In Your Element: A Place To Engage The Senses

by Carolee Chanona

The task at hand: to distinguish memory from a dream. Thankfully, in this corner of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve shoulder-to-shoulder with the rushing Privassion Creek, it is a distinction without a difference. Recovering pine trees, meadows of palmetto, and wispy feather reed grass unfurl themselves on the flanks of a single brick-red dirt road. The sun-drenched landscape of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve receives more than 30 inches of rain per year, with the all-wheel-drive required during Belize’s rainy season. And yet, such an unimaginably dynamic terrain demands many happy returns. Within, a luxe hideaway stands in the peak of the elements as a place to engage all five senses—only in Belize.

Stretching for an epic 300,000 acres from the highlands of Western Belize and darting all the way up to the neighboring Sibun Forest Reserve, the journey to Blancaneaux Lodge is as joyful as the destination itself. Inside, there are countless riverine-carved plunge pools with no other swimmers in sight, pathways of hiking trails galore, and a handful of Belize’s best eco-lodges. On any one day inside, you can chase the second largest waterfall in Central America, spot a Puma, and adventure in pursuit of high-elevation species, like the endangered Orange-breasted Falcon.

The Garden Spot. Image by Kevin Quischan Photography

As Francis Ford Coppola’s former (and first) family retreat to Belize, Blancaneaux Lodge is lush tranquility with 70 sprawling acres, dotted with 20 thatched villas. And spoiler alert: Blancaneaux Lodge happened to be Francis Ford Coppola’s personal writing retreat before opening to guests. Farm fresh within walking distance, the onsite organic garden supplies over 75% of seasonal produce—including on-demand craft cocktails and handmade pasta.

Shello! Photo by Kevin Quischan (@BelizeMyTravels)


SIGHT hidden details of Coppola’s career sprinkled in throughout the property. While an eclectic treasure trove of handcrafted Mahogany furniture, locally sourced nearby from San Ignacio, and intimate décor personally sourced from Mexico and Guatemala create a whimsical yet warm character, the real charm is in the free-spirited hodgepodge of film momentos, like the Pinocchio spewing water in the fountain outside of the main building—an extra that never made it on-screen. These fun props on the property make for memorable details, like each room’s “shell phone” intercom system that rings directly to the front desk as a delicately pink conch shell sits above a Mahogany base.

Coconut tableta. Photo by Kevin Quischan Photography
Photo credit: Gundolf Pfotenhauer


TASTE the coffee culture that Francis Ford Coppola cultivated himself in the middle of the rainforest. Importing an espresso machine (and pizza oven) to personally train the staff in, traditional Italian recipes passed through his family’s generations are served right at the Montagna, the full- service restaurant acting as the heart of the property. Steps away, panela is made fresh by boiling and evaporating fresh-squeezed sugarcane; 6 gallons of juice requires around 60 pieces of sugarcane, an hour to extract, and another 3+ hours to boil and mold. But these tiny nuggets of gold are perfect to sweeten every cappuccino, trailing behind with hints of caramel and molasses. Not to mention, it lends an irreplaceable flavor in each room’s container of fully stocked tableta, Belizean coconut candy.

Guatemaltecqua specializes in Guatemalan cuisine with favorites like the subtle warmth of pepián soup, or salpicón, a finely diced beef salad flavored with sour orange and handpicked cilantro. But the third eatery holds all the charm of Blancaneaux being an epicurean’s perfect adventure. Led by the Head Gardener Elicer through the 31⁄2-acre organic garden, you’ll forage for peak ripeness alongside your chef. The thatched palapa overlooks the garden and the kitchen is the focal point, acting as a pop-up bar with fragrant cocktails like their incredible Allspice Mojito. Sip and taste savory bites like the tempura curried cauliflower, and before long, the hum of easy conversation is only as loud as the sound of nighttime cicadas in the air.

Horseback riding in Mountain Pine Ridge. Image courtesy Blancaneaux Lodge


FEEL sandbur grass add resistance to your jeans as you venture horseback through the lowlands of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. With its own horse stables of 20 horses, the sensation of being remote and distant is as special as it is exclusive, moving through swathes of a private estate. And if it’s adrenaline you long for, feed it by exploring on horseback. There are these little corners, secret jewels among the peaks that you come across on rides, like hidden jungle cascades and epic waterfalls like the 1000 Foot Falls, actually measuring 1,600 feet. Emerge from the foliage feeling as if you’re a pioneer, even in the modern age. After, feed fatigued muscles with the warmth of the horseshoe-shaped heated pool, which overlooks the Privassion, while drinking in the setting sun.

Side by side with the Privassion Creek at Blancaneaux Lodge. Photo by Belize My Travels


HEAR the never-ceasing gush of the Privassion’s hydro-electric powered system, which plays a huge role in Blancaneaux’s day-to-day operation. Supplying 85% of the energy used on property, the creek supplies water for the onsite shower and laundry, which is also treated before going to the guest rooms. Although, guests can get a complimentary eco-tour of Privassion. Along with the swathe of birdsong from the jungle, knowing the carbon footprint of your stay can help each guest sleep just a little more soundly.

A traditional Thai massage. Image by Gundolf Pfotenhauer


SMELL a combination of herbs and honey with the Oriental Body Glow inside the Waterfall Spa, thanks to the staff who’ve studied the ancient techniques at the Sacred Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. The one-room spa has natural light pouring in from its open-air design, fragranced by essential oil favorites like eucalyptus, and local products, like coffee and coconut.

It’s true. A stay at Blancaneaux Lodge is to be treated like family, charmed like a Coppola on a first-name basis with every need anticipated, as though you have an older sibling looking out for you. For an enclave as equally immersive as it is experiential, Blancaeanux Lodge is a place to engage the senses. 

Written by Carolee Chanona for the 2021/2022 Belize Gold Book.
Header image of Blancaneaux Lodgings @saskia_rabbit. All other photos not captioned are courtesy Kevin Quischan Photography. Article found on page 58 of the 2021/2022 Belize Gold Book. Read more articles from the #BelizeGoldBook below:

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