Keeping Up With Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Four - Turtle Inn

After three days in the jungle, Blancaneaux arranged for us a private transfer to Turtle Inn, Francis Ford Coppola's charming ocean resort in Placencia. Our fourth and final destination. We got settled into our beautifully decorated Balinesisan style cabana and set off to tour the grounds.



That fancy coconut drink? I'd been waiting for one all honeymoon. Hal surprised me with it.

Borrowing Turtle Inn's wheels, we biked into town. Placencia is small, super quaint and 100% authentic. We really dug the non-touristy laid back island vibe. We made it to the crooked dock and bought a few homemade coconut macaroons from Brenda's Caribbean Kitchen. As we left, Brenda shouted after us in her Creole accent, "See you 'round like a donut!" Needless to say, that became our phrase for the rest of the trip.

For dinner, not only was it Indonesian night, it was silent movie night. Score. Our entire table was filled with about 30 small plates of tasty morsels, no kidding. We stuffed ourselves silly while watching Buster Keaton on the big screen.

But this night was far from over. Lucky us, it just happened to be the eve of Belize's Independence Day. The entire village, including the Turtle Inn staff, met at the Barefoot Bar for drinks and dancing. It was pretty awesome seeing the front desk and concierge gals letting loose in normal street clothes. Apparently, we left before the party really started. But we wanted to get back - a storm was brewing overhead...

On the morning on Belize's Independence Day, we woke up the heaviest thunderstorm I've ever experienced. And I live in Seattle, folks. It was thrilling! The rain pounded, the wind roared, and our cabana roof started to leak on my side of the bed. But I didn't even care. I actually watched the storm unfold as I showered. With floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the bathroom looked out to the private patio. It felt like I was outside, but with hot water raining down on me.

After the storm passed, we walked out to the main road to watch the local parade, which pretty much consisted of townsfolk crammed in the back of trucks dancing to music from their boom boxes. Love it. Can you believe that Belize only became an independent nation in 1981?

Afterwards, it was time for our Monkey River wildlife adventure tour. We were so happy to share it with our honeymooner friends, Jeff & Steph.

Meet Terry, our expert guide for the day. He actually grew up in the tiny Monkey River fishing village. We ate a traditional Creole lunch cooked by his mother, while his pops was sound asleep on the porch rocking chair.

It was such a beautiful ride.

After some quality river time, we parked the boat to explore the jungle.

At last, we came upon a family of howler monkeys high in the trees. We heard them from the moment we entered the jungle. They make the most frightening sounds imaginable, similar to the smoke monster from LOST, or dying beasts with breathing problems. If I heard this sound without knowing what it was, I would have ran for my life.

On our way home, we hung out for a bit in shallow waters to try and spot a manatee. And we actually saw a few! Every once in awhile, they'd surface to breathe. Terry has eyes like a hawk. Another day, another incredible tour in Belize. And tomorrow... possibly our favorite one yet.

Guess what we did on our last full day in Belize? As you can see from our extra awesome outfits, yep. That's right. SCUBA!! We upgraded our packaged snorkel tour to an intro dive. We've been dying to learn how. Especially Hal, who could spend all day every day in an underwater aquarium.

We took a speed boat to Laughingbird Caye, the southern most island in the central lagoon of the Belize Barrier Reef. It's one of the world's greatest scuba destinations. We were down for 45 minutes on our first dive! We saw schools of fish and critters in conch shells and a barracuda. After lunch, we went down again. Via boat back flip! (That took some convincing). This time, reaching 70 feet when we're only supposed to go 40. We saw a lobster and a humongous ray.

Sadly, we have no underwater photos of the brilliant things we saw on the bottom of the sea. Just our memories. But we surfaced with ear to ear grins. We're officially hooked and would love to get certified. Do any of you scuba?

Once we got back to Turtle Inn, we took advantage of the complimentary massages for honeymooners. We've decided that here on out, all future trips will be honeymoons. Shhh, no one needs to know.

We hit up the oceanfront bar for pre-dinner drinks and toasted to our final evening with mini Sofia champagne.

After a farewell breakfast with friends, we packed our bags and left for the airport. But in order for us to get there, we had to fly a tiny plane from a tiny airport. Just us and the pilot. Hal even got to sit up front! This was an adventure in itself. It was the perfect way to end a trip of a lifetime.  From the little plane, we boarded the big plane. And 3 hours, a layover, and another 5 hours later, we were home.

 Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part One - Viceroy

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Two - Coqui Coqui

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Three - Blancaneaux

We hop you enjoyed reading about Shannon & Hal's honeymoon adventure to Mexico & Belize. This concludes a four part Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon series. Follow Shannon Eileen's blog

Keeping Up With Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Three - Blanacaneux

One 5-hour car ride, two tortes, a relatively painless border crossing, roadside dried plantains, a van switch, and 2-hours of bumpy off-road drive, we reached our first destination in Belize: Blancaneaux Lodge, a 20-room luxury eco-resort near San Ignacio, deep in the Maya Mountains. Francis Ford Coppola bought it while abandoned in the early 80's, fixed it up, turned it into a personal family retreat, and then opened it for public in 1993.

