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“Heaven on Earth”
Review of Blancaneaux Lodge

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Blancaneaux Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 17 February 2010

We stayed here for 3 nights on our honeymoon - we stayed in several amazing hotels (both in Guatemala and on the Belize coast) but just keep coming back in our minds to this place as the best. It is just incredible! Our view is probably slightly biased as we stayed in one of the luxury cabanas (number 12, on the end). We had previously booked 1 night in the luxury cabana and 2 nights in a riverfront cabana, but once we had seen the luxury one there was no way we could have moved. If you're on your honeymoon they BOOK CABANA 12!!! You will never stay anywhere else so perfect. We have travelled widely and stayed in lots of great places but this place beats them all in terms of the room. The cabana is huge with an indoor bathroom as well as an outdoor walled garden with a shower in it. The private deck has 2 sun loungers and we were kept stocked with a fresh supply of pool towels. As cabana 12 is on the end it is totally private. From your deck all you can see for miles is the forest - total serene bliss. We went on a sunset horse ride and also to Barton Creek caves which were both great, but to be honest you don't even need to do lots of trips and spend lots of money. Just relax and enjoy the place and walk to Big Rock Falls for an adventurous swim, chill out in the large hot pool, sit by the pool. Just walking around the whole of Blancanauex and seeing the gardens, looking at the horses (immaculately stabled) etc can take a few hours. The food is pretty expensive but its very good - my favourite was the homemade spicy sauasage patties for breakfast. The massage area down by the pool was goregous and relaxing - book as soon as you arrive as it is very popular and dos get booked up. All in all, we wholeheartedly recommend this place. It is one of the very few times you will think wow, it was really worth spending all that money!!! Worth every penny. As a tip, if you think you will get hungry between meals take some cereal bars or something with you. Also keep your plastic water bottles as you can fill up on filtered water in the restaurant.

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank londongal68
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 8 February 2010

Overall we had a fantastic time at Blancaneaux Lodge. We stayed in the deluxe honeymoon cabana, which had the added bonus of being the last one along the path, which meant we had un-disturbed views across the forest and down to the river...we also didn't have any worries about neighbours potentially being able to see us sunbathing in our birthday suits around the plunge pool!!!!
On arrival we were greeted with some bubbly and fruit due to it being our honeymoon, which was a really welcoming touch.
We did several trips during our stay - Caracol, Big Rock Pools and the Barton Ridge cave - Jorge, the guide we had was excellent. Incredibly knowledgable, friendly and very interesting to listen to - highly recommend all trips with him. Equally our guide for the horseback riding was brilliant. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and the sun shone for the whole time we were there - I can appreciate that the trips might not be as worthwhile in the rain, but just make sure you take some good books so that you can relax in your hammock in case the heavens open....I don't think that this is the place for T.V's as it's so beautiful just sitting on the terrace listening to the river and the birds.
Something that we wish we had been warned about (& other guests too) were the 'no see ums'..these tiny little bugs that seem to come out around 4 / 5pm....you don't realise you've been bitten until it's too late. The bites come up in big lumpy welts and itch like hell, so make sure you either cover yourself from head to toe around this time, or stay indoors. We suffered, but other guests suffered more!!! If you do get bitten then the jungle salve in the shop is pretty good to stem the itching!!! They definately need a warning up around the pool or need to warn guests at their welcome drink.
In terms of the food - we loved the Italian food, but we were also lucky as the Guatemalan restaurant was open whilst we were there, so we had some alternatives. I can appreciate that eating Italian food each night in a hot, humid environment isn't ideal, but overall we thoroughly enjoyed it (the calzone and pizzas are really yummy!!). We also had a romantic meal down by the river one night, which was just superb - highly recommend it!!!
We had a couple of massages when we were there, which I thought were possibly the best I've ever had. Go for the oil massage if you don't want to come out black & blue though.
One thing that would be good is if it was an adults only lodge - we couldn't really understand why it's not as it's a very remote, romantic and quiet place and then occasionally a piercing scream from the pool was heard where kids were mucking about. We think it's definately more suited to a couples retreat for a bit of R&R.
In summary, a wonderful stay at a fantastic location / lodge. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole time we spent at Blancaneaux and we would definately go back and recommend to others.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank smudge89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 February 2010

Service - the service is good, very good - almost over-attentive.

