The place to stay in Placencia is Turtle Inn. This hotel sits on a narrow spit with the ocean on one side and a lagoon, home to 'sea cows' on the other. The Turtle Inn was created by Francis Ford Coppola and it feels a bit like a film set. He and his team have done a remarkable job of restoring the land here. Built under soaring thatched roofs, the resort features a blend of Mayan and Balinese influences. This theme runs through the design: carved stone reliefs, antique-style painted doors, ornate timber friezes, stone paths lined with candles… even if you didn't know the owner's identity, you can't help but feel there's something theatrical about it all.

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Stay in free-standing rooms or villas which are scattered over the beautiful grounds, many of which come with Japanese baths or private gardens. All the rooms only have queen-sized beds. As Coppola explains: "If you are here alone you don't need a king, and if you are here with someone you love, you shouldn't want one!"

It is worth bearing in mind that there is neither powder-white sand nor clear turquoise water along this stretch of coast. If you want the best beaches, head to the Cayes.

Meals are usually served in the Mare restaurant, which looks out to the pool and ocean. The ever-obliging staff will also arrange dinner for you on the beach, while for lunch you can eat at the sand-floored Laughing Fish Bar. The chef uses local ingredients and has created a menu with an Italian edge to it, reflecting Coppola's roots. You can also head into town if you want a change.

Turtle Inn is very special. True to its owner's vision, the hotel has retained its own individual character. You may not find perfect white-sand beaches, but you are surrounded by nature, both above and below the waves: manatees, rainforests, waterfalls, and a jaguar reserve, not to mention some incredible marine life, including whale sharks. There is no better place to discover all this and more.

Why we love it

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As well as the whale sharks, Turtle Inn is a great place to see manatees (think 500 kgs of water-faring sea cows) in Placencia Lagoon.

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Neill and Louisa are our The Belizean Coast experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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