Earth Lodge is the kind of place you only find once in this wide world. Once you do, though, you’ll never want to leave. With an active volcano erupting in the distance and avocados ripening all around you on the trees, life feels like it couldn’t get any better. Oh, and did I mention you’re in a private tree house? It may be hard to imagine such a paradise existing. That’s exactly how Earth Lodge owners Briana and Drew felt when they first stood on the land fourteen years ago. But they had the audacity to try.
What was once just a small grove of avocado trees is now a fully operational farm of over 400 trees. And tucked into the forest all around the farm are tree houses and private bungalows, each with its own unique feel. It’s easy to make Earth Lodge sound like paradise, yet the real place is so much better than I could ever describe to you.
Setting the scene
Antigua has a long and cultured history, nestled into the mountains of central Guatemala. Once the nation’s colonial capital, the city has fallen victim to earthquakes and volcanic disasters more than once. Although Antigua is no longer the capital of Guatemala, it is still the hub of all travel and tourism. It serves as an entrance and departure point for many travelers hoping to explore Central America. Surrounded by three towering volcanoes and lush hillsides, it’s easy for a visitor to feel like they’ve stepped into a postcard. The quaint, cobblestone streets and ruined colonial churches draw the masses to this historic city.
However, like many travelers, Briana and Drew weren’t too keen on the crowds in town, so they settled on a small avocado farm just fifteen minutes up the hill. From there, the valley is filled with constellations of city lights at night and the active volcano Fuego erupts bright red plumes of magma every couple of hours. It’s quiet, relaxing, and peaceful.
Boy meets girl
The story started in Roatan, Honduras when a Californian met a Canadian. They shared a passion for diving and for travel, among many other things. Several years later they stood together atop a hilltop in Guatemala overlooking the tourist hub of Antigua. The sun was setting and the volcano Fuego had just erupted in the distance. “Yup, this is the place.” was all they needed to say. Fourteen years later they’re still there. The farm has grown, and the hillside has changed. They’ve had two kids and amassed innumerable incredible stories. A lot has changed at Earth Lodge since Bri and Drew decided to stay. But the magic that enchanted them on that first evening is still there. Fuego still rumbles the earth with regular eruptions.
The tree houses
When most people think of tree houses, they remember the ‘forts’ from their youth; platforms in trees from which to bombard their friends with pretend arrows or gunfire. Or perhaps a castle in the sky where kings and queens lived. When Drew set out to build his first tree house, he had something a little more grown-up in mind. The tree houses at Earth Lodge are equipped with solar power, hot water showers, and private balconies with hammocks. They are as romantic as they are technically marvelous.
Don’t expect to show up and spend a night in one though, especially on a weekend when the hotel is a popular destination for Guatemalan guests to escape city life. The tree houses at Earth Lodge are often booked two or three months in advance. However, the hotel boasts a wide range of accommodation and there is often a dorm bed or deluxe tent available for the passing traveler.
It takes a village
When Briana and Drew came to town, they realized immediately that they would need the help and support of the local community in order to accomplish their dreams. The neighboring town of El Hato is small by anyone’s standards, but its residents are resilient and compassionate. For these two outsiders, employing the locals was clearly not enough to give back to the community. After all, if they wanted to raise a family as a part of this community, they felt a responsibility to contribute as much as they could. Now Earth Lodge plays a central role in maintaining electricity, water, road access for the village year after year. They have also been a driving force in developing the local school into a modern and robust facility.
A lot of people hear that Guatemala has a reputation for being dangerous. But the hills around Earth Lodge are a bubble of safety, patrolled by a community that cares. The relationship between Earth Lodge and the village of El Hato is a unique one that I haven’t experienced anywhere else in Central America. They look out for each other, and take care of one another.
If you plan to visit Antigua, Guatemala
You will surely want to email them in advance. You can get in touch with their staff via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to experience one of their more unique rooms, you will definitely need to plan ahead. The high season for Central American travel runs during the North American winter. It gets rainy by May and usually stays that way until around October. However, visiting during rainy season can be cheaper and more peaceful if you don’t mind getting a little wet.
When you arrive at Earth Lodge, you’ll want to:
- Pet the lodge dogs
- Try an Earth Lodge signature happy hour cocktail, or three. *And tip your bartender
- Go for a hike
- Sign up for their family style dinner
- Chill in a hammock
- And watch out for Fuego erupting
On the road, there are a lot of magical experiences, interactions, and people just waiting to be discovered. The first time I set foot in Earth Lodge, it was clear to me that I had discovered a unique place. I have returned three times now and expect to do so again more than once before I die.
If you’re traveling through Central America, don’t settle for a party hostel in the bustling busy center of Antigua, Guatemala. Make the short trip to Earth Lodge instead.
You can thank me later.
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