Three Top Central American Eco Lodges

The Coppola Family Resorts combine ultimate luxury, natural beauty and ecological responsibility


Eco-friendly resorts were once seen as destinations where comforts were sacrificed in favor of social consciousness. This is certainly not the case at these select Central American properties, which represent a Hollywood icon’s vision of how natural attractions and authentic adventures could blend with selective snippets of sybaritic indulgence.

Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize

When Francis Ford Coppola discovered an abandoned jungle lodge deep in heart of Belize’s Maya Mountains, he knew he’d found the perfect location for a personal retreat for his family. Through the 1980s, he drew inspiration for his creative works from the lush surroundings and the cascading sounds of Privassion Creek. In 1993, he and his family opened Blancaneaux Lodge to the public as a 20-room luxury resort.

Blancaneaux Lodge Belize

Riverfront cabanas and the Blancaneaux Lodge open to views and sounds of a rushing jungle stream. These fast-moving waters provide the power that sustains the resort. Photo: Gondolfo Pfotenhauer/Blancaneaux

Today, the lodge has become a leading example of how luxury and eco- conscious design can come together to create a remarkable experience. Micro-hydro power from the creek powers the resort, and organic gardens provision the kitchen. Cabanas and cottages are fabricated from local materials, and feature artisanal furnishings and artwork. Though off-grid and self-sustaining, Blancaneaux offers a tempting range of luxuries and creature comforts, including a spa, stables, upscale dining and Internet connectivity via a satellite link. The lodge has garnered numerous awards from both environmental groups and the travel industry, and has repeatedly been named the best resort in Latin America.

Turtle Inn, Belize

The Coppola family’s love of Belize wasn’t confined to the forests of the mountains interior. In 2001, they discovered Turtle Inn, a small coastal resort near the Creole fishing village of Placencia. They acquired the property, only to see it destroyed a year later by a major hurricane. Turning disaster into opportunity, the Coppolas began a meticulous two-year restoration that brought inspirations from Bali to the Caribbean.

Turtle Inn Belize

The thatch-roofed cottages at Turtle Inn sit beachside, using design elements learned from native building traditions to usher in sea breezes. Photo: Gondolfo Pfotenhauer/Turtle Inn

Thatch-roofed cottages and villas feature hand carved woodwork and Indonesian artwork adorns the walls. The renovation also blended traditional design wisdom with modern eco-sensitive principles. Sea breezes and natural ventilation sooth, while sweeping views of the turquoise waters inspire. Offshore, the Caribbean’s longest barrier reef invites exploration by paddle, sail or scuba. To the west lie the calm waters of the Placencia Lagoon and spectacular views of the Maya Mountains and Victoria Peak. Turtle Inn is now recognized as the premier waterfront resort in Central America.

Belize Turtle Inn Snorkel

Turtle Inn overlooks a vast lagoon of grass beds and coral heads inside the Caribbean’s longest barrier reef. Excellent snorkeling can be found just off the resort’s beach. Photo: Gondolfo Pfotenhauer/Turtle Inn

La Lancha, Guatemala

With Blancaneaux Lodge firmly established as one of the region’s premier destinations, and Turtle Inn up and running, the Coppolas discovered yet another property to add to their portfolio. On the shores of Guatemala’s Lake Peten Itza, a lakeside compound originally built by a young French couple offered elevated views of sparkling waters. The neighboring forest offered a wide range of adventures, while the lake provided an oasis of cool refreshment.

Guatemala La Lancha

The dock at La Lancha sits over the clear waters of Guatemala’s Lake Peten Itza. This expansive natural body of fresh water is fed by mountain streams. Photo: Gondolfo Pfotenhauer/La Lancha

The Coppolas quickly recognized that in addition to the spectacular natural setting, this site was ideally suited for visits to enchanting Mayan sites such as Tikal, Uxactun, Yaxha, Topoxte and more. After extensive renovations and landscaping, La Lancha opened as an upscale 10-room resort. Structures blend the rustic authenticity of native woods and limestone with modern amenities. Rooms are decorated with bright fabrics and carvings from Guatemala personally selected by the Coppola family. Today, this trio of resorts offers guests spectacular natural settings that combine luxury with socially responsible operation.

Guatemala La Lancha

The lakeside cottages of La Lancha are centrally located for trips to a number of the most significant archaeological sites in Central America. Photo: Gondolfo Pfotenhauer/La Lancha