Going Green: The Most Luxurious Eco-Friendly Hotels In The World

Jade MountainPhoto Credit: Jade Mountain

These luxury hotels give “going green” a whole new meaning. 

SONEVA FUSHI

THE MALDIVES

Soneva Fushi
1-bedroom water retreat with slide

Photo Credit: Soneva Fushi

If paradise was lost, it’s been found again at Soneva Fushi, on an imaginative Maldivian eco-hideaway within touching distance of a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve in the Baa Atoll. Call on your Barefoot Butler, learn to free dive, or indulge in a curated private sandbank dinner — all with the magic of the Maldives as your backdrop. But there’s more to this postcard-perfect place than its indulgent perfection: sustainability is central. Soneva Namoona Baa, a partnership launched by Soneva Fushi and international NGO Common Seas in collaboration with the government of the Maldives and three local islands (Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo), demonstrates that a radical reimagining of waste can prevent plastic from leaking into the ocean. In fact, the property’s “waste-to-wealth” center transforms the used articles and materials at the resort into recycled treasure.

JADE MOUNTAIN

ST. LUCIA

Jade MountainPhoto Credit: Jade Mountain

The jaw-droppingly beautiful Jade Mountain resort on the southwestern Caribbean coastline of St. Lucia is more than just a pretty face: it’s also a cornucopia of organic architecture and eco-resilience. The property’s design reinforces its connection to the natural environment with passive ventilation of the rooms and natural daylighting; it does not use artificial cooling or lighting, in order to conserve energy resources and minimize its carbon footprint. An exterior plaza was designed to capture rainwater in koi ponds and planting areas, which is then harvested for use in the resort’s restaurants. Only indigenous plants were used in the landscaping, which minimizes the need for watering and protects a precious resource. And guests can do more than enjoy the beautiful scenery from a private infinity pool in their room with a view (which entirely lacks a fourth wall in the bid to be at one with nature): all are given the opportunity to learn about the resort’s sustainability programs and actively participate through environmental activities such as reef cleaning and tree planting.

FOGO ISLAND INN

CANADA

Fogo IslandPhoto Credit: Fogo Island/Alex Fradkin

Fogo Island Inn might feel like the farthest-flung corner of the planet, and rest assured, that’s intentional. In fact, the inn, built by Norway-based architect Todd Saunders, sits on an island off an island on the Newfoundland coast, with 29 unique guest rooms and suites that showcase dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Its menu always reflects the region: the ingredients guests will find on their plates are fished, hunted, farmed and foraged right on or around the island, such as crab, scallops with parsnips and rhubarb jelly, salt cod and shaved turnip, and cured local sheep leg. The property’s architecture and operational systems ensure the highest levels of energy efficiency and resource conservation via an insulated steel frame, while rainwater from the roof is collected in two cisterns and subsequently filtered for use in toilets, laundry and kitchen appliances. And how’s this for innovative? The owner, Shorefast, a registered Canadian charity, has even developed its own Economic Nutrition notification system, a label allowing consumers to make conscious choices about how their purchases will impact the local and global economy. Truly, this is regenerative tourism at its finest.

SVART

NORWAY

SvartPhoto Credit: Snøhetta_Plompmozes_Miris

One of the coolest hotels slated to open in the next year packs a massive green punch. That would be Svart, the world’s first energy-positive hotel. Located in Arctic Norway at the base of the Svartisen glacier, this glass-fronted, circular structure actually floats on stilts above the Holandsfjorden fjord. It aims to be fully off grid, carbon neutral and zero waste within its first five years of operation. As created by innovative Danish designers Space Copenhagen, Svart will house an indoor-outdoor spa, four restaurants, an education center and a design laboratory, with two electric boats on the property to facilitate transfers and activities. Guests will enjoy exhilarating arctic experiences year-round, from ice climbing on the glacier to practicing yoga under the midnight sun, as well as wildlife spotting, diving and fishing.

MASHPI LODGE

ECUADOR

Mashpi LodgePhoto Credit: Mashpi Lodge

Those seeking the ultimate sustainable stay should search out the wonders provided by Mashpi Lodge, set on some 6,000 acres of rainforest in the heart of the Chocó Bioregion of the Ecuadorian Andes. Within the protected reserve, which features rooms made with glass walls — designed to blend with the natural environment, like a luxury cocoon in the midst of the forest — dwells an amazing range of biodiversity, which is now in danger. This is why the “green hotel in the clouds” has partnered with Forest Guardians. The NGO Rainforest Connection-developed initiative leverages common technology in the service of conservation, affixing trees with inconspicuous “stations” composed of a recycled cell phone, a microphone and solar panels for continuous power to perform “bio-acoustic monitoring” for the detection of intrusive sounds of humanity (such as buzzing chainsaws) and pinpoint their location, so that rangers can stop violators in real time and protect elements like Mashpi’s Life Center, a magical structure where tayras and tropical birds come to feed.

