Central American Safari: Exploring Guatemala + Belize
A twist on the conventional safari, exploring Central America with an adventure from the Guatemalan rainforest to the Belizean Pine Ridge Reserve to the world’s second-largest barrier reef is anything but ordinary.
We invite you to adventure to Guatemala and Belize to explore the region’s many unexpected elements, creating a truly unique experience. You’ll call the four award-winning resorts of The Family Coppola Hideaways ‘home’ as you experience their distinctive beauty. Days will be filled with active adventures, incredible wildlife, delicious cuisine and of course, an impressive collection of Coppola wines!
Set in the rainforest high above the shores of Lago Petén Itzá, La Lancha is a quaint, 10-room lodge outfitted in decor of Guatemala personally. The furniture, fabrics and carvings were all hand-selected by the Coppola family, the owners of this boutique property. With its beautiful lakeshore setting, relaxed ambiance, and close proximity to the lost world of Maya, La Lancha is an ideal destination to both enjoy a relaxed pace as well as explore the many adventures of the Petén region.
For more than a decade this hideaway was exclusively a Coppola family retreat before Francis opened his tropical paradise to the public in 1993. Today, Blancaneaux Lodge is a 20-room luxury hideaway where guests are invited to relax amongst waterfalls that tumble into turquoise pools above the jungle canopy. The property's remote mountain setting allows guests to explore the ancient civilization of the Maya and to return to their own thatched roof dwelling, rich with Guatemalan décor and nestled in the foliage of the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve.
After acquiring this beachside hideaway in 2001, Francis and Eleanor Coppola created an idyllic refuge for those seeking a relaxing or adventure-filled getaway to Belize. This 25-room seafront escape delights guests with individual thatched cottages, each naturally cooled by the ever-present sea breezes. Just steps beyond your private deck, the white-sand beach dissolves into the clear Caribbean Sea. Plus, Turtle Inn is located a short bicycle ride or walk from the charming sea-front fishing village of Placencia, where local artisan shops and dining spots can be enjoyed.
Your trip to Belize and Turtle Inn will be an even more exquisite memory when you add on a few nights on our two acre, isolated, private island, just a 25 minute (8 mile) boat ride from the resort. Sheltered behind the world famous Belize Barrier Reef, Coral Caye is a completely private island that can be yours alone for a romantic, restorative or adventurous get away. You and your lucky travel companions will feel like you are castaways with all the comforts needed to leave all of your cares behind. The island features a small coral sand beach and fascinating mangrove ecology.
Sunrise Tour of Tikal, the legendary Mayan ruins of Guatemala Day 2
Horseback ride to Big Rock Falls where you can dip in the cascading waterfalls Day 4
Explore Actun Tunichil Mucnal Cave, ranked as one of the Top 10 Caves in the world by National Geographic Magazine. Plus, enjoy dinner in the sustainable Garden with apps and drinks by the fire under the stars! Day 5
Visit the world’s only Jaguar Preserve, offering birding, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Day 7
Full-day snorkeling tour in the Caribbean Sea, swimming with sharks, stingrays, sea turtles + more…Plus, savor a BBQ lunch on a private island! Day 8
Guatemala, Lake Petén Itza
Arrival: La Lancha + Leisure Activities
Get set to jet down to an area of the world that’s remained surprisingly under the radar, considering the absolute paradise that awaits. Arrive to Flores Airport and board a boat to cruise the calm waters of Lake Petén Itza and arrive in style to La Lancha, your home for the next two nights! The lake is the second largest in all of Guatemala and the colors are absolutely stunning. The crystal clear blues and tropical green hues mimic that of the Caribbean Sea which makes for a stunning welcome after your travel day.
As you pull up to the boutique resort, you’ll find that it’s perfectly tucked away into the rainforest, high above the shores of the lake. You’ll be greeted down at the lake club by the hospitable La Lancha staff. Set the tone for your trip as you sip on refreshing tropical welcome drink. Ride up the newly installed funicular to the top of the property and take in the beautiful sights and sounds of the surrounding forest canopy. After checking-in to your suite and enjoying your personalized welcome amenity, take some time to embrace the beautiful lake views from the inviting hammock on your private terrace!
Once you’re settled in, it’s time for a refreshing jump in the lake and endless activities down at the lake club. With a full bar and service, you can order a bite to eat and sip on the local Gallo Cerveza. Or enjoy a refreshing glass of Coppola wine, like the cute cans of Sofia Rosé! Down at the lake, you can relax on the beach or lounge on the chairs on the overwater platform! If you want to get moving, they offer a rope swing, floating tubes, canoes, stand up paddle boards and more.
