Turtle Inn, owned by the Coppola family and sister property to Blancaneaux Lodge, is an intimate luxury resort set alongside a beautiful stretch of the Caribbean Sea near Placencia. Kids are allowed to stay here, but it mostly caters to couples -- and it's easy to see why. The resort offers a peaceful setting and Balinese-style private cottages and villas -- each with a fabulous indoor/outdoor bathroom -- separated by sand and stone walkways. Three restaurants, two bars, two outdoor pools and a number of guided tours and excursions make the resort feel much bigger than it actually is. Wi-Fi is spotty, but most guests are focused on unplugging outdoors: Excellent snorkeling and scuba diving at the Belize Barrier Reef is a short boat ride away.
A laid-back luxury resort offering a touch of Bali in Belize
Turtle Inn is a recognizable name in Belize -- it's one of the country's top resorts. Celebs, honeymooners and families co-exist here, but since there are only 25 villas and cottages, guests are assured of plenty of privacy. Decor is authentic Balinese-style, and the grounds feature Indonesian statues, hidden hammocks, and an organic garden that supplies the restaurants.
The resort sits on a wide, sandy beach that is one of the country's best, and guests can also lounge by the large oval pool and enjoy a drink from the Laughing Fish Bar. At night, guests can dine on-site at one of the resort's three restaurants (two are open only select evenings) or they can head into Plancencia for more options. Partiers should look elsewhere, as the resort quiets way down after 11 p.m.
The resort has a prime location near Placencia, on a sandy beach
Turtle Inn is located along the 26-mile long Placencia Peninsula in southeastern Belize. It sits between a true Garinagu settlement and the former Creole fishing village of Placencia, which features restaurants and shops. Those arriving to Belize International Airport will want to arrange a domestic flight into Placencia, where the resort will pick you up, free of charge.
To the east of the property is the Caribbean Sea -- home of the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site (also the second largest barrier reef in the world). Behind Turtle Inn, to the west, is the Placencia Lagoon. The Dive Shop and Sunset Spa are located here, as are the resort boats for diving, snorkeling and Monkey River tours. Plenty of land activities can be found at the nearby Victoria Peak and Maya Mountains.
Cottages, villas and private homes with authentic Balinese decor
The Turtle Inn offers 25 individual cottages and villas that afford plenty of privacy. Units either directly face the Caribbean Sea or are just steps away, and feature rustic-chic decor with Balinese artwork, textiles, and hand-carved wooden doors. High thatched roofs and screened windows allow for constant sea breezes and air circulation. There are no air conditioners or televisions.
Cottages have a main bedroom with one queen bed, and a memorable indoor/outdoor bathroom with a Japanese bath, a private garden with an outdoor shower, and a screened front porch with a sitting area. Each can accommodate two adults and one child (rollaway beds are available).
Villas can fit four adults, and have two separate bedrooms with queen beds and two bathrooms.
Other distinct accommodation types include the Chinese Matrimonial Suite, which has a 200-year-old hand-carved Chinese Fertility Bed, a spacious Family Pavilion, the Beach House, and the Lagoon Bungalow (the latter two are used by the Coppola children when they are visiting the property). History buffs may want to check out the Chris Craft boat docked in front of the Lagoon Bungalow, once ridden by John F. Kennedy.
Long stretch of white-sand beach along the Placencia Peninsula
Though the beach is not particularly wide, the length helps make up for it: the property runs several hundred feet across the Placencia Peninsula. The water is very calm, though seaweed can be a problem in Belize, since the barrier reef blocks natural breaking waves; two swimming docks are offered so that guests can jump in past the seaweed that accumulates along the shore. The white sand is soft enough to walk on barefoot, and there are a palm trees along the beach for shade, as well as hammocks for reading. Water sports (such as kayaks and small sailboats) are available for guests, and the sunrises here are spectacular.
An infinity pool with views of the Caribbean Sea, and a second, quieter adults-only pool
Just outside the main resort building in front of Mare Restaurant is the resort's main infinity pool in the shape of a large oval, with outstanding views of the Caribbean Sea. Bright blue cushioned lounge chairs surround the pool, and guests are within steps from the Laughing Fish Bar for signature cocktails and a small selection of food.
On the other end of the resort is a smaller adults-only pool in the shape of a triangle, with beautiful ceramic tiling featuring the resort's signature turtle theme. This is an ideal spot for those who wish to be in a more secluded environment, though unlike the main pool, there are no direct views of the sea from here.
Both pools have saline systems, which use salt instead of chlorine and other harsh chemicals.
A tranquil Thai-themed spa along the lagoon side of the peninsula
The Sunset Spa is located in a secluded area across the street from the Turtle Inn, just steps from the Dive Shop. This attractive open-air rice house truly feels Southeast Asian, and offers beautiful views over the lagoon. A range of treatments using local ingredients can be scheduled daily, including traditional Thai massages (some staff are Thai, themselves!), natural herbal remedies, body scrubs, facials, and coconut hair rinses. Spa staff have studied at the Sacred Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok.
Mare Restaurant serves three meals a day, and two more restaurants are open select nights
Perhaps the hub of the Turtle Inn is the spacious open-air Mare Restaurant, which serves all meals, including the free continental breakfast for guests. This includes coffee, juice, fresh fruit and pastries (an a la carte menu is also available). For lunch and dinner, the menu features seafood and traditional Italian cuisine, including Coppola family recipes. Seafood is caught locally, and vegetables and herbs are grown on-site at the organic garden.
