So it turns out Francis Ford Coppola is the spitting image of The Most Interesting Man in the World in those Dos Equis commercials: he’s a filmmaker, vintner, magazine owner, and—who knew?—an accomplished hotelier.
Surprisingly, when it came to planning a Central American adventure in 2006, it was my
fiancee Joseph who sniffed out this fabulous (and chic!) collection of hotels. Leaving Joseph to the planning for the first time required an immense amount of restraint on my part, but, he wowed me (maybe he should be writing this blog!).
Having previously visited Belize, Joseph remembered seeing the outskirts of Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge and dreamed of returning… little did he know that 5 years later he would in fact be returning, and with little old me on his arm.
Indeed, the Blancaneaux Lodge is like none other. Tucked within the woody folds of Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, the Blancaneaux Lodge feels like a private, luxe tree lodge with jungle flair. Upon arrival, the Lodge’s staff greets you personally by name (which they continue to do throughout your stay) and you are handed a delicious local cocktail, infused with the famous Belizean Nance liquor (which is kind of a fruity, licorice-like alcohol made from the fruits of the local Byrsonima crassifolia plant). The Blancaneaux Lodge, besides being extraordinarily difficult to spell,
is heavenly (just watch for the killer bees that sometimes buzz the treetops at the nearby Mayan ruins of Caracol – one of the most frightening moments of my life). I shall let the pictures do the Lodge justice, but suffice it to say that just a short jaunt away is a private jungle-laden waterfall and sparkling swimming hole where you can play Adam and Eve in your own personal Garden of Eden.
Even more remote and private, is Coppola’s La Lancha, a 10-room lodge perched on the jungle-swathed hills
surrounding the crystal blue waters of Lake Petén Itzá. This property is one
of my most favorite spots in the world (only Singita Boulders has come close in recent years). Nothing matches canoeing on a blissfully empty lake that is so quiet you can hear the flapping wings of a toucan flying by. Note that La Lancha is also the perfect launching point from which to explore the famed Mayan ruins of Tikal (guide recommended).
Finally, rounding off the Coppola properties is the oceanside
Turtle Inn in Placencia, Belize. While, in my opinion, the least unique of the Coppola set (the beach, unfortunately, isn’t anything to write home about), it is worth noting that the Turtle Inn is a great spot for those eager to avoid the more touristed coastal areas of Belize like Ambergris Cay, and a good jumping off point to exploring smaller Belizean towns. Turtle Inn also, might I add, has one of the coolest villa guest bathrooms I’ve ever had the opportunity to bathe in. The outdoor Japanese-style shower and garden was one I’d love to replicate in my own home someday. The beach view villas are definitely a design maven’s heaven and exemplify the Coppola aesthetic, a modern international mosaic of fabrics and accent pieces.
All in all, Coppola has done a fantastic job expanding into the hotel business. While the hotels only provide Coppola-owned wines, and the rooms are stocked with the Coppola literary magazine, Zoetrope, the Coppola empire is one worth visiting. And who knows: maybe on your travels you will run into
The Most Interesting Man in the World. Or maybe even The Most Interesting Woman in the World. I’m aiming to be bequeathed with that title soon.