Updated April 2017 — You’re traveling, sleeping somewhere besides your own bed. Where will it be? How about something unusual? Get travel inspiration from these ingenious hotels.
There is something exhilarating about being up in the trees, feeling the breeze, and hearing the rustle of leaves and wildlife. For just such a sensation, check out Costa Rica Tree House Lodge in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge in Limón, Costa Rica, just steps away from Punta Uva beach. Their Treehouse suite, built on stilts, is a split-level structure with hand-carved furniture and is partially sheltered by a 100-year-old Sangrillo tree.
Tsala Treetop Lodge, about six miles west of Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, has a stone, timbers, and glass lodge — a style called Afro-Baroque — and 10 tree house suites, open decks high above the forest floor, infinity pools, and fireplaces. For something a little more spacious, reserve one of the two-bedroom treetop villas, which have large lounge and dining areas.
Tranquil resort offers a homestay experience in Wayanad, India, on a 400-acre coffee and spice plantation. Chose from a spacious treetop villa with a large verandah and conveniences such as a TV and mini fridge, or the more intimate and rustic Tranquil Tree House, which towers 45 feet in the air and has a balcony overlooking the plantation.
Out 'n' About Treesort in Takilma, Oregon, has more than a dozen themed tree houses and an array of platforms, forts, swinging bridges, and zip lines. Situated on 36 private acres of pasture and woods, Treesort is next to Siskiyou National Forest. In addition to sleeping in the trees, guests here can go horseback riding, take rafting trips, and hike through the Illinois Valley and nearby Redwood Coast.
Designed as a portable home away from home for nomadic tribes, yurts of today are posh, private tents in stunning, rugged destinations. The scenic and artsy mountain city of Asheville, North Carolina, has a couple of unique sites with yurts. Asheville Glamping offers a romantic, two-person mini yurt situated on 15 scenic acres that’s less than a mile from the French Broad River. Several other yurts are available through Airbnb, boasting everything from an off-the-grid experience to a relaxing escape with WiFi and a hot tub.
Along British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, Rockwater Secret Cove Resort has oceanfront “Tenthouse Suites” perched on a rocky promontory overlooking Malaspina Strait. In addition to the fireplaces, heated floors, and private verandas, the tents offer hydrotherapy tubs with views. Costanoa in Pescadero, California, has cozy “Tent Bungalows,” with electricity, sliding windows, and locking doors that can accommodate up to six people. Guests have access to a spa, dry sauna, and outdoor fireplaces.
Traveling to colder climes? Ice hotels are ephemeral works of art constructed each winter. In Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, architects, designers, and artists use snow guns and blocks of ice to create the Icehotel, gradually adding on sections — guest rooms, an ice chapel, an ice bar — over the course of six weeks. Moreover, the new Icehotel 365 just opened — a permanent structure that includes ice art suites as well as deluxe suites with private saunas. Hôtel de Glace Québec warms you up with outdoor spas and saunas or you can splurge on a themed suite with fireplace and private spa. The Igloo Hotel on the banks of the Alta River in Norway offers front-row views of the Northern Lights. A bit more rustic, Iglu-Dorf in Engelberg and other Swiss locations are villages of individual igloos connected by tunnels. Pass the time with winter sports like snowshoeing, or take an igloo workshop to learn how to build your own igloo at home. Just remember that like other ice hotels, it will melt away come spring.
The ultimate in romance and a thrill for history lovers, castle hotels can be found throughout Europe. Cross the drawbridge of Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland, and you’ll amble into the elegant rooms with period furniture, fine art objects, and suites with claw-foot tubs. Rent a room or the entire medieval village of Castello di Gargonza surrounded by olive trees, grapevines, and woods in Tuscany, Italy.
Few American buildings are more picturesque than the country’s lighthouses. At bed and breakfast inns made from former lighthouses, Victorian ambiance, lazy lighthouse cats, and stunning coastal views are included. East Brother Light Station is located on an island near San Francisco. The station features five guest rooms — four in the keeper’s quarters and a more rustic one in the fog signal building — with views of the San Francisco skyline, Mount Tamalpais, and the Marin coastline. Heceta Head Lighthouse and Bed & Breakfast between Florence and Yachats, Oregon, warms guests fireside in its parlors and serves up a seven-course — yes seven! — breakfast. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast in Big Bay, Michigan, has a sauna and 40 acres of wooded trails on the shores of Lake Superior.
Trains, planes and more
Some of the most unusual of unusual hotels are made from retired conveyances. At the Aurora-Express Bed and Breakfast in Alaska, train car rooms sit on railroad tracks overlooking the city of Fairbanks, the Tanana River, and the Alaskan Mountains. Jutting out from a hill in Costa Rica, a 1965 Boeing 727 lives out its retirement years as a teak-paneled luxury suite with ocean and jungle views and a wood deck atop of what was once the airplane wing. The famous trans-Atlantic ocean liner Queen Mary spends her elder years at Long Beach, California, as a destination hotel with art deco salons, 314 original guest rooms, a spa, restaurants, and dinner theater. Return to the 1950s at The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona, where you can sleep in Airstream and other vintage travel trailers, a Tiki bus with a hand-carved bar, or a landlocked pleasure boat. Here vintage radios play era-appropriate radio programs and televisions broadcast in two colors. Bring your poodle skirt and penny loafers.