Belize is a part of the world of which Francis Ford Coppola is clearly very fond. Three of his Hideaways are tucked away in this part of Central America – Turtle Inn sits on the beach in Placencia, Blancaneaux Lodge is high in the forests of the Mayan Mountains, whilst the last of the trio, La Lancha, lies near Tikal just over the border in Guatemala.
Blancaneaux Lodge is located in the northwest corner of the 100,000-acre Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and about three hours ride from Belize Airport. The last part of this journey we take a bone-jangling dirt road through the forest – although it turns out that we could have avoided the discomfort with a light plane to the local airstrip.
Any discomfort though is quickly forgotten as we arrive at this oasis of calm nestled on the banks of Privassion Creek. We discover a delightful cluster of traditionally built thatched cabanas which are set among tropical pines, oaks, palmetto, craboo and ancient melastome shrubs.
Our River View property features native arts and antiques, personally sourced by Francis and Eleanor Coppola, and a large screened-in porch with hammock.
There are also Garden Views, larger Family units or Luxury Cabañas with their own private plunge pools, king-size beds, Guatemalan décor and a second, outdoor shower.
Our favourite though is the Enchanted Cottage – an atmospheric stone cottage tucked away in the forest with extras like a writing desk, and fireplace and a bath house provided with underfloor heating, open fire, Japanese tub and steam room.
The property was once the abandoned lodge of an eccentric French explorer. A keen hunter he got bored once he had sadly killed off all the local jaguar population, and thankfully moved on. Francis Ford Coppola restored the ruins and originally used it as a writing retreat.
It is this amazing seclusion amongst Nature Reserves and National Parks that is the joy of a stay at Blancaneaux. The dense jungle, steep ravines, spectacular waterfalls, and fast-flowing rivers are home to many rare or endangered species of flora and fauna. On our all to brief stay we can barely scratch the surface of the natural wonders.
From an enticing menu of excursions we take a jungle walk and learn about tropical birds, toxic trees, insect-farming woodpeckers and medicinal plants. A paddle down Barton Creek takes us deep into an enormous, stalactite-dripping, bat sanctuary cave to visit a Mayan sacrificial site.
A trail ride from the property’s own stables is followed up by a well-needed massage from exceptional Japanese masseuses at the spa.
The original restored property is best enjoyed at the atmospheric Jaguar Bar with an iced drink, plantain chips and homemade tomato ketchup. A Coppola resort is of course not complete without wonderful food and an Italian eatery.
In this case it is the Montagna Ristorante which offers traditional Italian dishes with a focus on family recipes from southern Italy. Pastas, fresh fish, and grilled local meats are prepared with organic garden produce and perfect Pizzas are baked in a proper brick oven.
Our stay, over far to soon, we opt for the less bumpy travel option by taking the short flight direct to Belize airport. The aerial view of the seemingly endless mountains and forest emphasise the seclusion. It was a privilege to enjoy a stay at this very special hideaway.
For more information visit The Family Coppola Hideaways
To read our ‘Conversation’ with Francis Ford Coppola visit here
To purchase a copy of Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews visit here
CELLOPHANELAND* were guests of Blancaneaux Lodge