Food - the BIGGEST disappointment. The pool side restaurant was closed due to low numbers at the lodge - and no one made us aware of this fact before we arrived (or bought our all inclusive package - including 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 4 dinners). I think this should have been brought to our attention. Anyway, this restaurant was supposed to have more local type cuisine. Instead, we ate ALL of our meals at the main restaurant, which serves Italian food. Not only was the Italian food tasteless, poorly prepared and just generally terrible (think Ragu and pasta) - it is quite un-appetizing when staying in a hot, humid rainforest. We had the all inclusive package, but the food costs the same as nice meals in Chicago -- starting at $20/entree (none of the meal prices are posted on the website). And having dined at Rubicon in San Francisco, Coppola's restaurant, I can say with quite surety that none of the food we ate at Blancaneaux would ever see the light of day at Rubicon.

Day trips - we did several day trips: Coracol, Barton Creek, Rio Frio. These were all very good. The guides are excellent.

Weather - SUCKED. Per the almanacs I read, January and February are supposed to be relatively dry but we endured three out of four rainy days. That meant we were unable to enjoy the pool or the swimming at Big Rock Falls. And when it was raining, there was nothing to do except go to the bar. Maybe they should have a movie room and show Coppola movies?

Travelling - the drive to and from the airport is a SOLID 2.5 hours. And the last hour is on an unpaved, bumpy road with huge holes and rocks. The same unpaved roads are the access to all the excursions. Your back and neck feel it at the end of the day.

Lodging - we stayed in a cabana, which was the equivalent of a hotel room, but with a nice porch and a hammock. The roof is thatched and half of the cabana is only screened in - which allows you to hear all of the noises around you - including everyone that walks past (I'm also assuming they heard every conversation we had). There is no AC and the weather is rather humid, but there is a ceiling fan. There were quite a few bugs to deal with - including a large black "moth" with orange eyes that appeared on our ceiling each night (I'm still hoping it wasn't a bat). The bathroom is open so you are well aware of everything your partner is doing, which is not always good for intimacy. The lights are low - but I think this is because all the power at the lodge is hydroelectric and a means of conservation.

All in all, this lodge is quite overpriced, the food is average at best, and it is very remote. I would not recommend.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank WPS-76
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 January 2010

This was a beautiful hotel in a beautiful setting: Separate bungalows rising in the middle of the rain forest, with morning fog rolling off the tree tops, when you open your eyes, and mountain dew falling down on your deck from the bright green vegetation, looking like rain. In Belize there used to be plenty of amazing wood one of which is mahogany, and they didn't try to save any trees building the hotel. The woodwork is amazing: mahogany decks, cabinets, floors, walls..... The decor is really nice all through the hotel. The setting is very private and unique. But lets talk about practical things, which are also important when you travel to a third world country.

NO AIR CONDITIONING in the rooms, and there are no glass windows either: only screens. It was all nice until it started to rain, then everything in the room got damp with no possibility of getting dry again. In 4 days we were there it got uncomfortable.

BUGS are in plenty. Mainly noseeaums, but they bite like wild animals and skin gets swollen and itches for at least 5 days. Army ants also moved into the room and went right into our bed. The service at the hotel is very friendly but very slow, so unless you want to spend a night fighting things off bring with you an insect repellent that has at least 32% or 40% deet, and spray yourself before you leave the room and before you go to bed.
Ants will bite and you have to watch for them as fire and army ants are everywhere. The best remedy is to have one of those AfterBite pencils with you at all times and if you have been bitten just apply it on the spot right away. Helped me more than once. :)

KIDS are allowed at the hotel, even though I have no idea why would I take my child here: there are no activities except horseback riding that are for kids. So at the end of the day kids end up at the hot tub (or a warm pool) splashing..... A warm pool is really nice and is very romantic, definitely a place for couples in love not children. But try to tell that to the parents of those children hoping to occupy them with something for the next 3-4 hours before bedtime. It gets pitch black dark at 6PM and there is really a jungle out there, so wondering around is not smart, plus the passages are poorly lit.

