Eco, green, sustainable, it all adds up to the same thing: we have a responsibility to minimise our negative impact on the planet. So we thought we’d round up some of the world’s top eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable resorts and hotels. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious private island escape or a bustling city break, why not help reduce your carbon footprint by seeking out stays with a conscience? Luxury has never felt so wholesome...
Words: Kate Vandy
THE TABACON GRAND SPA THERMAL RESORT, COSTA RICA
Set in the heart of a rainforest, Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort is Costa Rica’s first carbon-neutral hotel. This exceptional resort is dedicated to protecting the flora and fauna in the 700 acres that surround it. All of the water at Tabacon is heated by the nearby Arenal volcano (the volcano's daily lava displays and nighttime light shows create a dramatic backdrop) and the hotel also has its own composting programme, as well as low flow showers to help conserve water.
Enjoy a massage in one of their open-air treatment rooms or try the traditional Temazcal - a detoxifying ritual performed in a sweat lodge. Post pamper, dig into some of the delicious locally sourced food at Are Del Paraiso restaurant. The guacamole made right at your table is to die for.
andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, Tanzania
Cradled in the boughs of ancient mahogany trees in Lake Manyara National Park, andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge boasts ten stilted treehouse suites crafted from local timber and makuti palm fronds.
Romantic and remote, the entire place is designed to exert minimal impact on the environment. Each treehouse suite features generous decks suspended above the forest floor and large windows invite the lush forest inside. The bathrooms have freestanding baths with a forest view and an outdoor shower.
GAYANA ECO RESORT, SABAH, MALAYSIA
Located off the coast of exquisite Borneo, Gayana Eco Resort rests at the edges of a lush jungle forest on a coral reef island and can be easily reached in minutes by ferry from the town of Kota Kinabalu. The resort is made up of 52 seriously luxurious overwater villas, all with views of beautiful Mt. Kinabalu on the horizon.
Gayana Eco Resort is focused on marine conservation and aims to protect and regenerate the area surrounding it. The team here have built their own on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre where they restore natural coral reefs and hand-rear the endangered giant clam. Another focus of Gayana is fresh organic seafood; enjoy a treat from their ethical fish farm at the Alu Alu Seafood overwater restaurant.
INKATERRA, MACHU PICCHU PUEBLO, PERU
Located at the base of World Heritage site Machu Picchu, Inkaterra Hotel is the place you definitely want to return to after a day of trekking. Good enough for Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie, the hotel's Andean sauna, made from bamboo and eucalyptus leaves, is the perfect remedy for tired limbs. If you are still flush with energy, the hotel also offers five kilometres' worth of hiking trails through stunning fields of orchids and jungle. Keep an eye out for gorgeous butterflies and colourful birdlife.
Inkaterra feels more like a homely village than a hotel or resort and its winding stone pathways are lined with 72 cottages that are built from local materials. These cabanas have fans instead of air conditioning, and electricity is only used between certain hours at night. Inkaterra is part of a Peruvian brand that has been working on sustainable tourism for nearly 40 years, and despite being one of the oldest in the eco game, it remains one of the best.
PONTA DOS GANCHOS, SANTA CATARINA, BRAZIL
Located on a private peninsula surrounded by a fishing village on Brazil’s Emerald coast, Ponta dos Ganchos is Brazil's most exclusive beach resort. It features gourmet dining, a picturesque spa with hilltop cabanas and 25 private and impressively decked out bungalows. The resort is surrounded by tropical trees, choppy shores and oyster farms.
Ponta Dos Ganchos' green credentials are impressive - effluents are all treated, waste is recycled or composted and they produce their own organic vegetables which are utilised by all their restaurants. The new cabanas have been built with the latest green technology and the trend should extend with the continuing renovation of the original rooms. They have also invested in local staff since their infancy; almost 90% of their employees are locals.
THE SCARLET HOTEL, CORNWALL, UNITED KINGDOM
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the North Cornish Coast, The Scarlet is a real treat. The 37-bedroom hotel is built to the highest eco standards, using grey water to flush toilets, harvesting rain water and installing state-of-the-art insulation, eco-toiletry products and even a chemical-free reed filtered pool.
The award winning restaurant - The Scarlet Restaurant - serves up seriously delicious locally sourced and home grown produce and only offers locally made beer, cider and cocktails. Another highlight of The Scarlet is its Ayurvedic-inspired spa. Take advantage of its log-fired hot tubs overlooking the sea.
THE UPPER HOUSE, HONG KONG
The aptly named Upper House occupies the top 10 floors of a 50-storey skyscraper, and its enormous apartment-style suites and penthouses all offer at least 180-degree views of Hong Kong through their almost entirely glass walls. The décor is stunning, the service second to none, and the free maxi-bar is well stocked.
