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Hotel Highlights

  • Step straight from your villa to the sea
  • Stunning scuba scene, with chances to spot whale sharks
  • Palm-hung hammocks and warm white sands

Overview

Brightly coloured hammocks slung between slanted palm trees, Balinese-style beach huts, and the sun-sparkled waters of the Caribbean are at the heart of Turtle Inn hotel in Belize. One of Francis Ford Coppola’s trio of Central American resorts (its siblings are Blancaneaux Lodge and La Lancha in Guatemala), this is a rustic retreat with a sprinkling of glamour.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Turtle Inn with us:

A 30-minute Thai-style massage each

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Turtle Inn

$100 resort credit 5th night free $200 resort credit 6th night free

Facilities

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Turtle Inn - Placencia - Belize

Need To Know

Rooms

25.

Check–out

Midday, although later can be arranged, if available.

Rates

Double rooms from $319.00, excluding tax at 19 per cent.

More details

Rates include Continental breakfast.

Also

Kayaks and paddle boats are free. You can have them brought to you at the beach, or pick them up at Tides dive shop, where you can also arrange scuba or snorkelling trips. The diving’s best between April and June, when whale sharks visit.

At the hotel

Thai spa, small library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock, minibar, hand-made organic toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

All Turtle Inn’s villas and cottages are roomy and boast rustic Balinese decor, but for sheer romantic grandeur, the Chinese Matrimonial Suite is the hands-down winner, with a tranquil setting steps from the sea and a 200-year-old hand-carved four-poster fertility bed. When Francis is in town, you’ll find him in the two-bedroom Pavilion House, enjoying an intricately tiled private pool, dramatically carved doorways, and a bamboo-railed terrace.

Poolside

Turtle Inn has two pools; one a sea-green circle on the lawn by the bar, moments from the sea, the other a triangular infinity pool nestled between the cottages.

Packing tips

A mask and snorkel will be handy for sighting sea life, although you can always buy them from the boutique. You can deflect the unwelcome attentions of sand flies with a squirt of baby oil.

Also

There’s a two-night minimum stay during high season and a four-night minimum at Christmas and Easter.

Children

Under-12s stay free – the eight two-bed villas are ideal for families. Extra beds are $50 a night (plus tax). Babysitting is available, if you notify staff at check-in.

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Eco‐friendly

The hotel keeps its carbon footprint down by not using air-conditioning or other techno-trappings. All its villas and cottages are built from locally sourced material (thatch, bamboo, limestone and wood) and kitchen ingredients are grown on site.

Food & Drink

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Turtle Inn - Placencia - Belize

Hotel Restaurant

Choose between classic Italian dishes and wood-fired pizza at the Mare restaurant, char-grilled seafood at the beachfront Gauguin Grill, and Auntie Luba’s traditional Belizean cuisine. Mariachi bands and Garifuna dancers perform weekly at Mare.

Hotel Bar

The Laughing Fish beside the pool is a laid-back beach bar with a barefoot, sand-floored vibe. A little more formal, the Skip White attached to the Mare restaurant serves up Coppola’s own wine labels and an array of lime-spiked rum cocktails.

Last orders

Mare is open until 9pm; Auntie Luba’s and the Gauguin Grill are open between noon and 8.30pm (reservations required).

Room service

Meals can be brought to your room until 9pm.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Beaches and gleam.

Top table

Nab a spot on the outside of Mare’s vaulted cabana where you can gaze at the ocean uninterrupted, or, have a private table set up on the beach and be served under the stars.

Local Guide

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Turtle Inn - Placencia - Belize
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

In Placencia, you can collect wooden handicrafts such as the distinctive ziricote animal masks, jaguar sculptures and coconut mermaids from little stalls along the sandy sidewalk.

Local restaurants

Walk alond the beach front to Placencia village and you'll come upon De Tatch (+501 523 4011), a popular, laid-back eaterie serving fresh fish and key lime pie. Also in Placencia, Mexican pueblo-style diner Wendy's is good for Caribbean snacks and latin soap operas.

Local bars

The Barefoot Beach Bar in Placencia is always buzzing and serves some tasty cocktails.

+ Enlarge
Balmy Belizean beach side

Turtle Inn

Placencia Village, Stann Creek District, Placencia

Planes

Belize City is the nearest airport, served by American Airlines (www.aa.com), United (www.united.com) and TACA (www.taca.com). From the UK, you can fly via Miami, Houston or Atlanta. There's a departure tax of about US$35. Internal flights make in easy to get around within Belize; Maya Air (www.mayaislandair.com) or Tropic Air (www.tropicair.com) fly from Belize City to Placencia. The journey takes about 40 minutes, and you’ll be a two-minute drive from Turtle Inn. You can also charter three-, five- and 12-seater Cessna planes to private airstrips; planes can be chartered through Javier's Flying Service (www.javiersflyingservice.com).

Automobiles

It’ll take at least four hours by car to tackle the 175 miles from Belize City. Be warned, roads can be shoddy at times. There’s free parking.

Other

Water taxis leave Belize City for San Pedro seven times a day and take about 45 minutes, but the passage can be rough in bad weather.

