In recent years, eco-friendly hotels have sprung up across the planet, catering to increasingly sophisticated consumers that demand only the most exclusive and authentic experiences. Nowadays, the seasoned traveler expects a resort to be green and eco-friendly in all aspects, to reduce its carbon footprint and, ultimately, to help the environment. Many 5-star hotels have implemented a green policy, by using sustainable construction materials, recycling waste materials, conserving water, or preserving fragile ecosystems. The following 10 uber-exclusive resorts demonstrate that sustainability doesn’t mean compromising on the luxury which you’ve come to expect on a holiday of a lifetime.
There is more information (with reviews and YouTube videos) below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite eco-friendly hotel or green resort in the comments section.
Perched along crescent-shaped shores, the beach-front Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort radiates luxury. Each one of hotel’s 290 guest rooms and suites, and seven residential villas, blends the hip, contemporary Andaz style with the feel of a luxury resort community. It is also Hawaii’s first LEED-certified resort. The eco-friendly hotel has a design approach that minimizes waste and harmful emissions, reduces energy and water consumption, and stresses sustainable design as an integral component of its overall strategy. Sustainable elements throughout the resort include a solar hot water system, variable speed chillers, motion sensor lighting controls and low flow plumbing fixtures. Environmental practices continue in-room, with automatic temperature control and guestroom glassware made from recycled wine bottles.
- Hotel website: Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
- Other accolades: Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort features in my top 10 list of the best luxury hotels in Hawaii.
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD spa credit).
- Review: read my review of Andaz Maui at Wailea here.
With 9 overwater villas in addition to 18 garden and beach villas, this remote private island resort is pure 5-star-plus luxury that you might not expect in Cambodia. Certainly not cheap, Song Saa – which translates to ‘the sweethearts’ in Khmer – operates on an all-inclusive basis for all guests and has earned a reputation for impeccable service and excellent cuisine since its opening in 2011. Inspired by a passion for Cambodia and a commitment to sustainable development, the eco-friendly hotel’s visionary owners Rory and Melita Hunter established the country’s first government recognized marine reserve, built a community-sustained solid waste management center, and launched the Song Saa Foundation which initiates and promotes projects that improve the wellbeing of the communities and natural environments of the Koh Rong Archipelago and beyond.
- Hotel website: Song Saa Private Island
- Other accolades: Song Saa Private Island also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most beautiful overwater bungalows, the world’s best honeymoon resorts, and the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia.
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and $100 USD resort credit).
Tasmania is a wild and diverse frontier on land and in its coastal waters, and Saffire Freycinet complements its grandiose surroundings instead of competing with them. Overlooking just 20 intimate suites is the main building: reminiscent of a bird in flight or stingray gliding across the seabed, the organic roof is constructed of curved Tasmanian wood, and sits atop huge windows looking out to the low-lying brush and coast. The eco-friendly hotel has been built using a framework of environmental sustainability, with the purpose of rejuvenating the area which had been previously damaged as a caravan park and backpackers’ accommodation. Ongoing environmentally sustainable practices include insulation, double glazing, highly energy-efficient hot water usage and lighting , natural cycle air flow systems, wide application of LED technology, use of Modwood as a wood alternative where appropriate, and limiting further impacts on the landscape through activity.
- Hotel website: Saffire Freycinet
- Other top 10 accolades: Saffire Freycinet also features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most exclusive wilderness lodges and the best luxury hotels & lodges in Australia.
Located on the island of Sumba near Indonesia’s best surf spot and named best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure for several years in a row, Nihi Sumba is a place where rugged luxury meets breathtaking natural beauty, allowing guests to reconnect with a life lived simply, healthfully and mindfully. With their thatched roofs, all 33 suites and villas are hand-built by Indonesian craftsmen using sustainable materials. Staying true to its eco-friendly stance, Nihi Sumba is committed to being a carbon-neutral hotel and is one of the only resorts in the world powered by bio-fuel produced from coconuts at its own bio-diesel factory. Moreover, the resort is dedicated to fostering community-based projects through its Sumba Foundation, by establishing access to clean water, creating educational programs and lessening the effects of Malaria.