BAWAH RESERVE

INDONESIA

Bawah ReservePhoto Credit: Bawah Reserve

On Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago, lesser known than Bali but every bit as beautiful, rests Bawah Reserve, an untapped paradise comprised of six islands, 13 beaches and three lagoons with 100 hectares of forest. Sustainability is at the core of this property, which was designed by architect Sim Boon Yang with eco-sensitivity in mind. As such, villas have been positioned around large trees;roofs are thatched with palm leaves from a neighboring island; all tented suites and public areas are made of bamboo and recycled teak;bath and shower areas are made from recycled copper; and the tables and chairs are fashioned from flotsam. The Earth-first philosophy includes solar water heating, rainwater catchment and water desalination systems, and a zero-waste program with extensive recycling, plastic-free environment and all-encompassing marine and forest conservation practices. Bawah Reserve even has its own foundation — the Anambas Foundation — which works toward marine and forest conservation. The resort also features overwater bungalows, a rare find in Indonesia and more commonly seen in the Maldives, made out of recycled wood, and this year will launch the Elang Private Residence — six sustainably minded lodges on a previously untouched island. This distinctive design vision has resulted in a resort that feels earthy and organic yet cool, decadent and pampering, too.

HECKFIELD PLACE

ENGLAND

Heckfield PlacePhoto Credit: Heckfield Place

Heckfield Place, located in the beautiful Hampshire countryside, might look like something from the past, but it’s fully evolved into a locale of the future. This 250-year-old Georgian property achieved 100 percent biodynamic certification this year, making it the only hotel in the U.K. to have its onsite farm so accredited. The 438-acre hotel goes above and beyond organic to grow “preparations” (otherwise known as herbal remedies), as well as its own natural skincare products. But then, everything about Heckfield Place is aces in its bid for sustainability, including plastic-free rooms with natural materials sourced locally (like rush mats and headboards from the River Ouse); the curation of its own produce; composting its own waste; raising pigs, sheep and chickens; a biodynamic nursery; and the use of a biomass energy center for hot water and heating. Last year, Heckfield Place even opened its own micro-dairy in order to generate its own cream, butter and yogurt; its 38 Guernsey cows also provide biodynamic milk, for an exquisite cheese.

SIX SENSES BOTANIQUE

BRAZIL

Six Senses BotaniquePhoto Credit: Six Senses Botanique

The newest hotel in the Six Senses portfolio, Six Senses Botanique, an emerald gem located just two and a half hours from São Paulo and three and a half hours from Rio de Janeiro, is also one of the most sustainable. The property, which lies at the confluence of three river valleys in the heart of the Mantiqueira Mountains (known as the “mountains that weep,” due to the abundance of springs and rivers), will appeal to guests seeking an eco-retreat in nature along with authentic Brazilian design, culture and cuisine. It is blessed with seven springs that provide guests with their own mineral water, as well as a water treatment station to return clean water back to nature; seven suites, all of which were constructed modularly, using local materials and sited to minimize their impact on the surrounding flora and fauna; farm-to-table herbs, fruits and vegetables, grown in the resort’s own organic gardens and farm and served at its Mina restaurant and Fire Side lounge; a spa that features an interactive workshop, “The Alchemist’s Body,” to teach guests about locally sourced ingredients and products; and unique Reconnection Experiences, which allow guests to get back in touch with themselves and loved ones while exploring the surrounding natural environment.

1 HOTEL SOUTH BEACH

MIAMI

1 Hotel South Beach
Sky penthouse terrace

Photo Credit: 1 Hotels

Every detail of the LEED Certified 1 Hotel South Beach, which occupies an entire city block on Collins Avenue, was designed to bring the outside in. As imagined by designers Meyer Davis, that means a plethora of reclaimed woods and locally sourced materials, such as regional coral stone and concrete trough sinks, teak vanities and handblown glass pendant lights. Every element has sustainability in mind, from in-room Nespresso coffee machines with recyclable pods, to state-of-the-art energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, to filtered water in all taps, sinks and showers. Plant the Future further creates green moments throughout the hotel that act as a living art exhibit, including living green walls on the hotel’s façade and in the main ballroom and terrariums in every guest room, and guests can choose an array of nature-inspired experiences, such as stargazing or shopping at a dedicated farmers market. There’s even a charitable component for those who like to do good — local nonprofit partners offer volunteer experiences for guests to contribute to sustaining the local environment — and one for those who like to look good, too: this haute hotel’s house car is a Tesla, and it offers complimentary rides.

