One of the best ways to get to a sense of the rainforest is to actually stay in its midst. While primitive options exist for hard-core environmentalists, there are an increasing number of high-priced, high-style choices. Whether across the river from Manaus  or hundreds of kilometers away, there are plenty of unforgettable eco-options to choose from. All of them organize guided forest and river tours in the rate. If you’re pressed for time (or money), some offer a “day-use” option.
In truth, the concept of a jungle lodge within the vicinity of Manaus itself is somewhat of a fallacy. As the city has grown and the surrounding forest has been cleared for ranching and agriculture, original rainforest and all the wildlife it supports have become increasingly scant. If you crave a bona-fide jungle experience, you’ll need to distance yourself considerably from the city. However, if you find yourself with little time and a hankering for a greener experience than you can get by staying in downtown Manaus and taking day trips, there are a couple of good choices.
First of all, although they receive a lot of hype, you’ll definitely want to avoid the Ariaú Jungle Towers and the Jungle Othon Palace, both of which are overpriced, extremely touristy mega hotels with lots of glitz. They will satisfy visitors who come to the Amazon  in search of gyms, spas, and posh jewelry boutiques, but otherwise they have little charm and no authenticity.
Instead, try the Tiwa Amazonas Ecoresort (tel. 92/9995-7892, www.tiwa.com.br , R$550–800 d). Perhaps the most “urban” jungle lodge in the Amazon, it is only a 20-minute motorboat ride across the Rio Negro from the Tropical Manaus. Although the Tiwa tries hard—accommodations are in pseudo-rustic log cabins on stilts facing a small lagoon—the “jungle” surroundings are replanted forest and if you walk far enough, you’ll hit asphalt. However, the lodgings themselves are very pleasant and there is a lovely pool and a beach. Packages include treetop trekking and spotting caimans along with excursions to the Meeting of the Waters .
Further afield, but still close to Manaus  is the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge (Igarapé do Tarumã-Açu, tel. 92/3622-2612, www.amazonecopark.com.br , R$830–1,400 for two-day package). A 45-minute boat ride from town, the lodge is nestled amidst a lush private reserve on the banks of the Rio Tarumã. Canoe outings take you along the river and into igarapés where you’ll see lots of birds. You’ll also visit a local Indian village for a more or less unfiltered glimpse of traditional indigenous life and culture. All tours are led by excellent English-speaking guides.
For leisure, there are beautiful white-sand beaches where you can swim as well as freshwater pools for those who can’t rid their subconscious of all those piranha movies. Kids, in particular, will adore the monkey sanctuary, where they can interact with primates saved from the clutches of wildlife smugglers. Accommodations are quite comfortable with fine bedding, air-conditioning, nice lighting, and attractive decorative touches such as hand-woven carpets and indigenous art. The restaurant serves creative food that takes advantage of local fish and fruits.
Spending a few days in a lodge is a wonderful way to experience the jungle because you’ll be living in it. Perched ideally (and idyllically) right on a river (often on stilts), many are situated amidst primary rainforest. Lodges vary significantly in terms of size, price, and comfort level. As a general rule, farther away (from Manaus) and smaller (intimate and personalized vs. noisy and touristy) is better.
While you want enough creature comforts (fans and mosquito netting are helpful) to keep you from being miserable, since the whole idea is to get in touch with nature, you don’t really need cable TV or a spa.
Located 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Manaus , the Juma Lodge (Lago do Juma, tel. 92/3245-1177, www.jumalodge.com.br , R$1,100–1,800 pp for a three-day package) is a three-hour boat ride from Manaus along the Rio Solimões. Completely integrated into the preserved jungle, this intimate and totally secluded lodge is an exercise in camouflage. Wooden structures on stilts, connected by suspended walkways, are designed according to indigenous techniques. The cabins feel like tree houses. All of them feature verandas that gaze onto either bird-filled branches or the river, where it is not uncommon to see dolphins cavorting. For exploring on your own, the lodge has dugout canoes you can paddle around in.
The most radically eco of all the Amazon ’s lodges, the Pousada Uacari (tel. 97/3343-4160, www.uakarilodge.com.br , R$1,100–2,000 pp for a three-day package) boasts an unbeatable location in the midst of the Reserva Mamirauá . Getting here requires flying or sailing up the Rio Solimões to Tefé, and then taking a 90-minute speedboat ride (provided by the pousada). The rustic accommodations are in floating wood cabins that are simple but attractive. All water comes from the river itself and is heated by solar energy. Recycling is a mantra. As part of the reserve’s commitment to sustainable development, local communities are involved in the operation of the pousada as well as leading jungle tours. Scientists who work at the Mamirauá Sustainable Research Institute are frequently present. Not only do they conduct nature talks to guests, but you can often accompany them into the field.
One of the more affordable jungle lodges, the Acajatuba Jungle Lodge (Lago Acajatuba, tel. 92/3642-0358, www.acajatuba.com.br , R$380–780 pp for a two-day package) is located on a tranquil lake formed by the Rio Acajatuba, a tributary of the Rio Negro. While accommodations are rustic—no hot water or electricity—they are charmingly located in suspended malocas (traditional circular-shaped Indian dwellings made of wood and palm thatch) that offer terrific views of the lake and encroaching jungle. Hammocks are strategically placed throughout the property and abundant wild macaws and toucans provide a continuous soundtrack.
The recently inaugurated Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge (Novo Airão, tel. 92/3622-8996, www.anavilhanaslodge.com , R$1,110–1,900 pp for a four-day package) is probably the most elegant hotel de selva. The entire structure is an enchanting lesson in jungle minimalism. Its 16 air-conditioned rooms, paneled in tropical woods and decorated with Amazonian artesanato, are complemented by an open-air lounge area with lots of books and DVDs. There is also a gorgeous pool and a pretty restaurant that serves gourmet fare such as dourado fish in ginger sauce and coconut flan. For adventure, you have the 400 plus islands of the Arquipélago Anavilhanas  at your disposal. All guides are knowledgeable locals who know the igarapés and igapós like the back of their hands.
One of the few Amazonian jungle lodges that is actually on the Amazon , the Amazon Riverside Hotel (Rio Amazonas, tel. 92/3622-2789, www.mainan.com.br , R$850–1,250 pp for a two-day package) is a very attractive option only one hour downriver from Manaus . Owned by the Manauense-Japanese Tsuji family, the lodge receives a number of Japanese tourists who are obviously seduced by the soothing and immaculate wooden rooms and the creative fusion menu that results in dishes such as tambaqui sashimi and tempura made with native veg such as okra and pumpkin. The kitchen will also cook up any piranha you might catch (the piranha fishing is excellent here). A nature trail leading through the forest leads to a hilltop lookout with stunning views.