The World’s Coolest Tree-house Hotels
Want to go out on a limb for your next vacation — literally? Once the sole province of young boys and Ewoks, tree houses offer adventurous (read: unafraid of heights) travelers a unique travel experience.
Building a hotel in the treetops is hardly a new idea: Brazil’s Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel has been inviting guests to explore the jungle canopy from its rooms since the mid-1980s. But the concept has blossomed; today you’ll find them everywhere from Massachusetts to China.
Better yet, 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 tree houses when they were growing up,” explains Michael Garnier, a builder who has constructed tree-based dwellings around the globe and also operates the Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort, a sprawling 36-acre wonderland in Oregon. “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 northern Sweden’s eerily beautiful Treehotel, whose mirrored cubic exterior reflects the forest on all sides.
It’s the vibrant cacophony of the rainforest, by contrast, that’s on display at Tranquil Resort, a working coffee and vanilla plantation 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. “I’ve found nowhere else like it in the world,” says former (unshaken) guest Haley Spurway.
Modern tree houses 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.
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden
Why It’s Unique: Leading Swedish architects gave the backyard staple a strange futuristic makeover at the Treehotel outside Harads village (population: 600). Perched four to six meters above the ground, each of five treetop suites has its own look, whether resembling a bird’s nest, a flying saucer, or a construction of Lego blocks. The most ingenious suite has a mirrored exterior, reflecting the forest on all six sides.
Access: Ramp, bridge, or (if you’re lucky) electric stairs.
What to Do: Pursue the Northern Lights by dog-sled ride or snowshoe hike through the Lule River Vally in winter, or go fishing and kayaking in summer.
Playa Viva, Juluchuca, Mexico
Why It’s Unique: The eco-friendly Playa Viva is north of Acapulco on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Three tree-house casitas completely built with sustainable materials; each have a bedroom and full porch for dining and lounging, and the master development plan calls for a beach club, lounge, and 40-room boutique hotel, plus solar-generated electricity and hot water.
Access: Series of stairs, ramps, and bridges.
What to Do: Tour the resort’s 200 acres, 80 percent of which is a private nature preserve.
The Aviary, Lenox, MA
Why It’s Unique: Located on 22 acres of parkland designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the two-story Aviary tree-house in the Berkshire Mountains features a limestone wet room with an antique soaking tub, circular stairs leading to the second-floor sleeping quarters, and a Bang & Olufsen entertainment system.
Access: Ground-floor entrance.
What to Do: Sample the season’s bounty in Wheatleigh’s elegant Dining Room restaurant, or poke around the historic area’s local galleries, antique shops, and museums.
Hinchinbrook Island Resort, Hinchinbrook Island, Australia
Why It’s Unique: Hinchinbrook, a 96-acre national park with lush rainforests, rugged mountains, and coarse sandy beaches, has just one option for accommodations: the Island Resort, a secluded hideaway with 15 roomy tree-house bungalows, each with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, small kitchen, private balcony and bath, and easy beachfront access.
Access: Winding timber boardwalks.
What to Do: Stroll one of the island’s 11 secluded beaches, and in the evening relax at the Island Resort’s bar.
Tree House Lodge, Limón, Costa Rica
Why It’s Unique: The highlight of this 10-acre beachfront property, within the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, is a sustainably built tree-house made from fallen trees, with solar heating, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a shower built around the crooks and roots of a massive 100-year-old Sangrillo tree.
Access: Hanging steel bridge.
What to Do: Snorkel or kayak off the nearby Punta Uva Beach.
Tsala Treetop Lodge, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Why It’s Unique: Overlooking the Tsitsikamma Forest, this high-design stone-and-glass lodge counts 10 secluded tree-house suites, each with floor-to-ceiling bedroom windows, a log fireplace in the living room, a private deck, and an infinity-edge pool.
Access: Wooden walkways.
What to Do: Explore South Africa’s Garden Route, which winds along the botanically rich Western Cape, or relax on the beach at nearby Plettenberg Bay.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire, UK
Why It’s Unique: Six private tree houses, with two stately suites in each, are on the 130-acre grounds of Chewton Glen in the Hampshire countryside near New Forest National Park. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic canopy views, as does a spacious outdoor terrace, with a hot tub and daybeds, 35 feet above ground. Heated timber and marble floors encourage bare feet.