After some R&R on the lake, freshen up for sunset drinks at one of the three bars on property. Then, dinner at La Lancha’s open-air restaurant under the thatch roof of the main lodge makes for a great welcome night experience. Their menu features authentic Guatemalan dishes such as Chilaquiles, Beef Tenderloin with Chiltepe Peppercorn Sauce, and grilled local White Fish that melts in your mouth. Just make sure to get a good night’s rest, because you’ll be up and at ‘em in the morning for a special tour!
Guatemala, Lake Petén Itza
Sunrise Tour of Tikal + Ixpanpahul Skyway
Rise and shine this morning for an early departure from La Lancha to catch your helicopter! Take to the skies and watch the sunrise as you journey to Tikal, one of the most impressive of all the Maya sites. You’ll arrive prior to opening hours of the National Park, which means that you’ll be able to explore the stunning ruins without all the crowds! Tikal’s five monolithic temples pierce the jungle canopy, with the tallest reaching over 200 feet.
Along the way, walk through ancient plazas and ball courts, as your expert guide paints a picture of what life was like in the Classic Period of AD250 and beyond. While visiting, you’ll likely see families of monkeys jumping from tree to tree and packs of coatis roaming the National Park. After your journey concludes, fly back via helicopter and view new sites now that the sun is fully up and shining!
Once back on property, enjoy a delicious breakfast while taking in stunning views of the lake! Take a plunge in the refreshing pool, or head back down to the lake before enjoying some afternoon activities. While the resort offers plenty to do like zip lining, horseback riding, jungle hikes, and more, we highly recommend the Ixpanpahul Skyway adventure. Your boat will depart from La Lancha’s private dock and head across the lake en route to Flores. From there, your private transfer will drive you through the beautiful countryside to Ixpanpahul. The Skyway consists of six suspension bridges high over the rainforest, offering amazing vantage points of the rainforest. You can also zip line through the canopy if you’re up for an adrenaline rush!
On the way back, you’ll have time to stroll the cobblestone streets of Flores, visit the Cathedral, and shop for local pieces. Then, enjoy the boat ride back to La Lancha and get ready for a special sunset tour to watch the colors change on the lake! As the sunsets, enjoy a boat ride around the lake with delicious appetizers and Coppola wine. It’s sure to set the tone for your final evening on property!
Tonight, journey down to a secluded private dining area illuminated by candles and enjoy a delicious BBQ meal prepared by the talented local chefs. Sample some of the best meat and fish as you try a few of the Guatemalan favorites! After dinner, enjoy a nightcap by the fire and get some rest as the adventures continue in Belize tomorrow.
Belize, Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
Arrival, Blancaneaux Lodge + Tubing
Before departing La Lancha, be sure to try out their Temazcal down by the lake. It’s a type of sweat lodge/sauna which originated with Pre-Hispanic Indigenous people in Mesoamerica. Enjoy some heated meditation as you reflect on your travels through Guatemala.
Up next, you’ll be driven through northern Guatemala and cross the border into Belize! In less than three hours, you’ll reach Blancaneaux Lodge set in the beautiful Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Although Belize is a small country, it is home to more than 4,000 different species of flowering plants, 700 different species of trees, 500 species of birds, and dozens of different mammals like monkeys, jaguars, crocodiles, and more! The drive into Blancaneaux will be just the beginning of the incredible sites you’ll see in this special country.
After driving down the long palm-tree lined entrance to the resort, you’ll be greeted by their friendly staff with a refreshing, locally-inspired cocktail. Enjoy the property tour and settle in to your luxury cabana, complete with colorful décor, plunge pool, and beautiful views of the creek that runs through the property. Enjoy lunch at one of the delicious restaurants on site and then get ready for your first adventure!
Enjoy a short, guided hike through the property as you explore the beautiful surroundings of the pine forest. You’ll make your way up to a beautiful point on the creek and then jump on in with your tube and float all the way down back to the main area of the property! It’s a fun way to get acquainted with the resort and take in all the natural beauty of the area. After floating down, take a dip in the large pool and enjoy some R&R the rest of the afternoon.
For dinner tonight, enjoy Montagna Ristorante, serving up Italian Cuisine in a tropical setting. The menu features Coppola family recipes from their history in the southern region of Basilicata, Italy – all made with fresh herbs and vegetables from their sustainable organic garden.
Belize, Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
Horseback Ride to Big Rock Falls + Spa
Call down to the front desk this morning using your “Shell Phone” and order a light breakfast to enjoy on the patio of your cabana. Then, it’s time to visit the stables and friendly horses on property! You’ll embark on a gentle, meandering ride through the pine forest to a hidden waterfall, where you can take a break from the saddle and jump right in! Swim under the cascading waterfall and feel refreshed in this hidden gem. Then, enjoy a beautiful ride back to the stables in time for lunch on property.
