Nine amazing outdoor hotel suites
Lake Powell, Canyon Point, Utah
A full moon showcases the mesas against the sky. At night the occasional coyote yips, and at dawn bighorn sheep may troop by. Welcome to Amangiri, the extravagant 600-acre resort near the Navajo Nation in Utah as it cuts in near Page, Arizona. This is one of the best places in the United States for star-gazing: The air is clear and dry, and there's very little ambient light. If you'd like less exposure but a more focused relationship with the starry pitch above, six Amangiri suites have "Sky Terraces"?three protecting walls with the open sky above and a pool below you. With summer nights in the 60s and January nights in the mid-30s or lower, there's appropriate bedding?from silk and wool throws to plumped down quilts. Cocoa with a shot of brandy? Coffee at 5:30 a.m.? This is Amangiri (435-675-3999; suites, $1,500–$3,500).
Lion Sands Private Game Reserve
Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Guy Aubrey Chalkley, who founded Lion Sands in 1933, used to tell his daughter when she slept out on the Chalkley Treehouse, "Never fear the roar of the lion for it is rather when you don't that you need to be aware." Over the past 60 years, this tree house?built as a photographer's platform?has been reinforced and adorned with a cozy double bed, a hot-water bottle, dressing gowns, and a basin. Guests can have dinner and drinks in the tree or dine at the lodge and head out afterward. Once dropped off?with mosquito repellent, torches, lanterns, and a two-way radio?they're on their own till morning. Chances are that during the night you will hear a lion roaring to stake his claim. This part of South Africa, bordering Kruger National Park, has a high concentration of noisy predators: Hyenas and jackals engage in chitter chatter. At sunset and sunrise birds chime in. The tree house sits on the edge of an open plain: You may be able to hear the Sabie River, about a mile away. The sun sets and evening emerges; when the moon is full, you might see its light shimmering off the elephants less than 200 feet away across the plain. They are remarkably silent under the spectacular night sky?the Southern Cross, shooting stars, satellites?which is all yours, from horizon to horizon (27-11-484-9911; tree house, $254).
Las Ventanas Al Paraíso
Los Cabos, Mexico
From the terrace of your penthouse high above Las Ventanas al Paraíso, at the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, you have a 180-degree view of the Sea of Cortés, about 150 feet away. The bed is king-size, the breezes and waves are gentle, and the sounds are ambient?birds at sunset and sunrise. The mountains 40 miles inland are lit and shadowed by the moon. Far-off houses warm the night with the reassuring calm of distant civilization. At around 10 p.m., you might see fireworks in the distance; celebrations are easy to come by down here. But the later it gets, the more silent the night becomes. As the penumbra subsumes the whites and blues and greens, the fragrance distilled by the heat of the day rises?the smells of sand and earth, the ozone released by breaking waves, the scent of jasmine. Here's your essential equipment: All suites have telescopes and guides to the constellations (52-624-144-2800; penthouse suites, $1,600–$3,780).
Blue Mountains Private Safaris
Blue Mountains National Park, Australia
"You know the song? 'Once a jolly swagman?'?" asks Mark Tickner, who takes guests into the bush for Blue Mountains Private Safaris. A swagman, he says, is a nomad who sleeps in a swag. But here, the swags are padded, lined with fine cotton, and laid out on decks by the Wollondilly River, 75 miles southwest of Sydney, where the eucalyptus forests yield their oily vapor to the sun, leaving a scent and a blue haze that gives the mountains their name. After days spent hiking the sandstone escarpment and deep gullies, viewing platypuses, kangaroos, wombats, and echidnas, slip into your swag. Dingoes howl, parrots and eagles screech, rapids roar. At dawn, the kookaburra laughs (yes, sitting in the old gum tree) and grazing kangaroos thump around in the bush (61-2-9571-6399; doubles, $1,317).