Beautifully positioned on a shelf between the snow-capped Kaikoura Mountain Range and surf-lashed Mangamaunu Bay on South Island, Hapuku Lodge is an exercise in fresh, contemporary, low-impact design. The architect Tony Wilson and his family set out to build a low-key country inn, but before long the project had morphed into a six-room lodge and five glorious tree houses, 30ft up in the canopy of a native manuka grove. All rooms are simple, with comfortable handcrafted beds, wool rugs, roaring fires, huge windows and terraces facing the ocean. There is a tree house to suit all – from a romantic one-bedroom nook to two-bedroom enclaves for families. There are great walks direct from the lodge, and it is 12 miles north of Kaikoura (Maori for ‘to eat crayfish’), once a major whaling town and now a centre for eco-marine tourism and an artists’ colony that has achieved Green Globe Benchmark status. Next year Hapuku is adding a few more rooms and an outdoor heated pool.
Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica
As a pioneer of sustainable tourism in Peru, Inkaterra’s aim has always been to introduce outsiders to the wonders of Peru’s indigenous culture in a way that actively benefits local people. One of its loveliest properties, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, is a jungle lodge on the banks of the Madre Dios river in the Amazon rainforest. Accommodation is in 35 thatched cabanas, all with screened porches and hammocks. The latest addition, the fairytale Canopy Tree House, is a heart-stopping 90ft above the ground. Accessed by canopy walkway and situated on its own private platform in the sky, the Canopy Tree House is ideal for animal watching below, stargazing above or just unwinding in complete peace. Everything has been considered, including the possibility that you might get vertigo in the night (there’s an additional bedroom at ground level you can clamber down to), and a butler is on hand, contactable by walkie-talkie, for those late-night Pisco Sour orders.
Tranquil Resort-Plantation Hideaway
On a private coffee and vanilla plantation in the remote Wayanad district of northern Kerala, Tranquil Resort-Plantation Hideaway is much as it sounds – a peaceful rainforest haven with the efficiency of a resort and the intimacy of a ‘home stay’. You are greeted like old friends by the owners, Victor and Jini Dey, and it is difficult not to relax at Tranquil Resort. There are eight rooms in the main bungalow, the Tree House with a bedroom, bathroom and a large veranda, and the bigger Tree Villa, huge with a double and two single beds, two bathrooms and a large veranda. Its diminutive overall size gives the hideaway a laidback house party atmosphere. Relax by the pool in a hammock, in the garden or strike out for a walk into the 400-acre plantation, where you can learn how coffee and vanilla are produced. Home-cooked meals are taken around a big communal table – some say this is the best food in Kerala.
Chole Mjini Lodge
Off the tourist trail on a stunningly beautiful island within Tanzania’s Mafia archipelago, Chole Mjini Lodge was an eco-lodge way before the term had been coined. The owners, Jean and Anne de Villiers, built this collection of six tree houses high in the branches of baobab trees set within tropical gardens to be environmentally sound and to give something back to the community. Today, $10 of each guest’s nightly tariff goes towards funding a local project (most recently building a primary school and an adult education centre). Be prepared for ‘creative’ takes on modern conveniences: storm lanterns replace electricity, there are composting lavatories, and air conditioning comes in the form of natural ventilation that blows through each open-sided house. The result is a unique rustic charm and complete indulgence defined by attentive staff, huge wraparound terraces with gorgeous ocean views and the feeling of being somewhere completely, wonderfully different.
Tree-house hotels: four of the best - Telegraph