Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort (Photo: Benoit Mahe / Flickr)When you don’t want elevators or meeting rooms or anything else that screams corporate hospitality, and when you do want an excuse not to pick up your emails, it’s time to go remote at one of these eco-friendly getaways.
Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
Tikehau, French Polynesia
As I arrived by boat at this islet (motu) in the Tuamotu Archipelago, the resort’s general manager stood on the pier, blowing a conch shell. The casual atmosphere continued from there. Big luxury resort chains have spread across the swank Society Islands (Bora Bora, Moorea, etc.) but the Tuamotu are far more low-key. And lower. Unlike the mountainous Society Islands, Tikehau is a group of atolls, many uninhabited, that barely break the surface of the water. The islets surround a naturally round, shallow lagoon.
If you want to feel as if you’re on the edge of the earth but want to do so in comfort, this is your place. The beach bungalows have A/C; the overwater bungalows have fans — and afford the ability to jump off your balcony into a spectacular natural aquarium of shockingly clear waters and turquoise parrot fish. It’s a good trade-off.
Tulum has become a hotbed of eco-resorts — and that can be literally true, as these accommodations typically don’t have A/C. But their repeat guests don’t seem to mind (some properties fill up months in advance). What’s a little night sweat in exchange for being an off-the-grid beach bum? Azulik, one of two hotels under the Ecotulum moniker (the other is Cabanas Copal), features 15 thatched-roof cabins without electricity. What the place does have — besides candles — is romantic wooden bathtubs, in-room massages, easy access to a world-class beach, kayaking to a coral reef, and no kids.
The ultra-exclusive Aman Resorts chain is known for low-density luxury properties that are especially sensitive to local cultures. The typical Aman, such as Amanyara in Providenciales and Amandari in Bali, has no more than 40 freestanding villas (some with private pools and every conceivable amenity). At Amankora, guests can still count on the brand’s sky-high level of service and quality in all respects, but this resort offers the unique adventure experience of visiting a “circuit” of lodges. The lodges are positioned to be the bases for treks that can be overnight affairs or run to four or five days. Guests spend nights at campsites; by day, they witness yak herders, traditional villages and elevations of as much as 14,000 feet.
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
This eco mainstay located above Salt Pond Bay carries on the spirit of Laurance Rockefeller, the mid-20th-century conservation pioneer credited with staking out much of St. John (as well as parts of the other U.S. and British Virgin Islands) as protected parkland and marine preserves. None of the units at Concordia, from the Premium Eco-Tents to the Banana Cabanas, have A/C, but they do have fans. Cell service and Internet availability are minimal, so guests entertain themselves with top-tier snorkeling and dive trips, movie nights and crab races (you pick your own competitor!).
Little Palm Island
There are long stretches on the road between Miami and Key West where you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere — just spits of sand and endless shallow water. Little Torch Key is one of those places; and the trip gets even more remote as you take a wooden boat to this rustic-posh private island resort where there are no paved roads and cell service is spotty to nonexistent. But the cottages at Little Palm Island (a Noble House Resort) are lovely (outdoor showers, freestanding soaking tubs), and walking sandy trails alongside those short, adorable Key deer is magical. I’ve even kayaked beside them as they waded to deserted islets, their little heads bobbing just above the waterline.
Petit St. Vincent
This beloved Caribbean private island just emerged from a full-scale renovation, but it’s kept the castaway quality for which it’s always been known. The 22 air-conditioned cottages are spread across 115 acres, and there’s tennis, sailing and yoga on offer. But for TVs, phones, and en-suite Internet, it’s best to look elsewhere. The time-honored way of communicating with the staff, for room service and other need, is to send up a yellow flag (red is for privacy). Choose to be beachfront or up on the bluff, but either way, you’re just the right amount of unplugged.