We stayed here a year and a half ago, but the memories are still fresh. The picture on the resort’s home page is what decided me on going. To offset some of the expenses, we rented a four wheel drive SUV from one of the many car rental agencies at the airport and it saved us a lot on not having to pay for the hotel's airport transfers and sightseeing tours. Just go out the airport and walk across the small parking lot to the row of car rental agencies. Pick three or four car rental offices and ask what their terms are on daily rates, types of cars/SUVs available, whether you can pay cash or if they insist on charging your credit card, and whether they require that you buy insurance. If you're driving to Blancaneaux, you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle with high ground clearance. We were surprised that most of the roads in Belize are unpaved, even in Belize City. Ask the hotel to email you driving directions before the trip. The map and directions were pretty good for the most part, but we had to ask around for directions at the turn off from the main road. Based on the online reviews, we were prepared to expect the rough roads. It wasn't as bad as I expected and it was actually fun driving along parts of the pot hole-ridden, rocky, washed out road, though I can see how it can get a bit mind-numbing after a while.
The resort is a perfect blend of rustic luxury/eco-tourism. The grounds and pool are beautiful, and the villas and cabanas reflect the natural setting. I loved the open living room/patio area. There is a river that runs along the property and passes by the cabanas. You can hear the river from the cabanas day and night through the screen windows. There is no glass in the windows, so it can get cool in the rooms at night, but the clean breezes that drift in and out of the rooms are refreshing. It was pleasant lying in bed at night listening to the river, but the sound did keep me awake a few nights. Dawn brings early birds foraging for food right outside the cabanas, so sometimes I would ask for the complementary coffee/tea service to be brought to my room while I sat and watched them. There are some beautiful sounding songbirds there. Housekeeping comes twice a day – once in the morning to make your bed and once in the evening for bed turn-down service and to light candles in the rooms and patio area.
One of the best things about Blancaneaux is that it is concerned about the environment and is focused on reducing its carbon footprint. It has its own hydro-electric generator and the buildings are made from sustainable materials. The villas and cabanas are built so that the outside environment naturally flowed into the inside spaces. The grounds are extensive and include a vegetable garden and horse stables. They also have an early morning bird-watching tour.
The staff was wonderful. From the first day they all greeted us by our names and had even memorized our cabana number and which days we arrived and departed, which was a bit disconcerting in the beginning. It’s not a large resort and there aren’t a lot of guests at any given time, but I am still impressed. Unfortunately, I caught a cold while I was there, and one of the hotel managers sent a staff member to pick lemongrass from their garden to make a hot lemongrass tea with honey for me. They took good care of me and kept me supplied with lemongrass tea and allspice tea during my stay. Although we drove to nearby Mayan sites ourselves and didn’t do the hotel’s tours, Jorge, one of the hotel’s guides, spent over an hour one evening talking with us about Mayan history and culture. He is incredibly knowledgeable and is a wealth of information about past and present local culture and politics, and it is apparent that he is proud of the culture and enjoys teaching it to people. Jorge is one of the highlights of the tour.
The complementary breakfasts are delicious. They have a variety of fresh baked pastries (my favorite is the beignet-type puff pastry), homemade jam, a mix of fresh fruit, and coffee or tea. Unfortunately, as many reviews have stated, food at the hotel’s restaurants for lunch and dinner are not very good and are overpriced. Also, it is strange and disappointing that the hotel doesn’t offer Belizean cuisine, but instead only offers Italian and Guatamalan food. This is especially puzzling since: 1) this is a high-end resort, 2) the resort is located in Belize, 3) local Belizean chefs should be easier to find and train than Italian or Guatamalan ones, and 4) the owner of the resort Francis Ford Coppola also owns restaurants and a winery in Napa, so there should be more attention to fine dining. If you have a car, you could have lunch at a local restaurant in San Ignacio while you went sightseeing, and can also bring back dinner before you return to the hotel. There is a kitchenette in the rooms with cups and tea bags, but you’ll have to bring your own paper or plastic plates and silverware, or you could eat out of the take out container. You can also pre-order the day before and have the hotel pack a lunch, which is tasty, filling, and reasonably priced.
All in all, we very much enjoyed our stay at Blancaneaux. The staff members were friendly and seemed to genuinely care about us as people, beyond just viewing us as guests that they had to be nice to. Although a stay there is rather pricey, the friendly staff, beautiful settings, expansive grounds, and comfortable eco-friendly lodging is worth it. I plan to come back someday.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.