Room lounge at Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize

Blancaneaux Lodge

Built as movie director Francis Ford Coppola’s private family retreat in the jungle, this lodge has evolved into a twenty-room, luxury hideaway without losing its homey feeling. 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 filming locations in Vietnam and he arranged to buy the abandoned property (which was originally owned by Francis Blancaneaux, hence the name).

Blancaneaux is 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. It was built on the banks of an elegant curve in Privassion Creek and the multi-level grounds (be prepared to climb plenty of stairs) include a pool with each side tiled in a different striking color and a horseshoe-shaped “warm tub” that’s heated to 98 degrees. The creek is also full of tranquil swimming holes and provides the energy needed to power a small hydro plant downstream that produces electricity for this way-off-the-grid resort.

The Academy Award-winning director still maintains a spacious multi-bedroom villa here with a full kitchen, which can be booked when he’s not in it (perfect for families). It’s decorated with a number of Coppola’s personal effects and the property itself is studded with Coppola mementos including 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, there are 19 other accommodations, all under thatch roofs with white-washed walls, hardwood floors and simple wooden furniture, providing a muted backdrop for the vibrant colors of the tropical trees and plants outside and the exuberant hues of the rich local textiles and crafts that adorn the insides. The best villas (there are eight altogether) overlook the river, and there is a two-bedroom family cabana but you have to climb a steep set of stone stairs to reach it, so it’s not toddler-friendly.

The Italian, family-style Ristorante Montagna, meanwhile, serves up classics like homemade tagliatelle with ragu and Neopolitan-style pizzas (the best in Belize), using produce from the resort’s vast and expanding organic garden. The cellar is stocked exclusively with Coppola wines. 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.

Dedicated 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 plus a private pool with views over the rolling hillsides.

The lodge’s twenty-plus horses (all bred and trained at the resort) are available for rides on the property and they’re kept in a stable, which is basically an equine version of the resort. The spa, which is housed in a building which was built using Balinese designs, materials and techniques, is staffed by two Thai masseuses who are on call at all times.

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Beach at Boat Charter, Belize - Courtesy Belize Tourism

Boat Charter

For those who want the ultimate freedom to explore the incredible Caribbean waters and reef off of Belize’s coast, we can recommend crewed boats, ranging from catamarans to motor yachts. Contact the Indagare bookings team for assistance.

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Aerial View - Cayo Espanto, Belize

Cayo Espanto

Located just off Ambergris Caye lies Cayo Espanto, a private, four-acre island with just seven villas in a laid-back-yet-luxe Caribbean style, with crisp whites, vibrant tropical colors, hardwood floors and architecture that catches the sea breeze.

Every one to two bedroom villa is expansive (from 1,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet), has a private pool and is situated to ensure seclusion and privacy. Casa Ventanas is the only over-the-water villa but all other villas are right on the water’s edge so everyone gets their share of the sea.

All-inclusive rates include a personal butler, three tailored meals per day, beverages (including most alcoholic beverages), your favorite snacks and the use of kayaks and a sailboat. If you decide to leave your villa, fly fishing, snorkeling and SCUBA diving trips are available on the world’s second largest barrier reef.

Bedroom at Chan Chich Lodge, Belize

Chan Chich Lodge

The big draw at Chan Chich Lodge, a cluster of 13 bungalows on 130,000 acres of privately owned jungle, isn’t traditional luxury. The thatch-roof mahogany accommodations, largely hand-made using a combination of Mayan and modern techniques and tools, are simple (no A/C and no TV) but comfortably appointed, with ample porches furnished with tables, chairs and hammocks, ceiling fans and modern bathrooms (some with double showers).

The real luxury at Chan Chich (owned by the Bowen family which also owns Belikin Beer) is the setting. The lodge, which opened in 1988, was built amongst unexcavated Mayan ruins. Believed to have been inhabited as far back as 770 BC, the complex includes two large plazas, numerous courtyards and other structures including a ball court. The lodge buildings occupy one of the plazas and the mounds of the other structures and sites dot the surrounding acres, many linked via nine miles of well-maintained jungle trails that challenge you to unleash your inner Indiana Jones.

The lodge provides plenty of ways to explore, including renowned bird watching, canoeing, guided night walks and jungle horseback riding. It’s a long, rough drive out to Chan Chich Lodge so opt for the scenic 30-minute chartered flight into and out of the private landing strip.

