Nothing brings out the inner child in us all like a tree house. Maybe we read "Swiss Family Robinson" a few too many times when we were younger, but there's something romantic about being suspended up in the trees while enjoying all (or at least most of) the comforts of home. The interesting thing about tree houses is that they aren't confined to a specific geographic region; in all parts of the world, from North American to Southeast Asia -- basically, wherever there are large, strong trees -- people have built fantastical tree houses.
There's really only one rule for building a tree house: that trees serve as the foundation.
For that reason, each tree house tends to be completely unique. In fact, in some places they're actually illegal because they don't conform to existing building codes. Tree houses come in all shapes and sizes; some are rustic, open-air structures, while others come with electricity, plumbing and full kitchens. Some are perched more than 100 feet (30.5 meters) off the ground, while some are built just a few feet above ground.
Visiting a tree house is one thing, but spending the night in one is a different experience altogether. Once the sun goes down and everything gets quiet, you can sometimes feel the tree house gently sway with the tree in the breeze. And because they're so popular, many tree houses are available for rent, functioning as whimsical bed and breakfasts. Whether you're planning a zip line adventure in Costa Rica or going hiking in the Pacific Northwest, chances are there's a tree house nearby. Keep reading to see some of the top tree houses across the world that you can stay in.
If you want to feel like you're living in an Ewok village for the weekend, there's no better place than the Out'n'About Treehouse Treesort. Proprietor Michael Garnier is an expert in building tree houses, and he claims to have the word's largest concentration of tree houses on his property in Cave Junction, Ore. The tallest tree house on site is located 37 feet (11.3 meters) above the ground, but visitors can also opt to stay in Garnier's "Cavaltree" fort, the aptly named Swiss Family Robinson Complex or the Treezebo. In all, there are at least 18 tree houses on the 36-acre resort, several of which feature electricity and plumbing [sources: Frommers; Grover].
The one essential building block for a large tree house is a big, sturdy tree to support it. So it stands to reason that Brazil, which is home to the world's largest rainforest, would be a pretty good place to build a tree house. And that's exactly where you'll find the Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel -- specifically at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Ariau Creek. It's a large rainforest retreat that consists of eight wooden towers with 268 treetop rooms that have views of the surrounding treetops. But it's the tree houses that we're interested in. In addition to the main towers, Ariau features several rustic tree houses that are suspended in the trees above the flowing river. The tallest tree house is the Tarzan House, which is located about 72 feet (21.95 meters) above the ground in a mahogany tree and has its own its own private balcony and hot tub [source: Travel + Leisure].
Located in the Nanshan Cultural Tourist Zone of China's Hainan Province, the Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort is one of the most impressive tree house resorts in the world. Four very large and elaborate tree houses that are suspended in the branches of large, old tamarind trees are offered as vacation rentals here. The largest tree house on site is the Big Beach in the Sky, a two-story tree house that sleeps six and is only accessible via a rope bridge that is connected to another large tree house. On the beach, there are more tree house accommodations for up to 20 people. American architect David Greenberg was the guiding force behind the enormous tree houses, and he built them using natural materials to reflect their surroundings [source: Li].
Tree houses truly come in all shapes and sizes. But a spherical tree house -- is that even possible? Where there's a will, there is a way, but it takes a truly free spirit to develop a series of spherical tree houses in the forest of Vancouver Island. Enter Tom Chudleigh, the designer of the Free Spirit Spheres. Chudleigh builds his bubble-shaped tree houses using a 10.5-foot (3.2-meter) fiberglass sphere that is coated with light, local wood. Each sphere features four attachment points on the top and four on the bottom, so the structure is supported by a web of support ropes and cables that help to stabilize it and prevent it from falling. You can rent one of the three eco spheres, which each feature a bed, a table and chairs, and some storage space (sorry, no bathroom), for a rate of $135 to $275 per night [source: Hanlon].
Finca Bellavista in Costa Rica is easily one of the most ambitious tree house developments in the world. As the story goes, founders Matt and Erica Hogan fell in love with a more than 300-acre parcel of rainforest when visiting Costa Rica in 2006. They purchased the property and got to work developing what they describe as a sustainable tree house community. Although it isn't technically a resort, the tree houses at Finca Bellavista are almost always available for rent at rates ranging from $96 per night for the rustic Cabina Colibri "jungalow" to $212 per night for the impressive El Castillo Mastate, a 1,300-square-foot octagonal tree house that is located an astounding 90 feet (27.43 meters) off the ground [source: Lawrence].
With an abundance of tall coniferous trees, the Pacific Northwest is a perfect place to build a tree house, and not surprisingly, the region is home to some of the most innovative tree houses in the world. Perched about 50 feet (15.24 meters) above ground in a more than 200-year-old red cedar, the Cedar Creek Treehouse is one of the best examples in the area. The lofty, two-level bed and breakfast has enough space to sleep five, and it features a sunroom, a small kitchen, and stunning views of Mount Rainier and Sawtooth Ridge. But for the best views, guests can take the "stairway to heaven," a rainbow-colored bridge that takes you up to an observation platform located 100 feet (30.48 meters) off the ground. The solar-powered tree house is completely off the grid, and in the colder months it uses propane heat. Rates start at $300 per night for two people [source: Butter].
Spending the night in a tree can be exhilarating by itself, but if you're looking for a true adventure, the Gibbon Experience is the tree house for you. After arriving in the Bokeo Nature Preserve in Laos, guides will fit you with a climbing harness, and you'll travel with them by zip line to your tree house. There are two different tree houses in the preserve; the waterfall tree house is located above a swimming hole, while the other one overlooks several valleys and has excellent sunset views. The thatched-roof tree houses are rustic, open-air structures without much in the way of amenities, but they're located high in the jungle canopy, an excellent spot to view the gibbons, small Laotian apes.
