By Jessica Festa
When thinking of eco-friendly accommodations, many people picture flimsy tents, low quality service, and no amenities. The truth is, today’s travelers don’t have to sacrifice luxury and comfort when going green. Here’s a list of ten luxe hotels from around the globe with a commitment to sustainability so that you can feel good about your well-deserved vacation.
Indulging in Homegrown Food and Spa Treatments at Six Senses Samui
Koh Samui, Thailand: You’ll realize you’re at a luxury resort the moment you are greeted by your very own private butler upon entering Six Senses Hideaway Samui. Surrounded by indigenous plants, sparkling sea, and outlying islands, it’s no wonder this property holds a commitment to ecology. Some of Six Senses’ green initiatives include creating their own bio-diesel to reduce CO2, filtering and recycling their wastewater, and educating guests on how to help the local environment and culture through a complimentary Thai Culture Class. Guests can also feel good about the food they eat, as Six Senses Samui grows their own organic food when possible.
Top Eco Experience: Try a relaxing spa treatment that uses herbs from one of the three pesticide-free gardens that grows aloe vera, citrus hystrix, and morning glory.
Bamboo Planting at the Rafayel on the Left Bank
Battersea, London: Rafayel on the Left Bank is a luxury eco hotel set out on a mission to prove that you do not have to compromise quality and comfort when going green. Guests can enjoy a bamboo grove that has been planted to release 35% more oxygen than many other tree types, as well as organic spa treatments, fair-trade mini-bar treats, and wines and cocktails that have been produced using farm-to-bar methods.
Top Eco Experience: Rafayel promotes cycling and kayaking tours as ways to explore London. The hotel will give you maps, routes, and suggestions to make sure you’re able to see everything you want without leaving a carbon footprint.
Delicious, Seasonal Skincare and Free-Range Cooking at URBN Hotel Shanghai
Shanghai, China: The URBN Hotel Shanghai is not just a luxury hotel, it’s an experience. Guests have access to an array of unique activities such as Chinese cooking, calligraphy, tai chi, yoga, and bike tours, as well as the chance to have an eco-friendly trip. Along with being China’s first carbon-neutral hotel, many of the rooms were created using recycled, natural, and local materials. At the spa, guests can indulge with fresh skincare products made from all-natural ingredients. A must-try is one of the seasonal treatments that involve three phases: one that revolves around a fruit, berry, or vegetable extract; another that focuses on an herb, botanical, or flower; and the last that uses ancient Chinese herbs.
Top Eco Experience: Dining at the hotel is also a sustainable experience with URBN’s signature restaurant, and the only carbon-neutral eatery in Shanghai, Downstairs with David Laris. Not only is 80% of the food from local farmers, the restaurant cooks with free range meats and uses natural sun-blocking bamboo shading, dim-set lighting, and recycled and locally sourced decor.
Roof-Top Gardening at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina: The Ritz-Carlton brand is synonymous with luxury, and at their eco-friendly Ritz-Carlton Charlotte guests should expect nothing less. One fun way that you can see their green program is by accessing the rooftop garden, which has two honey-producing beehives and grows over 18,000 sedum plants like lavender, mint, and other fresh herbs and greens. Roof-Top Garden naturals can be enjoyed through the hotel’s cuisine or at the spa. If you like being active, this Charlotte property also offers incentives like free parking for anyone driving a hybrid or electrical car and promotes cycling. Fully trained Bike Valets offer an array of free Trek Bike rentals and orientation sessions.
Top Eco Experience: Try a Honey Detox and Chocolate Truffle Signature Treatment, which uses a chocolate truffle wrap for hydration and natural honey for exfoliation and detoxing or the Green Your Body Eco-Treatment, which makes the most of natural pumice, therapeutic salts, organic sugars, mineral seaweed, and Sedona mud.
Breathing in PURE air at the Lenox Hotel
Boston, Massachusetts: When staying at the family-owned Lenox Hotel, you can expect top-notch service and comfortable rooms. While the hotel has a rich history, being built in 1900, it also has a history of first’s in terms of sustainable tourism, including being the first hotel company to offset 100% of its air pollution and carbon emissions from electricity. Consider booking a PURE room with a state-of-the-art air purification system that creates a noticeable clean-air ambiance for a better nights sleep. Have somewhere to go but don’t want to leave a high carbon footprint? The hotel offers complimentary hybrid Lexus SUV drop-off service within the neighborhood.