Bedroom at  Hidden Valley Inn, Belize

Hidden Valley Inn

Guests at Hidden Valley Inn come to enjoy more than 90 miles of lovingly and meticulously maintained hiking trails that traverse the inn’s 7,200 acres of private land within the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. The jungle, springs, creeks and forests here are gorgeous, the trails are welcoming and it’s entirely possible to walk all day long and not see another soul.

Not private enough? Rent a waterfall for the day and the inn will provide a gourmet picnic complete with linens, china and Champagne. Bring your binoculars to see the area’s impressive (and rare) king vultures, just one of the hundreds of species of birds found here.

Though all of the 12 suites are spacious and comfortably appointed with fireplaces and mahogany furniture, the recently renovated estate suites are particularly suited for honeymooners (they come with an outdoor waterfall shower) or families, who will appreciate the screened in sitting porch for extra space. The estate suites can also adjoin.

A small pool, spa and recently refurbished bar provide plenty of post-hiking relaxation.

Exterior -  Ka’Ana Boutique Resort, Belize

Ka’Ana Boutique Resort

Ka’ana Boutique Resort manages to give the look and feel of the world’s chicest jungle lodges without the remote location (it’s just a few miles from the town of San Ignacio on the main paved road). The ambitious owners created a design-centric boutique hotel with all the bells and whistles: great restaurant, wine cellar, festive bar, freshwater pool, a roster of top-notch tours and a spa that offers unusual and powerful Mayan-abdominal massages in addition to reiki and rolfing.

The hotel bar is a hip hangout for travelers and expats and the guest rooms combine contemporary, clean lines with vibrant Central American touches that feel modern and Mayan at the same time. La Ceiba restaurant serves a mix of local specialties and international favorites, including everything from fresh ceviche and corn tamales to gnocchi and shrimp linguine. The kitchen also offers cooking classes, where guests can learn traditional Mayan recipes and techniques. Activities in the area include visiting Mayan ruins, cave tubing, horseback riding and pottery-making classes in the nearby town of San Antonio.

Editor's Note: Ka'Ana will add eight additional villas by the end of 2016.

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Bedroom at Matachica Resort & Spa, Belize

Matachica Resort & Spa

Matachica, named after a particularly elegant species of petite palm tree, has grown over the years to include thirty one thatched-roof bungalows, all just steps away from the warm, calm water of the Caribbean Sea. Located just a 15-minute boat ride from San Pedro, Matachica is an elegant retreat for relaxation and indulgence.

Each of the vibrantly-hued bungalows features white walls, mosaic tiling and art collected from around the world. Families with older children (the minimum age requirement is 14) or couples traveling together will appreciate the 1,700 square foot, two-bedroom villa with a kitchenette that’s also available. Don’t miss the shaded sitting area at the end of the long pier in front of the resort. It’s the most romantic spot in the house. Indagare Tip: The beachfront rooms get a breeze and tend to be cooler and more comfortable than the other rooms.

Guests and non-guests flock to Matachica’s indoor/outdoor Mambo Restaurant for nouveau Caribbean cuisine that’s considered some of the best food on Ambergris Caye. It’s so popular that Matachica operates a “taxi boat” to ferry people from around Ambergris Caye to and from the restaurant. Some of the same Belizean ingredients used by Matachica’s chef are also employed in the Jade Spa for treatments, including banana and papaya facials, coffee scrubs, chocolate body wraps and sea salt and sea clay body masks.

Sea Life ats Indagare Tours: Scuba Tours ,  Belize, Belize

Scuba Cruise

Serious scuba divers should consider a week-long program of diving on a live-aboard dive boat. Contact Indagare for help setting up an intensive scuba trip, with up to five dives per day, organized by experienced and accommodating dive masters. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to see turtles, seahorses, large groups of rays, colorful reef fish, gorgeous coral formations (soft and hard), barracuda, frogfish, reef sharks, dolphins, octopus and even hammerhead sharks. We can also recommend lodges for scuba diving, including one with a program that includes a spacious, comfortable and easy-to-board 48′ dive boat and an excellent staff of dive masters and captains to help you make the most of more than 60 area dive sites including the iconic Great Blue Hole, part of the Belize Barrier Reef System which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As its name implies, this dive site is a big, blue hole (really a massive flooded sinkhole) that goes straight down nearly 500 feet.