After lunch, take a dip in the Blancaneaux Hot Pool. The entire resort is fully hydro-powered, including this heated spa, so soak up the sustainable luxury and beautiful scenery. Once you are fully relaxed, enjoy a treatment in their Waterfall Spa. Some of our favorites are the Papaya Body Polish, Essential Oil Massage, and Stress Recovery Wrap. After your treatment, enjoy the rest of the afternoon in your own plunge pool and get ready for the evening!
We love having cocktails on the main deck outside of the Jaguar Bar, and the colors of sunset through the trees are simply gorgeous. After apps and cocktails, enjoy dinner tonight at Guatemaltecqua, their poolside Belizean restaurant serving up Guatemalan spiced traditional dishes. Some local favorites are the Salpicon (shredded beef salad flavored with orange and cilantro, and the Jocon (chicken cooked with green herbs and spices).
Actun Tunichil Mucnal (ATM) Cave Tour
Get ready for an adventure because today’s tour is sure to be one of the most memorable of the trip! The Actun Tunichil Mucnal Cave is ranked by National Geographic Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Caves in the World” and it’s an incredible experience from start to finish! You’ll drive an hour and a half from Blancaneaux to reach the beginning of the tour, and the drive goes by fast with all the surrounding beauty. You’ll begin with a 40-minute trek through the Tapir Mountain Nature Reserve and then you’ll reach the cave entrance. From here, you’ll dive into the water and swim into the beginning of the cave.
You’ll be underground exploring for nearly three hours and enjoy a mix of swimming, squeezing through tight spaces, climbing over rocks to reach different levels, and scaling small waterfalls. As you explore, your guide will tell you of ancient Mayan ceremonies and sacrifices that took place and you’ll be able to see some amazing artifacts. Most notably, you will see the Crystal Maiden, an ancient victim of ritual sacrifice that is perfectly preserved in the depths of the cave.
After you make your way out of the cave and hike back, you’ll enjoy a much-deserved lunch and cold local beer…trust us, it will be the best-tasting beer of your life! Enjoy the drive back to Blancaneaux and the afternoon at leisure as you’ll have a few hours of downtime before a special dinner experience to mark your last night here!
Before sunset, meet in the organic gardens for a private tour by the Chef and Garden Manager. You will pick the greens for your salad and learn more about their sustainable efforts on property. After the tour, enjoy a signature garden cocktail by the fire and some delicious appetizers while the chef cooks up a delicious vegetarian meal for you! Each dish is bursting with incredible flavor as you dine overlooking the beautiful garden. Watch as the sun sets on your incredible time here at Blancaneaux.
Arrival: Turtle Inn + Leisure Activities
Enjoy one final breakfast among the pine forest before packing up and heading out to your next stop in Belize! For the ultimate arrival experience, enjoy another helicopter ride as your transfer between properties today. After a busy and adventurous first half of safari, now it’s time for some coastal experience on the beautiful Caribbean Sea. You’ll be welcomed to the beautiful Turtle Inn resort by the friendly staff, and of course, some turtles! Enjoy your welcome cocktail with your toes in the sand and feel the relaxation come over you immediately.
Check in to your seafront cottage and enjoy the stunning views. We love the large, screened-in open patios, and with plenty of space for dining and relaxing, you’ll never need to leave. But with so many great amenities at your fingertips, you’ll be eager to explore. Enjoy the rest of the day on property at the beach, out on the floating sea loungers, or at the pool!
For dinner tonight, enjoy the main restaurant Mare for fresh seafood and traditional Italian cooking as they blend beautifully together. Local fish is caught just offshore and fresh vegetables are delivered from their neighboring organic garden. On Mondays and Thursdays, they offer a special treat featuring traditional Dutch Indonesian Rijsttafel, and we highly recommend it!
Jaguar Preserve + Monkey River
Today you’ll visit Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary & Jaguar Preserve, which is the world’s only Jaguar preserve! It offers wonderful opportunities for birding, hiking, and wildlife viewing. As you hike through the sanctuary, you’ll see Howler Monkeys, agouti, deer, and peccary to name a few. The 128,000 acre preserve is home to an estimated 80 jaguars, which are absolutely stunning to see in their natural habitat. Enjoy a picnic lunch and finish the day tubing down the river and cooling off under the waterfalls.