Top Eco Experience: Purchase an "Eco Chic" weekend package for one nights’ accommodation, organic wine upon arrival, an adventure bike tour of Boston or skating session on Frog Pond, and a donation to Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM).
Getting Green Behind the Scenes at Paradise Bay Island Eco-Escape
Whitsunday Islands, Australia: The Paradise Bay Island Eco-Escape is perfect for a luxurious escape: think intimate and secluded. Because the location of the hotel is in an environmentally sensitive area, close to the Great Barrier Reef as well as Conway National Park, it makes sense that it works on a green philosophy. When it is warm out, guests are given luxurious NaturaEco ingeno-quilts, made from corn and very breathable. Because education is so important, the hotel also offers a fun eco-tour adventure called the "Behind the Scenes Tour" where guests can see the Solar Field, Solar Water Heaters, Bio-Cycle System and more.
Top Eco Experience: Take advantage of the stunning location with some wildlife watching, including viewing humpback whales during migration; spotting tropical fish and varieties of coral; bird-watching; and spotting sea turtles, dolphins, and wallabies.
Bird-Watching at the The Waipiata Boutique Lodge
Warkworth, New Zealand: The Waipiata Boutique Lodge is a 5-star luxury accommodation that sits on 5 acres of neatly manicured lawns and gardens. The large orchard, vegetable, and herb gardens on the lodge’s property are organically grown, and guests can sample their contents through Waipiata’s vegetarian, organic, and locally sourced cuisine. Through this and initiatives like a solar heating system, a strong recycling program, and an advanced system for reusing waste water, it’s no surprise that the Waipiata Boutique Lodge was awarded an Enviro-Gold for the steps they have taken to minimize their carbon footprint.
Top Eco Experience: Enjoy the lodge’s eco-features firsthand by hiking through the thousands of native trees and watching for the large number of birds that they attract. If you would like to take your bushwalking farther, nearby marine reserves and bird sanctuaries offer educational experiences.
Ecotouring at the Gaia Hotel and Reserve
Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: The Gaia Hotel and Reserve is an adults-only 5-star beachfront resort that is one of the most green-enthusiastic hotels in existence. The hotel dedicates three-fourths of its land to create a private nature reserve, and guests can take part in complimentary guided ecotours, hiking through papaya trees and flowering passion vines while passing wide-eyed red tree frogs, listening to birds of paradise, and watching monkeys as they munch on mangos. For those in the mood to indulge, Gaia Hotel’s Terra Spa features only raw, organic, natural ingredients that are locally harvested in their treatments.
Top Eco Experience: Green-conscious foodies will also love the hotel’s Saturday morning Farmer’s Market Tour, where they can see locally-grown fruits, vegetables, cheeses, home-baked breads, flowers, fresh-squeezed juices, and cashews.
Becoming One With Nature at Kiaroa Eco Luxury Resort
Bahia, Brazil: The Kiaroa Eco-Luxury Resort is a sophisticated paradise in the center of a wildlife sanctuary. While the resort emphasizes luxury, it also focuses on sustainable travel. Some eco-friendly practices here include locally sourcing furniture and accessories, using wood from reforestation areas to construct the hotel, and implementing a solar energy program. Try the Island tour, where you will visit and learn about Coroa Vermelha Island, Pedra Furada, Campinhos Island, Goió Island, and Sapinho Island. And if you’re not already feeling close with nature, you can visit the Hotel’s Armonia SPA where you can partake in massages, treatments, and rituals, many of which use organic and regional products, while laying on a tranquil outdoor deck overlooking the rainforest.
Top Eco Experience: Enjoy a walking and bicycle tour of one of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches. See the Taipus de Fora Natural Pools, formed by about 20,000 square meters of live coral reef while being educated by a local guide on the ecology of the area.
Playing Sustainable Games at ITC Maurya, New Delhi
New Delhi, India: The ITC Maurya, New Delhi is a swanky hotel that is popular with executives and dignitaries. The self-proclaimed "Greenest Luxury Hotel in the World" was given the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED EB) award in 2010. Some initiatives include a "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" program, getting suppliers to adopt cleaner and greener practices, and creating water and energy games that are both educational and fun.
Top Eco Experience: Enjoy top-ranked dining at in-hotel restaurants Bukhara and Dum Pukht. Guests can be ensured that their food is fresh and healthy, as about 40% of ingredients used are harvested locally and cooked using solar power.
Photo Credits: Courtesy Herbert Ypma / Six Senses Samui