On the eco-front, The Upper House was a trailblazer in Hong Kong and was the first hotel to use a paperless check-in system. The in-room hotel directory can be found on an IPod touch, and a daily e-newspaper is received the same way. Energy efficient light bulbs are utilized throughout, with motion sensors that turn off lights and air conditioning when your room is not in use. But the eco initiatives start straight at the airport with a collection by an Upper House hybrid Lexus energy-saving car.
WOLGAN VALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA
Secluded Emirates Wolgan Valley is set amidst the stunning scenery of the rugged Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area - think cliffs, eucalyptus trees and kangaroos. The unique spa resort is built around a fully restored homestead and is made up of 40 free-standing luxury suites, each with its own private terrace and swimming pool.
Wolgan Valley was the first hotel in the world to achieve carbon neutral status. It uses solar power for hot water, and is fastidious in collecting rainwater, and recycling all domestic water. The hotel also runs an environmental rehabilitation programme which has seen hundreds of thousands of indigenous trees planted. The pools use heat-exchange technology to heat up and a number of windmills have replaced electrical power pumps.
TREE HOTEL, HARADS, SWEDEN
The inspiration for the completely unique Tree Hotel was taken from the movie The Tree Lover by Jonas Selberg Augustsén. This film tells the tale of three men from the city who rediscover their roots by building a tree house together - a philosophical tale about the tree’s importance to people, both historically and culturally.
Some of Scandinavia’s leading architects created these five uniquely designed tree houses in Harads, which is approximately fifty kilometres outside the city of Luleå. The tree houses are located four-six metres above ground, with spectacular views of the Lule river. A very important part of the concept is to make a minimal ecological footprint and the hotel was built using sustainable construction methods, with eco energy solutionsused to run it. Don't miss the tree-top sauna...
JUVET LANDSCAPE HOTEL, ALSTAD, NORWAY
This exquisite nature retreat approximately five hours drive north of Oslo blends seamlessly with its wild environment. Its walls are made entirely of glass, and looking out to the stunning Norwegian vista makes you feel like you're inside a camera. The hotel offers seven small wood cabins which are all perched on a river bank and nestled among birch, aspen, pine and nature-sculpted boulders.
Best of all, the hotel leaves virtually no environmental footprint. Modest and unassuming, the cabins are minimalist with a few pieces of designer furniture, bright modern bathrooms and tucked-away bedroom areas. The interior is also dark, to avoid taking attention away from the scenery, and each cabin has been uniquely constructed and furnished so that no two rooms are alike.
BANYAN TREE, LANG CO, VIETNAM
Wake up to sensational East Sea views every morning at Banyan Tree Lang Co. Located on Vietnam's central coastline, this all-pool resort offers endless options for fun including a golf course, gym, and an enticing array of water sports, such as snorkelling and catamaran sailing. That's of course if you can drag yourself away from a lounger by this beautiful coast. Or in fact, your room.
One of the newer eco kids on the block, Laguna Lang Co, has launched a number of environmentally friendly initiatives to protect and preserve the local environment. The hotel has employed energy efficient villa design and hardware in the construction of the hotel, bicycle friendly amenities to support pedal power, and has begun a carpooling and mass transportation system, whilst also favouring low emitting, fuel efficient vehicles. They even have plans underway to open their own extensive organic farm in 2014.
RATUA PRIVATE ISLAND, SANTO, VANUATU
Situated in Vanuatu, Ratua private island retreat was created by an anonymous French billionaire who, after visiting the island in 2005, gained permission to turn it into a private enterprise for groups and couples to hire.
Amazingly 100% of the profits from this little piece of secluded paradise are poured directly back into the island in way of local schools, hospitals and villages. Almost everything is made locally, there is no air-conditioning (ceiling fans are used instead), no television and solar energy is utilised wherever possible. Transportation around the island is on horseback, electric buggy or bicycles, and Ratua's boats run on coconut oil (in part). The majority of food is sourced from the land – the island’s livestock supply a variety of meats, eggs and milk; coconuts are sourced from the palm plantation; fruit from trees planted by Ratua staff members; and virtually unlimited seafood supplied by the local fishing community.
GILI LANKANFUSHI, MALDIVES
Gili Lankanfushi is a five-star resort set on the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Malé Atoll just a 20-minute speedboat ride from Malé, the capital of the Republic of Maldives. The hotel has a number of jetties spreading out across the water, leading to spacious and very private villa accommodation. There are 45 over-water villas in total - all of which have been built using sustainable materials including plantation teak, palm wood, bamboo and pine.
