Some travelers crave the familiar comforts of chain hotels, which offer the same amenities whether you're in Manhattan or Mexico City.
Other travelers, though, prefer to seek out the unusual on their journeys. They look for hotels offering unconventional design or unique activities that couldn't be found elsewhere.
Latin America abounds with the weird and the wonderful. From a hotel made of salt to one that's entirely mobile, these are some of the once-in-a lifetime hotels you can find in the region.
Hotel Costa Verde, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
You may not even be satisfied with a first class seat on your flight after you stay at Hotel Costa Verde, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean from its rainforest perch. The hotel's most unusual accommodation is a refurbished 1965-vintage Boeing 727, the interior of which has been converted into a 2-bedroom suite. The fuselage of the plane sits on top of a 50 foot pedestal, which makes you feel like you're flying. A balcony has been built on the exterior of the plane, straddling the wings, so you can enjoy the ocean views.
The owners of Hotel Costa Verde trucked the pieces of the plane in on five big rigs and completely refitted the interior with teak paneling and new fixtures and furniture.
Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancun, Mexico
From the outside, Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun looks like a typical upscale hotel, offering no hints about something unusual inside. Visit its spa, though, and you'll have the option of getting one of the stranger treatments the spa world has developed: the “doctor fish” exfoliation and micromassage. A fish pedicuret is also available.
The Garra Rufa, popularly known as the doctor fish, comes from Turkey originally, but Asian spas have been offering fish treatments for several years. Now, the treatment has arrived in Mexico. By nibbling and suctioning itself across your body, the fish removes dead skin cells and promotes the growth of new, healthy skin. Akilah McConnell, who has had the treatment, says the doctor fish is amazing; “It left my feet as soft as a baby's bottom,” she said.
Palacio de Sal, Uyuni, Bolivia
You've probably heard of Bolivia's famous salt flats, which are a popular tourist destination. The Palacio de Sal has taken salt and turned it into a concept hotel where everything—including the furniture—is made of salt. Even the hotel's golf course is a salt course.
Palacio de Sal, which was built in 1998 and has 16 rooms constructed in the shape of igloos, calls itself the world's first salt hotel. Even the on-site restaurant specializes in a salt-based menu. The big draw here is the novelty of the hotel's design concept and its proximity to the salt flats.
Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Chile
There's nothing unusual about the hotel itself; it's one of many lodge-style options available in and around the spectacularly beautiful Torres del Paine National Park. What distinguishes this property, though, is that it offers a particularly interesting option for the traveler who doesn't want to rest during vacation.
Guests who feel up for the challenge can register to participate in the annual Equestrian Endurance Race, which enters its ninth year in 2013. The race has three categories: 40-, 80-, and 100-kilometers. The hotel arranges accommodation, transfers and other activities for guests who wish to participate in the race.
Exploranter Overland Hotel, Brazil
This hotel on wheels is available for private charter only, so gather up to 28 friends for the road trip of a lifetime. The home base for Exploranter Overland Hotel, which is a tractor-trailer converted into a vehicle with passenger riding and sleeping spaces, is Sao Paulo, but guests can choose from a variety of routes and trip themes that showcase the most spectacular scenery of South America.
The mobile hotel doesn't exactly have all the comforts of home; Exploranter is essentially a glorified RV. But there are bathrooms and a kitchen on board, and when the truck stops for the day, a large canopy is rolled out to create outdoor dining and living rooms, making the vacation on wheels fun and comfortable for a family or group.
Julie Schwietert Collazo is a freelance writer based in New York City.