- Hotel website: Nihi Sumba Island
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
The Brando offers 35 ultraluxe, beachfront villas on the private island of Tetiaroa, located in a sparkling lagoon northeast of Tahiti. It was in this natural wonderland that the legendary actor Marlon Brando settled down and found his home. Setting a new world standard, the eco-friendly hotel is carbon neutral and close to self-sustainable. All building materials used are of local or certified origin, renewable, or incorporate recycled components. The Brando also uses a pioneering deep seawater air-conditioning system to reduce energy demands and rely entirely on renewable energy sources including solar power and coconut oil. The hotel also built and gifted an Ecostation to Tetiaroa Society, the nonprofit organization established to lead the scientific and cultural mission to protect the atoll and to inspire sustainable interdependence on Tetiaroa and around the world.
- Hotel website: The Brando
- Other accolades: The Brando also features in my top 10 lists of the most expensive hotels in the world, the best luxury hotels in French Polynesia, and luxury hotels with private airports.
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and 100 euro resort credit).
The Six Senses brand has sustainability in its DNA and I could easily have filled this list with only Six Senses properties. One collection of five lodges – known as Six Senses Bhutan – merits particular recognition. These serene and luxurious lodges, which vary in style, showcase the diversity and special character of each valley in the Himalayan Kingdom. From sunrise meditations and holistic spa treatments to private astrology readings and butter lamp lighting ceremonies to incredible hikes and treks through pristine forests, the aim is to leave enriched and reconnected. Sustainability lives at the foundation of Six Senses Bhutan and is reflected through active management of energy, water, waste, purchasing and chemical usage. Bhutan keeps 60 percent of its land under forest cover, as mandated by its constitution. The four pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy are: Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection, Cultural Preservation, and Good Governance, all of which are carefully woven into the operation of Six Senses Bhutan.
- Hotel website: Six Senses Bhutan
- Other accolades: Six Senses Bhutan features in my top 10 list of the best lodges in Bhutan.
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Six Senses Bhutan when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary 60 min massage for two).
- Review: read my review of Six Senses Bhutan’s Thimphu lodge here, Punakha lodge here, and Paro Lodge here.
North Island Seychelles is one of the world’s most exclusive hideaway, unashamedly aimed at providing the very best in privacy, location, accommodation, services, facilities and experience. The insanely beautiful private island resort has only 11 opulent hand-crafted villas, all of them with private plunge pool, overlooking pristine, powder-white sands and turquoise waters. Once used as a copra (coconut kernels) plantation, the resort’s Noah’s Ark project is undoing the resulting significant loss of flora and fauna and restoring the island’s natural habitat. Alien plant species are continually cleared and have been replaced with 120,000 native seedlings grown in the resort’s nursery. The result: many indigenous wildlife species have returned, including both green and hawksbill turtles. The uberluxurious and eco-friendly hotel, which received the National Geographic’s 2017 World Legacy Award, gained instant world fame in 2011 when it made headlines as Prince William and Kate’s royal honeymoon destination.
- Hotel website: North Island
- Other accolades: North Island Seychelles features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Seychelles, the world’s most exclusive private island resorts, the most astonishing beach retreats in Africa, the world’s best luxury hotels, the world’s most expensive hotels, the world’s best honeymoon resorts, and my most phenomenal travel experiences of 2016.
