We’re thrilled the Mayans were dead wrong about the world ending in 2012, but there would have been worse places to experience Armageddon than this Central American hedonist retreat. Belize’s Pantone-blue seas and sandy beaches are still largely untouched by the rush of plus-size tourists slowly souring “hip” Costa Rica, but as the cruise-ship industry threatens to muscle further in…tick tock.
Fly into Belize City and hop a puddle jumper to San Ignacio, near the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve—a hangout for jaguars, toucans and howler monkeys. Then drive on dirt “roads” to the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, which the Mayans believed was a portal to the underworld. The Mayans also believed in a spirit called the Melon Lady, who smothered men to death in their sleep—with her breasts.
You’re in the jungle, baby, but that doesn’t mean roughing it. The thatched-roof cabanas at the just-renovated Gaïa Riverlodge or the luxe villas at Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux Lodge are welcome places to unplug. Be warned: Cell service is so minimal, the iPhone should just display an icon of a middle finger.
Hit the Caribbean coastline and easygoing Placencia, a hippie fishing village known for deep-sea diving on the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere. It helps that English is the national language. (Belize was a British colony until 1981.) Did we mention Vicodin and Ambien are available at the pharmacy, usually without a prescription?
Book a room at the rustic-cool Turtle Inn (where Charlie Sheen hid out during infamous recent meltdown) or at Chabil Mar (for AC and flatscreen TVs). Speedboat to Silk Cayes, a trio of micro-islands where your guide will grill fresh snapper while you sip Belikin beer. On your way out, pick up a bottle of Marie Sharp’s local hot sauce. The “mild” will raise an eyebrow. The “hot” will burn as beautifully as your tan.
Go Pubbing in Placenia
Three must-visit bars in the laid-back fishing village.
Rumfish y Vino
Order a potent habanero rum fizz and a plate of barracuda tacos at the bar. Repeat.
At this open-air cantina women dance like jaguars. Locals call all that grinding punta.
The endless rum drinks and courtyard drum circle are what boozy beachside nightlife is all about.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Secret Rum Stash
When Coppola came to Belize in 1981 he fell in love with the local rum. “I bought two barrels of a 20-year-old rum made from molasses and put it in old oak chardonnay barrels,” says the director. He aged the rum for another 16 years, and the result is as smooth as a sunset. Ask nicely and the bartender at Coppola’s Turtle Inn may just dig up a glass.
This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Playboy.