Insta vs. Reality: What it’s *actually* like to stay in a treehouse in Bali

 

With literally thousands of hotels to choose from in Bali, it really takes something special for a place to stand out from the pack.

We’re starting to see more and more “out there,” unique accommodations trending, one always swooping in to outdo the next with some truly photogenic backdrops optimized for the ’gram. 

Wall-less bamboo bungalows, antique wooden houses, and yes, bubble hotels. You name it, Bali’s probably got some iteration of it.

One sort of alternative accommodation that we’ve been dying to try out ourselves but hadn’t gotten around to, until a trip a few months back brought us to Ubud, was the pinnacle of our outdoorsy, adventure-loving childhood fantasies: the treehouse.

How cool would it be to be lofted high up in the jungle, totally surrounded by nature, in a house attached to a tree? Sounds like the stuff of dreams to us!

But as with anything on the ‘gram, we’re always left wondering when we see photos of such cool digs: is it as epic as it looks on our feed?

The only way to find out (as we did with the Bali Bubble Hotel) was to book a room on Airbnb and test it out for ourselves. Here are our findings.

What is a treehouse?

This sounds like a silly question, because the answer should be simple, right? A house, lofted up in a tree? Well, not totally, by Airbnb standards.

As we conducted our search of treehouse Airbnb listings in Bali, we couldn’t help but notice that many weren’t actually structures built up and around trees, but rather stilted houses surrounded by trees. Some followed an even looser definition of treehouse and didn’t even appear to be stilted, but were just regular buildings enveloped in trees. Still quite beautiful and natural-looking, but not quite what we had in mind.

If you’re looking to stay in a tree-treehouse, just know that the ideal concept of a treehouse does seem to exist in Bali, but not all 66 Airbnb options (that’s the amount listed as of writing time) are true-to-definition treehouses. Okay, expectations set.

Many Options

The treehouse definitely isn’t a new trend and if you want to stay in one in Bali, you’ve got options (like we said, 66 on Airbnb alone) — heck, even if you want to stick to the Ubud vicinity you’ve got a number of choices.

Here are some that stood out to us on Airbnb:

This dreamy Eco Treehouse that’s near seven(?!) waterfalls!

Photo: Airbnb
Photo: Airbnb

Or how about this treehouse that’s actually a woven basket?

Photo: Airbnb
Photo: Airbnb

And this one with a modern spin!

Photo: Airbnb
Photo: Airbnb

After scrolling and reading through tons of reviews, we opted for Hars Garden for its proximity to Ubud city center, volume of positive feedback, and wallet-friendly price point at just about US$60/night (after fees).

Hars Garden

Indonesian-owned, Hars Garden is a property with an organic farm and two “treehouses.” The owner, Hars, is a friendly farmer and musician, who lives on the property in a third treehouse of his own with his wife. He’ll play music for you, cook you breakfast with fresh vegetables from his garden, help you plan the rest of your trip, and tell you his life’s story over a cup of coffee. He’s that kind of host.

The garden of Hars Garden. Photo: Coco Travel
The garden of Hars Garden. Photo: Coco Travel
Hars of Hars Garden. Photo: Coco Travel
Hars of Hars Garden. Photo: Coco Travel

As we discovered during our stay, both of his guest treehouses incorporate the tree into their construction (important to us, if you couldn’t tell), but one is physically built around a tree (the “Love Romantic Tree House”), while the other (“Nature Power Tree House”) is more of a lofted house with tree branches going through it.

The 'Love Romantic' treehouse. To the right is a huge drop, featuring a little river. Photo: Coco Travel
The “Love Romantic” treehouse. To the right is a huge drop, featuring a little river. Photo: Coco Travel
The 'nature power' treehouse. Photos: Coco Travel
The “nature power” treehouse. Photos: Coco Travel

“I could have built them higher and more in the tree, but I thought guests would be afraid,” Hars told us, during our stay. We could see why: while both treehouses are entered via ladders that are probably just 10-12 feet tall, the houses back up over a river, where you can see an approximately 60-foot drop from the patio. Having the stilts and platform did make us feel more confident in the houses’ structural integrity, not gonna lie there.

We stayed one night in each and can tell you, while they both have epic views and you certainly feel connected with nature in either one, the experience is just so much cooler in the house encircling the tree. If you’re going to stay in a treehouse, wouldn’t you rather have the trunk of the tree in the middle?