The Gauguin Grill, open select evenings, is a beachfront restaurant featuring Balinese-style seafood cooked on a charcoal grill and served on woven plates.
Auntie Luba's Kitchen, open on select evenings, offers regional Belizean cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere. Standout dishes include local favorites such as curry chicken, coconut shrimp, and rice and beans.
The gelato bar is a "no adults allowed" area next to Mare Restaurant where kids can order flavors in exotic fruits and Italian classics. Kid-sized tables are placed in the sand below twinkling white lights, and the supervised area provides a cute place for kids to have fun while the adults order grown-up drinks next door.
The village of Placencia is a bike ride or quick golf cart ride away, and offers additional restaurant options such as the lauded Rumfish y vino.
Guests will not go thirsty here. Welcome cocktails or fruit juice are offered during check-in, and cottages and villas have minibar stocked with drinking water (free of charge) and a selection of beer and wine.
Signature cocktails and a small selection of food can be ordered throughout the afternoon and evening at the outdoor Laughing Fish Bar in front of the main pool. Sand floors and a high thatched roof create a casual beach bar atmosphere, and on a clear day, views extend all the way to the cayes. The bar serves happy hour specials for a few hours each afternoon.
Mare Restaurant, which sits behind the main pool, includes a bar and lounge area called the Skip White Bar (named after the previous owner). Adults can enjoy a grown-up cocktail while their little ones have dessert at the kid's gelato bar next door. In all the restaurants, guests can order local Belikin beer, fine wines (including the Francis Ford Coppola brand, of course) and cocktails using fresh local ingredients. (It should be noted that beer selection throughout the island is limited, due to beer importation restrictions.)
An ideal location for outdoor activities, with access to Belize Barrier Reef, Monkey River and Maya Mountains
The hotel's central location on the Belize coast gives guests easy access to natural attractions in every direction. Turtle Inn has an impressive variety of tours that leave from the resort, and the Belize Barrier Reef, just offshore, provides some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world. Trips can be arranged in one of the resort's boats, driven by a licensed boat captain.
A standout amenity: Turtle Inn operates a professional Dive Shop on the lagoon side, with top-quality equipment rentals and a number of PADI certification courses. All tours are lead by a licensed Tour Guide, who is a PADI Divemaster or certified PADI Instructor.
Snorkel equipment rentals and tours are also available.
Sport and fly-fishing excursions
Morning bird walks through the property can be taken with a guide. The resort also offers four distinct birding tours to nearby destinations.
Day trips can be arranged to the Maya ruins of Nim Li Punit, or Lubaantun.
Tours of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the world's only jaguar preserve, with hiking, birding (290 species) and wildlife viewing
Boat rides through Monkey River for wildlife viewing
Bike cruisers are available for all ages. Biking is a popular way to explore the village of Placencia.
This Balinese-style hideaway is perfect for couples
Though kids and families are welcome at Turtle Inn, the resort attracts couples and honeymooners with its laid-back, yet luxurious, vibe. There are only 25 cottages and villas, so guests are afforded plenty of privacy.
Balinese-style accommodations have romantic touches such as quality textiles, antique doorways, and private gardens with outdoor showers. Guests in sea-facing rooms can watch sunrises in the morning from the screened porch. At night, the resort is lit with torches at the entrance and small lanterns along the stone walkways.
Mare Restaurant is a romantic option overlooking the main pool. For additional dining options, the village of Placencia is just a few miles away. A sunset cruise on the lagoon side of the peninsula is also available through the resort.
Weddings are not common at Turtle Inn, but small groups are possible in the summer season.
Due to the intimate size of the property (and to maintain the resort's peaceful atmosphere), Turtle Inn does not actively promote itself as a spot for destination weddings; however, small wedding parties are possible during quieter times of the year (such as the summer season). A maximum of 20 guests is allowed per party, staying in no more than 10 cottages or villas. A special group rate is not offered.
A number of celebrities have been spotted at Turtle Inn, but due to company policy, they must remain nameless.
Because of Francis Ford Coppola's star power, the resort does attract A-list celebrities from around the world; specifically Los Angeles and New York City. Most of them stay at the resort's Family Pavilion, Beach House, or Lagoon Bungalow for more space and privacy. Bill Gates was rumored to have been on the property in 2012, but due to company policy, the staff is unable to release the names of former or current guests.
Purchased by the Coppolas in 2001, the same year Hurricane Iris hit and inflicted severe damage
Soon after Francis and Eleanor Coppola bought the Turtle Inn in 2001, the property suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Iris, which hit the Belize coast on October 8th of the same year. Instead of turning away from the ruins, the Coppolas took advantage of this rare opportunity to start fresh, and incorporated a Balinese theme into the property. The two-year project culminated in 2003 when the resort officially opened to the public. This is the second Belizean property owned by the Coppola family, and like the Blancaneaux Lodge, their personal touches can be found throughout the resort -- they are still regular visitors themselves!
The resort is located in a safe and scenic area of Placencia Peninsula
Belize is a peaceful and friendly nation with fewer than 400,000 residents. The resort is located along the eastern side of the Placencia Peninsula (just a few miles from the town of Placencia), and is considered safe. No inoculations are required by the Government of Belize, but it's a good idea to check with your local physician for medical advice prior to traveling in the region.