Reviews

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Turtle Inn - Placencia - Belize

Anonymous review

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Our three-seater Cessna plane dandles dangerously as our pilot enthusiastically points out the rainforest-covered Mayan Hills, banana plantations and hectares of orange groves nearing the coast. I pray Mr Smith stops asking questions and leaves the man to concentrate on his flying. By the time we’ve passed the vast inland shrimp farms and approach the long sandy spit of the Placencia peninsu…
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Turtle Inn

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Our three-seater Cessna plane dandles dangerously as our pilot enthusiastically points out the rainforest-covered Mayan Hills, banana plantations and hectares of orange groves nearing the coast. I pray Mr Smith stops asking questions and leaves the man to concentrate on his flying. By the time we’ve passed the vast inland shrimp farms and approach the long sandy spit of the Placencia peninsula, we’ve had a lesson in the history, geography and politics of Belize. It’s a crash course with a happy landing though, as we gently skim over the sea to arrive at the toy-town runway framed by the limpid Caribbean on one side and the manatee-filled mangroves on the other.

We’ve hardly settled into our transfer when we arrive at Turtle Inn: a walled mini-village of Balinese-inspired villas, cabanas and cottages – dark wood, palm thatching and intricate carvings – wow! All set on an idyllic white powder-soft beach. The lush gardens of this luxury Belize resort are lovingly landscaped with raked sand, neat green lawns, tropical flowers and shady palms. And as well as the natural beauty, it has an Asian aura to its exoticism thanks to Japanese-style raked sand and imported stone sculptures. Still, oriental pools flanking the pathway to reception are filled with snapping terrapins and other assorted paddling beasties, curiously eyeing all new arrivals. Granite turtle sculptures peep out from behind potted tropical plants. At check-in there’s an enormous reptile-painted gourd. I spy piles of wooden terrapins in the hotel’s gift shop beyond. Forgive me if I’m labouring the point, but there are turtles everywhere – and charming they are too. Reception is in a huge, vaulted open-side cabana, shaggy with palm fringing, and check-in involves a rum-punch cocktail while we pause on a wicker sofa to take in a seductive view of the sea and a peek at the hotel’s Italian restaurant. We’ll be back later to experience Mares – a doff of the cap to the owner’s heritage, none other than Francis Ford Coppola.

Our seafront cottage is at the far end of the estate, inches from the water. From the outside it’s sturdy: palm-topped and wood-built, with an intriguing high wall. Seven-feet-high and very solid, the wall has impressive hand-carvings and reminds us of the wall built to keep out King Kong. A couple of steps up to the porch, which is separated from the main bedroom by a beautiful and highly decorative wooden doorway, and we take in the sheer space. The design incorporates wood galore with an Eastern glint; a gleaming engraved mahogany coffee table, artisan-crafted headboard, silky-smooth, curved chairs. Colourful rugs and local textiles with geometric designs give character and warmth and cream sofas add chic. And of course there’s a wooden turtle. With Coppola’s cute conch-shell telephones given pride of place, this is beach hut deluxe unlike anywhere else.

Stepping through another carved doorway, imported especially from Bali, our King Kong mystery is solved. A double-sinked, jade-tiled bathroom with massive ‘Chinese bath’ (super-sized shower) leads to our own private Garden of Eden, complete with Japanese-style shower for fun-enhanced alfresco ablutions and iguanas for company.

Walls comprised of net-covered, shuttered door panels, mean we potter around opening and closing sections, deciding whether we’re in the mood for seclusion or sea vista. Explorations at an end, we plug in our iPod, pop open a locally brewed Belkin beer and settle onto our cosy veranda to watch the sun set over the lagoon.
 
Here when it gets dark, it really gets dark, and nightfall drops like a stone. As we walk to dinner we can’t help peering into other people’s cottages, drawn by the shadows and silhouettes thrown up by candlelight, creating an intimate backdrop. (I make a note to remember this if we want privacy at bedtime.) It’s Friday, so it’s Garifuna night at the main palapa: Mare’s restaurant hosts a local family from Seine Bite village, who present song and dance from the Caribbean freed-slave tradition. Fantastic entertainment, Belizean fish cooked Italian-style, and crisp Californian wines on tap. What more could we want? Celebrity co-diners maybe, and Bjork’s here adding a touch of Icelandic cool to the cosmopolitan proceedings.

Our next meal is a hearty pre-dive Belizean breakfast of fresh pineapple and fried Jacks covered with syrup. A short boat ride from Placencia is an array of different dive sites, and we’re excited about the chance to swim with the largest fish in the sea: the peaceful Whale Shark. Having jumbled our dates, and not being here between March and May, we organise trips to nearby Laughing Bird Caye, where we spend the day merrily underwater ogling groupers and stingrays, corals and conches. By the afternoon, we’ve just about enough energy to cycle into the local town on rickety bikes, dodging potholes. We’ve heard the ice-cream from Gelateria Tutti Frutti is a must, but a whispered word in your ear – the corn flavour speciality is an acquired taste.

Lots of friendly hellos are thrown our way as we wander along the sidewalk, a sandy path between road and sea. Occasional stalls are packed with vivid painted wooden animal masks including indigenous jaguars and maccaws, bead-and-bauble jewellery and ethnic-patterned fabrics. Colourful clapboard homes and shacks where you can eat and drink stand proud bang on the bleached beach. This sleepy sandy peninsula is fantastically laidback in a peeling-paint kind of way, and the casual vibe suits these vacationers perfectly. Our new friends from the dive trip have recommended the weekly Jump Up night at Barefoot Beach Bar. How better to spend our final night than bopping with locals to live music? We get stuck in, but duck the lethal-looking local-tradition alcohol-filled Frisbees. What a cocktail of cultures, we’ve experienced already – Mayan customs, Spanish accents, freed-slaves colonies and British rule have all contributed to a Central American country where cultures have not so much collided as fused – and Placencia has been a winning Caribbean adventure.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Turtle Inn's Guestbook below.

 

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