The Hyatt, The Marriott, The Four Seasons…BORING!. All fine hotels, but after a couple of trips, they all start to look and feel the same. If your idea of a vacation is more than spending the day sunbathing by the hotel pool, you should be looking for variety: something new, exciting and, in the best of circumstances, something eco-friendly! It doesn’t mean you have to head straight for the more rustic options of hammocks or refugios. Enter alternative lodging: if you can imagine a concept, it exists. From underwater hotels, to hotels made entirely of salt or ice, to treehouses and capsule hotels. In almost every country in the world, there are creative, off-beat places to drop your backpack.
Here are some outstanding examples:
1. The Hotel Playa Blanca, Uyuni, Bolivia
If you truly want to feel like you are alone on the planet and away from civilization, stay at the Hotel Playa Blanca in Bolivia. This hotel, made almost entirely of salt, is situated in the middle of the vast salt flats of Uyuni, Bolivia. Its name, meaning White Beach, does not refer to white sand or snow, but rather the seemingly endless 4,000 square mile salt desert in which it is situated. Everything in the hotel is made of salt: from the walls, floors, roof, beds, chairs and tables to even the mortar (a mixture of water and salt) that holds the walls together. There are no roads to the hotel and no stores or other amenities nearby — just white plains as far as the eye can see. The only way to arrive at and leave the hotel is by 4×4, so make sure you pack everything that you may need before you head there.
2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida, USA
This is the oldest of the underwater hotels and the most traditional. Jules’ Undersea Lodge is located in Key Largo, in the U.S. Florida Keys and was first opened to the public in 1986. No worries if you are not a certified diver, the hotel offers a 3-hour accelerated scuba course. This is necessary; as the entrance to the hotel is, of course, underwater at a depth of seven meters or approximately 21 feet and guests must dive through a lagoon filled with mangroves to arrive at their room. You won’t have to live like a fish, though, as the rooms are cozy and comfortable and offer 42 inch portal windows for viewing sea life, TVs/DVDs, air conditioning, a stocked kitchen and hot water. Originally an oceanic research laboratory, the hotel now serves as lodging for sea life as well as humans, as an artificial reef. According to Ian Koblick, owner and co-developer of the lodge, “Marine life is actually enhanced by the presence of an underwater structure…providing shelter and substrate for marine animals. And the flow of air to the Lodge constantly adds oxygen to the entire surrounding body of water, creating a symbiotic relationship between the technology of man and the beauty of nature.”
3. Kokopelli’s Cave Bed and Breakfast, Farmington, New Mexico, USA
Ever had a desire to sleep in a hotel located 70 feet below the surface of the earth? You’re in luck. Kokopelli’s Cave Bed and Breakfast, in Farmington, New Mexico, might be just the place. Located near the Mesa Verde National Monument, guests first travel down a remote dirt road, then down a hillside path, then a ladder to reach their room entrance on the cliff face. Once you get settled though, scramble to the top, where you have an unobstructed view of four states, all part of the Four Corners region, including six mountain ranges: the Shiprock, Carrizo, Ute, Chuska, La Plata and San Juan Mountains and a Navajo Indian reservation. Originally used as a geologist’s home and office, the 1,650 square foot suite is carved from a 65-million year old sandstone formation that lies 280 feet above the La Plata River. Amenities include a fully functioning kitchen, washer and dryer, a waterfall-style shower and a flagstone hot tub.
4. Tranquil Resort Treehouse, Wayanad, Kerala, India
The Tranquil Resort Treehouse is located in the middle of a 400 acre active coffee and spice plantation, which dates from the 1800’s and is still operating today, growing coffee, pepper, cardamom and areca nut. Situated deep in the rain forest of Wayanad, India, the hotel is small, boasting just eight rooms and two treehouses. While more luxurious than typical treehouses, this resort offers a unique experience to, literally, come nose-to nose with rain forest wildlife: bonnet monkeys, multicolored bee-eaters, owls and butterflies are within reach of the treehouse verandas. Within a half hour’s drive, the Muthanga Game Sanctuary provides a home to elephants, leopards, bison, bear, peacocks and tigers. The treehouses have king-size beds, full baths, verandas, and the trunk of a flowering full-grown Royal Poinciana tree growing right through the floor of the bedroom. The rooms can be reached by stairs, a rope bridge and a water lift.