Calling all eco adventurers: If your dream vacation involves braving a private suspension bridge into your Costa Rican canopy villa, scanning the treetops for brilliantly plumed birds as you go, or trekking through wild Rwandan terrain in hopes of spotting an elusive mountain gorilla, then we have hotel ideas for your next big adventure.
These unique lodges and eco-resorts around the world offer complete seclusion and total immersion in their jungly, wildlife-filled paradise surroundings.
Gaia Amazon EcoLodge, Ecuador
This rustic, 20-guest lodge offers simple rooms, cabins, and open common areas overlooking the thick, wildlife-filled greenery and meandering waterways of the Amazon. Its eco ethos and remote location deep in a forest of cacao trees provide a genuine connection to the near-mythical surroundings.
Even stays as short as one night include all meals and guided activities like rain forest trekking, chocolate-making classes, and a (motorized) canoe tour down the Napo and Arajuno rivers. However, you should really stay longer to add a butterfly farm, shamanic cleansing ritual, and much more to your itinerary. It’s a place of such beauty and peace that nearly everyone who visits is profoundly moved by the experience.
Shinta Mani Wild — Bensley Collection, Cambodia
This luxury tented camp‘s home in Southern Cardamom National Park is one of Cambodia’s few surviving habitats for wild elephants, monkeys, and other endemic species. The eco-camp sits in a private nature sanctuary within this vast untouched wilderness. You get there by way of chauffeured vehicle and army jeep, and if you really want to make an entrance, you can do so flying over the forest on the in-house zip line, with a cocktail on the other side to welcome (and congratulate) you.
The camp’s seclusion and mission to protect the area from poaching, mining, and logging are what make it truly special, though its dining, adventure programming (both included in the rates), service, and Bill Bensley-designed luxury tents along the riverbank more than hold their own. A typical day might include tracking gibbons, a foraging and cooking workshop, and joining a Wildlife Alliance anti-poaching patrol through the woods or a boat expedition along the winding waterways.
Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
Bisate Lodge sits on a semicircular slope (the eroded remnant of a volcanic cone), a shape that fittingly provides clear views of Volcanoes National Park and its eponymous landforms. On top of the special setting, the resort (rightfully) prides itself on its jaw-dropping architecture: spherical wood, brick, and thatch villas tucked into the forest, each with views of the volcano. The hotel facilitates daily treks to encounter silverback gorillas and golden monkeys in their natural habitat and encourages guests to plant indigenous trees in the garden.
Sample delicious Rwandan-influenced international dishes, prepared with a farm-to-table philosophy and local ingredients like kale, chilies, avocado, climbing beans, wild honey, and an endless array of fresh fruits.
Mango Bay Resort, Vietnam
Large-scale development in the early aughts transformed Phú Quốc, Vietnam’s biggest island, from a remote jungle paradise to a hotbed of tourist activity: big-brand hotels, five-star resorts, clubs, and even casinos. There is an eco-minded flip side to all that tourist hubbub, one exemplified by places like Mango Bay. The beachside bungalow oasis was built using sustainable materials, including local woods and rammed earth. Dedication to energy, water, and nature conservation is found at every corner, from composting to low-water toilets in the (open-air) bathrooms to beds cooled by a low-energy alternative to traditional AC.
Aarunya Nature Resort & Spa, Sri Lanka
The name of this eco-lodge alludes to the Sanskrit word for “first rays of the sun,” and it’s an apt reference. Aarunya’s east-pointing hilltop perch affords the sight of sunrise breaking through the mist of the Knuckles Mountain Range, a UNESCO natural treasure covered in dense forest. Contemporary villas and suites are sprinkled across seven acres of jungly garden grounds; many have hot tubs and pools and all have incredible views of the mountains and forest. Wander among the cinnamon, coffee, pepper, banana, clove, and avocado trees; try an ayurvedic spa treatment; or defy gravity (at least imagine you are) in the infinity pool.
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
Sister resort to Lapa Rios, Costa Rica’s first eco-lodge, Pacuare Lodge is a sustainable nature retreat fully immersed in virgin rain forest. So immersed, in fact, that the check-in process typically involves rafting down Pacuare River to the lodge (4×4 arrivals can also be arranged).
Like Lapa Rios, transportation (from and to San Jose), three meals and afternoon coffee and treats, and a range of on-site activities are included in the rates. Zip through the treetops on a canopy tour, try canyoning in a narrow jungle gorge, and attend bird-watching walks (your telescope-equipped guide will point out colorful toucans and elegant sunbitterns) and guided hikes through the 700-acre private rain forest reserve.
Jungle-ensconced luxury villas have features like outdoor showers and spring-fed pools; the Jaguar Villa has its own bridge over the river and tree platform, while the spectacular Canopy Villa — perhaps just the coolest hotel room in Costa Rica — is reached by a private suspension bridge and offers 360-degree views over the jungle and river.
Islas Secas, Panama
Seventeen — that’s the max number of fellow guests you’ll encounter at this private island eco-lodge, 15 miles off mainland Panama’s Pacific coast. The resort’s jungle-clad casitas are all about bridging their indoor space to the outdoor world. There are five room types (including several multi-casita options for a dream family vacation), all with chic style, outdoor soaking tubs or private pools, and nice touches like Panama hats and binoculars for exploring the island and its archipelago. How to go about that? Scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with turtles, gliding over the clear water on an electric surfboard, and enjoying a beach lunch at UNESCO-listed Coiba National Park. Over pre-dinner cocktails at the clubhouse, you might chat with your (few) casita neighbors and get ideas for the next day’s itinerary.
