Turtle Inn is the beach point of Francis Ford Coppola's Central American resort triangle. This sumptuous cluster of cottages sits on a narrow stretch of beach just south of the tiny airstrip and just north of the non–descript, lazy fishing/tourist town that gives Placencia Peninsula its name. Here you'll find a unique blend of casual elegance and sandy–toed luxury that mixes a bit of Bali into Belize.
It's only a couple hundred feet between Turtle Inn's grand entranceway (a slightly arched wooden bridge over a reflecting pond filled with turtles) and the lightly lapping Caribbean. Walking from one end to the other, you'll pass through a lovely open–air lobby, restaurant, swimming pool, and seaside bar, all of which afford beautifully framed shots of the surrounding beauty.
If you've been to Coppola's other properties (Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize's Mountain Pine Ridge and La Lancha Resort across the border in Guatemala), you are familiar with the film producer's attention to detail. This is evident at Turtle Inn, where hand–carved Balinese doors are one example of the Indonesian, Asian, and local artwork displayed throughout the grounds, all of which is accentuated by lush flowerbeds and tropical vegetation.
If you can afford it, book a "seafront" villa or cottage—you'll be happy you did while watching the sun rise over the Caribbean from your private veranda. You can choose to have meals here as well if the scene is just too beautiful to tear away from. A variety of other cottages, suites, and pavilions in different layouts are equally attractive though, each uniquely styled with Oriental flair and a wide range of amenities (the photographs and slide shows on the website offer a great virtual tour of each accommodation). Coffee pots, minibars, and iPod docks are nice, but most guests take more pleasure in the finely crafted furniture, beautiful textiles, outdoor showers, and a constant sea breeze whistling through the trees. The one common gripe is the modest size of the beds: resort-style king beds they are not, so arrive with someone you love.
Turtle Inn is great for both honeymooners and families, but if you're here for romance, you may wish to request a room away from the open-air bar and pool to cut down on noise. The two–bedroom units have two full bathrooms with giant tubs and two sets of showers, but the prime villa is Mr. Coppola’s Pavilion Suite. That has two bedrooms, a loft area above a full kitchen, a dining table for eight, steam showers, and a big verandah leading to its own pool facing the water. A private butler makes sure you’re taken care of at all times.
Get ready to relax—there is no television and the only "phone" in your room is a conch shell which you'll use to buzz the front desk or room service (you'll get used to talking into a shell after a few days). There is complimentary Wi-Fi though for those who must check in. Most guests eventually gravitate to the large oval pool, the more private triangular pool at the far northern end, the cushioned beach lounge chairs, or the semi–circular bar right by the beach.
To meet the demands of guests who were getting tired of eating expensive Italian food at the main restaurant, the resort opened up a simple vinyl–tablecloth shack on the lagoon serving tasty Belizian food. It’s a delightful spot with a chalkboard menu, bare yellow bulbs, and local music on the sound system instead of the unavoidable Bob Marley you hear everywhere else.
Be warned, as in most of Belize, the beach here is narrow, about 15 feet, and the water is often filled with seagrass and other flotsam, depending on the time of year and the currents.
Turtle Inn offers treatments in a secluded spa, offers a full range of tours and trips, and now has a full dive shop on the lagoon setting up diving and snorkeling. They also rent out kayaks and rickety beach cruiser bikes at no charge for exploring the area.
Prices for food, drinks, excursions, and rooms are among the highest in the country. Despite that though, this consistently great resort stays busy even during low season and draws raves from most of its guests for the attentive but friendly service and all the little aesthetic touches that make it a visual delight.
If you're looking for a top–tier experience in Belize, Turtle Inn is clearly one of the best Placencia hotels.
Web Address: www.thefamilycoppolahideaways.com
Total Number of Rooms: 19
Published rates: US$285 to US$2,000
Review and photos by Joshua Berman and Timothy Scott, photos by Timothy Scott.