Hilly jungle and saltwater habitat, with hiking, Pacific Ocean surfing, diving, fishing (big catches), and whale-watching. Only the kitchen has electricity, from a small generator. Food tilts happily toward the local. In terms of community, El Cantil helps with school supplies for local kids, books for the library, and classes on entrepreneurship for anyone interested. 7 rooms; from $398, incl. three meals.
Within walking distance of Bolívar Square—the city's main gathering place—and many of Cartagena's top sites, the Delirio enjoys a prime location. The facade of the restored five-story colonial building embodies Cartagena's architectural traditions. In the guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling photographs of mid-20th-century Cartagena, taken by Hernán Diaz, and spare, modern furnishings help blur time. Some rooms have a balcony. For breakfast, an impressive variety of fresh fruit is brought in daily; bread, too, from Mila, the neighborhood bakery. 17 rooms; from $180, incl. breakfast.
On a remote corner of Colombia's Caribbean coast the melting of Amerindian, African, and European cultures makes for a multilayered scene. The lodge's round wooden thatched-roof accommodations closely resemble the pre-Columbian bohios still used by the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Maria to the north. Furniture, earthenware, and even kitchen utensils are made by local craftspeople. Beach sets the pace. It's palm fringed and pristine. Great snorkeling and birding. Plans are to take the lodge off the grid by the end of 2011 and rely on solar power. 6 rooms; from $54.
It's a warm and welcoming farm way up in coffee country, with a house built of bamboo in the colonial style (large balconies, stone fountain on the central patio). The output of the farm is staggering, from ultra sweet pineapples to seven varieties of avocado. Eggs from the owner's mother's chickens. Active pursuits nearby: bamboo rafting, mountain biking, trekking. In addition to involvement in numerous charities, Bambusa has its own foundation, focused on teaching music to the local children. Swimming pool. Restaurant. 8 rooms; from $150, incl. breakfast.
Tucked away behind a 20-foot-tall stone-rimmed wooden door, on a narrow street not far from a historic convent, fortress, church, and monastery, is a hotel owned by Colombian fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi. She's taken a 250-year-old building and turned it into an ultra-stylish oasis, with locally produced fabrics and furniture. Notable is the vertical garden, flush with some 3,000 native plants; best view of the garden: from the Volée guest room balcony. A wealth of regional herbs and other ingredients are utilized in the spa. Restaurant. 7 rooms; from $360, incl. breakfast and Wi-Fi.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
The only way to the lodge in the Canaima National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage site—is by foot (days and days of walking) or via plane; make that small plane. The ambience here is authentic Pémon—that's the indigenous tribe that built and runs Uruyen. Guests stay in comfortable thatched cylindrical huts . Power is solar, and water comes from the river. Several waterfalls can be reached by foot. A two-day boat ride gets you to majestic Angel Falls ("discovered" by an American, James Angel, whose plane crash-landed here in the late 1930s). 12 rooms; from $240, incl. guide and meals.
A no-nonsense reflection of their location, the thatched structures that make up the community-run getaway were built from materials gathered in the forest. (These same resources are crafted into arrows, blowpipes, and hammocks, for sale in the gift shop.) Solar power helps pump water and light the place. Members of the local Amerindian tribes, especially the village's Makushi, freely share traditional cultural and religious ideas, information on the local flora and fauna, as well as their culinary dishes. Guests can take a two-week jungle-survival course, go on a guided canoe day trip on the Burro-Burro River, and hike Surama Mountain. 8 rooms; from $49, minimum six nights, incl. one meal per day and snacks.