For most, achieving Oscar-winning success as the director of The Godfather would have been enough. But not content with one successful career, Francis Ford Coppola has moved on to hotels. The latest addition is Coral Caye, an exclusive-use, private-island retreat, set amid the marine-rich waters of the Belize Barrier Reef. A short boat ride off the country’s Caribbean coast brings you to a pair of tropical-hued cottages, a communal Great House with a sandy floor and a palm-lined private beach. As you meet your personal chef and butler, you’ll be glad Coppola is one of life’s great overachievers.
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A bottle of Francis Ford Coppola white wine and four local Belikin beers
11am, but flexible. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both subject to availability.
Double rooms from £1674.33 ($2,066), including tax at 9 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per room per night on check-out.
A Continental Belizean-style breakfast of eggs, beans, tortillas, fresh fruit and juices is served each morning and included in the price.
The island’s beach is by the dock, lined by exotic palms, mangroves and sea birds. Shallow waters mean you can dip straight in to snorkel amid the coral reef. Expect to spy anything from tropical fish and nurse sharks to turtles, seahorses, rays and beautiful corals. At the end of the dock, you’ll also find a sunken hammock and a picnic table for afternoon drinks or lunches.
At the hotel
Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, snorkelling equipment, fishing rods, hammocks, board games, children’s toys, drums, guitars. WiFi and phone reception are patchy, but available in certain rooms. In rooms: tropical interiors, ceiling fans, towels, robes, coffee/tea-making facilities, locally-made Rubba Dub soap, Forest Essentials toiletries, a sea-facing porch.
Our favourite rooms
Newly-built Coral Cottage is the main event, with a king-size bed and a pull-out sofa bed in the separate lounge, plus an ensuite bathroom and an additional outdoor shower. Whitewashed, clapboard walls mix with beachy, tropical colours, local artwork and terracotta ornaments. The front porch has hammocks and immediate access to the shore. The second cottage, Seahorse, is located near Mangrove Cove, home to many seahorses. With the same barefoot, beachy feel, it has driftwood lights, seagrass rugs and open, airy windows that channel the sea breezes. Two queen beds and additional twins make it ideal for family groups or friends. The bathroom is in an adjacent building.
Therapists from Turtle Inn’s Sunset Spa can be brought over to Coral Caye for in-room treatments, including a Thai massage, sea-salt body scrub or coconut hair rinse.
Bring as much beachwear as you can carry: twin with Australian designer Rye, with kaftans and cover-ups from Evarae.
There are no TVs on Coral Caye, so prepare to sleep to the sound of waves.
Pets are welcome and dog food is provided. Better still, on this private island, you won’t have to worry about them running off (unless they’re really good swimmers). There’s even a resident hound named Goldy. See more pet-friendly hotels in Placencia.
Family groups are warmly welcomed at this laid-back Belizean retreat, with children’s games, an outdoor playground and abundant marine life to occupy would-be Attenboroughs.
You’ve got two options: dine in the Great House with views of the sea, or aim for the beachside palapa next to the shore. A tough call…
Come as you are: there’s no need to dress up unless you’re tiring of your swimsuit (the pressures of private-island life). Sandals, board shorts, linen shirts, whatever feels comfortable.
Fine-dining formalities are done away with at Coral Caye, but the food is no less delicious. All meals are included and served in the Great House, with its atmospheric sandy floor and large windows facing out towards the beach. Coral-lined walls, hand-carved doors, tropical-print cushions and colourful lanterns create a meeting point for Coral Caye’s beachy, barefoot feel. Expect breakfasts of beans, tortillas and fresh fruit; lunches of salads, sandwiches, rice and chicken; and seafood suppers, including lobster in the right season, or barbecued Creole chicken. A thatched-roofed, open-sided palapa on the beach provides a second very-romantic spot for meals.
As well as housing the main restaurant, the Great House is also home to the island’s bar. Grab one of the wooden stools, dig your toes into the sand, play darts or simply shoot the breeze. Drinks need to be pre-ordered from a list of local beers, bottled spirits and wines from the Coppola vineyard and paid for prior to your arrival. After that, you can just sit back and settle in for riotous music sessions on the in-house guitars… probably a good thing you’re the only guests.
For the time you’re on Coral Caye, you make the rules – if you can call them that. Decide when you want meals and, as if by magic, food will appear. The bar is open roughly between 9am-11pm.
Food can be served in the rooms at no extra charge. Like the rest of Coral Caye, there’s no menu, it just depends on the season and what’s available.
A necklace of pristine islands drapes itself over the Caribbean coast of Belize, forming the 200-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef. One of these, just off from the Creole fishing village of Placencia, is Coral Caye.
International flights land at Philip SW Goldson airport, outside Belize City. From here, you can connect to Placencia via regular 30-minute domestic flights. The Smith24 team can assist with all travel arrangements.
From Placencia airstrip, you get free transfers to the dock of Turtle Inn, another Coppola resort, where you’ll be welcomed with a cold towel and refreshing drink, before being whisked across to Coral Caye by boat, through marine-rich, cerulean waters. Not a bad way to start your holiday.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’ve got the run of this two-acre island to yourself, so spend days snorkelling and snoozing off long lunches, lazing in a hammock or propping up Coral Caye’s bar. If you do feel like venturing offshore, you can hire the island’s private boat (for an additional cost) to visit nearby islands such as Lark Caye, Long Caye, Bird Island and Mojo Caye. Further afield, there’s also kayaking in the Placencia lagoon, ziplining at Bocawina National Park and wildlife-watching in Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary, home to jaguars, howler monkeys and more. Essentially, anything offered by sister hotel Turtle Inn can be arranged, though there’s an additional supplement of US$100 each way to cover the boat transfers back to the mainland. However, if all you want to do is loll on the beach, feast on delicious food and play board games, we won’t hold it against you.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this private island hotel in Belize and unpacked their 15-year-old Don Omario rum, a full account of their Central American escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Coral Caye in Belize…
If Fredo Corleone’s infamous boat trip had been diverted to Coral Caye, it might all have ended very differently. He and Michael could have been digging their toes into the sand right now, sinking piña coladas, reminiscing about old times. All would have been forgotten. Because that’s the sort of place Coral Caye is. Days drift into one, delicious meals arrive, waves wash against the shore. Director Francis Ford Coppola is the man behind it, having previously launched three retreats in Central America, one in Buenos Aires and an Italian pile in the Coppola family seat of Basilicata. After a lifetime of filming mankind’s darkest tales, clearly he needed some light relief. And at Coral Caye he’s found it. His first exclusive-use, private-island retreat drifts in the Caribbean, a 25-minute boat ride from the Belizean beach town of Placencia and another of his properties, Turtle Inn. Guests of Coral Caye get all the benefits of the mainland address – abundant marine life in the Belize Barrier Reef, delicious food and drink, rustic-chic rooms – yet with the added seclusion of a private-island location. Digs are divided between two pitched-roofed wooden cabins, daubed in tropical shades, and the communal, sandy-floored Great House, where meals are served and the bar covets one corner. Spa treatments can be summoned on request and excursions can be organised, with a personal butler on hand to make arrangements. Essentially, life is made as easy as possible, so before you go booking any one-way boat trips, divert your attention to Coral Caye. The piña coladas are waiting.