Some hotels are experiences unto themselves. The aesthetic, the gardens, the food — they all conspire together to make you want to stay on property. Other hotels leave you hyped to get up and out. To venture into the wilds of a national park or hike an abandoned ridge. These properties are great for relaxing when the day is done, but are so close to the wilds that it’d be a shame to hang around the pool all day.
Today, we’re focusing on these “gateway to adventure” spots around the world. We’re talking about places to stay when you’re ready to #OptOutside for days of jungle trekking, abandoned beach wandering, or desert hiking. Some of these hotels are luxurious while others are quaint, but they’re all excellent entry points for venturing into the great outdoors.
— Steve Bramucci, Uproxx Travel Editor
Kakadu Lodge: Jabiru, Northern Territory, Australia
Kakadu National Park — in Ausralia’s “Top End” — is bigger than the entire national of Israel. It’s a massive and massively rich cultural center for Australia’s Northern Territory. It’s also an area that holds a deep reverence for local Aboriginal people and involves them in every part of the park planning, maintence, and development. Worldwide, this park is a shining example for how to manage a large and very popular space, without marginalizing Indigenous owners.
The Kakadu Lodge is the perfect jumping off point for your adventures in the park. From this central position, most of the area’s major attractions are easily driveable. Heritage sites like Ubirr Rock are close at hand, as is the towering Jim Jim Falls. Yellow Water, where the nation’s largest crocs reside, is close, too. Gunlom Falls — an absolute must see/ must swim — is three hours south, which isn’t too bad, considering Kakadu’s vastness.
The lodge itself features a bar, which is rare in the park, and a very solid restaurant serving Aussie classics. There are also two pools for cooling off and nicely appointed stand alone cabins tucked into shady rows. As a home base for accessing one of the wildest spaces left on earth, this hotel is right on point while being very affordable.
Rooms start at $100
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Aloft Asheville Downtown: Asheville, North Carolina
A rooftop pool, neon-lit bar with a playful cocktail menu, more bars and restaurants than you’ll know what to do with, and, oh yeah, hiking among the highest peaks east of the Mississippi. This spot is [extremely Miley Cyrus voice] the best of both worlds, where you can take in all the urban delights the cozy western Carolina city has to offer and still be among the tall pines and outcrops in no time flat.
Bent Creek and the North Carolina Arboretum are only a 10-minute drive from downtown, and if you’re in the mood for something more challenging, Looking Glass Rock is a 40-minute drive south to the heart of Mt. Pisgah Forest. And most importantly? Dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, old and young. Feel free to bring your four-legged companions with you, but don’t worry about sharing a bed. They get their own set-up.
Rooms start at $212.
Cresta Sprayview Hotel: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls is a natural wonder in a still relatively unspoiled part of Africa. And both the falls and the area around it make for great adventuring, with opportunities to bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge, white water raft on the Zambezi River, swim in the Devil’s Pool that sits on the edge of the falls, trek through the rainforest (the hotel offers a shuttle), take a sunset boat cruise, zip-line across the Batoka Gorge, and go on a game drive in Zambezi National Park.
Located less than a mile from the entrance to the falls, Cresta Sprayview Hotel offers the access you want to this buffet of fun and does so without costing a fortune. It is legit so close to the Falls that you can see the spray when they are in full flood. An ideal starting point for exploring the adventure capital of Africa, the hotel is set on eight acres of pristine grounds and offers 65-rooms and suites to choose from. There is also a restaurant and two bars on site, so you can head back to the hotel when you are done with your escapades and totally chill.
Rooms start at $115.
Chico Hot Springs: Pray, Montana
One of my favorite places in the world is Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana. There are so many things to love about it: the big soothing hot springs, the stunning mountain views and trails, the perfect dive bar saloon on site, an incredible restaurant, and all the different, lovely rooms from a luxury chalet to an old-fashioned inn. But one of its biggest selling points (other than drinking a margarita in hot springs all day) is its proximity to Yellowstone.
Only 20 minutes from the entrance, it’s such an amazing home base — giving you all the amenities of a resort while still holding that classic Montana feel you want to in big sky country. I got married here, and all of our traveling guests fell in love with the resort and with Yellowstone. It’s impossible to dislike Chico, genuinely. Plus, all 100 people at our wedding saw a bear in the park. You know who didn’t see a bear, who has NEVER SEEN A BEAR? Me. I was the only one at my own wedding who didn’t see a bear. I honestly can’t say bears are even real. If you go and see one, send me a picture. I’ll get so mad. I’m owed a wedding bear.
