Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Costa Rica
Set in the ecotourist mecca of Costa Rica, Lapa Rios Ecolodge is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Central America's last remaining lowland rainforests. According to Authentic Ecolodges, a Minnesota couple, Karen and John Lewis, bought the property in 1991, with the goal of proving how preserved rainforest can be both ecologically and economically profitable.
The result is one of only a handful of ecoresorts to receive all five of the coveted "leaves" from Costa Rica's rigorous Certification for Sustainable Tourism. "The Lewises constructed Lapa Rios around the rainforest (instead of the other way around)," writes Mehta. The lodge includes 1,000 acres of permanent reserve, home to staggering biodiversity. Perched 350 feet above the sea, the lodge's airy rooms are spread out over three ridges, connected by walking paths, and offering a "virtual wonderland of wildlife outside every window."
The buildings are entirely made out of native materials, and not a single tree was felled during construction. The open-air showers are solar powered, and perfect after a swim or surf in the waves below. The lodge is also world renowned for its Brisa Azul restaurant, which specializes in local and creative vegetarian cuisine. Lapa Rios was the first ecolodge in the world to publish its own cookbook.