Selecting the perfect hotel can make or break a vacation. Friendly customer service and a comfortable bed are must-haves, but nowadays, adventurous travelers are looking for lodgings that also provide one-of-a-kind experiences. We've written about hotels that offer guests ridiculously sumptuous spas and even accommodations found below sea level. Now we bring you something even more novel -- treetop hotels. Instead of resting on solid ground, these hideaways take to the skies, perched in the forest canopies in some of the world's most exotic locales.
Crowning branches from China to Brazil, the nine unique hotels featured on this list range from rustic to luxurious. These unique lodgings offer you the chance to reconnect with nature, not to mention your old childhood fantasies.
Peter Lundstrom, WDO / Treehotel
One of the most innovative hotels on our list, Treehotel includes five -- soon to be six -- quirky treehouses in the small northern Swedish village of Harads. Each of the rooms features a different design, thus offering every guest an individual experience. One room resembles an enormous bird's nest with twigs sticking every which way; another looks like a silver UFO hovering above the ground; yet another is fashioned with large mirrors so all you see from the outside is the reflection of the forest. No matter which accommodation you choose, you'll find a panorama of the picturesque Lule River Valley providing a scenic backdrop to your atypical escape. When you're not enjoying the custom-designed amenities of your particular treehouse, you can canoe or kayak along the Lule River, take a break in the Tree Sauna or explore Harads's quiet streets.
Cedar Creek Treehouse
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA
Nestled between the great evergreens of Mount Rainier National Park and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state, the Cedar Creek Treehouse affords a bird's eye view from its 50-foot-high perch in a 200-year-old cedar. You'll climb five flights of stairs to reach the accommodations, which include a sunroom and a sleeping loft complete with a skylight. For more vistas, you can take a walk on the rainbow bridge to the 100-foot-high observatory. But you should leave your electronics at home: These adults-only, solar-powered accommodations aren't acclimatized to modern technology, so you'll be off the grid in every sense of the phrase. And you should also note that there's no shower. However, previous guests haven't missed their smartphones or a few days sans bathing: Cedar Creek's s'more-making, hammock-swinging, stargazing and other activities provide plenty of distraction.
Tree House Lodge
Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, Costa Rica
A trip to the Tree House Lodge in Costa Rica's Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge offers a balance of sunlight and shade. A canopy of tree branches blankets the split-level treehouse, which is in close proximity to the popular Punta Uva beach. Inside the stilt-supported accommodations (accessible via suspension bridge), you're greeted with ample space (enough room for six people), as well as a full kitchen and a Jacuzzi. Yet, the feeling of seclusion that this treetop getaway lends is one of its best assets. Peering out from under the thatched roof, you will feel completely isolated, but in reality you're just a five-minute jaunt from grocery stores and restaurants. And to enhance your escape, the Tree House Lodge can organize everything from a zip-line canopy tour to a white-water rafting adventure to hiking excursions through the surrounding jungle.
[See: Best Hotels for Honeymooners]
Tsala Treetop Lodge
Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
Tucked off the Western Cape in South Africa sits the Tsala Treetop Lodge, a network of 16 suites and villas nestled into the trees of an indigenous forest. Constructed with a compilation of wood, stone and glass, each of these luxurious accommodations has its own private deck and infinity pool designed for sunbathing in the seclusion of the forest. You can also enjoy breakfast in the branches thanks to the hotel's leaf-skimming dining deck. Should you start to feel overwhelmed by the dense forest, you'll be happy to note that you're just a stone's throw from the swimming beaches of Plettenburg Bay. Alternatively, you can explore the wonders of the beloved Garden Route, which features roaring waterfalls, a lovely lakes district and a pristine coastline. Meanwhile, if you're looking to delight in a meal on terra firma, head down to the lodge's ZINZI Restaurant, which serves up a delicious, internationally inspired menu.
Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma
Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, Zambia
A panoramic view is always coveted, and Sanctuary Retreats offers just that in the ebony trees of Zambia. You can stay in one of 12 air-conditioned treehouses, which each have a balcony that overlooks the flowing Zambezi River in the exotic Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park. After unwinding in your plush treehouse, you can head out on a guided walking safari, where hippos, monkeys, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras and more are on display. You can also tour the roaring Victoria Falls, which are a mere eight miles from the retreat. And if you want to stay put, you can meander down to the main lodge, where you'll enjoy an elevated bar, a pool and a well-stocked wine cellar. Alternatively, you can enjoy the lavish treatments at the spa, such as an Africology facial or a hot stone massage. In the evenings, you can arrange for a chef to prepare a gourmet meal served on your spacious deck before you fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the African bush.
Sanya Nanshan Treehouse
Straddling the tamarind trees of Jiangsu, China, the Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club offers a rustic treehouse experience. This is not a luxurious treehouse, but the surrounding environment is pretty awe-inspiring. Accessible via a rope-and-suspension bridge, this resort gets guests' adrenaline pumping as soon as they ascend the "Big Beach in the Sky" treehouse. But once inside, a view of the South China Sea's rolling waves will await you. When it comes to activities, you can enjoy a handful of tasty vegetarian restaurants as well as the Buddhist Theme Park, both within a close walking distance.
[See: Best Hotels for Families]
Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel
You can explore northern Brazil's Amazon Rainforest from canopy level at the Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel's treehouses or aptly named Tarzan Suites. Located up to 110 feet above the jungle floor, the accommodations are accessible via an inclined catwalk. Each suite is also equipped with plush queen beds, spacious bathrooms and private balconies. You will also have access to a complimentary breakfast buffet, along with four treetop bars and two canopy-level pools. And for those looking to step down on solid ground, a number of adventures await. You can visit the nearby Tarino Indian village, which is just 20 minutes from the hotel by motorized boat. You can also stroll along the walkways of the rainforest, greeting chattering parrots, macaws, sloths and monkeys along the way.
Green Magic Resort
Communing with nature is one of the allures of staying in a treehouse. Birds and butterflies are constant companions at the Green Magic Resort in Kerala, India, as is the orchestra of gurgling spring water and rustling leaves. You get to cozy up in your choice of three bamboo treehouses suspended high up in a ficus tree forest. Rising anywhere from 60 feet to 115 feet off the ground, the treehouses are accessible by a water lift, a hanging bridge or a rope walkway. When it comes to mealtime, you'll enjoy food prepared at the on-site restaurant with locally harvested, organic ingredients.
Inkaterra Canopy Treehouse
Tambopata National Reserve, Peru
Multiply the excitement you once felt when you first stepped inside a treehouse, and you'll start to ascertain what it might be like to spend the night 90 feet above the Peruvian Amazon. Sidling up to the Tambopata National Reserve, the Inkaterra Canopy Treehouse (accessible via a 1,130-foot-long hanging canopy walkway) mixes luxury with adventure. For instance, you can enjoy the services of a canopy butler, who serves chilled sparkling wine as visitors watch dusk fall over the rainforest. A stay here is quite exhilarating too, as mesh screens are all that's separating you from outdoor critters like hummingbirds and monkeys. And for those who find the treetop stay to be too much of an adrenaline rush, Inkaterra's 35 ground-level cabanas -- which are fitted with amenities like hammocks and plush robes and slippers -- await.
[In Pictures: Top Treetop Hotels]
-- Emily H. Bratcher
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