In the afternoon, the animal experiences continue at Monkey River Wildlife Adventure. You’ll cruise down the river by boat and observe coastal and wetland birds, iguanas, crocodiles, and many other species. Your nature guide will weave through the mangroves and point out wildlife around every turn! If you’re lucky, you may even see the endangered Manatee and possibly some dolphins. You’ll continue by foot through the bamboo jungle and view the noisy groups of howler monkeys.
Once you are back on property, enjoy some R&R and then get ready for dinner. We recommend making time for wine tasting in their courtyard overlooking the cellar. Turtle Inn has the largest collection of wine in all of Central America, so you must take time to try some! Their sommeliers will lead you through a special tasting and it will set the tone for another incredible dinner!
After the tasting, enjoy dinner at the newly renovated Gauguin Grill. Dine with your toes in the sand, surrounded by candles and tiki torches. This beachfront restaurant offers fresh fish and charcoal-grilled seafood (including lobster, shrimp, and snapper served on woven plates) accompanied by Balinese sauces and spices! It’s a treat for all the senses with the waves crashing nearby and stars twinkling overhead.
Today, it’s time to get out in the ocean! You’ll embark on a full day snorkeling tour for a chance to swim with some incredible sea life. Venture out to a private island, in the middle of the Caribbean, where you’ll get geared up to follow your snorkeling guide. They’ll show you all different types of fish and you may see some jellyfish, stingrays, and more.
After your first dive, head back to the island and enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch! They’ll cook up chicken and steak, accompanied by some delicious sides and you’ll enjoy surrounded by the clearest blue hues of the sea. Sip on some Sofia champagne, Coppola wine, or local beer and enjoy being on island time.
Next up, you will head out to a special snorkeling spot to swim with large sharks, stingray, and sea turtles! It’s an amazing experience and you won’t believe the size of the rays and turtles! Once you are sufficiently waterlogged, head back to the boat and cruise back to the resort.
In the afternoon, we recommend going for a bike ride around the property and definitely recommend a stop at the organic garden for a tour, followed by some gelato to beat the heat!
For your final night, you can dine at another one of the delicious restaurants on property, like Auntie Luba’s Kitchen located on the other side of the property overlooking the lagoon, or we recommend heading into town and enjoying Placencia! It’s so cute with some wonderful dining! Our favorite restaurant is RumFish and we recommend a stop at the super fun wine bar known as The Little Wine Bar!
Belize, Private Island
Spa + Arrival, Coral Caye + Leisure Activities
Before your departure from Turtle Inn, we highly recommend enjoying a traditional Thai Massage at the spa near the lagoon. It will be a relaxing experience which will set the tone for your final adventure! Plus, a morning massage is an epic way to set the tone for the rest of your day.
For the most special end to your safari, venture to Coral Caye for the remainder of your trip! Take a 25-minute boat cruise from Turtle Inn to your own private 2-acre island, where your only neighbors are exotic birds and the surrounding sea life! You’ll have the island all to yourself and be immersed in what we like to call “Gilligan Glam!” It is barefoot luxury at its finest, with an attentive staff eager to assist with your every need.
The island features a coral sand beach, beautiful mangroves and palm trees all over, hammocks, lounge beds, outdoor dining, and a fire pit. When you’re not enjoying the chic décor of your sea cottage, spend time at the Great House with it’s sandy floor, indoor/outdoor living, full bar, music, board games, and more! All meals are included and will be prepared for your daily by the island caretakers. The private chefs are eager to cook up whatever you and your guests can imagine! This island is barefoot luxury at it’s finest and Coral Caye will be the cherry on top of this special safari.
Enjoy some R&R on the island for the afternoon and snorkel at your leisure around the beautiful reef. At sunset, you’ll enjoy cocktails in the Great House with some music, and then have an al fresco surf and turf dinner under the stars!
Wake up to the sounds of the island and make your way to a custom breakfast when you’re ready. Today is your final day in paradise and it’s yours to spend however you’d like! You can opt for fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, or simply enjoy the beach all day long. A seaside massage is always a nice idea to end the trip, too.
Your private chef will cook up a delicious lunch and fabulous final dinner for your to enjoy this final evening. The options are endless in your private paradise. Soak up the sun, sand, all while enjoying with plenty of Coppola drinks in your hand!
Depart Placencia Belize
Take a boat ride back from Coral Caye to Turtle Inn and just down the road is the Placencia Airport. You’ll take a scenic ride over the Caribbean to reach the international airport and it will be one final chance to take in all the beautiful sites and scenery that Belize has to offer! Reflect on your incredible 10-night safari and all the special memories you made! Cheers!!
Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor to begin planning your Central American safari.