Some destinations are more about the sense of place than the lodgings themselves. A perfect balance of both is rare, but both boxes had to be checked for spots to land on a short list of one-of-a-kind stays. Iconic, lodge-vernacular architecture in America’s most iconic national park is one example, along with treetop and underwater accommodations in serene natural settings. Chemistry, geology and geography even collide to create another such spot, completing an itinerary of just four examples of our planet’s bounty, combined with human ingenuity in finding ways to immerse ourselves in it.
Treehouse Point, Issaquah, Washington
Located just east of Seattle, Treehouse Point is known to many as the property seen in the opening of the cable television show “Treehouse Masters.” Its host, Pete Nelson, lives on the property -- acres of beautiful old-growth evergreens dotted with elaborate arboreal accommodations. Intricately designed treehouses provide comfy overnight stays in the treetops, and the property offers meeting space, guided treehouse tours and the perfect location for special events, such as weddings. You probably won’t get a meet and greet with Pete, but you can stay in one of his masterpieces, take in the forest air and even indulge in on-site yoga classes set in pristine forest surroundings.
Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
This is the lodge all other lodges aspire to be. One of the largest log structures in the world, Old Faithful Inn is an American original. The outsized log home was built from local timber and stone between 1903 and 1904, and today is the most requested lodging choice in the country’s first national park. The national historic landmark has accomodations from rustic to refined, including the Old House Room without bath up to the suite, complete with a lavish sitting room, separate bedroom and private bath. To take in the full grandeur and scale of the building, enjoy live music in the massive lobby, which is dominated by a towering stone fireplace with a roaring fire. Open from early May until mid-October, Old Faithful Inn has a full-service restaurant, snack bar and gift shop. For details on the building’s history, enjoy one of the daily, narrated tours. Not to mention, the inn is surrounded by its nearby namesake -- Old Faithful Geyser -- and the other geothermal wonders of Yellowstone.
Palacio de Sal, Bolivia
“The salt of life” isn’t just a saying. Without salt, we humans wouldn’t exist, since it is a natural part of our chemical makeup. In fact, geologically speaking, it is the only rock that we eat to obtain needed minerals. One of the world’s largest natural salt deposits lies in the Bolivian desert, and the country’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats are also now home to the world’s first luxury salt hotel. This ultra-unique, chic palace of crystalline sodium-chloride is truly one-of-a-kind. Minimalism is encapsulated as a stripped down zen experience in Bolivia’s “salt palace,” carved and formed from salt. The 48,500-square-foot Palacio de Sal hotel property boasts buildings and furniture made from pure salt, with plenty of pampering padding thanks to plush linens and fabrics to soften the rough edges. The luxury hotel’s 30 rooms have wood-plank floors and elaborately tiled baths. Diners take in expansive views of the salt flats as they enjoy entrees of local llama, lamb and the house specialty -- salt chicken, of course.
Manta Resort, Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania
A night in the Underwater Room at Zanzibar’s Manta Resort may or may not result in sightings of manta rays, but an eyeful of fish and other sea creatures is pretty much a sure thing. Retreating from the living and dining areas at water level, descend to the private suite’s sleeping quarters below for a night you won’t forget -- and one during which you may not want to sleep much. Spotlights beneath the windows of the queen-bed, submerged room can be switched on at night to attract curious octopi and fish. When not enjoying things from the dry side of the glass, the waters off of the resort are a scuba-dive paradise, with world-class accommodations in a tropical island setting on the Indian Ocean. Much of the marine habitat off Pemba Island is now a protected preserve. Meanwhile, the lush interior of the island offers hiking adventures to match the diving off its coast.