The best Alaskan cabin rental for you is definitely not the best for everyone and it’s important to acknowledge that up front. For example, staying at an all-inclusive resort with a professional crew attending to your needs isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Neither is hiking out into bear country with nothing but a whistle and some bear spray. So start by asking yourself what kind of an experience you want to have while we offer you a few things to consider when planning your trip.
In case of an emergency, how would you receive medical care?
Many areas in Alaska are very remote so when accidents happen, and they do, your hosts should have a clear plan to ensure their guests receive adequate medical attention. The best lodges and resorts have staff with some above-average medical training and, in the case of serious injury, can provide transportation to a hospital within reasonable distance.
This could actually be very difficult for some remote outfitters to do. Often, lodges will charter seaplane transportation from a 3rd party and could have a difficult time acquiring reliable air transport on short notice. Make sure you ask in advance how your lodge intends to handle such situations.
How will you be protected from wildlife?
There’s a brown bear for every 25 humans in Alaska which accounts for 98% of the brown bears in the United States. In some regions bears actually outnumber people by many multiples. For most Alaska residents and visitors, this isn’t a problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be oblivious.
Many outfitters clean an awful lot of fish on premise and that could create a strong temptation for nearby predators. Usually, just having a few dogs around will keep animals, including bears, away. But outfitters should be prepared with bear spray or even more heavy duty protection and it doesn’t hurt to ask.
How much rain does the area get?
Guess what, it rains in Alaska. But there’s a big difference between 3 inches a month and 15 inches a month. February through July are relatively drier in many parts of the state, but average rainfall can vary dramatically at locations just 50 miles apart so don’t forget to do your homework on this one.
If rain is expected during your trip, see if the lodge provides adequate rain gear. Inquire about the condition of said gear. Many will provide this for you and ensure it is high quality and clean.
How close are the neighbors?
People don’t visit Alaska for the big city experience. In part, that’s because it doesn’t exist. But when it comes to being comfortably secluded, there’s a wide spectrum of experiences to learn about. Do you want to get off the beaten path or do you want local restaurants and shopping nearby?
Some lodges inhabit places that are only accessible via float plane. That’s right, you couldn’t drive there if you wanted to. That could provide some great advantages in terms of access to places that others don’t or can’t reach.
Watch out though, some lodges have picked up on visitors’ interest in “remote” locations and employ a float plane for transportation as more of a gimmick. Some will even pick you up in a float plane and drive you back in a bus.
Also, keep in mind that just because a place is difficult to reach, doesn’t guarantee the kind of seclusion you have in mind. Asking about how many other establishments operate in the immediate proximity and even how close their nearest neighbor is will give you a good sense for what to expect.
How long has the crew been around?
If guided excursions like fishing, touring, or wildlife viewing are part of the vacation package, then crew experience can make all the difference. Wildlife doesn’t operate on the same type of schedule we do and knowing where to go when mother nature doesn’t cooperate is important to getting the best experience Alaska has to offer.
Lodges that employ mostly teens or that turnover their crew every year won’t be able to deliver the same caliber of trip as those who retain their employees.
How long have they been in business?
The lodge business is not an easy one to be in. It requires quite a bit of skill and experience to deal with the challenging environment, logistical hassles, and unpredictable weather conditions which all impact visitor experience and ultimately profitability. Some lodge businesses don’t last more than a season or two. Look for one that has stood the test of time and that can offer a long history of satisfied customers. Experience matters.
Do they invest in renovating/updating?
Many of the lodges and cabins in Alaska are only open 5-6 months out of the year. That means they sit dormant and uninhabited the other half. The elements can be brutal on cabins and lodges in Alaska. Operators have to deal with this whether they like it or not and the good ones will make sure their accommodations are maintained an updated.
Additionally, lodges that care about customer experience will invest in updates to cabin interiors, fixtures, linens and the like. Lodges that don’t post ample pictures of cabin interiors on their websites are highly suspect.
How often is it cleaned?
Cleanliness might not be a priority for everyone, and that includes lodge operators. Make sure you get daily maid service and try to get a sense for how clean and well-maintained the grounds are. This will tell you more about a lodge than whether or not the picture frames are dusty.
Do they offer a variety of activity options?
Summer days are long in Alaska which allows you to pack in a lot. For some, fishing all day and talking about fishing all evening is a grand way to pass the time. Others like to mix it up a little. The best lodges offer a variety of activities to entertain their guests, including indoor ones for when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Sight-seeing, hiking, kayaking, whale/bear/seal/orca/dolphin watching, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, visiting light houses or waterfalls are just some of the many excursions available.
Do they have flexible schedules?
If an outfitter tells you exactly what you’ll be doing every day, you have good cause for suspicion. As noted, the weather can be unpredictable. With the right gear, many activities are accessible come rain or shine, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be happy doing them. Finding a lodge with flexibility built into the schedule will allow you to do what you like, when you like and adapt to changing conditions and preferences.
Do they make unrealistic promises?
Promising, or even suggesting that visitors will catch a certain kind or amount of fish should be regarded as disingenuous. Unless the lodge is letting you net fish from their own fish tank, they can’t guarantee the fish will bite. It’s true, in peak season and in the right places, the fish are plentiful and many visitors catch their daily limits. But good lodge owners will be up front with their visitors in telling them that what and how much you catch is just impossible to predict.
Is fish/game processing included?
Obviously this applies more to guided fishing expeditions than just any resort, lodge or cabin. But if guided fishing is in your itinerary and you plan on taking your catch home with you, find out if the crew will clean and package the fish on your behalf. Depending on how much you haul in, this could end up being a very messy and tedious task and without the right supplies, it might be difficult to get the fish home safely. Fish should be vacuum sealed and kept on ice in order to remain food safe. Many outfitters, but not all, will take care of this for you. Some will for an extra fee.
Are they professional, friendly and honest?
This kind of goes without saying, but if the lodge you’re interested in lacks professionalism, seems guarded or standoffish, that should be a big red flag. If the lodge seems desperate to sell and/or dismissive of any concerns you might have, they are likely not banking on a lot of repeat customers. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money planning for your trip and you’ll want to be in good hands when you go. Follow your gut on this one.
What makes it special?
Alaska is a remarkable place and there’s no reason to settle for average. Find what makes the lodge you’re considering unique. What does it have that others do not? In some areas, it’s very difficult to purchase land making any lodge there unique. It could mean that other tour services won’t be anywhere nearby providing seclusion and exposure to a lot of nature unencumbered by human presence.
Other lodges have a unique menu of services just right for your particular interests. Some cater to very social experiences. Others offer absolute privacy. Others focus on the food. Just don’t settle for ordinary. Alaska is anything but.
”When we first glimpsed Pybus Point Lodge from our float plane, we knew had arrived at a very special place. After landing, were greeted like old friends and whisked off for our first day of fishing. The week just got better and better. The fishing, the meals, the staff, our boat Captain, Alex, and our fellow guests all combined to make our stay there unforgettable. The highlight of our experience came the last day of fishing when, out of nowhere, a pod of humpback whales surfaced right next to our boat! What a sight! Pybus Point Lodge is truly a magical place.Judy A.Pybus Point Lodge Guest