Think tree houses are just rickety pieces of lumber crafted into backyard forts for kids? Think again. Tree house hotels are a fast-growing trend that allows anyone to escape the mundane with a new perspective on nature.
Not only are tree house hotels praised for their novel design, but they also have a sustainable edge on traditional hotels. Building tree houses requires no clearing of the ground around the grove, and hotel owners (and visitors) have a stake in the health of the tree that supports the lodging. This, along with visitors’ close proximity to nature during their temporary residence, leads to a unique way for them to connect with the natural world around them.
As more tree house hotels take root, the options can become overwhelming. Get a head start on your search with these amazing arboreal accommodations around the world.
This 400-acre private estate is situated on a coffee and spice plantation in the northern Kerala rain forest. It features only seven rooms and two tree houses. Accessed by walkways in the forest canopy, Tranquil’s tree houses are made from local coffee wood, and overlook the plantation 45 feet below from the branches of a royal poinciana tree. From inside the bedroom, guests can see the tree trunk growing through the ceiling. Take a dip in the resort’s year-round pool, or get an Ayurvedic massage for optimal relaxation. The grounds include 13 walking trails through the plantation, and guests even can take one of their pet dogs along as a guide.
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Twilight Zone meets contemporary art gallery at this Swedish hotel only 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. A different Swedish architect designed each of the seven individual rooms at Treehotel, so every stay is unique. One of their most sought-after is the UFO-themed room, while another looks appropriately like a bird’s nest. Even the bathrooms are special, with combustion toilets that incinerate their contents at more than 1100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Well-known as one of Laos’s most unique accommodations, the Gibbon Experience is a two- or three-day adventure into some of the country’s most pristine forest canopy, complete with a series of navigable ziplines that crisscross the property and some of the highest tree houses in the world. Since its inception in 1996, the project has made it their mission to preserve the rain forest that surrounds it from threats such as poaching, slash-and-burn agriculture, and logging. They have been pursuing two reforestation schemes in recent years—a commercial farm to promote sensible logging practices, and reforestation of degraded areas in Nam Kan National Park.
A deer breeding farm on the South Island of New Zealand is home to Hapuku at the base of the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Range. The lodge includes five tree houses that are nested in the canopy of a Kanuka grove, and designed to complement the natural environment. Hapuku is a family-owned business of native Kiwis that originally moved to the area for farming and surfing opportunities. The lodge eventually found its beginnings thanks to the growth of eco-marine tourism in the area, and now offers its visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rugged coastline and flourishing maritime environment of Kaikoura.
This tree house is located just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of of downtown, and was voted Airbnb’s number one most wished-for listing worldwide in 2016. The property was designed and constructed by Peter Bahouth, former Greenpeace executive and current executive director of the U.S. Climate Action Network. It features three separate suites, interconnected by fairy-light-bedecked wooden bridges. The linens are organic, the furnishings are vintage, and the tree houses themselves were created from salvaged materials—including the 80-year-old windows from a Masonic Temple in South Carolina, lending to the sublime experience.
Inventor Tom Chudleigh created these handcrafted wooden spheres inspired by sailboat construction, and using the practice of biomimicry—innovation that seeks long-lasting, sustainable solutions to human issues by emulating strategies seen in nature. The orbs are suspended in the middle of multiple trees, which they are tethered to. This ensures a stable hang, and since they use the forest for their foundation, the occupants have a vested interest in the health of the grove and are reminded of human connectedness to our ecosystem.
About a decade ago, Erica and Matt Hogan stumbled upon a plot of land that was marketed as a potential timber harvesting site. Seeing this prompted them to save the land from deforestation and transform it into what is now Finca Bellavista. Presently, the community encompasses nearly 600 acres in the south Pacific region of Costa Rica, including mountainous rain forest, two white water rivers, and organic gardens. The site is entirely off the grid and powered completely by solar energy. The tree houses—both aboreal and stilt-supported—allow for terrestrial migration of animals and growing the majority of the food on-site. A network of zip lines and platforms lets guests explore the rain forest in a thrilling, eco-friendly fashion.
Venture about 80 miles south of party capital Cancun to find this luxurious eco-resort nestled in the coastal town of Tulum. Although Papaya Playa started out with a traditional hotel model, their latest addition is a stunning two-story tree house suite set amongst a landscape of lush Mexican jungle. The design of the treehouse utilizes local timber, and evokes the traditional Mayan building technique “Chukum,” or using tree resin to cool the building interiors. In recent years, Papaya Playa launched their mission to achieve a zero emissions and zero contamination community by 2018. Since then, they got started with solar energy, water recycling, and local sourcing of jobs and materials to achieve their goal.
Lion Sands calls their tree houses the “ultimate bush bedrooms” for good reason–visitors are almost completely exposed to the vast wilderness right outside of their room. Arrive at sunset with a picnic dinner waiting for you, then enjoy stargazing while listening to the sounds of the animals to spot the next day. On the list: hippos, lions, leopards, hyenas, impalas, and more. Lion Sands offers game drives, walking safaris, and helicopter rides over the Blyde River Canyon. The reserve also takes guests to Henna Pre-School to see firsthand the work they are doing to empower local communities.
This feature originally appeared in National Geographic.