View from inside the 'Love Romantic' treehouse. Sorry not sorry we didn't tidy up, this is reality, folks. Photo: Coco Travel
View from inside the “Love Romantic” treehouse. Sorry not sorry we didn’t tidy up, this is reality, folks. Photo: Coco Travel
Tree through the roof. Photo: Coco Travel
Tree through the roof. Photo: Coco Travel
The 'Love Romantic' treehouse. Photo: Coco Travel
The “Love Romantic” treehouse. Photo: Coco Travel
Taken from the terrace of the 'Love Romantic' treehouse. Photo: Coco Travel
Taken from the terrace of the “Love Romantic” treehouse. Photo: Coco Travel

Both of Hars’s treehouses have en suite bathrooms, we were relieved to discover. We noticed some property listings have outhouses (fine for more of that camping vibe). They also have AC, which we didn’t really need too much at night, but it was quite muggy during the day, so it was nice to be able to switch it on and not totally melt.

As for the location: just 3.3 kilometers and an eight-minute scooter ride from Ubud city center, Hars has the convenience factor going strong for it, while still having a quiet and peaceful setting. His place and the iconic “Bali Not For Sale” sign (RIP, statement-making photo-op spot) was the only thing around just a few years ago but that’s not the case anymore — villas on that road are quickly springing up. Yet, as soon as you go inland from the road, past his permaculture garden and over to the treehouses, you find yourself in the jungle overlooking a river with not much else around.

Was it buggy?

We are shocked to report that we hardly saw any bugs while staying in this treehouse. We came prepared, with an array of deet products and natural repellents in tow, but didn’t even have to use them. Both rooms also had mosquito nets, but we didn’t use those either. 

Why was this tropical paradise bug-free? It wasn’t so much bug-free as it was a “balanced ecosystem,” Hars told us. We could hear crickets chirping quite loudly and we did experience some flies at breakfast when we were eating, but other than that, the bugs were doing their own thing, because of a balanced ecosystem thanks to the organic farming, claims Hars.

We would still recommend bringing any bug repellent and long-sleeve clothing in case you decide to stay in treehouses (anywhere) in Bali, because knowing this climate, you’d better be prepared than sorry.

So true. Don't stay in a treehouse if you don't like nature. Photo: Coco Travel
So true. Don’t stay in a treehouse if you don’t like nature. Photo: Coco Travel

If anything, there were way more lizards jumping around (and occasionally pooing) in the treehouse. We did have to pull some gecko poop off our bed before going to sleep — while the treehouse was definitely cleaned before we checked in, the geckos certainly have free rein.

Worth it?

Given the plethora of hotel and Airbnb options around Ubud, we wouldn’t say US$60/night is a low price point — we could’ve stayed somewhere cheaper than that with nicer facilities and a more stylish, modern interior.

But, as with any of these alternative accommodations, part of what you’re paying for is the experience.

We have to say that staying in a treehouse didn’t quite hold up to the magical, childhood fantasy we’ve idealized for so long with no crazy out-of-this-world adventures that we’d envisioned — apparently we always imagined it as a more of a fun, clubhouse situation than a romantic getaway. This treehouse stay was instead magical in a calming, natural way.

Both of Hars’s treehouses have the back wall made entirely of windows and there are side windows, so you’ve got this panoramic view of the river when you wake up, while soft, warm morning light slowly floods in. It’s one of the most peaceful ways to start the day that we’ve ever experienced. Other than our treehouse neighbors, we couldn’t hear anything but the sounds of the jungle in the evening. We can only imagine how soothing it would be with rainfall — as long as you’re not getting too many leaks! With the building incorporated into the landscape, you really get that feeling of being in nature.

No, it’s not that cheap, but we’d do it again. We don’t think you need more than a night or two though to get the experience — unless you’re looking for a full-on nature retreat. In that case, you might want to find somewhere a little more affordable.

Hars did mention to us that he has plans of changing islands and building a new place in the future so his Bali treehouses aren’t going to be around forever. If you don’t find yourself there before he goes, don’t sweat it — you’ve still got an ever-growing list of treehouse options in Bali.

Editor’s Note: This article was based on an anonymous and unannounced stay at Hars Garden. Coconuts footed the bill and our writer received no freebies. Hars Garden had no editorial involvement or oversight in this article. Read our Editorial Policies here.

 

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