FROM THE MILLENNIA-OLD INDONESIAN RAINFOREST TO THE UNTAMED WONDER OF THE AMAZON, VENTURE DEEP INTO THE WORLD’S MOST MAJESTIC JUNGLES AT THESE ULTRA-LUXE WILDERNESS LODGES
BY AMANDA MCCOY
FOUR SEASONS BALI AT SAYAN
The approach here is dramatic. Cross a narrow suspension bridge floating high above the lush treetops of the Sayan Valley – a sacred forest only ten minutes from the center of Ubud celebrated for its curative powers – to reach a sprawling elliptical-shaped lotus pond that overlooks the rushing river. Rice bowls fueled the design inspiration for British-Malaysian architect John Heah, an ode to the country’s fertile rice paddies. is rooftop terrace offers visitors the first taste of what’s in store at this five-star wellness retreat, a place where Julia Roberts and President Obama have sought sanctuary from the asperities of the day to day.
There are 18 suites in the primary lodge, plus 39 freestanding one, two, and three-bedroom villas buried deep in the raw tropical foliage of the valley. Each room is lavishly appointed but palpably authentic, decorated with locally sourced shells, hand-carved teak furniture, and ikat fabrics. Garden and river views are served on the expansive terraces, outfitted with plush daybeds and suite-specific plunge pools. The resort’s premier accommodation, the Royal Villa, is a palatial hideaway featuring open-side living and dining areas, a rooftop terrace, and a collection of rare Indonesian art.
Spa services extend far beyond traditional massages and facials. rough ancient Balinese rituals and organic, nature-fed treatments, therapists and energy healers work to restore your inner energy, uniting the mind, body, and soul, and fostering an holistic connection to the earth. Choose between chakra ceremonies for balance and harmony; a Codage facial that combines massage and gua sha techniques with rose quartz to stimulate facial muscles and promote lymphatic drainage; and Balinese smoke ceremony with frankincense, among many more. Ibu Fera, the resort’s resident Buddhist nun, leads life talks and meditation (where one can experience the glorious Sacred Nap in an aerial silk hammock) while local rice farmers bring guests into the fields. Additional offerings include reiki, antigravity yoga, and bathing rituals.
Rates begin at $550 per night. fourseasons.com
ONE&ONLY NYUNGWE HOUSE
Located a few degrees south of the Equator in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, Rwanda is a captivating wonderland of soft rolling hills and rich, feral jungle. The Nyungwe House brings intrepid jet-setters into the wild, nestled on a working tea plantation at the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, one of the oldest rainforests in Africa. The setting is both swanky and secluded, spanning 22 lavish suites across six villas, each with sweeping vistas of the thickets of tree ferns, mosses, and mahogany, where chimpanzees, olive baboons, and red-tailed monkeys play in the vines.
The continent of Africa has no shortage of luxury lodges, but the Nyungwe House stands out as a true adventurer’s retreat, taking guests deep into the throes of the rainforest on strenuous hikes, “jungle-style” bootcamps, and fast-paced chimpanzee treks. The experiences are often muddy and messy – yet mesmerizing. Less challenging pursuits include helicopter journeys over the park and Lake Kivu, hilltop archery, bird watching, and a tea-making course. Visitors can also elect to roll up their sleeves every Saturday morning and participate in Umuganda, a hands-on initiative to support the local Nyungwe community through projects like infrastructure development to environmental protection.
The spa spans two spacious treatment rooms with towering floor-to-ceiling windows and massive terraces, so the symphony of the rainforest serenades you during custom massages, treatments, and holistic therapies designed by eco-friendly brand Africology. The signature Fire Ritual cleanses the mind and body through a smoke bath and re visualization with guided breathwork, believed to transform pain into healing energy. End the 90-minute experience with a cup of herbal tea on the veranda and get lost in the soothing sounds of the African jungle.
Rates begin at $2,900 per night.
HOTEL DAS CATARATAS
Iguazu National Park, Brazil
Comprising 250 separate waterfalls the largest waterfall system on the planet Iguazu Falls along the border of Southern Brazil and Argentina are one of the world’s New Seven Natural Wonders and an enchanting site, forging a cascading mist that cloaks the surrounding rainforest. This pastel-tinted resort is the only accommodation located in the Iguazu National Park, providing guests an exclusive front-row seat to the glory of the falls. At dawn and dusk, after the throngs of tour buses have left, Hotel das Cataratas guests have the falls all to themselves. Once a month, guests are treated to a lunar rainbow, a phenomenon that occurs when light from the moon casts a multi-colored arc over the falls.
The 187 guestrooms and suites are all dressed in authentic Portuguese flavors, featuring rosewood floors, hand-carved furniture, Portuguese-Colonial fixtures, and locally commissioned artwork. Separate living rooms, terraces, and private pools are all suite options, while the crown jewel Cataratas Suite boasts four panoramic balconies to feel the mist of the falls on your skin.
In addition to the main attraction, activities run the gamut from helicopter rides and safari walks to bird watching, rafting, and guided treks. Guests can witness the falls from a different perspective through first light walks at dawn or nocturnal tours when the moon is full. There are also two swimming pools, a full-service gym, and nature spa offering rainforest-aided treatments with local Brazilian products. At mealtimes, indulge in creative Brazilian-international fare at Itaipu, served inside the gilded, dark wooded dining room or on a shaded veranda with views of the falls.
Rates begin around $400 per night. belmond.com
BANYAN TREE MAYAKOBA
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Stretched along the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula, the Riviera Maya has long seduced sun-thirsty wanderers with its turquoise waters and sugary beaches, but the coastline is also home to thick mangrove growths whose deep spinach hues juxtapose beautifully against the crisp white sand. Located in the resort village of Maya koba just 25 minutes from Playa del Carmen this chic hideaway captures the spellbinding beauty of its jungle setting while treating guests to the finest 21st century luxuries. Floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive terraces offer uninterrupted views of the dunes, freshwater lagoons, and serpentine canals. More than 100 species of birds, giant sea turtles, and crocodiles call this small slice of coastline home.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba is the Singapore-based hospitality group’s first Mexican outpost and one of only three locales in the Western Hemisphere. The East-meets-West style manifests as large, indoor outdoor villas and suites adorned with rustic woods, hammocks, decadent outdoor bathtubs, and private swimming pools. The spa features a range of signature Asian therapies like classic Thai and royal Balinese massage, plus a selection of Mexican traditions such as invigorating steam baths and honey massages.
Dining options also blend the two corners of the globe. Enjoy fresh Mexican fare at the Sands Beach Club, where a menu of ceviche, tacos, quesadillas, and catch of the day highlight hyper local ingredients and wild-caught fish. Saffron, on the other hand, serves exquisite Thai selects like khao pad pu krob with crispy crab meat, phad kaprao nuea with wok-fried tenderloin, and an assortment of scratch-made curries. Also on deck are a gourmet Italian eatery, breakfast buffet on the water, steakhouse, burger shop, tapas bar, contemporary Mexican lounge, and a pool bar. There are also several immersive specialty experiences, including HAAB a theatrical dinner party named after the Mayan solar calendar, which includes storytelling, dancing, and a four-course Mayan-style meal with ancestral water.
Rates start around $500 per night. banyantree.com/mexico/mayakoba