“Puerto Rico Vacations: Eco-Tourism Takes to the Trees”
By Douglas Michaels, Jr.
Named the “World’s Greatest Treehouse” by the Travel Channel, these bamboo tree-houses (or “hooches”) stand among the beautiful rainforests of Rincon, Puerto Rico just miles from exotic beaches and are a perfect example of the booming eco-tourism trend.
According to its website, the hooch is “an evolutionary, revolutionary building system that turns architectural conventions on its head.” Indeed, the hooch holds the record for the smallest foundation of any land based building. And that’s not just a ploy to get into the Guinness book of records; this small base allows for minimal disruption of the environment at the build site.
The hooch stands on a single point and maintains its balance by a redundant cable system with cables attached to surrounding trees. Much like the bamboo itself, the tree house is able to retain both its rigidity and its flexibility. It moves about on the foundation, flexing as a unit, but will self-correct with any stress or distortion.
The concept of the bamboo tree houses came about from a life-long passion for the environment and bamboo. The owners were originally sea-farers on the Caribbean but soon the need for land became clear. Not only was there a second baby on the way, but they had also started a business of their own that focused on building with bamboo. Jo made everything from lamps to bars to store interiors and the idea for a bamboo tree house that was eco-friendly and highly sustainable intrigued him.
This need to grow and build them led the family to Rincon, a small surfing town on the west coast of Puerto Rico. It took a year to find the perfect location and another seven to get it cleared and landscaped and to perfect their first bamboo hooch design. Since then, they have opened up their hooches to guests from around the world and recently even dismantled one to take with them as they took a sabbatical up north to spend some time in cold weather for a bit.
For anyone worried about the sturdiness of these bamboo tree houses, since being constructed in Rincon, they have weathered 3 hurricanes and emerged from all unscathed. In fact, in April of 2006, a feasibility study was initiated to determine if the hooch could be used as a possible safe dwelling for residents in areas susceptible to tsunamis. The destruction in Indonesia and likelihood of future tsunamis spurred research among aid organizations to figure out safe and effective housing options. Since bamboo has already been used for highly effective earthquake shelters, it only makes sense to look at it for tsunami shelters as well.
Bamboo tree house is the ultimate for eco-tourism – not only does it draw on the natural resources of the surrounding area, but it is designed to be built with the most minimal of disruption.
If you want to escape from the real world and plug into the treehouse and surf lifestyle, check out our Rincon guided surf trip to the treehouses, with weekend packages starting at $199!