Access: Gangplanks lead the way to these floating suites.
What to Do: After breakfast (a chef-prepared hamper delivered to your tree house) explore the English countryside via walking trails, horseback, or kayak.
Winvian, Litchfield Hills, CT
Why It’s Unique: Fifteen architects and designers—including David Sellers, a former professor at the Yale School of Architecture—collaborated on Winvian’s cottages, one of which is a cozy two-story tree house with a fireplace. Amenities such as a steam shower, Jacuzzi, fully stocked bar, and Bose entertainment system put a decidedly adult spin on the childhood tree-house dream.
Access: Two-sided wooden staircase.
What to Do: Treat yourself to a personalized, one-hour private yoga session and to chef Chris Eddy’s farm-to-table cooking: Latella farm lamb for dinner and bomboloni with candied kumquat and mango for dessert.
La Cabane en L’Air, France
Why It’s Unique: La Cabane en L’Air is a group of nearly 200 tree houses spread across France, from Provence to Normandy—and reaching as high as 72 feet off the ground. The lakeside Paradiso tree house in Orne, for instance, has a terrace for sunbathing.
Access: Staircase, bridge or motorboat could be your means of bungalow entry.
What to Do: Thrill-seekers should book the Château de Graville cabin, which offers nearby mountain biking and hot air ballooning just 50 miles from Paris.
Tongabezi, Livingstone, Zambia
Why It’s Unique: Built among the branches of a riverine Ebony tree, this tree house overlooks the Zambezi River. From the king-size, canopied bed and from claw-footed bath, guests can gaze at the river, which feeds into Victoria Falls. Anatolian carpets, Asian chests, and West African artwork will stoke your wanderlust.
Access: A winding hidden path along the cliff face.
What to Do: Victoria Falls (the world’s largest waterfall) awaits in nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Helicopter rides and microlight flights offer aerial views, or test your sense of adventure with a safari in Chobe National Park. Rather relax? Wind down the evening with a sunset cruise and a traditional Tonga massage.
Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, Brazilian Amazon
Why It’s Unique: Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, one of the largest commercial tree-house hotels in the world, 35 miles from the Amazon gateway city of Manaus. Accommodations include the President Lula “Tarzan House,” built at canopy level with its own private balcony, plunge pool, and Jacuzzi.
Access: Stairwells and wooden catwalks (which stretch for 10 miles and are flanked by incredible flora and fauna).
What to Do: Don’t miss the two 150-foot-high observation towers for clear views into the awe-inspiring jungle.
Tranquil Resort, Wayanad, Kerala, India
Why It’s Unique: Located in southern India on a private 400-acre estate complete with a working coffee and vanilla plantation, in the Kerala rainforest, the resort has a main lodge with eight well-appointed rooms. The 500-square-foot tree house, built from coffee wood and equipped with a king-size bed, has a full bath, veranda, and the trunk of a flowering Royal Poinciana growing through the bedroom.
Access: Ascending stairs, a rope bridge, and a “water lift.”
What to Do: Relax by the pool, try a traditional ayurvedic massage, or take a tour of the working coffee and vanilla plantation.
Cedar Creek Treehouse, Ashford, WA
Why It’s Unique: Tucked 50 feet up in the air in a centuries-old cedar and bordering Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the Cedar Creek Treehouse is outfitted with a sleeping loft, kitchen, and glass-enclosed observation room with indoor hammock.
Access: Winding stairwell.
What to Do: Take in even greater views from the observatory—100 feet up a nearby fir tree—which looks out on majestic Mount Rainier. Or, drive 10 minutes for a day hike in stunning Mount Rainier National Park.
Sanya Nanshan Treehouse, Hainan Island, China
Why It’s Unique: Built into a stand of tamarind trees, the “Big Beach in the Sky” tree house sleeps six in rustic accommodations steps away from the blue waters of the South China Sea. While the tree house does have electricity, guests will have to walk 35 feet to a hot shower.
Access: Rope-and-plank suspension bridge.
What to Do: Visit the botanical gardens and temples of the adjacent 5,000-acre Nanshan Buddhism Cultural Theme Park, which includes a 354-foot statue of the Buddha Guanyin.