When we think of tree houses, we tend to expect something resembling a ramshackle tree fort, but they don't necessarily have to look like that. Case in point: Treehotel, a slick, sleek, modernist tree house resort located in a mature pine forest in Harads, Sweden with all the trappings of an upscale hotel. Treehotel features a variety of striking tree houses, ranging from the Mirrorcube, a 258-square-foot (24-square-meter) cube that is camouflaged with its mirrored exterior walls, to the UFO, a flying saucer-shaped tree house that looks like it's straight out of the movie "E.T." The Treehotel includes a total of 24 tree houses, each of which contains an eco-friendly combustion toilet and a water-efficient sink, and it even features a 12-person sauna raised off the forest floor [source: Schell-Lambert].
India is a country that Westerners tend to visit in search of new experiences that are completely foreign from their lives at home, and few hotels embody that romantic ideal more than the Green Magic Treehouse Resort. Located in the middle of the rainforest in Kerala, India, there are three different tree houses at the resort. The first is located 60 feet (18.29 meters) above ground, and it's reached by "water lift" -- one person stands in a cage-like structure, while another person, aided by a water counterweight, hoists them up with ropes. The second tree house is located 70 feet (21.34 meters) above ground, and the third is at an impressive height of 115 feet (35.05 meters). The tree houses each have two bedrooms, and they feature full-service bathrooms, thatched roofs and wraparound balconies. Rates start at $210 per night [source: The Guardian].
If you've ever spent much time in the rainforest, you know that the best place to sleep is in an elevated place, because snakes, insects and anything else that can bite you are on the forest floor. So there's really no better place to sleep than in a tree house. For a truly luxurious night in the treetops, the Canopy Tree House Suite at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica is perched 90 feet (27.43 meters) above the jungle floor, and it's just about the most deluxe lodging offered in the Peruvian rainforest. The tree house is accessed via a network of rope bridges, and a dedicated butler serves you meals on a private balcony. It sounds like the ideal place to kick back and do a little bird watching. Dinner and breakfast are included with the $300 per night rate, and guests are required to stay for a minimum of three nights [source: Hotel Chatter].
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Author's Note: 10 Awesome Tree Houses You Can Stay In
I never had a tree fort when I was a kid, and I think that absence made me more drawn to tree houses as an adult. There's something special about being suspended in a tree while enjoying the comforts of home, and I think that's why people are so interested in these types of structures. If I could choose any of these tree houses to spend a night in, I think I'd go with the Green Magic Treehouse Resort in India, if only to test out the water lift in person.
- Butter, Susannah. "More treehouses around the world." Financial Times. Jan. 7, 2011. (June 30, 2012) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/9932c802-19e1-11e0-b921-00144feab49a.html#axzz1zKOwKHwl
- Cedar Creek Treehouse. (June 30, 2012) http://www.cedarcreektreehouse.com/index.htm
- Dirksen, Kirsten. "DIY treehouse inventor creates Ewok world in rural Oregon." Jan. 23, 2012. (June 30, 2012) http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/diy-treehouse-inventor-creates-ewok-world-in-rural-oregon/
- Finca Bellavista. (June 29, 2012) http://www.fincabellavista.net/
- Free Spirit Spheres. (June 25, 2012) http://www.freespiritspheres.com/
- Frommers.com. "Out 'n' About Treehouse Treesort Review." (June 27, 2012) http://www.frommers.com/destinations/oregoncavesnationalmonument/H44092.html
- Gibbon Experience. (June 30, 2012) http://www.gibbonexperience.org/gibbon_exp_waterfall.php
- Grover, Sami. "Is This the Highest Concentration of Treehouses in the World? Man Builds Ewok Village in Oregon." Jan. 23, 2012. (June 24, 2012) http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/highest-concentration-treehouses-world-man-builds-ewok-village-oregon.html
- The Guardian. "Treehouses." Oct. 28, 2005. (June 29, 2012) http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2005/oct/29/fivebest.guardiansaturdaytravelsection
- Hanlon, Mike. "The Free Spirit Sphere - inspiration for the relocatable home of the future." Feb. 20, 2005. (June 25, 2012) http://www.gizmag.com/go/3729/
- HotelChatter. "The Canopy Tree House Suite: The Best Room in The Entire Forest." Aug. 24, 2009 (June 29, 2012) http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2009/8/24/175023/413/hotels/The_Canopy_Tree_House_Suite%3A_The_Best_Room_in_The_Entire_Forest
- Lawrence, Robyn Griggs. "A Sustainable Treehouse Community in Costa Rica." Jan. 23, 2011 (June 29, 2012) http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-home-living/a-sustainable-treehouse-community-in-costa-rica.aspx
- Li, Sun. "Zen, Taoism inspire his lofty architecture." Sept. 12, 2010. (June 25, 2012) http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/2010-09/12/content_11294241.htm
- Schell-Lapbert, Theo. "Treehotel: Sweden's Dreamlike Treehouse Fantasies." Nov. 4, 2010. (June 24, 2012) http://www.good.is/post/treehotel-sweden-s-dreamlike-treehouse-fantasies/
- Travel + Leisure. "Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel." (June 29, 2012) http://www.travelandleisure.com/hotels/ariau-amazon-towers-hotel
- Treehousesofhawaii.com. "Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort and Beach Club." (June 24, 2012) http://www.treehousesofhawaii.com/nanshan.html