Getting there is half the fun at these places you reach by rock climbing, tuk-tuk, bamboo raft or SCUBA diving. You even paraglide off a mountain to one. Are you up for it?
You won’t hear, “Pull the car around and we’ll get you checked in” at these 12 accommodations. Instead, guests take alternative means of arriving, proving the old saying that getting there is half the fun. You may want to review your packing list when your means of transportation include a whitewater raft, cable car, paragliding or even scuba tank. Did we mention the zipline? Who needs a boring ride in an elevator to reach your room? The adventure at these properties starts even before check-in.
Top Picks for You
Sumaq Machu Picchu
WHERE: Aquas Calientes, Peru
Method of arrival: By train
Guests at the 62-room Sumaq Machu Picchu at the base of Peru’s most visited site have only one option of arrival–by passenger train to the town of Aguas Calientes in the valley next to Machu Picchu. It’s a relaxing and scenic 90-minute trip through the Sacred Valley from the station at Ollantaytambo, with several classes of service available from a commuter line to first class or private car travel with Inca Rail. Passengers can spot snow-capped mountains and the roaring Urubamba River as the train passes through jungles, farms, and canyons in sparsely populated areas, perhaps even catching glimpses of hikers along the ancient Inca Trail.
INSIDER TIPGuests at Sumaq Machu Picchu can book an eight-hour Magical Mystical Machu Picchu tour led by a shaman who performs cleansing ceremonies on the sacred ground.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
WHERE: Quebec City, Canada
Method of arrival: By funicular
One of the oldest European settlements in North America, Quebec City’s skyline is dominated by Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, one of the city’s most visited attractions. Despite its name, it was never a castle, but was constructed in the late 19th century as a stopover for passengers on the Canadian Pacific Railway. To easily ascend from Lower Town to Upper Town, guests board the Old Quebec Funicular to arrive at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, which has 611 guestrooms. Those who have no problem with heights can have spectacular views of the historic buildings of Lower Town, some dating back to the 17th century, and the St. Lawrence River.
WHERE: Alaska Range, Alaska
Method of arrival: By floatplane and ski plane
One of the world’s most remote lodges, Winterlake Lodge is 198 miles northwest of Anchorage on the historic Iditarod Trail in Alaska, overlooking a lake. Guests reach the lodge by taking a one-hour ride in a small floatplane, a spectacular way to take in the Alaskan tundra, where they can sometimes spot bear, moose, and elk. In the summer the plane lands on the lake, and in the winter on the ice. The lodge has six hand-built pine guest cabins and a main lodge.
WHERE: Uttarakhand, India
Method of arrival: By bamboo raft
The back-to-nature experience at Vanghat Lodge in Uttarakhand, India, begins with the journey to reach its isolated location about 185 miles from Delhi. Guests leave the closest road, hike through the jungle, then cross a bridge over the Western Ramganga River through a small village in a Ramganga Valley. They have to cross the river again, but this time on a small bamboo raft. This tiny jungle camp with just four private cottages, a dining area, kitchen, and researcher’s headquarters is in Jim Corbett National Park on the edge of a tiger reserve in Ramganga Valley.
W Punta de Mita
WHERE: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Method of arrival: Tuk-tuk
Guests traveling in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, know they are on the right path to W Punta de Mita when they spot a wide-eyed nine-foot tall Huichol statue sporting a bright pink sombrero, orange shirt, and blue pants. Nicknamed Panchita, he is inspired by the art of the indigenous population of Mexico. From there they travel to the welcome station by tuk-tuks decorated with images of Mexican culture with designs by Revolución del Sueño, a studio in the fishing village of Sayulita. At the welcome station, they are greeted with a colorful walkway created with more than 700,000 mosaics that leads to the Pacific Ocean. The resort has 119 rooms and suites.