Anyway… this place is the greatest, with or without bears.
Rooms start at $150
Snow Bear Chalets: Whitefish, Montana
Glacier National Park is the headwaters for the waters that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and to Hudson’s Bay. With 734 miles of trails, it invites visitors to hike through stunning forests and alpine meadows, as well as around pristine lakes and craggy mountains. There are also a lot of ranger-led activities for people who like a little guidance when exploring. We like their Native America Speaks program which takes place in the summer and invites members of the Blackfoot, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes to share their culture and history.
Another wave of people skip the summer and come for the skiing. That’s when the Snow Bear Chalets are at their most enchanting. Part of the Whitefish Mountain Resort, the Snow Bear Chalets are considered the world’s first ski-in/ski-out luxury treehouses. Set roughly 25 miles from Glacier National Park, these unique accommodations offer access to all the outdoorsy pursuits you could ask for. And they have private hot tubs and gas fireplaces framed in Montana Moss stone for your downtime.
We are all about the Tamarack Chalets, which sit less than 30-feet from the slope and include four beds on two levels. This is the perfect setting for a ski party with all of your closest friends.
Rooms start at $470.
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Always planning our next adventure. ❤️ @snowbearchalets was our home away from home while we were in Montana! This place scratched every design itch I had including Bosch appliances, a grey and blue kitchen and natural light for DAYS. I put a little house tour up on IG stories – check it out now, or click on the ‘Glacier’ highlight in my profile. 👆👆👆#snowbearchalets 📷 Photo by the lovely @hkcameraface! _____________________ #glacierMT #Explorewhitefish @Explorewhitefish @glacierMT
Salish Lodge & Spa: Snoqualmie, Washington
Salish Lodge & Spa has a double allure. The first major draw is nature. The lodge is perched over the Snoqualmie River next to a magnificent waterfall. The area is a dense forest the leads into the Cascade Wilderness just east of the lodge. The second draw is that it’s also only 40 minutes from downtown Seattle. This place is super accessible.
The lodge has a great Lindal Cedar Homes/old-school lodge vibe with killer views over the falls. The rooms are modernist and cozy with plenty of wool and fireplaces. The spa is on-point and worthy of a day trip. The dining is very Euro-American with plenty of Pacific Northwest flourishes from the forest and sea on the menu. This is the perfect escape from the bustle of Seattle.
Rooms start at $299.
Kalaloch Lodge: Forks, Washington
If you’re looking to explore the Pacific Northwest and go on some adventures, you have a lot of options. We think one of the best is Olympic National Park, which stretches over nearly a million acres and offers diversity in a big way. The range of elevation and precipitation mean that you can literally stand atop glacier-capped mountains in one part of the park and in old-growth temperate rainforests in another. Plus, there are over 70 miles of raw coastline that make for some awesome tide pooling opportunities.
Along a 73-mile stretch of Olympic National Park, you will only find a single coastal lodge: Kalaloch Lodge, which offers the option of getting cozy with fellow travelers at the Main Lodge, as well as the relative privacy of cabins. Sitting on a remote bluff overlooking the ocean, this accommodation doesn’t offer guests wi-fi, but it does have easy access to the beach, a marine sanctuary, tons of hiking trails, and the rainforest. We like the cabins with their wide windows and incredible views, especially the ones with fireplaces and wood burning stoves. They are perfect places to both plan and celebrate fantastic fun within the park.
Rooms start at $139.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore: Keystone, South Dakota
Under Canvas is the glamping experience that keeps nature front and center. Their installment in Keystone, South Dakota, is deep enough in the woods that you’ll truly feel like you’re out in the wilderness. You’ll likely see deer chomping on pines in the wee hours of the morning. Hell, you may even see a mountain lion.
The site sits about 15 minutes from Mount Rushmore and offers views from the yoga deck and fire pit of the monument. The restaurant is on-point with a healthy and comforting breakfast, tasty lunch, and a great steak for dinner. There’s plenty of local craft beer in the fridge too. The tents are fantastic rooms with big, comfy beds, working bathrooms with toilets, and a nice wood stove to keep you warm through the night. The best part is that the wonders of the whole Black Hills are right outside your tent.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore’s season is between May 9th and September 29th in 2019. Tents start at $199.
