The phrase “off the grid” is not yet universally understood. These days, when people say they’re traveling off-grid, they might mean they’re heading somewhere with spotty cell phone coverage. Others use the term even more inaccurately when they mean to say, “off the beaten path.”
Off-grid actually means off the electricity grid: i.e., a location that is self-sustaining—it uses solar, wind, hydro or other means of power. But we thought “no Internet/other gadgets” and “secluded” were good qualifications to find fascinating vacation spots for this slideshow as well. Some are so far flung as to not be accessible by car, so you may need to hike or arrive by boat.
In many cases, the following destinations have been green by necessity due to their remote locations, before Al Gore ever posited an inconvenient truth. But off-grid doesn’t have to mean primitive as can be, either: although only one of the following destinations brags of having high thread-count sheets, most are still luxurious in scaled-down ways.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 14 April 2011
Location: Kachemak Bay State Park, Alaska
Lodging cost: $450 per guest per night
Remotely situated on a beach amidst Sadie fjord, 10 miles across the bay from Homer, Sadie Cove’s Wilderness Lodge can only be accessed via boat, float plane, or helicopter. Owner/artist Keith Iverson built the lodge in the mid-1970s from hand-milled driftwood and it is powered completely by wind and hydro power.
Guests can stay in one of five private cabins that have no TVs, but which offer instead stunning mountain and ocean views from their decks. Facilities include a lounge, log cabin sauna and bathhouse, and a huge fire pit. Staffers are on hand to advise on hiking, kayaking, exploring tidal pools and touring the nearby villages.
Meals at Sadie Cove consist of sustainably sourced seafood straight out of the bay including salmon, halibut, and scallops, and fresh produce from the garden, and according to a review on TripAdvisor.com, carefully selected scraps are fed to the neighboring wildlife.
Location: The vast center of Australia / Ningaloo Reef
Lodging cost: walkabouts range approx. USD $520 - $5261 / approx. $3,261 per adult twin share at Sal Salis
As a rite of passage, Australian Aborigines traditionally went on “walkabout” in the wilderness. The tradition is kept alive today by touring companies offering bush excursions, like Willis’ Walkabouts, which offers trips through the remote outback from three days to six weeks long. As the Willis website says, “no phones, no cars, no people, no hassle.”
For less rugged bush travelers, Sal Salis wilderness camp at Ningaloo Reef may not be out back, but it’s on a remote Western coral coast, in the dunes of Cape Range National Park. The completely solar-powered accommodations consist of just nine tents that offer “wild bush luxury” such as comfortable beds with 500 thread count cotton linen sheets and en suite bathrooms with composting toilets—but no TV, phones, minibars, or other appliances.
Location: Zanzibar, Tanzania
Lodging cost: $270 per person per night
There is no electricity on all of the privately owned Chumbe Island, which is located off the main island of Zanzibar. The solar-powered Chumbe Island Coral Park resort has nophones, TV, or Internet, but the seven thatched-roof “eco bungalows” do have hot and cold running water, handmade furniture, African art, and hammocks.
The water supply is collected from rainwater, then filtered for use, and the bathrooms have composting toilets. The island’s big local draw for eco-tourists is the coral park including a reef sanctuary and a closed forest reserve.
Location: Island of Dominica, Caribbean
Lodging cost: Ocean View Penthouse Cottage $90/night
These lodgings are on “The Nature Island of the Caribbean,” in the jungle about a mile inland, which is accessible via taxi, bus, or hitchhiking. The Rosalie Forest eco lodge offers cottages, an apartment, and bamboo tree houses, all powered by wind turbine. So while water is plentiful via a filtration system in each room, power is a limited resource. (Don’t bother bringing a hair dryer.) A caveat on the lodge’s website: “If the power is not always working in the forest, we will provide lamps.”
The most secluded tree houses and cabins on the upper property require a 15-minute hike up a steep rocky hill, both ways (kidding, but only about the “both ways”). Cooking is done at a shared kitchen using the fireplace or a gas ring.
Location: Northern Laos
Lodging cost: around $3- $4 per night
Thanks to the mountains rising all around it, the quiet village of Muang Ngoi Neua remains accessible only by boat, and because its only vehicles are two-wheeled, the road is really a dirt path.A generator provides electricity, but only for a few evening hours.And according to one blogger, rumors of one local public Internet station may be exaggerated.
All of this lends the place a relaxed pace, so it’s one of those open secrets known to backpackers, who spend their visit hiking in the mountains, swimming, exploring caves, or in hammocks. Where the main industries were once fishing and farming, many locals have adapted to the tourism with many turning their homes into guest houses (but remember, no hot showers, air conditioning, or even fans).
Location: Patagonia, Argentina
Lodging cost: $190/night for a 2-person suite
The hydro-powered La Confluencia Lodge is located on an organic farm in the Andes, in the 150,000-acre Rio Azul Protected Wilderness Area. This area, at the confluence of two rivers, has only been inhabited by humans for about 100 years, and electricity and phone didn’t arrive until the early 2000s--- but it never came to La Confluencia. The only vehicular access is a rough four-wheel drive trail that’s often impassable in winter.
Meals are prepared using La Confluencia- produced meats, produce, eggs, milk, and grains. On site are accommodations for a maximum of 14 guests, a wood-fired log sauna and cold plunge, and two cedar hot tubs and a deck for taking in view of the Azul River gorge.
Location: Lake Malawai, Africa
Lodging cost: $320- 460 per person, sharing
The Kaya Mawa island eco-lodge in the 365 mile-long Lake Malawai consists of seven cottages, and one even more secluded honeymoon island with a handheld radio to call room service.
There are no cars and the town (and only way back to the mainland) is a 45-minute walk away. There you’ll find the homes of most of the people who built the lodge and its current employees (many of whom are the same people). Other than the local people-power, the whole operation runs on wind and solar power.
Location: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
The Three Camel Lodge, a solar- and wind- powered lodge in the Gobi Desert offers 20 deluxe gers, which are updated versions of the felt tents used by generations of Mongolian nomadic herders. Each is heated by a wood stove and outfitted with a wood-framed bed. You can get a ger with its own toilet—but it’ll cost you—and electricity goes off at 11 p.m., the better to see the stars in the desert night.
The lodge’s restaurant (made from unprocessed natural stone and built by locals) serves locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as meats from local free-range livestock. Organic waste goes back to local farms, the lodge is the only local camp to recycle, and many other environmental practices are in place.
Location: Andaman Sea, Thailand
Lodging cost: $512- $868 per house for four nights
The island’s eco-resort, Golden Buddha, consists of 25 unique houses in the forest and on the beach, all constructed from locally sourced, renewable materials. Just about everything about the Golden Buddha is local and green: self-generated electricity is only available to homes from 6–11 pm, local fossil-fuel powered vehicles are used minimally, most staffers are local, only two houses have hot water (heated through solar power), and filtered rainwater is used for drinking, the zero-waste kitchen composts and uses organic produce from the gardens.
Location: Florida Keys
Lodging cost: Around $1000 per night for a bungalow suite for 2
Little Palm Island is only reachable by sea plane or boat from the nearby Little Torch Key. The Little Palm Island Resort & Spa consists of 30 oceanfront thatched roof bungalows across 5-1/2 acres, with no phones, no televisions, and no children under 16. Beds have mosquito netting, and the showers are outdoors. Food emphasizes local ingredients, and utilizes key limes and herbs grown on the island.
Wi-fi is available in the Great Room—if you must.