7 Eco-Retreats to Take You Back to the Earth

Stunning (and sometime funky) eco-getaways around the U.S. for travelers who want to escape the din of urban life

Places are springing up all over the world that cater to lodging the ecologically minded traveler. Many use existing structures, and some are completely off the grid. At some of these eco-retreats and off-the-grid lodges, the indigenous wildlife roam the grounds. From using solar power to reclaimed wood, these American accomodations work to minimize their carbon footprint while maximizing travelers' experiences. 

Earthship Rentals

Near Taos, New Mexico, is your chance to live completely off the grid. A small collection of buildings is the so-called Earthships—buildings made from recycled materials with impeccable green credentials. Solar panels generate electricity around the house, and a rain- and snow-collecting cistern provides all the water for the house. There's even a greenhouse. These rentals, however, do come with wifi and smart TVs and have a bohemian-chic interior that will appeal to design-minded visitor.

Earthship Rentals
Earthship Rentals near Taos, New Mexico (©Kyle Greenberg/Flickr, Creative Commons)

El Monte Sagrado Taos

Also near Taos, Tom Worrell's textured adobe-style villas are made of gunnash, the ash from coal mines. Exotic fruits and organic herbs, grown in the New Mexico hotel's "biolarium," show up—along with yak meat—on the spa menus conceived by Johnny Vinczencz, one of Florida's top young chefs. At El Monte Sagrado, you can enjoy a relaxing day at the spa or browse the art gallery, among other activities. If you're not convinced, consult the in-house psychic.

 El Monte Sagrado Taos
El Monte Sagrado Taos (©littlemoresunshine/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Lova Lava Land

Lova Lava Land is female owned and operated, 3-acre, 100 percent off-grid, 100 percent solar-powered eco-retreat on Hawaii’s Big Island. They tried in every way possible to use green, sustainable and recycled materials in constructing the resort. Accommodations range from a complete round yurt, to retro and renovated VW camper vans, all which feature composting toilets. Visitors can enjoy a lava-rock shower from rocks harvested from their own land, walking tours that highlight the local flora and fauna and play coconut bocce ball. 

 Lova Lava Land
At Lova Lava Land on Hawaii Island, you can stay in a VW bus at this off-the-grid retreat. (Courtesy Lova Lava Land)

Nurture Through Nature Retreat Center

Nurture Through Nature's mission is "to offer healing space for reflection, contemplation and connection with your true self and the living earth." As Maine’s first green-certified retreat center, NTN is off the grid and practices a caretaker philosophy. Visitors can design their own retreat, sign up for one of NTN's scheduled yoga meditation eco-retreats or lead a retreat. Nurture Through Nature offers eco-cabin and yurt rentals, workshops, yoga and other healing-arts classes and holistic-life coaching. 

Nurture Through Nature
In the Maine woods at Nurture Through Nature (Courtesy Nurture Through Nature)

Ultima Thule Lodge

Ultima Thule Lodge is in a tiny north Alaskan village. In 1960, John Claus came to southeast Alaska as a bush pilot and was able to hold on to land even when his backyard was turned into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Today, his children and grandchildren operate an adventure camp that sits in pure wilderness—100 miles from the nearest road.

Accomodations are provided in five private cabins built using local timber that surround a lodge, where meals are served from locally grown produce and local meat and fish. The whole family is involved with the business—owners Paul Claus and his wife, Donna, their daughters Ellie, Logan, son Jay and son-in-law Ben all work at the lodge. Like their grandfather (now retired and living in Anchorage), all are skilled bush pilots. Fun fact: The only way in or out of Ultima Thule is by bush plane, so when the lodge runs out of wine or beer, one of the family members hop into a plane and fly out to get more.

Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska
Ultima Thule Lodge is 100 miles from the nearest road and backs up to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in the depths of Alaskan wilderness. (Courtesy Ultima Thule Lodge)

Peter Estin Hut

At 11,200 feet, the Peter Estin Hut, near Eagle, Colorado, is one of more than the 30 10th Mountain Division huts scattered between Aspen and Vail. It is a two-story log cabin accessible only via a 5-mile trail for skis or snowshoes. Outside is some of the area’s best backcountry skiing. Inside, visitors will find a wood-burning oven, kitchen and beds for 16 friends. Guests will not find food (bring your own), bathrooms (an outhouse) or crowds. 

Peter Estin Hut, 10th Mountain Division ski-in hut
Ski-in lodge, the Peter Estin Hut—part of the 10th Mountain Division "huts" in the Rockies (©Ed Ogle/Flickr, Creative Commons)

Out'n'About Treesort

Out'n'About Treesort is a site of treehouse rentals. It took eight years of battles with Josephine County, Oregon, officials before they gave Out'n'About the needed permits to be a legal bed and breakfast. The owners were ordered to shut down their treehouse rentals several times, and at peak pitch actually ordered to tear down the treehouses at one point. They could not allow the general public to officially stay in the treehouses but  could invite friends. So everybody who came had to become the owners' friends, one of the now many "Tree Musketeers."

Hiking and biking trails are easily accessible from the facility. Only a few treehouses have full bathrooms, but there is a centrally located bathhouse. There are also no phones, air conditioning or televisions in the treehouses. There is, however, a phone in the main lodge, along with free wireless Internet.

Out'n'About Treesort
The Out'n'About Treesort (©Nicolás Boullosa/Flickr, Creative Commons)