Bath products and food produce are organic and locally sourced wherever possible. The dining options here seem endless. By the Sea on the sunrise side of the island offers Japanese and Peruvian fusion cuisine with an impressive sashimi counter. The Over Water Grill partners with the Over Water Bar where guests can choose a cut of meat which is then cooked on a lava stone grill.
VICEROY RIVIERA MAYA, MEXICO
Hidden away in a tropical forest, in the small village of Playa Xcalacoco, is Mexico's oh-so-romantic 41-villa eco-luxury resort, Viceroy Riviera Maya. This is the place to come to for secluded relaxation and dips in the warm Caribbean. The resort is set on an idyllic white sand beach and surrounded by wild jungle. Each villas features a private outdoor space and a plunge pool with outdoor shower.
The hotel protected the surrounding environment during construction which ensured no vegetation or wildlife was damaged. It runs extensive recycling and composting programmes, water and energy saving plans such as energy efficient lighting, and offers organic and locally sourced food and spa products produced by Meliponas bees. Enjoy fresh produce at La Marea Restaurant which serves upscale Mexican cuisine, or the fabulously fun surf-and-turf beach barbecue hosted every Friday night.
ONE ALDWYCH, LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
One Aldwych is set in the heart of the city's theatre district, Covent Garden. With enormous rooms, outstanding service, a fabulous cocktail bar and excellent dining options (pop by the Axis at least once) this hotel is one of the best options is this city of innumerable hotels.
One Aldwych has long employed a number of environmental initiatives, including the use of energy-efficient lighting, a recycling scheme and a drainage system to save precious water. Bathroom amenities come from Plantation, a 100% pure and natural skin and hair care range that is free from all synthetic preservatives and parabens, bio-degradable packaging is used for in-room amenities and a responsible sourcing policy in its kitchens focuses on Fairtrade and organic produce.
One Aldwych also has a Green Team - a group of representative employees who meet regularly to discuss environmental projects and to implement the latest initiatives.
CROSBY STREET HOTEL, NEW YORK, USA
Located in New York's trendy neighbourhood of Soho, the Crosby Street Hotel has 86 individually decorated rooms over 11 floors. Each has high ceilings and stunning full length windows, and all designed by the talented Kit Kemp, of London's Firmdale hotel group. There is The Crosby Bar, a private leafy garden and a luxurious 99 seat screening room where you can view the latest films and a fully equipped gym.
The Crosby Street Hotel was also one of New York's first hotels to be certified by the US Green Building council. It was constructed with sustainable materials and employs energy-efficient technology. There is a vegetable garden on the roof of the hotel which provides food for the restaurant and guests are offered bikes to make use of whilst in New York to go towards helping reduce car usage. Be sure to dine at the hotel restaurant and enjoy some very well made modern American dishes such as mac and cheese, smoked salmon on sourdough and the Crosby burger made with three cuts of beef.
SOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, KANGAROO VALLEY, AUSTRALIA
From its crowning clifftop expanse on Kangaroo Island’s south west coast, the award-winning lodge provides a deluxe base from which to explore "Australia’s Galapagos". The lodge is comprised of 21 deluxe suites, all of which command mesmerising views of the Southern Ocean cantilever along the coast. The interiors are impressive with lavish king beds, a dramatic glass walled bathroom and an outdoor terrace with a daybed.
Southern Ocean Lodge is designed to capitalise on weather patterns using solar power, recycled water and a clever waste management system. The chef sources organic produce from local growers and each morning guests receive an eco report from the previous day. Dinner is a decadent treat here - don't miss the king crab salad.
THE SOORI ESTATE, BALI, INDONESIA
Perched on what seems like a never-ending beachfront in beautiful Bali, The Soori Estate offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ten bedrooms with uninterrupted views of the island’s southwest coast boast a personal butler, landscaped gardens, private pools and outdoor pavilions with a jacuzzi. There is a private spa and personal chef available upon request.
Despite all this indulgence, the estate has been flexing its green thumbs for some years now. Soori has created a number of long term projects that focus on natural water resources development, sustainable and organic farming, sustainable tourism, waste management and children's education.
FEYNAN ECO RESORT, JORDAN wrong pic
Feynan Ecolodge, which is situated in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, is a first for eco-tourism in Jordan. Covering 300 kilometres of land, it is situated in an area of tremendous variety in terms of wildlife, geology and landscape. The lodge was built in 2005 with the aim of sustaining the landscape and providing economic opportunities for local communities.
It offers travellers an unparalleled opportunity to experience Jordan’s wilderness, meet its people and explore its ancient history, with minimal impact on the environment. There are solar-powered showers, candles in the place of electric lights, a flat roof with mattresses for night-time star-gazing and the food is vegetarian, making use of local ingredients. The staff is made up of recruits from local Bedouin groups who call this area home.