Belize: Turtle Inn
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Turtle InnPlacencia Road Stann Creek, Belize 011/501/523/3244 coppolaresorts.com
A 10-minute bike ride to Placencia Village, where, in a few hours, you can sample local cuisine, pick up souvenirs, and walk the road known as "The Sidewalk," which, at four feet wide, the Guinness Book of World Records named the narrowest main street in the world.
A Thai or European massage in the open-air Sunset Spa, built in the style of a Balinese rice house.
Wiling away a breezy afternoon on your open-air porch, with nothing but an iced cold Belikin and a book.
- 17 cabanas, 7 two-room cabanas, one full house
- 2 pools
- 3 in-hotel restaurants and 1 bar
- Water sports
- Complimentary continental breakfast
- Complimentary kayaks
- Complimentary bikes
- Snorkeling and scuba expeditions
Yes, the view at this luxury resort is unmatchable; the remoteness of the location an almost instant decompression chamber; the sound of soft waves lapping at the pristine shore pleasantly hypnotizing; the jar of cookies on each outdoor porch an adorable, delicious touch. But the bathrooms! The bathrooms!
They're the size of a New York City apartment. A one-bedroom, not a studio. The one in my sea-view villa was open-air, with screens separating the indoor toilet, sink, and shower from a private, walled-in outdoor garden, where there was another shower, in case screened-in-open-air proved less appealing than open-open-air. By my indoor shower was a small garden of four plants, growing right through the floor. I could have spent my days happily moving from outdoor to indoor shower, contemplating their relative merits (outdoor: potential iguana sighting, indoor: safety from potential iguana) and returned to New York after three days completely refreshed. But, thankfully, I forced myself to venture outside to the beaches, to the spa, and to the resort's three restaurants.
Turtle Inn—along with its sister property in the mountains, the Blancaneaux Lodge—is owned and operated by film director Francis Ford Coppola, who fell in love with Belize after a visit in the early 1980s. The cottages are decorated in rustic Polynesian style, all interlocking wood and charming touches: no television, no clocks, no phones (just a "shell phone," made with a conch shell, that you can use to page the main desk), and no air conditioning. Lying (and sweating) in bed one evening after one too many glasses of Coppola Diamond Pinot Grigio, I focused woozily on the spinning fan above my head. It almost, almost, morphed into the spinning blades of a helicopter before I conked out.
My days unfurled slowly and revolved around beach time, pool time, one activity a day, and food. One day I biked into town. Another, I got a vigorous Thai massage. The third, I snorkeled next to gray snapper. And that night, I ate one.
The Mare Restaurant, located near the front desk, is where I started each morning. As the breezes lazily wafted up from the sea, I nixed the à la carte offerings in favor of the complimentary continental breakfast: a fresh fruit platter, just-baked breads, homemade jams, and a hardboiled egg kept me going until my mid-day fresh coconut juice. In keeping with Coppola's roots, Mare serves Italian food at dinner, but it seemed weird to be eating spaghetti carbonara at the beach, so after the sun went down, I opted for the Gauguin Grill.
Its prix-fixe three-course meals were served at tables located directly on the beach, and light jazz standards tinkled from a portable iPod dock. On the menu: whatever was freshly caught that day, grilled simply and paired with four sauces, gingered rice, and Chinese greens. A shrimp bisque to start and a scoop of coconut gelato to finish, c'est tout.
My one dinner deviation from grilled fish was an appetizer order of conch fritters at Auntie Luba's Kitchen, the resort's Belizean restaurant. Alas, they were the consistency of a rubber tire. As expected, my entrée of grilled snapper redeemed the meal.
My final evening at the resort, I returned to the Gauguin grill—why mess with perfection? After my gelato scoop, I meandered back along the beach, pausing briefly to rock on a hammock and take in the stars. Then back to my cottage, where I hopped into bed and slept deeply, willing the following day, filled as it was with single showers in tiny indoor bathrooms, never to come. —Sophie Brickman
IN THE AREA
- Tropical fruit gelato at Tutti-Frutti: It seems odd to find a tried-and-true gelateria on the dirt-road main street of Placencia Village—its luscious, creamy offerings would be at home in midtown Manhattan—but this is a local favorite, and the tropical flavors are not to be missed. The banana gelato takes the fruit to new heights. Main street, next to the BTIA office, Placencia. No phone.
- Fresh fruit shakes at The Shak: At the tip of town at the water's edge is this teeny tiny shack that specializes in fresh tropical smoothies (21 flavors should keep you covered during your visit) and fresh-squeezed juices. Word to the wise: Nix the seaweed smoothies, and go mango or papaya. Placencia Harbor, at the beginning of Sidewalk; tel: 501/622/1686.
- Caught-that-day seafood from Omar's Creole Grub: Omar will probably be on the premises of his no-frills seafood restaurant in the heart of town when you stop by for a bite. He catches everything himself and chances are you'll consume a fish that was swimming in the ocean a mere few hours before. The simplest preparations are the best—grilled lionfish with a spritz of lime, grilled shrimp with a side of rice and beans. Don't let the lack of a liquor license get you down: a fresh lime juice is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot day. Main Street, Placencia Village; tel: 501/532-4094.