Low-impact tropical getaways where nature takes center stage in the Dominican Republic and Guadeloupe.
If your idea of a tropical escape is a waiter-served poolside cabana and an evening floorshow, there are plenty of resorts that fit the bill. But if trade wind-caressed terraces, quiet grottoes hidden in lush tropical gardens and breakfast to the accompaniment of bird songs are what you are craving, an eco lodge is in order. There are only a handful of these unique properties scattered across the Caribbean, and these are three of the best.
Tendacayou Ecolodge & Spa, Deshaies, Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe
In the early 1990s, French expats George and Sylvie Carreyre fell in love with the green forests of Guadeloupe, and settled on a rainforest slope on the northwestern corner of Guadeloupe on Basse-Terre. The couple built their dream home from native woods, and painted it in bright colors. They cultivated gardens, tapped into naturally flowing springs and built whimsical tree houses for their children. Next came guesthouses for their friends, and over time, the Tendacayou Ecolodge & Spa was born. Two decades later, this eclectic resort continues to provide a storybook setting that delivers a natural refuge free from phones, television and the Internet.
Each of the property’s 11 guest accommodations is unique in design and character. Some are tree houses; others are pool bungalows and Creole-style cottages tucked into the lush natural vegetation. Dwellings and common areas are decorated with a colorful, rustic charm that includes whimsical furnishings and motifs that reference both land and sea. Sylvie’s background as a Cordon Bleu chef is evidenced at the two onsite restaurants, Poisson Rouge, and le Petit Poisson. The resort also includes a spa, which is set on the banks of a cool mountain stream. There’s a Zen garden for relaxation, a reading lounge, a resting lounge with swing-beds and a solarium with breathtaking views of the ocean far below. In addition to the resort’s swimming pool and hot spa, guests can immerse in waterfalls and natural streams feeding into rock pools.
Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel and Spa, Cabarete, Dominican Republic
This intimate beachfront owns its beginnings to a dream instead of a plan. When a young family from Chile first saw a wild beach on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, then knew they were home. In true Swiss Family Robinson style, they carved a home site from the jungle, using felled palm trees for timbers, native stones for flooring, and palm fronds to weave soaring thatched roofs. Beach combing yielded shells, corals and sea glass to embed into the stucco-covered walls, and bamboo and native woods were transformed into unique furnishings. Friends and family came to visit and fell in love with the setting. More buildings were added to accommodate guests, as word spread to friends of friends, some began to offer payment for the privilege of staying. And so, a lodge was born.
Today, Natura Cabana has evolved into an 11-unit collection of one, two and three-bedroom beachfront cottages. Each unit is individually designed and decorated, and all include outdoor terraces furnished with relaxation couches or hammocks. An organic garden supplies much of the produce to the two restaurants that serve healthy natural cuisine. Evening brings cocktail hour at Natura Restaurant, where sounds of the sea are never far off, and guests dine on fusions of local fresh tropical ingredients with accents of Indian, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. The intimate Attabeyra Spa offers wraps, facials, hydro baths and massages with a beachside setting. Daily yoga and mediation sessions are practiced at a temple set next to the sea. Because the resort is located midway between the water sports centers of Cabarete and Sousa, more active pursuits are available, including surfing, kite boarding and windsurfing. The area also offers snorkeling, diving, horseback riding and more. For many, the biggest attraction is the chance to simply disconnect, chill in the hammock, take a dip in the ocean and walk the golden sands of the beach.