blancaneaux lodge in belize
Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize. Photo: The Family Coppola.

Journeying to Francis Ford Coppola’s Rainforest Lodge in Belize 

By: Alexander Britell - March 2, 2024

The barman at the Jaguar Bar is happy to tell you the recipe for Jaguar Juice. It’s simple, so he says: One Barrel rum; pineapple juice; and a local liqueur called Nanse that’s made from a Belizean fruit called craboo. 

The result is, plainly, delicious; a blissfully exacting balance of natural sweetness and the boldness of Belizean rum. 

But with each sip, it feels like there’s more to this recipe, something else that makes it irresistible. 

It’s tantalizing enough, of course, that even with the plentiful amounts of some of the world’s best wine on offer here, most guests here tend to begin their evenings with the Juice. 

This 20-room, 78-acre Blancaneaux Lodge resort in Belize’s lush, rugged Cayo district is the Caribbean river lodge of legendary film director and renowned vintner Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now), who purchased the property in 1981 and turned it into what would become one of the Caribbean’s most sought after hotels in 1993. 

Coppola had been filming Apocalypse Now on an island in the Philippines and nearly bought his own private island there – until deciding, with help from his wife, against having to travel halfway around the world just to get there. 

Searching for a paradise closer to home, he heard about an opportunity for a property in what is now the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Belize. He flew down, fell in love at first sight, and Coppola began to develop the property, formerly a private home (it gets its name from the former owner). 

“He bought this as his home away from home,” says Bernie Matute, the longtime general manager of the hotel. “He didn’t want a conventional resort.”

And that’s precisely what he achieved, cultivating a sustainable (the entire resort is powered by a dam Coppola built shortly after purchasing the property) luxurious getaway where the focus is on delivering an authentic Belizean experience — with Coppola’s special touch, of course. 

The resort, set on a beautiful stretch along a river, has a collection of thatched roofs bungalows and villas, a pool, three different eateries (featuring many of the Coppola family’s secret recipes) and some rather special amenities, too: a broad hiking trail; a full stable of horses for riding; and an organic garden that doubles as the perfect al fresco breakfast spot. The rooms are breezy and inviting, with direct views of the rushing river. 

And yes, you’ll find an outstanding selection of Coppola wines, everything from his Diamond Pinot Noir to the Director’s Cut Chardonnay. 

The Jaguar Bar.

The lobby doubles as an intimate, living-room style salon, home to an eclectic boutique and endless, rich conversations fueled by glasses of Jaguar Juice. 

There’s a full working stable at the resort.

It’s almost impossibly serene, the only soundtrack the light rushing of the Prevencion Creek, the sort of place where you could easily see yourself writing a novel or a screenplay and tapping into deep metaphysical questions. It’s just special. 

Visiting here makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a closely-guarded secret. Blancaneaux is a meticulously directed passion project, the kind of hotel that transcends, that captivates, that manages to tap into an x-factor you can’t quite articulate. 

Maybe it’s something in the Jaguar Juice. 

For more, visit the Blancaneaux Lodge

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