Skylodge Adventure Suites
WHERE: Cusco, Peru
Method of arrival: By rock climbing and zipline
It’s been called the scariest hotel in the world. The adventurous guests at the aptly named Skylodge Adventure Suites in Cusco, Peru, sleep in a transparent pod hanging off the side of a cliff with a 300-degree view of the Sacred Valley. The three suites hold a total of eight people and include meals in an adjacent dining pod–you can’t exactly take a stroll around to find a snack.
To reach the pods, guests are assisted as they rock climb for 90 minutes 400 feet up the cliff. Leaving is a bit easier–guests strap in and zipline down.
WHERE: Limon, Costa Rica
Method of arrival: By whitewater raft
It’s all about sustainability and having a minimal impact on the environment at the luxury eco-hotel Pacuare Lodge in Limon, Costa Rica. Guests nestle down for the night in the protected rainforest in one of the 20 thatch-roofed bungalows built of lumber from a reforestation project. There are no roads to the lodge, so guests arrive by a guided rafting trip on the Pacuare River, a trip that takes one to two hours depending on the condition of the river.
Many visitors are first-time rafters and are able to relax enough to enjoy the views as they travel through lush jungle and between towering cliffs.
Len Foote Hike Inn
WHERE: North Georgia
Method of arrival: By foot
Don’t pack more than you can carry in a backpack if you’re visiting the Hike Inn in North Georgia. The only way to reach the inn is by taking a five-mile hike slightly uphill, about a three-hour trek through the Chattahoochee National Forest that starts at the top of Amicalola Falls close to the gateway to the Appalachian Trail.
Forget lugging those laptops. Guests are encouraged to leave cell phones and electronics behind for their stay in one of the 20 private bunkrooms powered by solar energy. The solitude and the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are worth the rustic stay in this inn operated by the Georgia State Park System.
Jul’s Undersea Lodge
WHERE: Key Largo, Florida
Method of arrival: By scuba diving
Find out if life really is better down where it’s wetter as Sebastian the lobster sang in “The Little Mermaid” when you spend the night under the sea at Jules Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida. To enter the lodge, guests descend 21 feet in the sheltered 30-foot-deep Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo Undersea Park. The underwater lodge has two bedrooms, a stocked kitchen, TV, hot shower, books, beds, and even Wi-Fi. Large round windows provide views of fish and other sea life swimming by.
Guests have to be certified scuba divers or can get their Discover Scuba Diving certification onsite.
Six Senses Zighy Bay Resort
WHERE: Musandam Peninsula, Oman
Method of arrival: By paraglide
Forget wearing flip-flops when you check into Six Senses Zighy Bay–you may lose them as you make your way to the bayside resort by paragliding 2,000 feet down from a mountain. No experience is needed as guests fly in tandem with a paragliding pilot who guides them over the crags of the Al Hajar Mountains with a view of the resort for a relaxing 10-15 glide down onto the one-mile beach of Zighy Bay. The resort is about 75 miles from Dubai and has 64 villas and suites.
WHERE: Mackinac Island, Michigan
Method of arrival: By boat
Cars are banned on Mackinac Island in Michigan, a law dating back to the 1890s when residents so disliked the noise and fast pace of these newfangled horseless carriages, they outlawed them. The law stands to this day, so guests staying at the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1887, arrive by ferry and zip around the eight-mile island by bicycle or by horse, many of the horses transported to the island for the summer from the Amish after they have been retired from plowing.
This 393-room hotel is about a 15-20-minute walk from the dock, although guests can opt to arrive in grand style in a horse-drawn carriage.
WHERE: Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Method of arrival: By skis, snowboard or snowshoes
You may want to train a bit before your trip to Skoki Lodge. This rustic lodge in Banff National Park is so isolated guests can only access it by skis, snowboard or snowshoes in the winter, or hiking almost seven miles from Lake Louise in the summer. (Although exceptions can be made for royalty–Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly arrived by helicopter for their honeymoon in July 2011.)
While the trail is well marked, it includes a moderate climb before descending Deception Pass. The alpine, mountain, and lake views add to the experience. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by the welcoming sight of three log cabins and a log cabin lodge dating back to the 1930s.