Five signature properties with signature star power
Fame has its perks, but even sophisticated jet setters may appreciate a bit of home-style comforts when they travel. For a select few stars, this wish has translated not just into favorite stays, but actual ownership where they are able to put their personal stamp on every detail of the property’s ambiance, décor and services. Here are five premier resorts formed and transformed by star power.
Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
When film director Francis Ford Coppola discovered an abandoned jungle camp deep in the jungles of Belize, he transformed it into a family retreat. A decade later, he opened the Blancaneaux Lodge to the public as a 20-room luxury hideaway. Here, nestled in the lush foliage of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, a collection of thatched roof cabanas perch above a rushing jungle creek where waterfalls tumble into turquoise pools. Each cabana is finished in a regional Guatemalan décor, with unique native art and local textiles. Some offer private plunge pools, outdoor showers and open-air living rooms with kitchens.
The lodge’s Montagna Ristorante features classic Italian cuisine with a special focus on Coppola family recipes drawn from the Basilicata region. Daily activities include hikes into the forest reserve, horseback rides, orchid hunts, mountain biking and tours of Mayan archeological sites. The Waterfall Spa specializes in the art of Thai massage, and features a professionally trained staff that has studied ancient techniques in Bangkok.
Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa, Vero Beach, Florida
The décor says Miami-modern, but this beachfront retreat is far removed from the hustle of South Beach. Music icons Gloria and Emilio Estefan lent their personal touches on every aspect of Costa d’Este, from the sea grass furniture and teak paneling to the iconic porthole windows. Sitting on 1,000 feet of golden sand in the heart of the quiet central Florida town of Vero Beach, this waterfront retreat is designed for unpretentious luxury. Each of the property’s 94 guest rooms and suites feature outdoor patios and balconies that usher in sea breezes and ocean vistas. The resort’s oceanfront pool deck takes a page directly from Collins Avenue properties, with manicured palms and market umbrellas shading parallel lines of chaise lounges.
Fine dining is a keystone of the Costa d’Este experience, and the acclaimed Wave Kitchen & Bar takes a creative approach to the culinary arts, utilizing fresh seafood and locally sourced produce in a range of original creations and select Cuban specialties. Another signature of Chef Armando Galeas’ menu is a special emphasis on premium wines and hand cut steaks. There is a full-service spa on site, and a range of water sports to enjoy, including ocean kayaking, paddleboards and snorkeling.
Turtle Inn, Belize
This intimate beachside inn is a world away from high rises and tourism corridors. It sits on a narrow peninsula in the wilds of southern Belize, flanked by the Caribbean Sea and the calm waters of the Placencia Lagoon. Francis and Eleanor Coppola acquired this beachside hideaway in 2001 and transformed it into a relaxing refuge that could also become a base for adventures on land and sea. The Belize barrier reef lies just offshore, offering coral gardens for snorkelers and divers to enjoy, and expansive flats for exploration by fishermen and kayakers. To the west, the Maya Mountains and Victoria Peak rise above wetlands and rainforests that is home to monkeys, tropical birds, iguanas, crocodiles and jaguars.
After a day of adventure, guests can relax in thatched cottages decorated with handcrafted Balinese furnishings, Japanese baths and outdoor showers. Open floor plans usher in the ever-present sea breezes, and white sand beaches are just steps away from private decks. For those seeking the ultimate escape, the Inn also offers a private island villa that can only be reached by boat. The Turtle Inn is also home to the Mare Restaurant, which serves traditional Italian cuisines with an emphasis on fresh-caught local fish and vegetables from the on-site organic garden. For local flavors, guests also have the option of Auntie Luba’s Kitchen, the resort’s authentic Belizean diner, which serves regional fare in a setting overlooking the waters of Placencia Lagoon.
The island of Tetiaroa is home to one of the world’s most idyllic resorts. Once the exclusive retreat of Tahitian royalty, this private enclave delivers all the elements expected of a South Seas paradise, from swaying coconut palms to white sand beaches and a sparkling lagoon. Tetiaroa first caught the eye of Marlon Brando while scouting locations for his iconic movie, Mutiny on the Bounty. Years later, he would return to fulfill his vision of creating an eco-friendly resort that would both showcase and protect the island’s biodiversity and pristine environment.
A 20-minute flight from Tahiti brings guests to the all-inclusive grounds of The Brando, where a collection of 35 beachfront villas are spread out across the island to provide serene privacy for each guest. Each 1,000-square foot villa includes separate sitting rooms that merge indoor and outdoor spaces, along with a private media room, pool and large windows that frame lagoon views through a screen of pandanus, miki miki, and coconut trees. A pair of signature restaurants showcases Polynesian inspired dishes, East-West fusion and classic French cuisine. Amenities include an on-site spa, tennis courts, library and cultural center, two bars, a large infinity pool and an environmental research station with guest programs.
La Lancha, Guatemala
A stay at La Lancha is akin to an invitation as a houseguest at a treasured family retreat. In fact, most every detail of this intimate 10-room lodge, from the furniture and fabrics to the locally sourced carvings that adorn each room, was personally selected by the Coppola family. The property sits on a rainforest-clad bluff above the sparkling waters of Guatemala’s Lake Petén Itza. Just across the lake are the cobblestone streets of the colonial- era town of Flores, and the area is home to a number of significant Mayan sites, including the expansive ruins of Tikal, where ancient temples rise above jungle green.
The area’s rainforests offer a wide range of eco-experiences, from relaxing hikes and birding tours to adventures such as aerial walkways, zip lines, and jungle horseback rides. The lake can be enjoyed by canoe, kayak, or tour boat. Each of the lodge’s Casitas is furnished with pieces sourced from Guatemalan producers, and feature locally made arts and crafts. Covered decks feature hammocks and lake views. An open-air restaurant situated under the thatch roof of the main lodge provides dramatic views of the forest canopy and Lago Petén Itzá. The menu features authentic Guatemalan dishes. In the evening, the lake itself becomes a source of entertainment, with dramatic color changes that shift from cobalt blue to turquoise, and then take on the warm glows of sunset.