Forget the celebrity power behind Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge (just for a minute). The true star at this polished, remote resort is Mother Nature.

Located on 70 acres within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve—which encompasses more than 100,000 acres and was one of the first nature preserves established in Belize—Blancaneaux is an oasis of luxury. Right on the banks of an elegant curve and dramatic tumble in Privassion Creek, the resort is surrounded by the rolling hills and pine forests that make this area so special.

The resort’s grounds, however, are covered in lush lawns studded by palms and tropical flowers which were nurtured here after the native pines on the resort’s grounds were decimated by the blight beetle in 2000.

Man-made features on the multi-level grounds include a pool with each side tiled in a different striking color (very Mondrian) and an enormous, horseshoe-shaped “warm tub” that’s heated to 98 degrees.  The creek is also full of inviting, tranquil swimming holes and it provides the energy needed to power a small hydro plant downstream that produced electricity for the way-off-the-grid resort.

Then there’s the spa which is housed in an impressive wooden building which was built using designs, materials and techniques that are traditional to Bali. Two Thai masseuses are on call at all times.

Coppola first laid eyes on what became Blancaneaux Lodge back in 1980 shortly after wrapping Apocalypse Now.  Reportedly, the area reminded him of some of his recent locations in Vietnam and he arranged to buy the abandoned property (which was originally owned by a man named Francis Blancaneaux hence the name). Coppola developed it as a family retreat then decided to expand it into a full resort which opened in 1993.

The Academy Award-winning director still maintains a villa here (which can be booked when he’s not in it) which is decorated with a number of Coppola’s personal effects. The property itself is studded with Coppola mementos including movie posters (some for obscure movies he directed or helped produce) and a ceiling fan used as a prop in Apocalypse Now which spins lazily over the resort’s Jaguar Bar (jaguars have been spotted in the area).

In addition to Coppola’s villa, Blancaneaux offers 19 other stand-alone accommodations laid out along a sloping hillside. The main lodge, bar, main pool and restaurants are located at the top of the property along with the garden view cabanas and the family cabana.

The remaining accommodations are laid out down the hill toward the creek with the honeymoon cabana (with the best private plunge pool I’ve ever seen) and the expansive two-bedroom villas closest to the rushing water. NOTE: if booking these lower rooms, be prepared walk up and down many steep stairs to get to and from the communal facilities at the top of the hill.

Many of the accommodations and public spaces are partially open-air; however, bugs were not a problem when I was there—in part because of daily fumigation of the grounds which produced a disturbing bug-killing cloud. There are no TVs or telephones (Wi-Fi is on its way—check when booking) but each accommodation has “shellphone”—a polished conch shell which is wired to an intercom system to the front desk. Flip the switch and talk into the shell!

Foodies will be happy with the Italian family-style cooking classics that are turned out at Ristorante Montagna (homemade tagliatelle with ragu, Neopolitan-style pizzas) using produce from the resort’s vast (and expanding) organic garden and a cellar stocked exclusively with Coppola wines (who knew he had so many different labels?).

When it’s time for a change, make a dinner reservation at Guatemaltecqua where gourmet Guatemalan food is served in a rustic four-table setting.

Extreme foodies may be interested in booking the property’s Enchanted Cottage. Originally built as the home of a writer who was researching a book on the region’s orchids, the cottage (which is located on its own section of the property) has been expanded to include a full gourmet kitchen with a wine refrigerator and your own concierge who can cook for you (or you can cook for yourself). Not to mention the private pool with views over the rolling hillsides.

It’s extremely tempting to just stay “at home” and relax, but try to tear yourself away long enough to make use of the 20+ horses (all bred and trained at the resort) who get to live in the Blancaneaux stable which is basically an equine version of the resort.

Or take a very worthy tour out to Caracol,the largest Mayan archaeological site in the country. Blancaneaux is actually the closest accommodation to this site and you’ll make other travelers jealous when your Blancaneaux guide lays out your gourmet lunch on a picnic table at the entrance to the ruins. But do yourself a favor: if you want to visit Xunantunich archeological site or take a tour of the amazing Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave (part cave adventure, part in-situ Mayan museum) do it from San Ignacio town. In this area I recommend Ka’Ana Resort and Spa or Mahogany Hall Luxury Boutique Resort.

Though Blancaneaux offers tours to both of these attractions, the resort is further away from these sites necessitating many hours of travel time over a bumpy, dusty road to get there and back—time better spent enjoying the remarkable relaxation this resort offers.

Rates start at: $180
Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
P.O. Box B, Central Farm,
Cayo District, Belize
Phone: (501) 824-3878


Our review of this hotel was originally published by iTraveliShop

Visit our Travel Features page and our Hotel & Restaurant Reviews page to see all of our freelance travel stories.

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