Volcano House: Volcano, Hawaii
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park encompasses two active volcanoes (Kīlauea and Mauna Loa), which was a bit of a problem this year, as explosions and toxic ash clouds and earthquakes meant the closure of portions of the park for a few months. Now, guests are welcome to explore much of the 323-acres of the park without risk of a fiery volcano death. The hiking is truly first-rate, as Kīlauea is the most visited volcano in the world for a reason. We are huge fans of the Thurston Lava Tube, the sulfur banks, and the general lava viewing. It’s unlike anything you will see anywhere else.
If you want to maximize your adventure by staying at the summit of Kīlauea, the Volcano House is the way to go. The events of this year mean the depth of the crater has more than tripled while its diameter has more than doubled, and checking that out from the windows of the hotel is mind-blowing. Plus, without steam rising up, the night skies can be viewed more clearly, especially since there is little (if any) light pollution. There are 33 guest rooms with rustic island décor, and they all offer great views. There are no televisions, but they do have wi-fi and use of iPads for free.
Rooms start at $239.
Hotel Traube Tonbach: Baiersbronn, Germany
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Hotel Traube Tonbach is a great hotel/spa on its own. Where this property takes everything up to once-in-a-lifetime levels is in their in-house restaurant, Schwarzwaldstube. The three Michelin starred eatery is a testament to Black Forest cuisine from the actual Black Forest. This is a food experience that’ll stay with you for the rest of your life.
The hotel is well-appointed and very comfortable. The spa is world-class. Then there’s the whole Black Forest literally surrounding the hotel. You can take part in hiking, biking, fishing, foraging with the chef, or just taking in the view of a sweet valley amongst the dark forest. This is amazing food meets amazing accommodations in an idyllic natural setting that you’d be wise to take full advantage of.
Rooms start at $296.
W Verbier: Verbier, Switzerland
Verbier is a small village located in the south-western part of Switzerland, and it’s considered some of the best backcountry skiing in the world. Even when you visit in summer, the whole Swiss Alps chalet vibe is very evident. Seriously, when you are walking down the small main street looking in shops with your zipper burning into your skin from the summer sun, you still feel like you are in some winter alpine Disney town. So, you can for sure go ski, snowshoe, cross-country ski, heli-ski, sledge, paraglide, and ice climb. But, you can also hit the Polaris festival, an electro fest that runs for a few months in the town’s bars and clubs. Adventure takes many forms.
We like the way that W Verbier blends the traditional Swiss aesthetic with contemporary design. Is it classy? Sure. But it isn’t lacking any fun or character because of that. You don’t feel like you are an au pair shoved into the eaves room of a vast mansion like you do in a lot of the other chalets in the village. Plus, for skiing purposes, the location of the hotel — right next to the main Médran ski lift — is convenient as hell. Ski-in/ski-out is the way to go. We were understandably swayed by the giant red plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex that sits in the hotel. We are weak for design notes like that. Plus after a long day adventuring, having a full-sized bathtub is a must, and W is good for that too, offering both a shower and freestanding tub.
Rooms start at $425.
Tamarack Lodge: Ketchum, Idaho
Ketchum, Idaho, is the epicenter for Sun Valley and wilds of Sawtooth National Forest. There’s skiing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and more just steps away. This is the wilds of Idaho at their absolute best.
Tamarack Lodge is the perfect place to call home while you’re taking in the mountains. The lodge sits right downtown Ketchum and is walking distance to all the pubs and restaurants, and mere minutes from ski lifts. The rooms are on-point and a few even have in-room fireplaces to make things extra warm. Make sure to request a room on the top floor so you can get a nice vaulted ceiling.
The lodge is under renovation and reopens December 14th — just in time to hit those slopes.
Rooms start at $119.
