Finding nature as the central focus, off-the-grid cabin getaways and treehouses answer a call to the wilderness for travelers with a minimal footprint. Owing to a growing focus on experiential and purposeful exploration in travel, this segment offers simplicity as the ultimate luxury, with reconnecting with Mother Nature the greatest amenity of them all. Discreet, rustic and beautiful, these five hideaways take those desires and fulfill them with unforgettable moments that melt into the surrounding landscape.
Coco Guest Pods
The Coco Guest Pods disappear within the lush Costa Rican jungle, providing a welcome escape on the Art Villas Costa Rica resort property. Spearheaded by Czech firms Formafatal and Archwerk, “the concept is simple and minimalist,” says Formafatal founder Dagmar Stepanova. “The visual, and especially personal, fusion with the surrounding tropical nature was important.”
Overlooking Hermosa Beach, the four egg-shaped pods (a larger version serves as the hub for the kitchen and communal dining area) represent modern tropical architecture for a sustainably minded glamping experience.
Each pod sits on a set of raised steel columns draped in UV-resistant canvas run across teak frames, providing striking views without the loss of privacy. More teak, woven rattan, and alfresco soaking tubs add to the overall immersive experience, while a rope motif reminiscent of the vines in the forest is repeated throughout, including as headboards that back canopy beds. The interiors are meant to increase guests’ exposure to nature and are, Stepanova says, “conspicuous yet natural.”
The slopes of Palo Huérfano, an extinct volcano outside of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, hide the next getaway. Mirror-clad and mesmerizing in its reflections, Casa Etérea’s exterior strikes an immediate contrast against its surroundings.
“The response I hope [to get from] the project is a sense of awe for the wilderness,” says Singaporean writer and designer Prashant Ashoka, who now lives in Mexico. The idea for the rentable home “was to create an optical illusion that would blur the boundaries between the structure of the building, the observer, and the landscape.”
Made up of two reflective glass sheets coated with a patterned UV design, the exterior reflects the surroundings—whether it’s the volcano at night or the sun rising in the morning that emanates an ethereal glow. The open-concept interior space further connects to its setting with a palette of wood, stone, jute and leather and a set of sliding glass doors that open to a shaded pool area, as well as sweeping views of the cliff beyond.
“It accentuates the idea of openness and of bringing the outside in,” Ashoka says. “I want guests to contemplate their role as stewards in the preservation of our ecosystems.”
Found in an estuary on Denmark’s longest fjord, Løvtag is a treetop hotel comprising a series of elevated cabins assembled around a tree trunk.
“The sound, smell, movement, and texture of the tree growing through the middle is the main experience of the interior,” says architect Sigurd Larsen. “Laying in bed seeing and hearing the tree moving slowly and meditatively is a very nice experience.”
To assemble the nine treehouses, a local team of carpenters built everything by hand onsite to assuage any threat of deforesting the area. Additionally, the exterior wood and steel will patina over time, as moss grows on the north side, further merging the cabins into the forest landscape.
“The façades are broken into many segments so vertical lines appear, [allowing the cabins to] blend in between the lines of the tree trunks in the forest,” Larsen says.
Inside, monochrome surfaces and lightly colored wooden panels contrast the roughness of the tree. The walls, meanwhile, sit directly against large frameless windows, “so we catch this beautiful shadow play and flickering light from the leaves outside,” he adds.
One of two cabin projects from Helsinki-based Studio Puisto that debuted last year (the other is the naturalistic Space of Mind found on the small Finnish island of Halikko), Niliaitta is an elevated lodging concept located near Finland’s Salamajärvi National Park. Named for a traditional local building type, the prototype is one of 25 suites to be built for the Kivijärvi Resort; another 25 in a different design are forthcoming nearby.
The load bearing, black-painted structure is supported by a single column that rises into the trees, effortlessly disappearing into the isolated location while reducing the structure’s impact on the land. Guests arrive to the cabin via a narrow path through the forest. As they ascend the long, linear staircase, they take in the views around them until they reach the simple Scandinavian interiors that maximize the backdrop. Yet the standouts of the design are large windows that serve as blank canvases to the woodland beyond.
“The surrounding nature is brought in as an essential part of the experience,” says Studio Puisto partner Mikko Jakonen. “The space is intimate and compact, which creates a cozy and safe feeling.”
Marc Thorpe Design, the New York studio behind off-the-grid Catskill Mountains cabin the Edifice, is now working on Canton House, a modern extension of the Tara Luanei lodge in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains slated for completion in 2022. These three peaked-roof cabins powered by solar kits showcase the local vernacular of cladding found on traditional Romanian churches, similar to a cedar shake, Thorpe points out.
The embrace of blackened beech wood, dominant in the area, was essential, he adds: “There was no other choice aesthetically. The architecture adapts to the spirit of the place through its use of material, tone, finish, and character.”
Another version of this article was originally penned by Matt Dougherty in our sister publication Hospitality Design.