Staying in a forest or jungle is a very different experience than what you typically get at a beach resort, and this year, we’re seeing a spike in interest in booking accommodations somewhere a little more offbeat and unique. Our forests are sadly some of the most threatened environments, and visiting and educating ourselves on their value, in a responsible manner, is important for the future of our planet. Many of the resorts listed here not only have a beautiful and wild backdrop but are also sustainable in practice and have an educational element at the core of their listed vacation activities. From the woodlands of the rugged Scottish Highlands to jungle resorts in Bali and Malaysia, here are the best forest resorts for the ultimate escape vacation.
1. Rayavadee resort, Krabi, Thailand
Several national parks cover the coastline and surrounding islands of the province of Krabi on the southern coast of Thailand. The mainland of the region is coated in a dense rich forest that is home to swimming holes, hot springs, waterfalls, and nature reserves. One of the highlights of the Krabi is Khao Pra-Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the last area of lowland rainforest in Thailand and is home to more species of bird than any other forest in the south of the country. The Emerald Lagoon in the Thung Teao Forest Natural Park is also rich in biodiversity and is home to the small Pitta Gurney bird, which was once thought to be extinct.
Rayavadee resort is within the Krabi Marine National Park and is close walking distance to the well known Railay beach, Nammao beach, and Phranang. This award-winning accommodation blends into the natural surroundings with domed villas and pavilions set in between the ancient trees. Rayavadee has 96 two-story pavilions and five luxury villas to choose from and all have stylish Thai-inspired details throughout. The resort makes a huge effort to reduce its impact on the forest, and sustainability is at the heart of everything they do. The owners and staff at Rayavadee also passionately organize and participate in activities from beach cleaning to mangrove planting and supporting the repopulation of marine life.
2. Tree House Hideaway, Bandhavgarh National Park, India
Bandhavgarh National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh is best known for its population of Bengal tigers and being the original home of the white tiger. The sprawling park features dense forests of sal trees, valleys, steep hillocks and ridges, and grassy swamps — a perfect unspoiled natural habitat for its abundant wildlife.
It comes as no surprise that most visitors are drawn here for the tigers, and one of the more unique places to stay whilst on safari is the Tree House Hideaway. The small resort consists of five treetop rooms, which are on the outskirts of the park. Constructed of natural materials that camouflage into the forest, the unusual dwellings have private balconies offering guests stunning views and all come with an en-suite. Guests come together at a cozy dining area at the resort’s aptly named Watering Hole bar.
3. The Datai Langkawi, Langkawi, Malaysia
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Malacca Strait, 19 miles off the coast of northwestern Malaysia. People come here for its laid-back atmosphere, pristine beaches, and rainforests.
The Datai Langkawi sits above Datai Bay on the northwest coast of Langkawi. The resort was designed by architect Kerry Hill with architect and interior designer Didier Lefort in 1993 and has recently been given a $58 million upgrade in honor of its 25th anniversary. Although the Datai is dripping in opulence, it’s surroundings really steal the show. The rooms look out over a lush rainforest canopy, and the minimalist approach to the design aesthetic allows for a seamless blend with the environment. The onsite Nature Center has a mini-laboratory and offers classes in ecology, and they also run naturalist-led educational walks through the woodland.
4. Nandini Jungle Resort and Spa, Ubud, Bali
Ubud is a well-known town and region in the uplands of Bali. Its iconic landscape of rice paddies, rainforest, and forests of nutmeg peppered with sacred shines makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island. But regardless of this foot traffic, if you do visit, especially during a quieter season, there is something magical and calming about the natural surroundings and warm local hospitality.
A short 30-minute drive from Ubud is the rainforest of Payangan and the Nandini Jungle Resort and Spa. The stunning resort is balanced along a ravine, and the 18 one-bedroom villas offer guests views of the jungle and the Ayung River. The spa, Sungai, is located at the river’s edge, and treatments utilize water from a local fresh spring. Sungai’s menu is modest, but it includes traditional Balinese treatments such as an aromatherapy flower bath, Balinese massages, and their homemade coconut body scrub.
5. Pacuare Lodge, Limón, Costa Rica
This remote resort is only reachable via the Río Pacuare, a river that flows around 67 miles into the Caribbean and is famed for its awesome white water rafting. The surrounding jungle lines the banks of the river and is home to many species, such as ocelots, sloths, monkeys, and jaguars.
The Pacuare Lodge is a back-to-nature ecolodge that is owned by a family that is committed to sustainability and supporting local conservation efforts and community. The suites and all of the buildings were constructed with minimal impact on the environment. They range from five-star modesty in the riverside suites to the larger Linda Vista suites, which have a spring-fed infinity pool. The centerpiece of the lodge is the two-story Nairi Awari restaurant and bar, which offers creative set menus of locally grown organic produce. And as the river plays such an important role in guest’s experience here, an adrenaline-pumping excursion of white water rafting is highly encouraged and is run daily.
6. Bwindi Lodge, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be found on the edge of the Albertine Rift in southwestern Uganda. The park is famed for its towering elevations reaching heights from around 1,160 to 2,607 meters. The forest here is over 25,000 years old and is home to a very diverse range of trees and fauna, but its most famous resident is the mountain gorilla. The primates are one of the main draws to this region and there are a variety of local safaris that run throughout the park.
One of the best places to stay and organize a safari with is Bwindi Lodge. It was one of the first accommodation places to open and start running tours around 20 years ago and has evolved into a luxurious forest resort. Located on the northern side of the park, the lodge is an easy 10-minute walk into the small local village and the trailheads to the gorillas. Although this accommodation has the label of opulence, it has not lost its charm and places importance on supporting the local community through recruitment and by using local crafts to add unique style to the resort’s main buildings and guest quarters.
The eight cottages that are available are named after Bwindi gorillas and feature Ugandan hand-carved four-poster beds and balconies offering views stretching out over the forest below.
7. Cabin resort in Ardgartan, Argyll Forest, Scotland
This cluster of cabins is located on the edge of the UK’s oldest Forest Park of Argyll on the banks of Loch Long in the Scottish Highlands. The park’s rugged, wild topography of glens, peaks, and lochs are attributed to its location at the end of the Highland Boundary Fault, a crack in the earth’s surface between the Lowlands and Highlands of the country. It’s also a well-known spot for excellent mountain biking, trail running, and hiking routes.
With a backdrop of pine-clad mountains, this resort has 40 cabins peppered along the shoreline of the water of Loch Long. Constructed from either silver birch or golden oak, the cabins have stunning views, and although the location is remote, they are luxurious and can sleep up to six people. All come with self-catering or resort catering options, and there are lots of lovely local places to eat nearby. Guests also have the option to book a range of outdoor activities with guides, which also includes a forest survival skill course and a night walk with a local ranger.