ACTIVITIES: Most activities are site seeing. There are 3 major Mayan sites that the hotel will take you to: Caracol, Xunantunich and Chahal Pech.
The major site is Caracol, it is as large as Tikal but not fully unearthed. The road there is pretty dangerous and bumpy. Belize and Guatemala has a dispute and Guatemalan gorillas and bandits hide in the jungles right where the road to Caraloc is and at best try to ambush and rub you of the valuables. If you want to be safe(-er)??? you need to get in the car with military patrol that will escort you to and from the site. Patrol leave at 10AM and comes back at 2PM. That's what we did but the feeling was not the most thrilling and on the way back when we fell too far behind the patrol and our car was stalled by two other unmarked vans that were not from any hotel I was trying to remember how to use an AK-37. Only when I stated asking questions like:"So, how do they normally ambush you? Do they isolate you first?... " - our driver pulled to the side of the road, drew around the slow crawling car in front and took off trying to catch up with the patrol.

Caracol is a beautiful site and a beautiful ride, but there is no paved road, so it took almost 1,5 to go 5 miles or so. It was literally a pain in the neck with a chance of kidnapping or rubbery.

Two other sites are much smaller and less visited, but closer to town.

There is also a visit to a butterfly farm. Don't go if it rains - butterflies fold there wings and you don't see much. Bring your camera.

There are some caves you can see and a trip to waterfall. All very beautiful.

Now, if you consider getting in fresh water in a tropical country check your shots and make sure you take malaria pills. They have a number of parasites that live in fresh water that can get into your body through an open wound or if you drink some water while swimming. Those are nasty and children are especially at risk.

All trips and tours range from $190 to $290 US per person. We were not strapped for cash, but I though it was way too much: $500 for two people for half a day of ruins. It was raining and one of the guides didn't even want to get out of the car to give us a tour.

A fun thing to do is to go to San Ignasio to a farmers market. There you can buy local spices such as ground cumin and all kinds of pepper. It coast $5 US for at least 2 lb of different spices - all fragrant and freshly ground. I had no problems bringing spices into the US in a checked in bag. Local Rum that is in plenty at local grocery store is also very cheap ($9-$12 per bottle) and pretty good. Those bottles make colorful gift.

LOCATION: beautiful but really in the middle of nowhere. No paved roads around make for a great photo ops but really a time consuming and uncomfortable ride.

FOOD: Complimentary breakfast is fruits, toast with apple butter and tea or coffee that can be serve in room or in the main dining area. We had ours in room but if you run out of water or need something - forget it, service is very slow. It took at least 30 minutes to get 2 soft boiled eggs. Prices for meals at the hotel are close to those in US.

There are two restaurants: Italian and Guatemalan. We wanted to have local food and booked ourselves into a Guatemalan for 3 nights, but the menu was very limited and nothing special except the black bean soup, which was good everywhere we ate, and grilled scallions, but that was not dinner, just a starter. We had to switch to Italian, even though I had no interest in eating meatballs in Belize. Yet kids at the table next to us demanded hamburgers. Italian menu was large and we had a really good risotto and a mediocre lime marinated chicken; chocolate cake for desert was the best dish we had at the hotel.

The Jaguar Juice cocktail at the bar was really good too.

SUMMARY:
We loved the hotel's layout, design and decor, but the main reason to come here for most probably would be site-seeing and visiting Mayan ruins nearby. If that is the case you are much better off flying to Tikal in Guatemala and exploring the ruins there. Tikal is the largest Mayan site in the area and it is much safer and more comfortable. Unless you are Mayan history buff you would not know the difference between sites anyway. But Tikal is larger, has more wildlife and generally felt safer and more civilized then sites in Belize. There are safety rails to help you clime the pyramids, there are bathrooms and vendors selling water and snacks, the road to Tikal is paved. It is also cheaper to stay in Guatemala. We stayed at La Lancha (another place owned by F. Capola) and the rooms, service and food was MUCH better than at BL. The location was also nicer: overlooking a huge lake and only 15 minutes to town.

