Want to go out on a limb for your next vacation—literally?Once the sole province of young boys and Ewoks, treehouses now offer adventurous travelers (read: unafraid of heights) a unique travel experience in an age of roadside motel chains and globe-stretching hotel corporations. So, forget the stale continental breakfast and carbon-copy room; instead, consider branching out on your next trip.
Building a hotel in the treetops is hardly a new concept: the Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, outside Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon, has been inviting guests to explore the jungle canopy from its rooms since the mid-1980’s. But with travelers looking for ever-more-unique getaways, the treehouse-hotel concept has blossomed; today you’ll find them everywhere from Massachusetts to China. Best of all, this new breed is more than just planks of wood nailed to an old oak. The Costa Rica Tree House Lodge, in Limón, for example, has a full kitchen and luxurious bathroom built around a gnarled 100-year-old Sangrillo tree. Head to South Africa’s Tsala Treetop Lodge, in Plettenberg Bay, and you’ll find infinity pools and fireplaces.
“A lot of people had good experiences with treehouses when they were growing up,” explains Michael Garnier, a builder who has constructed tree-based dwellings around the globe and also operates the world’s largest collection of treehouses, the Treesort & Treehouse Institute, a sprawling 36-acre wonderland in Oregon with cleverly named lodgings like the “Treezebo” and the Old West-inspired “Treeloon.” “It draws an adventurous type of person,” he says. “The kid comes out in them.”
Sometimes, it’s the solitude and seclusion afforded by sleeping in nature that attracts people to high-flying hotels. Take China’s Hainan Island treehouse, located steps from the golden sand of the South China Sea, within a 5,000-acre Buddhist park studded with temples and botanical gardens; there guests can wander in peace for hours. “I feel like I’m Adam in the Garden of Eden,” says Donald Eovino, a frequent guest. “Everyone should try a treehouse hotel once in their lifetime.”
Conversely, at Tranquil Resort, a working coffee and vanilla plantation on 400 acres of rainforest in southern India, chances are high that guests might find themselves in a not-so-tranquil situation: nose-to-nose with howler monkeys, who reportedly dance on the roof at night and have even startled guests by bursting into bathrooms unannounced. “I’ve found nowhere else like it in the world,” says former (unshaken) guest Haley Spurway.
Modern treehouses offer more than quiet or the chance to indulge a little youthful daring; they present a rare opportunity to drive past the McResort and break free of travel’s predicable stops and well-traveled routes. Up in the leaves, you’ll find something unique and exceptional—surely the reward of any good journey.