Accessible via Miami, Belize, formerly British Honduras, neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala, has for the last forty years been seducing wealthy Americans looking for corners of paradise away from mass tourism. Its primary assets: the Caribbean Sea, the extraordinary fauna and flora of the country and the Mayan temples dotted around the countryside.
Thirty minutes from Belize City, as the crow flies, the former residence of a marine biologist has been the main destination of director Francis Ford Coppola since 2001. Baptised Turtle Inn, a nod to the hundreds of turtles who lay their eggs here every year, the resort includes a dozen cottages, the most beautiful are on the beachfront (prices start at 429 euros), with a Balinese style décor – canopy beds, sculpted doors, mahogany furniture, outside shower and ceramic bath tubs – and every possible comfort. The television screen and telephone are banished, and replaced by strange shell speakers used for ordering room service, ensuring that each villa is as chic as it is relaxing. It is also where each year Sofia Coppola and her tribe go to recharge at the Beach House with its graphic architecture, monumental swimming pool, garden and barbecue, also available to rent (at 1999 dollars a night).
The best however lies a few kilometres from there. Director of the Resort for the last six years, Martin Krediet recently convinced the Coppola couple to transform a nearby desert island into a dream lodge. It takes 20 minutes by boat to access Coral Cave, a tiny paradise for two to ten people (from 1435 dollars for two, 200 dollars supplement per extra person), organised around a main building that mixes local decor with Mexican graphics, where sunbathing in the hammock, collecting fresh coconuts, snorkeling for Nemo, guitar jams, barbecues on the beach and lobster grills are all on the menu. Not forgetting of course the sampling of the best wines from the Domaine Coppola (Sonoma Valley).
The rest of the trip generally leads to Blancaneaux, the historical Coppola hotel. Lost in the middle of a nature reserve of pines and palm trees, a former study centre named after an explorer, it became a refuge for the director in the 1980s. This was where he spent several family holidays before embarking on a vast project of ten lodges with banana leaf roofs and endless terraces that overhang the heart of the canopy. From a spiritual resting place for artists and writers, the address has over the years become a paradise for honeymooners (from 289 dollars a night) with lovers enjoying the horse riding facilities, the services of an expert Thai masseur and organic culinary delights… as well as total disconnection from daily life.
Always inspired by the landscapes and photography of Guatemala, the Coppola couple extended their hotelier domain when they opened their third hotel, La Lancha, by the immense Peten Itza Lake. Surrounded by jungle, the hotel and its ten casitas (from 149 dollars a night) will rest every soul, the lake pontoon just 300 steps away is the ideal spot for meditation. Then there's Italy and the Palazzo Margherita, a neo-classical 19th century palace between the Calabre and the Pouilles, where the Coppola’s said yes (from 450 dollars a night) and Buenos Aires and the central neighbourhood of Palermo Soho, where the family have opened their fifth establishment named Jardin Escondido, a hotel with just seven rooms (from 240 dollars a night), a swimming pool, terrace and movie library.
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