11 of the worlds most sustainable hotels and resorts
Travel in a mindful way and make a positive impact on the world. From reducing waste to protecting wildlife, Jocelyn Pride uncovers destinations where sustainability meets luxury.
Since opening in 2017, this quintessential private island paradise has made a big splash as Indonesia’s first island to be powered by renewables. Designed by Singaporean architect, Sim Boon Yang, the overwater villas house just 70 guests at a time and are built on a ‘back to nature’ concept using a mix of sustainably farmed bamboo, driftwood with touches of copper and other earthy textures. With grand plans to eventually grow the majority of its own fruit and vegetables, the large permaculture garden is a centrepiece of the resort.
Sustainable hotels – Bawah Reserve
Hailed as Iceland’s first five-star hotel, The Retreat was designed to be at one with the otherworldly landscape of Reykanes, a UNESCO Global Geopark. Carved into an 800-year-old lava field, the 62-suite hotel is powered by clean, geothermal energy and is surrounded by the steamy, milky-blue waters of Iceland’s wonder of the world: the Blue Lagoon. Blurring the line between the outside and in, the architecture is all about lava stone, glass, timber and Icelandic artwork, while health treatments tap into the unique properties of the water.
Sustainable hotels – The Retreat at Blue Lagoon
At first glance, this architectural masterpiece is invisible. Its long, curved silhouette seems shaped by the wind, emphasised by the silvery, weathered finish of its lenga wood exterior. The 40-room lodge treads lightly on the grasses of Torres del Paine National Park, many of which were removed during construction, nurtured in greenhouses and then replanted to encourage local fauna back to the site. Energy-efficient operation, reforestation projects and excursions all focus on paying respect to the history, indigenous culture and the conservation of the area. Ride with the baqueanos (cowboys), hike the pristine trails or kayak through ice floes.
Sustainable hotels – Tierra Patagonia
Soneva has long been a leader in the intersection of sustainability and exquisite experiences, with its Koh Kood resort offering 34 ocean-facing villas amid the jungle. Soneva Kiri’s drinking water supply is self-sufficient, filtered and bottled on-site into reusable glass. The resort is among the world’s first to go plastic-free, with amenities packaged in recycled paper and toothbrushes made from timber. Its fruit and vegetable gardens not only ensure fresh ingredients, but also represent an organic food supply, served with creativity in venues such as Treepod Dining.
Sustainable hotels – Soneva Kiri
When three adventurers built a series of log cabins ‘for people to feel the lure of Alaska’, they had no idea they were blazing the trail of ecotourism. The year was 1952. Tucked into a corner of Denali National Park with views over the highest mountain in North America, Camp Denali and North Face Lodge are still at the forefront of environmental stewardship. Hike, bike or drink in the views that inspired photographer Ansel Adams.
Sustainable hotels – Camp Denali and North Face Lodge
© Camp Denali and North Face Lodge
As Botwana’s first Relais & Châteaux property, Zarafa is not only one of the most luxurious tented camp experiences in Africa but also one of the greenest. Surrounded by wildlife in the Okavango Delta, everything is geared towards this precious environment. With more than 150 solar panels, the camp generates electricity; a cleverly designed bio-gas plant turns waste into cooking gas; and a UV-filter water treatment system creates drinking water.
Sustainable hotels – Zarafa Camp
© Zarafa Camp, Botswana by Great Plains Conservation
Not yet 10 years old, Arkaba has saved more than five million native animals in its lifespan. Amid 25,000 hectares of private nature conservancy, no more than 10 guests will stay in the luxurious original homestead, where experiences are offered to continue helping to restore the biodiversity of the area. Helicopter safaris, natural photography excursions and guided walks are some of the options available to guests, although those seeking a more relaxed getaway may be content to recline by the large stone fireplace or take a plunge in the pool overlooking Arkaba Creek. Guests are also invited to see the land through the eyes of the Adnamatna, the first peoples of the Ikara–Flinders Ranges area.
Sustainable hotels – Arkaba
Although rich waters of the Pacific gently lap the shores of this private island hideaway, the beating heart of Laucala may be its garden. Farm-to-table takes on a new meaning with 15 different types of fruits, 35 types of vegetables, micro-greens, herbs and coconuts grown on-site. Even your morning coffee is organically grown. Beneath thatched roofs made from sago palms, take the time and space to recover, perhaps aided by a visit to the outdoor bathtubs in one of the four treatment villas. Your nearest neighbours may well be the resident livestock who graze on the Fijian grasses. Take the resort’s private jet from Nadi, landing in blissful solitude in time for lunch.
Sustainable hotels – Laucala Island
© Jason Busch
Each week, the staff at Pacuare Lodge try to beat the previous waste weight record before the compact ‘rubbish bricks’ are transported by raft from this Costa Rican river bank hideaway. Built in traditional style using timber from a reforestation program, the thatch roofs are hand-crafted by the indigenous Cabécar people. Generating power only for essentials, each sumptuous villa is lit by candles and lanterns. To make the whole experience even more carbon-neutral (and exciting), guests whitewater raft in and out of the lodge (also possible via 4WD or chopper).
Sustainable hotels – Pacuare Lodge
© Pacuare Lodge
Testament that sustainable tourism can extend to a five-star hotel in London, One Aldwych is a shining example. From an extensive recycling program to the energy-efficient drainage system, natural skin products, no-bleach policy, chlorine-free swimming pool and Fairtrade and organic produce, One Aldwych has won many ‘green’ awards including the Luxury Eco Certificate Standard in association with The Leading Hotels of the World. Moments away from the heart of London’s theatre district, it’s a favourite with environmentally conscious travellers.
Sustainable hotels – One Aldwych
Perched between Tulum’s Mayan jungle and the Caribbean Sea, this rustic escape blurs the boundary between nature and the man-made. Its 48 artisan, wooden villas are crafted among the treetops to exist in harmony with their surrounds, offering 360-degree views best enjoyed from the Mayan mosaic bathtub. Peace is assured, and guests will not even hear the hum of the air-conditioning, for the villas eschew this along with electric light and TVs, in favour of candlelit romance. Water is sacred here, supplied from the property’s cenote and ‘managed’ by the protected, on-site wetland ecosystem.
This article originally appeared in volume 31 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.