Staycations and ultra-rustic nature-centric accommodations may be the greenest way to spend your vacation time, but sometimes, special occasions call for a luxurious getaway. The good news is, elegant eco-resorts do exist, and while some have more green cred than others, they offer experiences that rival those of traditional pampering luxury resorts but in a more environmentally sensitive manner.
EcoCamp Patagonia, Chile
(images via: ecocamp.travel)
There are rustic eco resorts and there are luxury resorts with dubious green claims, but EcoCamp Patagonia in Chile is the best of both worlds – a luxurious getaway that is 100% carbon-free. You’ll sleep in a geodesic dome inspired by the huts built by the native Kawesqar people but enjoy modern comfort and convenience, right in the wilderness of the Torres del Paine National Park.
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, Blue Mountains, Australia
(images via: wolganvalley.com)
The first hotel in the world to be certified carbon-neutral through carboNZero is nestled in the Blue Mountains of Australia and definitely emphasizes guilt-free luxury. Winner of numerous awards, the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is made from recycled materials and renewable resources, runs on solar power and is located on a private conservation and nature reserve. Each free-standing luxury suite has its own private terrace and swimming pool, and guests can indulge in massages and skin treatments in between outdoor adventures.
Six Senses Hideaway, Thailand
(images via: sixsenses.com)
The Six Senses Hua Hin on the Gulf of Siam set out to prove that luxury and minimal environmental impact are compatible with its SLOW LIFE philosophy (S-Sustainable, L-Local, O-Organic, W-Wholesome, L-Learning, I-Inspiring, F-Fun, E-Experience). The resort, which features 55 pool villas and a holistic spa, has committed to green operations including energy efficiency, waste minimization and water conservation.
Gayana Luxury Eco Resort, Borneo
(images via: gayana-eco-resort.com)
Experience a lush jungle on a coral reef island off the coast of Borneo at the Gayana Luxury Eco Resort, which not only offers accommodations on the water with stunning views of the ocean and Mt. Kinabalu, but also operates its own Marine Ecology Research Center which propagates endangered giant clams and engages in other conservation and restoration activities. Guests can dive, kayak, trek through the jungles or lay back for a relaxing day in the luxury spa.
(images via: miravalresorts.com)
Not interested in venturing beyond the U.S. borders? America has a few eco resorts of its own, including Miraval in Tucson, a luxury spa and wellness retreat on 400 acres populated with rammed earth buildings and plenty of cacti. The rammed earth (clay adobe brick) construction makes the structures energy-efficient; water is heated with solar energy; the guest rooms feature green materials like non-toxic paints and the landscaping is all native. Miraval specializes in wellness and stress relief, with yoga, meditation, nutrition instruction, fitness activities and much more.
Gaia Luxury Hotel & Nature Reserve, Costa Rica
(images via: gaiahr.com)
High on a hill in the pristine wilderness of Costa Rica is the Gaia Hotel, a modern resort on 12.1 acres of nature reserve populated with local wildlife like squirrel monkeys and three-toed sloths. The 5-star, 20-room boutique hotel in the Manuel Antonio area has been named Central America’s top green hotel for its efforts to minimize the effects of tourism on the surrounding ecosystem.
(images via: cesiak.org)
Often named among the world’s best green getaways, the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiak) is located adjacent to ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum. All proceeds from the surprisingly affordable yet comfy and exotic resort fund education and conservation programs at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(images via: dar-hi.net)
Made almost entirely from local materials and labor, the Dar-Hi eco hotel in Tunisia is architecturally stunning and environmentally sensitive. The Dar-Hi is located on the edge of the Sahara Desert and features 17 rooms in four ‘styles’ that have different ways of interacting with the environment and the hotel: elevated ‘pill houses’ with beautiful views, ‘troglodyte houses’ built into the ground, ‘the dunes’ at ground level with a design inspired by wind-sculpted sand and the ‘dar malika’, a traditional house within the village. Accessible only on foot, the Dar-Hi offers secluded luxury just three hours from Paris.
Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Botswana
(images via: sanctuaryretreats.com)
Twelve luxury bush pavilions in the Mombo Concession, an area of the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana known as the ‘predator capital of Africa’, offer a beautiful and comfortable place to stay while experiencing Africa up close and personal. Included in a stay at the Sanctuary Chief’s Camp are ‘Mokoro’ dugout canoe excursions in the Okavango Delta and game drives on 4×4 vehicles where visitors can spot lions, antelope, zebra and buffalo.
Campi Ya Kanzi, Kenya
(images via: maasai.com)
Recognized for excellence in environmental management, Campi Ya Kanzi in Kenya is located on the 400-acre Kuku Group Ranch on land owned by Maasai herdsmen. The buildings were constructed from local materials like lava rocks, water is heated with a solar boiler and proceeds benefit the conservation of the local habitat. The price of the stay includes lodging in a luxury suite, all meals, house beer and wine, excursions to three national parks and botanical walks, game drives and visits to the Maasai village.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort
(images via: fijiresort.com)
Famed ocean explorer and environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau runs green resorts around the world including this gem on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. Dive, swim and snorkel in a marine reserve or just lay back and relax among the restored mangrove trees and traditional Fijian architecture, built for natural cross ventilation with sustainably harvested wood.
Longitude 131, Australia
(images via: longitude131)
15 luxury tents hover on steel stilts over the sand dunes at Longitude 131, an ecologically sensitive resort in the Northern Territory of Australia. The owners keep the resort small and pledge to protect the natural ecosystem as much as possible. The main event here is Uluru, the world’s largest monolith, a World Heritage Site; most of the resort’s outdoor activities center upon this beautiful landscape feature.
Usually one associates luxury and opulence with wastefulness and not for eco-friendly. However, as green travellers become more savvy, the market for green destinations is growing. Where natural building materials have been used, try to ascertain whether these materials have been sustainably obtained or harvested. ‘Natural’ doesn’t always equate to ‘eco-friendly’. Other very important things to look out for are water conservation systems such as rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling as well as how the resort obtains it’s power, e.g. solar energy or wind energy. Read 12 (eco) questions to ask a hotel before you book and Green Travel Tips.
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