From Sugar Coast to a Pine Ridge Outpost: Belize’s Coppola Hideaways

by Carolee Chanona
turtle inn sea front cabana

Famed film auteur Francis Ford Coppola is renowned for directing the “Godfather” film trilogy and “Apocalypse Now,” but many may not know of his second act as a hotelier. After all, The Coppola Hideaways are a portfolio of vacation properties that have set the scene for every variety of family gathering, from birthday parties to Christmas celebrations. It all began when he purchased the Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize in the early 1980s, which he used as a family retreat for more than a decade before opening its doors to the public in 1993. Fast forward to today, travelers can vacation like a Coppola in Belize; from a golden, sugar-like coast with Turtle Inn to the Mountain Pine Ridge outpost with Blancaneaux. Below, read on for how to experience two of the three Coppola Hideaways in Belize.

Turtle Inn

The coastal Turtle Inn. Photo by Kevin Quischan Photography

Found where the Caribbean Sea melts into Placencia’s 16-mile long golden coastline, Turtle Inn has 25 characteristic thatch-roof cottages and villas within steps of the shallows. Placencia is traditional fishing community with no high rises, no huge resorts and an easy pace, despite its growing tourism. In fact, most of the visitors that flock here are local Belizeans, seemingly unfazed by the trickle of celebrities and luxury seekers to their choice stomping grounds: Turtle Inn.

Each cottage features screened porches, hand-carved doors, outdoor showers and a bottomless jar of fresh chocolate chip cookies for my fellow sweet-tooth travelers. Foodies can rejoice in its three restaurants (and two pools) at Mare restaurant with wood-burning oven for terrific pizzas, beachfront Gauguin Grill for fresh seafood and Auntie Luba’s Kitchen for local flavor.

“I found myself owning a little place in Belize, a little lodge I originally bought because I thought I could write there,” Coppola says in an interview to Haute Living. “To protect it, I had to have caretakers and then to pay the caretakers, I found myself in the hotel business. It became a pattern.”

After all, Coppola himself was so enamored by the property (and the nearby Placencia beach town), that he bought it in 1999 and transformed it into the perfect getaway for affluent travelers and other celebrities. The entire resort was refurbished just last year and the family makes regular jaunts. In fact, guests can take out Roman Coppola’s private, vintage Chris Craft boat, which JFK himself once rode. Venture into the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System by private charter to snorkel and swim with friendly locals like sharks, eagle rays, and sea turtles.

Blancaneaux Lodge

Over in the Cayo District, you’ll find a second Hideaway: the 21-acre Blancaneaux Lodge set within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve alongside steep ravines, crashing waterfalls and the fast-flowing Privassion River. The 20-room, eco-resort boasts rustic-chic cabanas and villas set far apart from each other, an outdoor spa with a focus on Thai treatments, and an always refreshing thermal pool. Besides being enveloped in nature to inspire even the toughest writer’s block, guests on-site can enjoy farm-to-table eats from the 3-acre organic garden for just-plucked ingredients.

Here, tap into your inner explorer; a trek through towering pines to nearby waterfalls, the limestone Rio Frio Cave, or even the Caracol Maya Site. The latter is a major Maya archaeological site in Belize, covering approximately 30 square miles as one of the best-preserved astronomical observatories that points to the equinox and solstice. Besides, you can always enjoy Belize’s simple pleasures at a Coppola Hideaway. 

Header photo via Instagram @alagreutaphotography. All other photos not captioned courtesy The Family Coppola Hideaways.

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