One of the most memorable places I've ever stayed while on vacation was a little place called the Volcano Rainforest Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii. Full of cozy wooden buildings complete with sleeping lofts scattered throughout the trees on the eastern side of the island, it was as close as I've ever come to staying in a treehouse. But the Kusukusu treehouse, AKA the largest treehouse in Japan? Now that's a treehouse. Seriously, you guys — even if you're not into treehouses, the pictures of this one will make you want to book a trip to Japan, stat.
A collaboration between treehouse creator Takashi Kobayashi and Hiroshi Nakamura of NAP Architects, Kusukusu is part of the Risonare Atami Resort in Japan's Shizouka Prefecture. The camphor tree in which it is nestled is more than 300 years old — not anywhere near the oldest camphor tree in Japan (this one, for example, is about 1,000 years old), but still impressive, especially compared to us puny humans. It stretches 22.5m into the sky, and since March of 2014, it's been open for visitors. I think I speak for most of us when I say: Yes please!
Like most of today's most ambitious projects, the treehouse wouldn't have been possible without the aid of modern technology: Kobayashi, Nakamura, and their team started by 3D-scanning a huge number of points on the camphor tree in order to map out where the structure could go. They then built a steel trellis — and as My Modern Met notes, the most remarkable aspect of the whole thing is that the tree is in no danger of being stunt by the architecture surrounding it: Kusukusu stands on its own. It doesn't touch the camphor, which will allow the tree to continue to grow as the years roll on.
Here, check it out:
Heck. And yes.
But hey, even if a trip to Japan isn't in the cards for me right now (one day I hope it will be — it's on my bucket list), all is not lost. Treehouse hotels have been gaining ground in recent years, and they all look absolutely magical. Raise your hand if you'd love to stay in any of these five picks!
1. Finca Bellavista, Costa Rica
Wowzers. Look at that! I traveled to Costa Rica a few years ago and absolutely loved it — but I really, really wish I'd known about this place before then. Located in the southern area of the country, it's a totally sustainable community, and it looks like the perfect spot to unwind and get back to basics — literally. Cabins start at $125 a night.
2. Cedar Creek Treehouse, Washington State
Located 10 miles by car from the Nisqually Road entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, Cedar Creek Treehouse puts you 50 feet up in 200-year-old Western Red Cedar trees. Rates start at $650, but that will net you two nights for two adults over the age of 21 in your own private treehouse. I don't know about you, but for a view of Mt. Rainier literally outside your window, I think it's probably worth it.
3. Winvian, Conneticut
Winvian doesn't consist exclusively of treehouses, but one of them is — and you guys? It's basically your dream childhood treehouse times eighty bajillion. It'll cost you a pretty penny — the cheapest rate is the Tuesday night one at $559 — but we're not talking just any treehouse here. It's two stories, with every bell and whistle you could want, including a jacuzzi and a full bar.
4. Free Spirit Spheres, Vancouver Island, Canada
Free Spirit Spheres is another place I'm adding to my travel bucket list. The accomodations here look like steampunk spaceships on the oustide and hobbit holes on the inside — and at $160 a night for one person or $240 for two, they're quite affordable. Consider me sold.
5. Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel, Brazil
According to Travel and Leisure, Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel is one of the largest commercial treehouse hotels in the world. Sure, it might not be as quiet as some of the other options out there; I'm willing to bet, though, that the 150-foot-high observation towers looking straight out into the jungle are so, so worth it.
Images: HAMACHI!, Mark Smith, Laszlo Ilyes/Flickr