Why Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn Is An Epicurean’s Belizean Dream

by Carolee Chanona

You’d define an ‘epicurean’ as someone with luxurious tastes or habits, especially in eating and drinking—also applicable to food-centric experiences, too. More than being just a ‘foodie’, it’s our insatiable curiosity that broadens our perspectives, tantalizes our senses, and reveals new ways of seeing the world.  And what better way to do so than travel? For us epicureans, it’s entirely through food.

Some might ask the question, “Belize is a culinary destination?” And the answer to that is a resounding yes. The best part, though, is that you definitely don’t need to stay at a fancy resort to experience Belize’s vibrant (and literal) melting pot of cultures that all culminate on the plate. However, if you do want to go that route, the Family Coppola Hideaways would certainly make the list. From sublime fine dining of Belizean-fusion menus to sumptuous afternoon affogatos, here’s why Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn hideaway in Belize is fit for an epicure.

Find More Than Snow Birds When You Head South To Belize

Along with Guyana and Haiti as the only Caribbean countries that produce more than half of their food, Belize rings in at 60 percent. It practically guarantees every meal is sumptuous, likely sustainably sourced, and straightforwardly fresh. One might also find a correlation in the fact that you won’t find a single Mcdonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, or KFC anywhere within Belize’s borders.

“The first action is to import as little as possible, produce as much as possible, and export as much as possible,” says Jose Abelardo Mai, Belize’s minister of agriculture, food security, and enterprise. “As tourism grows, agriculture needs to grow with it.”

That’s important, and the Family Coppola Hideaways understands the value of that. Blancaneaux Lodge, another of Francis’ hideaways in Belize, actually grows 75% of its (all organic) produce within walking distance of its kitchen. So in addition to sourcing from its sister property, Turtle Inn fills in the blanks seasonally, with ingredients like hand-dived lobster and conch from just offshore its Placencia coastline. 

Five Cuisines. Four Eateries. One Destination: Turtle Inn 

With five cuisines in four dining venues at Turtle Inn, unbridled indulgence is just a few (barefoot) steps from your thatched cabana. If you’ve got a Napoli-style pizza craving after a full day of snorkeling Silk Caye or hiking Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and nothing else will do? Piece of cake. Or rather, a pie. The Pizzeria at Turtle Inn intimately seats up to 14 for authentic oven-charred, thick-rimmed slices and spritzes inside the herb garden. For traditional Italian, you’ll head to Mare. The flagship restaurant boasts a revolving menu updated daily, though they serve an unforgettable traditional Dutch Indonesian Rijsttafel dinner twice weekly.

“It was born out of the fact that our GM, Martin Krediet is Dutch and thought this traditional shared meal experience would be a lovely addition,” says Christine Gaudenzi, their Director of Marketing and Sales. 

Dining at Auntie Luba’s. Image via Aaron Colussi/Turtle Inn

For the warmth and richness that is Belize—think fresh-grated coconut milk, spiced annatto recado, and the best home-baked lemon pie—you’ll go to Auntie Luba’s Kitchen. Its Belizean-Creole’s beloved slowly stewed meats, beans, rice, and plantains pair perfectly lagoonside, in a rustic yet cozy screened woodshed. Familiar, there’s no way each meal from “Auntie Luba” isn’t memorable. 

Then, go beach casual for the charcoal-grilled seafood of Gaugin Grill. Think beach BBQ, but elevated. You’ll notice Balinese architecture and furnishings across the property, inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s own time in Bali, but also on the woven plates of the beachfront, sand-floored Grill. 

Coppola Turtle Inn Bar Placencia mixer

And of course, what’s a beach vacation without the bar? Here, you’ve got three. The Laughing Fish Bar is beachfront—also al fresco under thatch with sandy floors. Meanwhile the Skip White Bar inside pays homage to the charismatic original owner of Turtle Inn, a marine biologist. Tucked within, if you sneak in past the “no adults allowed” sign that is, there’s also the Kid’s Gelato Bar; seasonal local gelato makes this hangout spot super cool. There’s also a wine aquarium onsite that holds more than 1200 bottles of award-winning selections. That’s also where the one-hour wine tasting (and locally sourced charcuterie board) takes place. 

Fit For More Than “Just” An Epicure

Turtle Inn sunrise belize placencia

Found where the Caribbean Sea melts into Placencia’s 16-mile-long golden coastline, Turtle Inn is home to 25 characteristic thatch-roof cottages and villas within steps of turbinado sugar-like sandy shallows. And they’ll agree: Belize is more than just Turtle Inn as a destination.

Go beyond the beautiful Balinese hand-carved wooden doors out into the village or nearby farms to see, taste, smell, touch…play. Take a picnic-packed lunch to Miss Emma’s Gardens to experience her 2,000-acre organic farm, or into the village at Tipsy Tuna Sports Bar to sip Belizean bitters, which is a liqueur made with jungle-foraged medicinal roots, barks, and leaves. There’s also The Shak for a creamy seaweed punch and conversation starter on  Belize’s sustainable seaweed farming initiatives, one of the stops of Taste Belize’s walking food tour of Placencia Village. Learn how to make traditional Garifuna Hudut with a local family, or even hand-ground corn tortillas in Toledo villages of the “deep” South. The possibilities are endless, as long as you’re willing to never wake up from this Belizean dream. 

Images via The Family Coppola Hideaway: Aaron Colussi, Kevin Quischan, and Gundolf Pfotenhauer.

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