Mountain Pine Ridge, Cayo District, Belize
Blancaneaux Lodge is one of Central America's premier inland resorts, built into the unique geographical landscape of Belize's pine forested highlands. Tropical color splashes, dark hardwoods, Central American lines, and soaring thatch ceilings distinguish Blancaneaux's 20 cabanas and luxurious villas. Outside, the pine tree–lined Privassion Creek tumbles down massive granite steps and pools, providing an idyllic backdrop that feels more Northern California than Central America.
This is one of three Central American luxury retreats owned by movie producer Francis Ford Coppola (the other two are Turtle Inn, on Belize's Placencia Peninsula, and La Lancha, in Guatemala). Coppola first came to Belize just after the country gained independence in 1981. He tried to persuade the new government to apply for a satellite license in order to become a hub of world communications. They weren't interested. He did, however, succeed in finding an abandoned lodge on a pine–carpeted bluff overlooking the rocks and falls of Privassion Creek. Blancaneaux served as a private retreat for the film producer until 1993 when he "tricked it open" by flying a group of family and friends down for his 54th birthday.
When the sun is shining, Blancaneaux's hilly grounds are a lush, bright landscape of thatch, flowers, and lovely walkways. When the moisture settles in, the property can be shrouded in a magical mist. Indeed, one of the best places to be in Belize when it's raining is in front of the blazing fireplace in Blancaneaux's main reception area, your hands wrapped around a fresh cappuccino. At times like these, you may think you're in a ski lodge rather than the tropics. You'll remember where you are when the concierge reminds you to get ready for your horseback trip (Blancaneaux maintains its own stable of 18 sturdy, healthy equines), or tour of the Caracol ruins, nearby caves, and swimming holes. There’s also a challenging hiking trail on the property that leads to a waterfall.
The rooms at Blancaneaux are large, airy, and cut out of local hardwood lumber. Most have expansive private decks that open into the bedrooms and living spaces, while looking out over the rushing creek. They were designed by Coppola's discerning eye and Mexican architect Manolo Mestre's world renowned designs. You'll relax in wicker and wood furniture, soft hammocks, and reach for your cocktail on exquisitely carved slate tables. The semi–open showers are a treat, as are the variety of local natural bath products provided to all guests. You can also stay in Francis' family villa (as long as he's not there himself), for maximum privacy and service; you'll have your own plunge pool, private entrance, and thick wooden dining table, where you can choose to have all your meals.
The two luxury honeymoon cabanas also have their own plunge pool, while the two–bedroom villas are like an upscale mountain cabin, complete with two baths, a full living room, screen porches, and an outdoor decks with a hammock. All the units are filled with quality local art, carvings, and rustic antiques.
The resort has been busy with additions and upgrades the past couple years, including the addition of a “serenity cottage” that’s so serene you need a golf cart to get there and back. This is a free–standing two–bedroom house with a full kitchen, plus a deck with its own large plunge pool and a killer view. Extra touches include a Japanese-style steam shower, heated bathroom floors, and fireplaces.
A large new swimming pool was added in 2008, joining a nice U-shaped hot tub by the river. Take a dip in whichever you choose and then swing by the spa built in the style of an Indonesian rice house and staffed with massage therapists.
Blancaneux's Ristorante Montagna offers an exquisite Italian–centric menu, with a range of salads, pastas, paninis, delicious pizzas from one of the country's only wood–burning pizza ovens, and, of course, a fine selection of wines. In high season there’s a second restaurant by the pool serving Guatemalan food. Most ingredients are fresh and most are from the lodge's own 4–acre organic herb and vegetable garden, which employs a variety of earth–friendly farming techniques and a full time staff of its own. When occupancy is high the restaurant gets lively at night, with live music and candle–lit splendor under the stars. An on–site hydroelectric dam powers the entire operation, making this one of the most self–sufficient resorts in the region. The lodge is located at Mile 14.5 and has its own airstrip, which many guests prefer over the rough 2.5–hour drive from Belize City.
Web Address: www.coppolaresorts.com/blancaneaux
Total Number of Rooms: 20
Published rates: $275 to $2,000