I can't say I would not recommend this hotel to a friend - it is beautiful, but if I was to go again I would spend my time diving and staying somewhere on private islands of the coast of Belize and flying from Belize city to Tikal, saving myself a bumpy and long ride down the unpaved unsafe roads.

CURRENCY: in Belize and Guatemala they love US dollars. Bring with you lots of $1, $5, $10, $20 bills. Most of the tips are from $1 to $10, most souvenirs are in the same price range. If they give you change in Belize money you can also use it in Guatemala. The locals take credit cards but without excitement or they tell you that you must buy minimum $100. SO if you plan to do serious shopping over $100 cards work, for small things US bills are accepted everywhere you go.
Have fun!

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank kittykate1993
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 January 2010

We never made it to the hotel. My father-in-law made the reservations and died inside of the 45-day window to cancel. They refused to refund our deposit. Thanks, guys!

  • Stayed: January 2010
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14  Thank mousebacon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2010

This was a fantastic, secluded vacation spot. High in the pine forest, Blancaneaux staff and accommodations are the best. Everyone was so friendly. The organized tours were excellent. Everything was very very nice.

  • Stayed: October 2009, travelled as a couple
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Thank cudawuda
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 December 2009

About 7 years ago I read a magazine article about Blancaneaux and was hooked. I finally visited in May 2009 and to be sure I remained somewhat impartial I have taken some time before writing this review. I must say there was absolutely no disappointment.
The staff was amazing. We were picked up from the airport and chauffeured the 2.5 hour drive into the Mountain Pine Ridge. Our driver, Geronimo, was very friendly and informative, giving us information and history along the way. He was a great preview for the type of service we could expect for the duration of our stay. Everyone was very attentive, informative and friendly. This place is one that spoils a person!
From the moment of arrival, driving through the path of palm trees, we were in heaven! Check in was simple and we were offered a complimentary Jaguar juice. Lunch was tasty. Everything is organic and grown on site. The breakfast jacks, fresh fruit and fresh squeezed orange juice were a perfect beginning to the day. If you get a chance try their new Guatemalan restaurant.
Once settled we couldn't wait to explore. We walked the grounds and took full advantage of not only the onsite amenities (hiking paths and pool) but also three one-day excursions. Tikal was incredible! We believed it could not be outdone, however the next day Caracol surpassed expectations. This might have had as much to do with Caana (the main pyramid) as with our tour guide, Hugh. His passion and knowledge was astonishing. He loved to hike around and explore as if it was his first visit. He was so familiar with the site that he was even able to point out some damage caused by the earthquake that rumbled a few days prior. We loved him so much we requested him for our final expedition to the Barton Creek Cave. I don't think I've ever had a better time learning. And learning we did! We highly recommend private tours with Hugh if possible, especially for Caracol and Barton Creek.
Honestly, I could write endlessly about Blancaneaux, but I believe this place speaks for itself. All I have to say is go. There is so much beauty and attention to detail you won’t want to leave. So I shall end with KUDOS to Francis, who spared no expense on this spectacular place, and thank you to the entire staff for making our stay an unforgettable one. We cannot wait to return!

  • Stayed: May 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank MissMandaMay
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Blancaneaux Lodge

Address: Central Farm | Cayo District, Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, Belize
Phone Number:
Region: Belize > Cayo > Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve
Price Range: £199 - £554 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Blancaneaux Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
In the early 1980s, Francis Ford Coppola visited Belize, immediately fell in love with the location, and purchased the abandoned Blancaneaux Lodge. For more than a decade the resort was used as a family retreat before Francis opened his tropical paradise to the public in 1993. Tucked away in a pocket of the Maya Mountains, Blancaneaux Lodge is a 20-room luxury resort where waterfalls tumble into turquoise pools above the jungle canopy. Its remote mountain setting makes it a perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Blancaneaux Hotel San Ignacio
Blancaneaux San Ignacio

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