangrove-lined lagoon out of the Caribbean and is wreathed in coral-sand beaches.
We walked through Turtle Inn’s lush gardens and sandy walkways—which connect banana-leaf-thatched buildings, fabricated from indigenous teak and mahogany—to our own villa and settled in. Our dear friend Martin, the General Manager, ensured that we were comfortable and right at home. He would quite literally give you the shirt off of his back.
After exploring the town on a scavenger hunt, we felt as though we had always lived in Placencia. One of our favorite secret spots in town was Yoli’s, where locals sat sharing stories and drinking the day away together. It’s one of those watering holes that feels instantly familiar and inspires daydreams of uprooting your life to become a regular. The following morning, the same locals stopped us on our run to chat about how our evening went after we parted ways.
Not to be soon forgotten from this leg of the journey was a snorkeling trip around Belize Barrier Reef, just a short boat ride from Turtle Inn. We chartered an impressive yacht, where we tanned on the bow and sipped Coppola rosé and local Belikin beers.
We anchored in the shallows near the Silk Cayes and dove right in to the thrill of six-foot-long nurse sharks resting just beneath us. The docile sharks let us touch them and even roll them over. Dipping below the water’s surface, our eyes darted around, feasting on the explosion of life, with swaying greenery and foraging schools of tropical fish. A safe distance from its strong jaws, we tracked a sea turtle out to the Barrier Reef, quietly swimming together in its natural habitat.
Rather than ride the launch, we opted to swim from the yacht to our host’s private island, which we had all to ourselves. A chef prepared our lunch of fresh seafood and chicken grilled on an open fire, served in a cabana with accompaniments of rice, beans, salads, and dessert. We then waded our drinks to the shoal, where aquatic wildlife caressed our ankles.
Martin generously opened his home and invited us for dinner. In a nod to Belizean and Creole cultures, his outdoor table was covered in newsprint, onto which he and his staff poured the spicy blend of locally caught shrimp that we ate with our hands. Under the stars following our meal, we took a moment to reflect, lit Balinese sky lanterns, and watched as they faded away into the inky black sky. As we sipped our Cuban rum, and the rolling cigar smoke mingled with aromas from the fire, we couldn’t help but offer a thankful prayer to accompany the lanterns in their ascent.
Traveling inland to Blancaneaux Lodge, tucked away in the western Belizean wilderness amidst the white noise of surrounding waterfalls, we were greeted by the echoes of howler monkeys, toucans, and jaguars. In one of the Lodge’s grand halls, an expert guide taught us about Maya history and society while we tasted the full lineup of labels from Francis Ford Coppola Winery. The bottle we kept reaching for throughout our visit was the Director’s Cut Pinot Noir.
The resorts’ farm-to-table restaurants source produce from their own organic gardens and serve gourmet soul food, like the luscious squash pasta dish we ate in the Enchanted Cottage, a stone retreat Coppola visits as part of his creative process.
Each detail of the Lodge is curated through a cinematic lens. Our villa had an outdoor shower where lizards visited on the other side of the screen against the secluded jungle backdrop, a thoughtful balance of access, privacy, and perspective.
Gazing into the crackling fires and out the panoramic windows, you appreciate the time and energy that went into the moments you’re savoring. The years of love during which Coppola’s grapes matured into bottles of wine. The hours spent crafting screenplays and producing films, while developing experiences to share untouched destinations with new audiences.
The luxury resorts are managed top-down with a palpable passion for hospitality. Every single hotel staff member knew our names and anticipated our needs. This is what it feels like to be treated to a vacation by your friend, if your friend happens to be Francis Ford Coppola.
Looking to plan an unforgettable travel experience? Contact The Accomplished Traveler today at 212.586.2020.
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