Paradise Unplugged, Second Edition: 5 Gorgeous Places to Get Back in Touch with Nature
Most of us forget our New Year’s Resolutions as soon as we’ve written them down, but we’re sure a lot of you out there at least aim to unplug a little this year by talking more face-to-face and less via social networks; planning at least a short getaway to the countryside; and hitting the road to get back in touch with nature: No TV, no Internet access, no cell phone service. It’s easy to fall into the office-gym-home routine and find that it’s the end of the year again and you haven't quite done all you've set out to do (although if you keep up with the "gym" part, maybe you will have lost those 15 pounds!). Well, we're determined to help you stay on the "back to nature" bandwagon this year. Check out our favorite unplugged havens and pick the best one for you. Then it's time to lose the cell -- at least for a weekend.
For the spiritual traveler: Haramara Retreat, Riviera Nayarit
Rooms are housed in open palapas with no window panes or screens.
Haramara, a luxurious yoga retreat located on 12 seaside acres of wild vegetation, is arguably one of the most special hotels in Mexico. All hotel structures have been built using traditional construction techniques to minimize the environmental impact, and there is no electricity besides in the restaurant and the yoga studio. Each room is housed in a private, standalone thatched hut with no window panes or screens separating the indoors from the jungle, and only gauze curtains and mosquito nets protect guests from bugs and critters. Even the bathrooms are open. The peaceful retreat is geared towards those in need of some detoxification and relaxation, with yoga and meditation classes, an open-air spa, a vegetarian and seafood restaurant, unpaved trails, and limited cell phone service.
For those who need to get away from it all: Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize
Rustic luxe, thatched-roof rooms have private wooden decks overlooking the jungle.
One of two resorts in Belize owned by movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Blancaneaux Lodge enjoys a splendidly lush location beside a creek in the country’s Mountain Pine Ridge. This fabulous hideaway features great amenities (including horse stables and two pools), and wonderful wooden cabanas with thatched roofs and rustic luxe decor that includes colorful Guatemalan textiles. Blancaneaux arguably has a wilder, more beautiful setting than many of its competitors in the area, and the location is slightly more difficult to reach, which means guests are right in the thick of nature. Plus, rooms have no TVs nor air-conditioning, and Wi-Fi is spotty.
For the hardcore adventurers: Selinda Canoe Trail, Botswana
Camp hands cart most of the luggage and set up the tents.
The Selinda Canoe Trail is a four-day, three-night trip that takes place along the Selinda Spillway from May to October (but best to start planning now!). Camp is set up each night in secluded spots along the water -- far from modern conveniences such as electricity and flushing toilets, but as luxe as camping can get, with great meals and an attentive staff that does all of the setting up and packing up for you. A safari-on-water, the trip's highlight comes during the day, when wildlife such as elephants, hippos, and giraffes can be spotted. But winding down under the stars, cocktail in hand, with the sound of Africa all around you, is pretty hard to beat as well.
For those who just can’t unplug 100%: La Lancha, Guatemala
Rooms don't have TVs, but do offer free Wi-Fi.
This small, 10-room rainforest retreat has a lakeside location 40 minutes away from the famous Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park. Rooms are rustic and comfortable with fantastic balconies and hammocks for admiring the views. For a truly unplugged experience, the hotel does not offer TVs -- but there is free Wi-Fi (hey -- it doesn't require a plug!) for those who still want some connection with the outside world. Hotel highlights include a split-level pool with serene views, and the beautiful Lake Peten Itza, where guests can borrow canoes for exploring the lush surroundings. The dining room and bar are the hotel's social hub and there are beautiful sunsets to be enjoyed over a drink. A group of friendly howler monkeys inhabit the trees overlooking the dining room, making this hotel one of the best places in Guatemala to view these fuzzy (and often noisy) creatures.
For those with kids in tow: Bitter End Yacht Club, British Virgin Islands
Bitter End Yacth Club, BVI
The Bitter End Yacht Club, snuggled into a steep hill on the scenic North Sound, is a relaxed, family-friendly resort. Rooms have no TVs and no Wi-Fi, and while some are in need of an update, they all feature stunning views from the balconies. The white-sand beaches are still the highlight here, offering plenty of water sports and relatively calm waters great for kids. Families will likely enjoy the kids' club and the outdoor movie theater, while couples can enjoy the gorgeous views and the solid restaurant options.