Amandayan: Yunnan, China
Yunnan, China was the spot for early 20th-century botanist explorers, and following in their intrepid footsteps is a serious mood. There are lakes, glaciers, and mountains begging for you to traverse them. Consider adventuring in the stellar limestone formations of the Stone Forest and visiting Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Tiger Leaping Gorge. This doesn’t even address the canals, temples and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries of cities like Lijiang and Shangri-La, which are some of the most beautiful places in the entire country. One thing we love about Amandayan is that it overlooks Lijang, has views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, and is walking distance of the Unesco World Heritage old town. In short, you have a front row seat to adventure.
The other big thing we love is the design, which is so tied to China. Acclaimed architect Jaya Ibrahim designed the accommodations in classic minimalist Aman style, drawing on the local architecture of the Naxi people for the wooden suites. That means pale Yunnan pine from Shangri-La carved into screens and Naxi embroidery on the bed heads. In the bathrooms, it’s all marble and granite from the Fujian province. And, yes, that means upturned roofs and grey-clay tiles. The hotel offers 34-suites and they are completely worth it. Space isn’t an issue and the doors open into courtyards. It’s like having a small apartment in the coolest place in China.
Rooms start at $524.
Talkeetna Roadhouse: Talkeetna, Alaska
Talkeetna Roadhouse is a right of passage for those looking to get lost in the Alaskan wilderness. The 101-year-old diner and inn have been the way station for generations of outdoor-seeking wanderlusters for decades. The roadhouse is only a few minutes by foot from where the Talkeetna River meets up with the wide Susitna River. The wilds of Alaska’s wilderness is about a five-minute drive east where the caribou literally roam.
This place feels like an expedition base — your last refuge of civilization before facing the great unknown of the wilds. The small rooms and cabins are the epitome of cozy. The diner on the main floor is an Alaskan institution. The sourdough pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and pies are the breakfast foods necessary before a trek outdoors. Make sure to grab a couple of wild salmon pasties for the road too.
Rooms start at $84.
Ramon’s Village Resort: San Pedro, Belize
Manatees! Okay, in fairness, there are a lot of cool things about San Pedro, but we get hung up on the sea cows, whose first recorded sighting was by that bastard Christopher Columbus in 1493. Any chance to swim with them is something we want to get in on. A short 20-minute boat ride will take you to a tiny island named Caye Caulker. The shallow, blue waters are a habitat for the friendly and mellow manatees, and the folks at Ramon’s Village Resort take guests to the area to spend an hour snorkeling among the gentle sea friends. Then, you get to move on to Coral Gardens, a maze of sea coral that is teeming with brightly colored fish and easy to scope through the crystal waters.
Roman’s Village Resort is inspired by Bora Bora and sits in an autonomous sanctuary on Ambergris Caye. That means you have your own pearly, white sand beaches, a dive center, and a spa. We think staying in the thatch-roofed cabins among the swaying palms and lush tropical gardens is exactly what you need on an adventure. It’s pure Caribbean cool. Plus, since the 1980s, the resort has been managed by Ramon Nunez, who once guided Jacque Cousteau. That’s some serious SCUBA cred, but what else would you expect from the first certified diver in Belize?
Rooms start at $155.
Hotel Żubrówka: Białowieża, Poland
Hotel Żubrówka sits in the wild borderlands between Poland and Belarus. The primeval forest of Białowieża National Park is a natural wonderland of some of the oldest populations of wolves, bison, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, fox, boar, wild cats, and birds left in Europe. This is the sort of place that feels old in a way that touches on the preternatural.
The hotel and spa is a great representation of the local vibe and feel. The lodge has a very ancient birch forest feel from the rooms to the fantastic spa. Their on-site restaurant is a masterclass in local Polish/Belarus forest cuisine that’s wholly unique to any idea you might have of “Polish” food. If you ever wondered what Europe was like when it was still wild, this is it.
If you’re into exploring the animals and park, support Wild Poland. They lead tours into the park so you can snap photos of the animals in their environments. They’re also fighting against the current government’s continual attack on the parklands.
Rooms start at $127.
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Pacuare Lodge: Bajo del Tigre, Costa Rica
Sometimes, the hotel sits at the gateway to adventure and sometimes getting to the hotel is an adventure. The Pacuare Lodge falls into both categories. The only way in and out of this wonderous accommodation is via white water rafting down the country’s most majestic river, the Rio Pacuare. Nearly every guest piles in a six-seater, 14-foot inflatable raft and works through Class I-IV rapids to get to their temporary digs. That’s a hell of an approach! If you can’t make the river journey, there is a land option, but it still means crossing the river. You just do it in a cage that hangs above the water and gets pulled across by hand.