We were greeted by friendly faces and received a complimentary upgrade to the riverfront honeymoon suite! Complete with a heart-shaped lawn. The cabana itself was relatively small, but it felt very cozy. We could pick coconuts from our deck. Exhausted from our early morning drive, we watched a fascinating educational presentation on the elusive jaguar (nerds!), devoured a homegrown meal at their Guatemalan restaurant, and hit the sack.

The next morning, we sipped our coffee and tea from our deck. For breakfast, they served fruit, fresh squeezed juice and a basket of fry jacks. What are fry jack, you ask? They taste like a donut. Deep fried doughy goodness.

We were dying to explore the grounds by horseback before our scheduled tour later that afternoon, but we were short on time. So we set off on foot, discovering acres upon acres of pine jungle, rivers and streams, fruit and nut orchards, organic gardens, and pristine natural beauty. Blancaneax is truly a magical place.

Our local guide, Jorge, met us in the lobby to take us on our tour to Barton Creek Cave. During the 45-minute bumpy jeep ride, rain came down in sheets. This made for an adventurous drive. But thankfully it let up as soon as we arrived. Jorge stopped the car, pulled down an overhanging branch, and picked a few berries for us to taste. The leaves smelled so familiar, yet I couldn't place what it was. As we nibbled into them, the tips of our tongues became numb! They were from an Allspice tree.

Jorge told us that the cave was a spiritual place for the ancient Mayans, used mostly for ceremonies and sacrifices. It was the gateway to the underworld. If a water droplet fell from a stalactite upon your head, it was considered a blessing. At one point, the stalactites hung so low that we had to stop. Jorge said this is where he usually turns around, but since he liked us, he let us bend down to go a little further. And bend down we did. Our heads were between our knees. Not for the claustrophobic!

We slowly made our way back toward the entrance. It started with a tiny speck of light. It grew and grew until I could no longer tell what was moving, us or the light. It was breathtaking. So beautiful, I was moved to tears.

We climbed back into the jeep and bounced our way back to Blancaneaux in the pouring rain. That was by far one of the coolest things we've ever done.

The next day, we had a tour to Caracol, the most extensive Mayan site in Belize. The adventure began with a brief visit to Rio Frio Cave, the largest cave system in Central America with a massive 65-foot entrance.

And then, the main attraction. Geronimo was our knowledgeable guide. He informed us that Caracol took 600 years to build and was only recently discovered in 1936 by lumberjacks. Situated 1600 feet above sea level with no body of water nearby, it remains a mystery how more than 150,000 people were able to survive there.

Finally we get to the top.

And then Geronimo (our guide) picked up a tarantula!

It was a scorcher of a day, so on our way home, we stopped by Rio On Pools, to swim and cool off. On September 20-21, a few days after we left Caracol, they held a huge Equinox celebration with a traditional fire ceremony performed by a native Maya shaman. 100 people gathered there to camp overnight underneath the stars and watch the rising sun over the temples. We were kicking ourselves for leaving too early. How amazing would that have been?

To be continued…

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part One - Viceroy

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Two - Coqui Coqui

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen - Real Honeymoon - Part Four - Turtle Inn

Keeping up with Shannon Eileen

Who is Shannon Eileen? For starters she is a singer, songwriter, design lover, vintage collector, dreamer and inspiration blogger in Seattle. But her most satisfying role is a bride-to-be. She lives in a little cottage by the sea with her soon to be husband and their black cat. This is her happy place.

I had the great pleasure of working with Shannon to create the perfect honeymoon for her and her fiance Hal to Riviera Mexico & Belize. Originally, they were thinking Bali, Thailand or the Philippines but flights to Asia got to be too expensive. So they switched gears entirely and chose a place closer to home. “We've always had a soft spot for Mexico. The food, the beaches, the food. We've vacationed together in Baja and Mazatlan in the past, so we decided to hit up the Caribbean side and travel along the Riviera Maya coastline down into Belize.”

This year is an especially unique time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula. As you know, it was the Mayans who predicted the "end of the world" on December 21, 2012. We're excited to visit the ancient ruins and learn about the area's fascinating historical and spiritual significance. "We're planning to stop in Playa Del Carmen & Tulum in Mexico and the Cayo District jungle & Placencia seaside in Belize."

Here's the draft honeymoon itinerary & registry.  It was a joy to help her plan dream honeymoon to a special place that has a spiritual meaning to her.  If you wish to follow Shannon Eileen on her journey see her blog or follow her on social media. Check back in the fall when I plan to post a follow up blog about her pending honeymoon adventure to Riviera Maya Mexico and Belize Shannon has promised to share with me her wonderful story and photos. 

If you are interested in a trip like Shannon Eileen's please contact Honeymoon Islands, 703-753-8115.

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