Portofino owners designed, built beach resort themselves

 When Jan and Sandra van Noord first opened Portofino Beach Resort in November 2001, it was a dream comes true for the couple.

"Before we came to Belize, I always wanted to start a bed and breakfast," says Sandra. "Jan and I have been traveling a lot, to many different countries worldwide, and we always loved the hospitality industry� although Portofino Beach Resort is our first experience in that field, we always knew what we wanted to do."

When they purchased the property, there was an existing hotel there. But since it had already been closed for many months before they took over, the couple chose to undertake a yearlong construction and renovation project before reopening as a completely new resort.

"We changed everything," Sandra says. "We moved the existing rooms to the back, which are our staff quarters, then cleared the land and created all-new landscaping. All our guest rooms and dock were built from scratch, and we did renovations in the main building� it used to be the former owner's private house, but we changed it into our lobby, bar and restaurant."

In short, Jan and Sandra basically designed and built nearly everything at the resort themselves, almost completely from scratch, but with a European flair that reflected their heritage.

"My husband and I even designed our own furniture, which we made in our little carpenter's house," Sandra says. "Portofino is like our own little creation."

Over the next eight years, the couple expanded the resort even more, purchasing an adjacent property that included 330 feet of private beach. On that site they built the Portofino Mansion, a beautiful villa located right on the beach, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It can accommodate up to 10 guests.

Last year, the couple added a freshwater pool, which Sandra says they designed themselves, in the shape of the sun, like the Portofino logo. The large pool has a circumference of 80 feet, and incorporates 80,000 gallons of water. "It's huge!" Sandra says.

The Portofino Restaurant, located on the property, is one of the most popular eating establishments in Belize, with a menu that fuses European and Caribbean cuisine in a variety of mouthwatering appetizers, entrees and desserts.

"I love to pamper our guests!" Sandra says, adding that complimentary, wireless Internet, water sport equipment and even a current movie library are all available to keep them entertained during their stay.

Magnum Belize