The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia
Set in mountainous rain forest near a secluded bay, The Datai Langkawi is a veritable jungle escape with gazebo-like rooms, suites, and villas perfectly in tune with their environment. Every category is designed with big bathrooms built around giant soaking tubs and verandas for watching the dusky leaf monkeys chasing each other through the canopy. For the best of both worlds — beach and jungle — opt for a butler-serviced Beach Villa, where elaborate sleeping and lounge areas are connected by breezeways and terraces.
The hotel leads butterfly walks, marine biologist-helmed mangrove kayak tours, and daily nature treks with a resident naturalist to meet hornbills, macaques, lizards, and other native rain forest residents. After, claim snorkel gear or a sunbed on the one-mile golden beach, shaped like a C and backed by palms.
Copal Tree Lodge, A Muy’Ono Resort, Belize
Copal Tree is an upscale jungle lodge, yes, but it’s also a working certified-organic farm spanning 3,000 acres on the Belizean coast. The 16 suites and bungalows feature lofted ceilings with overhead fans, jungle-view floor-to-ceiling windows in the showers, and screened-in porches strung with hammocks.
Favorite activities include kayaking down the Rio Grande, snorkeling in the Caribbean, fishing trips (and bringing back the catch for the chef to cook), bird-watching, chocolate-making classes, and tours of the on-site coffee/spice farm and zero-impact rum distillery. (The lodge’s sustainable Copalli Rum is part of a small group of certified organic rum distilleries in the world.) And there’s always simply sitting by the pool or on your back porch, gazing at the exuberant green and listening to the sounds of the jungle.
Soneva Kiri, Thailand
Soneva Kiri takes the concept of “getting away from it all” to a new level — even for a secluded island resort in Thailand. Guests fly in the hotel’s eight-seat plane to its private airstrip, then finish up the journey on a speedboat to the hotel. Once on the island, they get their own buggy and “barefoot butler.” The 34 earth-friendly wood villas are well spread out across the jungle grounds, from down at the beach to up on a cliff. No matter the location, you can expect ample outdoor space with pools, open-air bathrooms, and plenty of deck square footage.
Two things not to miss are the ecologist-led waterfall hike and a meal in Soneva Kiri’s “treepod” restaurant — a nest-like bamboo capsule suspended high in the rain forest, where a server delivers food and drink via zip line.
Secret Bay, Dominica
Dominica is a long way from the side of the Caribbean defined by busy cruise ports and mega-resorts. The Leeward island has flown under mass tourism’s radar, so its natural world — steaming hot springs, sunbathed beaches, volcanoes blanketed in jungle — is largely untouched.
The romantic villas scattered around Secret Bay are among the best rooms on the island. Sustainably built from Greenheart hardwood, each luxurious house features a plunge pool and sun deck where you can cool off with an iced lemongrass tea. Inside (or outside, for some lucky villa guests) are modern kitchens stocked daily with an organic breakfast basket. Villa hosts are standing by via text to bring treats, arrange island excursions like spearfishing and sunset sailing, and just keep everything easy and seamless. Arrange a boat ride to the resort’s hidden beach, on the far side of the cliff from the main private beach.
Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Indonesia
Situated in the emerald Ubud jungle, Mandapa is one of the most lavish (and well-loved) resorts in the region. The layout is designed to resemble a traditional Balinese village and many of the on-site features are superlatives in Ubud. Two examples are the resort’s riverside Sawah Terrace and Kubu restaurants (where you sit in a beehive-shaped bamboo cocoon), both among the best fine-dining options in town.
Starting at 1,075 square feet, the 60 suites and villas are categorically large and luxe. All come with 24-hour butler service and outdoor space looking toward the rain forest, rice paddies, or Ayung River. Villa upgrades get you a whopping 3,500 additional square feet of space, including a private Balinese garden, pool, and outdoor shower.
Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has no shortage of jungle hotels, nearly all of them independent, green-minded, and simply amazing. The enchanting Rio Celeste Hideaway Hotel gets a special mention for its proximity to its namesake river in Tenorio Volcano National Park. Rio Celeste is hidden in a less-traveled corner of Guanacaste Province, but those who make the trek are rewarded with waters, hot springs, and a large waterfall distinct for their ethereal, milky teal hue. The hotel’s generous villas are set within the rain forest, and its sizable network of private trails near and along the river gives nature lovers ample opportunities to explore the area’s “FernGully”-like flora and fauna.
Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari, Nepal
Your first thought of Nepal may be strenuous hikes at head-spinning altitudes. Yet at the foot of the Himalayas lie jungly, subtropical lowlands that are home to one-horned rhinos, elephants, crocodiles, and majestic Bengal tigers. This 30-room luxury safari lodge is set along the river in Chitwan National Park, whose rich animal life earned it World Heritage status. Naturalist-led safari excursions are available by foot, canoe, and jeep to explore the surrounding forests, marshes, and grasslands (with the mighty Himalayas as a backdrop). Activities are included in some packages; otherwise, you can add them a la carte.