Once you arrive in the luxury rainforest escape, the accommodations at this family-owned hotel charm you (although you will spend a lot of time wondering how they got all the furnishings here when you had to raft in). In 1993, the property started as a campsite nestled in the rainforest. Now, a water turbine and solar energy keep things powered (though candles light the rooms at night). Pacuare Hotel is all about sustainability, but it doesn’t compromise on comfort. We like that guests can take a complimentary Sustainability Experience to learn more. We also love the rolltop bathtubs, which make for great soaking after a day spent exploring. If you opt for the larger Linda Vista suites, you also get a private, spring-fed infinity pool. Soaking and swimming in the rainforest is peak luxe.
Rooms start at $91.
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Pura Vida ! An incredible adventure in Pacuare Costa Rica, stayed in the Pacuare Lodge, Unique National Geographic lodges of the world. This is how you arrive and depart 😍. It's a must visit in Costa Rica! #pacuarelodge #pacuareriver #costarica🇨🇷 #memories #adventuretime #traveldeeper #wanderlust #travelover #jungleadventure #beautifulworld
Singtom Tea Estate & Resort: Darjeeling, India
Darjeeling is one of those places that feels other-worldly. The steep hills covered in tea plantations give way to the largest chain of mountains in the world with massive rhododendron forests creating a sort of bridge between the two. Given the popularity of Darjeeling tea around the world, staying at a working tea plantation really is the play here.
Singtom Tea Estate & Resort is situated on 1,600 acres of tea in the foothills below Kangchenjunga (the world’s third tallest peak). The estate has a very open feel to it with spacious rooms, classic furniture and rugs, and 19th-century flair. The whole of the Himalayas are right outside the door. From Darjeeling, you can head into Sikkim and trek right up to Kangchenjunga if you’ve got the mettle…and time.
Rooms start at $68.
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Day 11 – Afternoon #Tea will never be the same… Sampling the #local #produce from/in #Singtom Estate. That's the #view from our garden. x #India #travel #tourist #sunshine #wunderlust #view #mountainscape #Darjeeling #plantation #teatime #cuppa #brewed #beautiful #pretty #instatravel #downtime #chill #peaceful #homebrew #chai #teapot #scenic
Top End Safari Camp: Litchfield (Darwin), Australia
The Top End is the Australia where few tread. This part of the continent is largely empty of people but very full of wild animals, marshlands, termite towers, endless beaches, and open wilderness — oh, and a lot of crocs. Taking a trip to the Top End is escapism to a unique corner of the planet that really has no parallel anywhere else.
Top End Safari Camp is croc wrangler, TV star, and conservationist Matt Wright’s personal retreat that you’re totally invited to. This place is an all-in sort of trip. You’ll get picked up by chopper from Darwin and fly out to Berry Springs Nature Reserve for a swim in paradise. Then you’ll hit up a proper Oz roadhouse for lunch before choppering to the camp. Once there, you’ll meet Matt’s massive croc, Tripod. Before night falls, you’ll get another chopper ride over the Litchfield floodplains to spot wild animals before heading back for a Top End BBQ. It’s immersive, wild, and worth every penny.
Prices start at $475 per person.
Finse 1222: Finse, Norway
Finse, Norway, has two huge claims to fame. Finse 1222 is the lodge with its own train station is where Shackleton and Nansen visited in 1909 for their Antartica expedition. It’s also where George Lucas chose to shoot Hoth for The Empire Strikes Back. There are few places more epic than that. The lodge sits right on the edge of a lake next to a massive glacier. It’s also above the tree-line, giving the whole place a truly other-worldly feel.
The lodge is a winter sports destination with people flocking there to get in some serious cross-country skiing and train for their very own Antarctic expeditions. The rooms are cozy and offer amazing views of the mountains and glacier. The restaurant is a testament to the great lengths great hotels go to in order to serve amazing food in even the harshest of circumstances.
Grab yourself a local Norwegian craft beer, a big ol’ slice of black bread with local butter, and sit in one of the picture windows over-looking some of the harshest nature on earth. Hopefully, the beer will give you the courage to tackle all that nature.
Rooms start at $178.