Cottage Bedroom at The Lodge at Chaa Creek, Belize

The Lodge at Chaa Creek

Located on 350 acres of nature reserve, The Lodge at Chaa Creek is an eco-friendly sanctuary for families who want an authentic property with comfortable accommodations and loads of activities in the surrounding area.

Rooms range from one-bedroom cottages to larger Jacuzzi suites, which can accommodate families of five, making it a great value option for those traveling with children. Simple and rustic-chic interiors have high ceilings, traditional Mayan textiles and beautiful Balinese furniture made of dark mahogany. In keeping with the typical Belizean experience, the resort does not have air conditioning, TVs or phones in the rooms, allowing guests to unplug and unwind. (There is WiFi in the lobby for those who need to connect).

Located right on the Macal River, the property has a blue morpho butterfly farm, a natural history center, horse stables and canoes for exploring. Activities in the area include visiting Maya ruins, cave exploring, zip-lining, cooking classes, hiking, medicinal walks, biking and horseback riding. There’s also an infinity pool and spa for relaxing after a day of adventure.

Sustainability and conservation are at the forefront at Chaa Creek; 10% of the hotel’s revenue goes into local social and environmental programs, including their “Pack a Pound” initiative, which allows guests to donate school supplies to local elementary schools. Service is especially important to the property, and all staffers come from local towns and villages.

Pool at Turtle Inn, Belize

Turtle Inn

When director Francis Ford Coppola’s first iteration of Turtle Inn was virtually wiped out by Hurricane Iris in 2001, he hired Balinese-based designer Made Wijaya to re-create it, working with Mayan artisans and Balinese craftsmen. Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, helped design the small but exquisite Balinese spa.

The result is a Robinson Crusoe–style island hideout fit for royalty, with 19 thatched-roof villas and cottages that range from 600 to 1,500 square-feet. A large screened-in porch (where a wooden day bed invites lounging) leads to a living area and bedrooms. Elaborately carved doorways imported from Bali separate the rooms, where the furnishings are set on polished wood floors. Overhead fans, large wicker chairs and couches strewn with batik pillows create an atmosphere of island ease. Coppola brings his family here to de-stress but when he’s not in residence it’s possible to rent his house, which is slightly larger than the others and includes a small private pool and a tiny screening room for watching movies.

The laid-back atmosphere is the real luxury at Turtle Inn. Craving coconut water? One of the beach attendants will scurry up a nearby palm for a coconut, hack a hole in the top and stick a straw in it for you. Guests relax in hammocks strung up between palm trees.

As you’d expect from Coppola, a celebrated winemaker as well as a celebrated moviemaker, the Italian-inspired restaurant does not disappoint and features wonderful wines from his Napa vineyard. Guests can also enjoy fresh charcoal-grilled lobsters and snapper at the beachside Gauguin Grill, and on Mondays and Thursdays, a traditional Indonesian rice table in the main restaurant. Across the street, guests can enjoy casual, authentic Belizean food at Auntie Luba’s Kitchen.

In 2013 many of the accommodations, the main restaurant, lobby, pool deck, and landscaping were refurbished and the organic garden was expanded as well. It now includes chickens that produce organic eggs. Complimentary on-site bird watching is offered in addition to a full roster of land and sea tours and new yoga packages for those who can manage to get out of that hammock.

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Pool Lounge at  Victoria House, Belize

Victoria House

Housed in white Colonial-style buildings and featuring simple interiors with white walls and brown wicker, the 42 rooms and suites at Victoria House are spread around the property’s manicured lawns. Large groups or families can comfortably spread out in the two-, three- and five- bedroom beachfront villas, while couples and smaller families may prefer one of the suites or the casitas. All of the one and two-bedroom suites, as well as the villas, have fully outfitted kitchens and living areas.

The beachfront property has a short sea wall with steps that lead into the water (such walls were put up to combat the effects of erosion and sea grass at many of the properties along Ambergris Caye). There is a PADI surf shop on site, and the property has complimentary bikes, kayaks and paddleboards for guests. The hotel can also arrange snorkeling, diving, fishing and boat charters.

There is one restaurant on property, but thanks to the property’s proximity to San Pedro, guests can dip into town for dinner some evenings. Massages can be accommodated either in the beach gazebo or the comfort of one’s room, and there is a fill spa and fitness center set to be completed by the end of 2016.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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