- Review: read my review of North Island Seychelles here.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp rests in Namibia’s ancient Namib Desert’s famed Kaokoveld, an otherworldly and remote landscape hewn over the ages into immense dunes and rocky mountains. Hoanib’s eight pale olive, luxury tented suites peak like whitecaps on an ocean of sand. Totally solar-powered, Hoanib has a fresh, contemporary design, with a colour palette reflecting the surrounding desert. The camp (suites, common areas, pool) looks out on a wide, rugged valley that slopes down to the usually dry Hoanib River. One of many highlights: dining under impossibly starry skies, perhaps at the firepit as a jackal cries, or a lion roars, punctuating the stillness of the inky night. This camp is set in one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world, and therefore has been built with minimal impact on the environment. It is 100% solar powered, with each guest tent having its own small solar geyser for hot water. The property also doubles as a center for research and conservation of the desert-adapted predators of this harsh region: the desert-adapted lion and brown hyaena. The camp partners with the neighboring communities, so that ecotourism is able to benefit the people of the area.
- Hotel website: Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
Remote yet accessible by a 60 minute flight from Bangkok on the resort’s private plane, phenomenal Soneva Kiri sits on Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood, in the Gulf of Siam. Located on the idyllic beach or sunny slopes in the rainforest, the 36 resort villas (including 11 private residences) are amongst the largest in the world and all come with stunning infinity pools, eco-chic furnishings, and personal electric buggies. Soneva Kiri is part of the Soneva Group, a pioneer in sustainable luxury tourism. Ahead of the trend in which luxury moves toward experiences rather than possessions, Soneva endorses a concept it calls SLOW life – which stands for Sustainable Local Organic Wellness Learning Inspiring Fun Experiences – and holds annual symposiums with leading environmentalists.
In the dedication to SLOW life, cherishing the local community and a sustainable way of being are cornerstones at Soneva Kiri. For example, among all spectacular things that you can enjoy at Soneva Kiri, Cinema Paradiso might be my favorite thing: films screen nightly in an open-air, jungle-enshrouded cinema built over a rainwater-harvested reservoir that supplies the resort with fresh water. Another example is encouraging eco-enthusiasts to travel with a “Stay for Good” promotion where you’ll get free nights in exchange for working alongside marine biologists, ecologists, and horticulturalists to help support local sustainability initiatives in the area.
Contact me to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Kiri.
- Hotel website: Soneva Kiri
- Other accolades: Soneva Kiri also features in my top 10 lists of the most fabulous resorts in Thailand, the world’s most amazing beach resorts, the world’s most outrageous hotel experiences, the world’s most remote luxury hotels, the best private plunge pools in the world, the world’s most beautiful hotel beaches, the world’s best luxury hotels, the world’s best family resorts, and luxury hotels with private airports.
- Review: read my review of Soneva Kiri here.
IMHO, Soneva Fushi is the best example of a sublime hotel that blends luxury with sustainability. This desert island hideaway – the pioneer of luxury travel in the Maldives – is set on the privately owned tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island – which is 1,400 m (4,600 ft) long and 400 m (1300 ft) wide – ranks among the largest islands in the Maldives. Apart from the crystal clear waters, white beaches and tropical climate, the island’s unusually rich vegetation offers a unique natural experience. Massive, multi-bedroom, fairytale-like luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools. In summer 2020, Soneva Fushi also unveiled eight fabulous water retreats, which are the largest and most luxurious overwater villas in the world.
Environmental and social responsibilities are at the core of the resort’s philosophy. For example, Soneva Fushi has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, its food is grown and sourced locally where possible, it recycles waste materials, and it preserves ecosystems (Soneva Fushi has two nature reserves on site, where turtles can nest). Another brilliant initiative in line with Soneva Fushi’s eco-friendly hotel policy is the stunning Glass Studio, where the Maldives’ waste glass is turned into valuable works of art. Here, you can watch world-renowned glass artists create glass art, participate in art exhibitions, learn the art of glass blowing in special courses, or even personally design your own masterpiece to take home at the Maldives’ first glass studio.
Contact me to to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Fushi.
- Hotel website: Soneva Fushi
- Other accolades: Soneva Fushi also features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in the Maldives, best family hotels in the world, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and the world’s most insanely beautiful hotel beaches.
- Review: read my review of Soneva Fushi here.