GROOTBOS

SOUTH AFRICA

GrootbosPhoto Credit: Grootbos

Grootbos, one of only ten Global Ecosphere Resorts in the world, is that rare luxury eco-resort that offers a little bit of everything for everyone, in an environment tucked between mountains, forest and sea. But most of all, this private reserve wants to make a positive impact on visitors. It does so through botanical and landscape conservation work (over the course of 23 years, seven new species of plants have been discovered); the formation of a Green Futures vocational college; an extensive sustainability dashboard, with roughly five years of data detailing water management and measurements; the removal of all single-use plastics and, thus, the practice of bottling of its own water; and feeding all organic waste from its kitchens to its Growing the Future farm pigs. Beyond sustainability, this South African resort offers the crème de la crème in every possible way: gorgeous suites in the midst of a milkwood forest, epicurean food and wine journeys from celebrated local vintners, and out-of-the-box experiences such as shark cage diving, botanical tours and marine safaris.

BARDESSONO

NAPA VALLEY

Bardessono
Magnolia courtyard

Photo Credit: Bardessono

A stay here marries luxury with living “deep green” for the most discerning of travelers. Eco-developers built Napa Valley mainstay Bardessono — one of only seven LEED Platinum Certified hotels in the United States, and one of only 28 worldwide — with 100,000 square feet of salvaged wood, found throughout on doors, floors and guest room walls, as well as in the spa, restaurant (Lucy, which uses only locally sourced ingredients picked fresh from its California Certified Organic Farming garden each day) and event space. The hotel’s carbon footprint includes the use of organic linens and cleaning supplies, which go through recycling and compost programs; usage of an underground geothermal system that heats and cools the guest rooms, spa and domestic hot water supply; 200 square feet of glass in each room, which reduces daytime lighting requirements; and automatic thermostats that reduce excess energy demands. Low water-flow fixtures, dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals are used to conserve water, while a 200-kilowatt solar energy system provides the majority of the electrical energy requirement. And you can also be the change: for each guest who opts out of housecleaning to support a more sustainable future, the property plants an herb in its onsite certified organic culinary garden.

KACHI LODGE

BOLIVIA

Kachi Lodge Photo Credit: Jay Chen

Travel to a remote corner of the world an hour’s flight from La Paz — 12,000 feet high, in search of the salar (a salt-encrusted depression that may or may not be the basin of an evaporated lake) — and you’ll find an oasis of sustainability and originality. On this immense salt flat, set on a wooden platform near a cacti-covered island, is Kachi Lodge. Founder Amazing Escapes pushes the boundaries of sustainable travel to the extreme with six cutting-edge eco-infrastructures and a fierce commitment to local culture and communities. The very creation of the resort abided by a strict environmental policy: no drilling was required; should the lodge be dismantled, one rainy season would erase all traces of its existence. To ensure perfect heating, stoves are installed in each dome: the pellets used to fuel them are made of compressed wood waste. The lodge also runs solely on solar panels that not only heat water but also charge batteries. In fact, the whole energy-efficient camp runs completely on 24V. Last but not least, using reverse osmosis, a unique closed-loop filtering system reduces water consumption, while incineration toilets transform organic material into neutral ash so that no black water treatment is needed. There’s a strict policy against plastic, as well. It might sound rustic, but know that each suite features a unique painting by Gastón Ugalde — internationally known as the Bolivian Andy Warhol — and the chef, Marsia Taha, is globally recognized as one of the best in Bolivia.

JETWING SURF

SRI LANKA

Jetwing SurfPhoto Credit: Jetwing Surf

Located in Pottuvil, an unspoiled stretch of beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast, Jetwing Surf utilizes a unique style of architecture that will delight the discerning eco-tourist. Each of its 20 seashell-inspired cabanas are built using wood, woven coconut palm leaves and dried illuk grass (all indigenous to Sri Lanka), and their open design reduces the need for artificial illumination and ventilation. Cadjan-covered double-layered walls allow for the easy flow of fresh air and simultaneously provide a bonus of absolute privacy. It’s paradise for the five-star traveler who dreams of sleeping underneath palm fronds and being at one with nature — all while surfing the day away at Arugam Bay, one of the best surfing destinations in the world, just ten minutes away.

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