At a Glance
Director Francis Ford Coppola brings his Bali-tinged vision of sandy chic to one of the best beaches in Belize.
- The triangular pool
- The modern Beach House complex, where Sofia Coppola stays when she visits
- In-room “shellphones” that connect you to the reception desk made from massive conch shells (there are no phones, TVs or Internet access in the villas)
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.
Who Should Stay
Sybaritic beach bums and families who want to explore Southern Belize. This is the top spot in the area for both families and couples, although the property holds true to Francis’s mantra of back to basics – no AC, phones, TV, or wifi in the villas.
Written by Karen Catchpole