Going to the beach is nice and all, but there’s something about hiding away in the jungle that really gets our travel juices flowing. The lush scenery, the wildlife spottings, the chorus of birds and insects, and the gorgeous rustic-luxe retreats all help rejuvenate us like nothing else. For those still craving a little sun and sand, plenty of our rainforest and jungle picks are on or near the beach. So go ahead — take a walk on the wild side.
1. Geejam: Port Antonio, Jamaica
First up, The Geejam. The Geejam is made up of only five private, high-tech cottages on the lush (rainy) foothills of Port Antonio. The setting is gorgeous, the service is extraordinary, and one of the Caribbean's most beautiful beaches is only 10 minutes away. Quiet isolation it has; a pool, spa facilities, and direct beach access it does not.
2. Haramara Retreat: Sayulita, Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Haramara is arguably one of the most special hotels in Mexico. It is a luxurious yoga retreat located on 12 seaside acres of wild vegetation just outside Sayulita. The structures have been built using traditional construction techniques to minimize the environmental impact, and there is no electricity anywhere besides the restaurant and the yoga studio -- not even in the rooms. Each room is housed in a private standalone thatched hut with no window panes or screens separating it from the jungle, and only gauze curtains and mosquito nets to avoid bugs and critters. It is geared towards those in need of some detoxification and relaxation, with yoga and meditation classes, an open-air spa, a vegetarian and seafood restaurant, unpaved trails, and limited cell phone service.
3. The Lodge at Chaa Creek: Cayo District, Belize
Chaa Creek, one of Belize's first eco-lodges, has evolved from its humble beginnings as a working farm into a premier luxury retreat. This sophisticated operation includes rustic-luxe, thatched-roof cottages, wonderful service, and modern amenities such as an infinity pool with jungle views and a full-service spa. The riverside setting on a private rainforest reserve is phenomenal, and myriad tours and outdoor activities are offered through the hotel. To top it off, room rates are fair for what you get -- and there are even budget accommodations available at Macal River Camp, located on the property.
4. La Lancha: Guatemala
La Lancha is one of a handful of exclusive Central American hideaways owned by Francis Ford Coppola. This small, 10-room rainforest retreat has a lakeside location 40 minutes away from the famous Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park. Rooms are rustic and comfortable with fantastic balconies and hammocks for admiring the views. Hotel highlights include a split-level pool, the beautiful Lake Peten Itza with canoes, and an on-site restaurant and bar serving Guatemalan cuisine and Coppola wines. Some guests have complained about the lack of a hot tub and thin walls between casitas. There are no TVs, and climbing stairs is required on this hillside property.
5. Ladera Resort: St. Lucia
This unique luxury resort in St. Lucia is made up of 32 one- and two-bedroom villas, each carefully carved into the surrounding hillside overlooking the island's iconic twin Pitons. The villas -- which have missing fourth walls, and in most cases, private plunge pools -- are a main draw, as are the spectacular views and lush grounds. The resort also features some fabulous amenities, such as an infinity lagoon pool, a gorgeous open-air restaurant and bar, a (tiny) open-air fitness center, and a lovely spa with black water soaking baths. All of this comes at a price, but Ladera is still significantly cheaper than the ultra-glam Jade Mountain (rates are often around half as much). Ladera is within close range of several of the island's best tourist destinations -- notable cocoa plantations are within walking distance, the pristine white sands of Jalousie beach are a short drive away, and tourist hot spots like the volcano and Tet-Paul nature trails are both nearby.
6. Lapa Rios Ecolodge & Wildlife Reserve: Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Lapa Rios, located in the remote coastal rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, is Costa Rica's original luxury eco lodge. This is the opposite of a Cancun-style beach resort -- guests come to the upscale Lapa Rios to enjoy the spectacular surroundings, learn about sustainable tourism, and reconnect with nature. The 16-bungalow lodge sits amid 1,000 acres of rainforest filled with wildlife, but it's far from a no-frills jungle camp. There are many comforts here, including a pool overlooking the ocean, a splendid restaurant serving sumptuous cuisine, and rustic-luxe rooms with private decks. This is a place to get in touch with nature without roughing it.
7. Natura Cabanas: Cabarete and Sosua, Dominican Republic
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. It's quiet, and a bit rustic without TV or AC in rooms, but that's the point.
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