When Europe and Belize meet in Placencia, the result is a delightful surprise for guests of Luba Hati. Owners Mariuccia Levoni and Franco Gentile have created a small hotel with Mediterranean sophistication that blends beautifully into the relaxed, tropical landscape. Your first glimpse of Luba Hati is an impressive one, as you follow the path through the garden and see the striking façade of the building, and its unique architectural design, with many columns and arched windows.
The two-storey, crescent-shaped structure of white stucco with a red tile roof, was designed by Franco himself. It houses the eight original rooms, a restaurant, bar, office and the owner’s residence, all encircling a courtyard that opens onto the beach. Luba Hati has expanded by adding four beachfront casitas.
Franco was captivated by Placencia when he first visited Belize in 1988, and managed to sway Mariuccia to the same opinion. By 1994, they were settled here and Luba Hati opened for business in autumn of 1997. Although his background was in engineering design, Franco’s passion is food, and his true desire is to be a restaurateur. After a brief stint as chef at a nearby restaurant to test his ability in this regard, he spared no expense in building the kitchen for his restaurant, and hopes for “Franco’s” to one day be a thriving business in its own right. Because dining at Franco’s is an experience in itself, we have reviewed it separately in our Editor’s Choice article, in the restaurants section.
Luba Hati means “House of the Moon” in the local Garifuna language, and all of the rooms have names that represent ‘moon’ in some exotic tongue.
The owners’ sense of style gives a graceful air to the resort; from an elegant swath of white lace draped over a bed as a canopy, to a “four-poster” bed made of jungle twisted hardwood, to the colourful handmade bathroom tiles, each uniquely designed guest room has a refined charm. The amenities include direct-dial phones, plenty of hot water, overhead fans, reading lights, a personal safe, and a semi-private balcony or terrace overlooking the courtyard. Although Franco prefers the natural state of the courtyard vegetation, some selective pruning of the trees would improve the view of the sea from the balconies. However, the rooms on the end do have a partial sea view. The four casitas are very large, and right on the beach. Casita amenities include air conditioning, a refrigerator and a gas stove.
In keeping with the indoor/outdoor living style of Belize, the entire center portion of the second floor is a wide, covered terrace through which the Caribbean breezes blow. Many a peaceful afternoon could be spent here with a good book, good conversation or a hammock.
From here a stairway climbs up to the rooftop platform, perfect for morning bird watching, evening sunsets, or simply admiring the fabulous panoramic view. One morning, I spotted some bright yellow orioles, many warblers and flycatchers and some birds of prey on the distant shore of the lagoon side of the peninsula.
The day begins with a bountiful, complimentary continental breakfast, delivered to your room each morning, offering tropical fruits and freshly-baked breads and muffins.
Many guests start their day with a swim in the warm waters of the sea. While most of the beach along this stretch is also left in a natural state, a long pier extends from the beach, to facilitate sunbathing or swimming, with a palapa-covered area at the end. Massages and sauna are available at the adjacent beach house. The fifteen minute trip to the small fishing village of Placencia makes for an interesting outing full of local culture. Other land-based activities are trips to the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (a jaguar preserve), and excursions to the Maya ruins of Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit. A boat ride up the Monkey River is an exciting days’ adventure that includes a stop for lunch in Monkey River Village. Fishing, diving and snorkelling trips are also available. Most of these activities are arranged with qualified, well-established tour operators in the area. Sea kayaks and beach bicycles are available to guests at no charge.
The entire concept of Luba Hati is a pleasant departure from the standard resort found in Belize, Placencia in particular, and it will help the tourism industry to attract a wider variety of visitors. Adventure is fun, but who can resist a hot shower, a fine meal, and a comfortable night’s rest after a hard day’s diving or trekking through the jungle? The small size of the resort gives it an air of exclusivity, yet their locally competitive rates make it a reasonable choice. The personalized attention given the guests by management and the friendly staff will make your stay a pleasure…not to mention the delight of dining at Franco’s everyday!