Our Top 15 Eco Friendly and Sustainable Luxury Resorts.
Eco-tourism is all about travelling lightly and leaving no heavy footprints on the terrain you’re exploring. More and more resorts around the world are taking this into consideration and lessening their impact on the environment, supporting local communities, aiding wildlife and conservations areas and blending nicely into their surrounding habitat.
I’ve listed below my top eco friendly resorts who have incorporated sustainable practices into their operations and are working to conserve resources, recycle waste materials, and offer guests a unique and luxurious experience all while being mindful of our planet.
I hope I can encourage you to experience one of these properties and experience the power of eco-travel. Through Unique Family Travels, we can offer exclusive, specially discounted rates for your next booking so pick a resort below and let us do all the planning!
1. Soneva - Maldives
Being a brand ambassador for Soneva, I have witnessed and experienced intelligent luxury at its best while minimalizing the impact on the planet. This is a brand where rareness, sustainability and wellness come brilliantly together.
Within the Soneva portfolio they have three stunning resorts two being Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani in the Maldives.
From the minute you step onto Soneva sand you will appreciate just how dedicated the brand is to sustainable living. Throughout Soneva properties you will notice that there is no plastic allowed, in fact drinks are all served via glass bottles.. You may ask yourself what each resort does with the bottles? Don’t worry Soneva have thought of everything and taken the situation into their own hands. On the Soneva Fushi Island they have their very own glass factory. They first crush down the glass and melt it in a glass furnace then via a variety of techniques they up cycle! After that Soneva’s own skilled team of glass specialists create signature items for the restaurants and villas. They also mix fine particles of glass with cement and Styrofoam to make cement bricks for construction. From the coconuts they make oil for cooking and to use in the spa.
When it comes to their extensive menu everything is farm-to-table food by buying locally and growing produce in their own organic vegetable gardens.
Watch Soneva Jani video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Z6okLJDv0
Watch Soneva Fushi video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eISOD7MzHNU
2. Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand
Soneva Kiri is located on Thailand’s least populated island, Koh Kood. And surrounded by untamed jungle and pristine beaches. This intelligent luxury eco friendly resort offers 36 expansive villas constructed from local timber, driftwood and bamboo and come with stunning infinity pools, eco-chic furnishings, and personal electric buggies.
The Soneva Group is a pioneer in sustainable luxury tourism, holding annual symposiums with leading environmentalists, and it endorses a concept they call SLOW life, which stands for Sustainable Local Organic Wellness Learning Inspiring Fun Experiences. Among its initiatives, the resorts recycle plastic and glass, create their cooking charcoal, limit waste, grow its own produce-fed compost from hotel waste, installs solar panels to save fossil fuel use, and audit its supply chain for its environmental impact.
Watch Soneva Kiri video:
3. Bisma Eight, Ubud, Bali
Bisma is a stylish and modern boutique hotel tucked inside the jungles of Ubud, which greatly respects the environment around it. Featuring minimalist eco-luxe decor, Bisma Eight incorporates eco-design elements and is constructed from sustainable materials such as bamboo and jute. The baths in the rooms are made of wood and look like giant grape crushing buckets. There is something beautiful about being at one with nature while swimming in their infinity pool ledge, which is delicately balanced over lush Bali jungle. Produce served is grown in their own organic garden on site.
Watch Bisma Eight video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DYhzg3_zmk
4. Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand
Six Senses-Yao Noi has in place the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)
Natural materials used in the modern architecture, together with attention to detail and focus on the unique destination reinforce the Six Senses philosophy of sustainability and creating exceptional experiences.
At the Six Senses Yao Noi's their list of Environmental and Social Sustainability projects are endless as they focus on energy efficiency, water and waste management, social commitment, protecting natural surroundings, air quality and noise control. Six Senses-Yao Noi was built on the site of a former rubber plantation. Many of the rubber trees were kept to create shade from the sun as well as keeping soil from eroding. In addition, the landscape and gardens have been improved with the philosophy of re-generating the tropical flora as it would have been if the area was left untouched. All villas have been designed to take advantage of passive cooling and overhanging roofs to create shade for the windows, thus reducing over reliance on air-conditioning.
Six Senses-Yao Noi helps the local government by having its own water reservoir in front of the spa as well as several deep wells. All the water used within the resort and host compound comes from its own water reservoir, making it self-sufficient.
The resort also produces its own drinking water through reverse osmosis, with re-useable glass water bottles. Water saving measures such as “push” valves, water saving showerheads and low flush toilet systems are installed. These all help to reduce water usage. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of water is also donated to Clean Water Funding, which helps to assist places that do not have access to portable water.
Watch their video:
5. Bawah Reserve, Indonesia’s Anambas archipelago
One resort on my bucket list is Bawah Reserve, which is enveloped by lush tropical greenery and azure blue ocean. Bawah Reserve rests in sheltered carefree seclusion 160 nautical miles (300km) northeast of Singapore in Indonesia’s remote Anambas Archipelago. Surrounded by clear turquoise waters, blue lagoons and coral reefs, this pristine and previously uninhabited marine conservation area caters to outdoor adventurers with an appetite for indulgence as well as paradise seekers looking for relaxation. Bawah are committed to setting an example for responsible and sustainable tourism. Their eco-friendly approach extends across all operations, from permaculture to products: ocean-friendly sun cream, eco-friendly laundry detergent, and no plastic bottles. All of their waste is recycled; all paper is mulched; food waste is composted, and crushed glass is used in the water filtering process. The only land vehicles are electric buggies and they even have 2 solar powered boats! The Resort is part of the Bawah Anambas Foundation, created to channel funds back into the land, the sea and the local community. Conservation and sustainability drives everything that takes place on the island. They harvest, treat and store rainwater, and have a sophisticated reverse-osmosis seawater treatment plant, utilizing multi-stage filtration technology. Water is heated by solar energy; wastewater is treated for their permaculturalist to use on their organic fruit and vegetable gardens; and pesticides are banned. Due to the official marine conservation status of the Reserve, fishing, anchoring and collection of any marine life is forbidden; and so that the island does not suffer tourist trampling, only 35 suites have been built.
Watch Bawah Reserve video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y70eMB9Ukg
6. Ariara Resort, Philippines
Ariara Resort in the Philippines was voted by Times Magazine as “the best private island in the world” and Architectural Digest praised that Ariara is where “low impact design meets five-star luxury.”
The journey to get to this remote destination is not easy – it takes either a four-hour trimaran cruise or a one-hour speedboat ride from the port of Coron – but it is well worth it. This gorgeous contemporary style 125-acre private island resort was designed by Filipino architect Jorge Yulo who stayed sensitive to the island environment. This exclusive and small resort consists of 10 villas situated along the main beach all offering uninterrupted views of the ocean.
By virtue of its remote location this part of Palawan is untouched by the negative influences of pollution, development or tourism. Thankfully the local people are slowly beginning to realize how rich their region is. Recognized by National Geographic as “One of the most bio diverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines”, Palawan is the home of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites one being the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park.
Within Palawan, the Calamian Islands are considered to be the last frontier of the Philippines to remain untouched and unspoiled. Hence Ariara and its surrounding waters are a sanctuary for an enormous diversity of wildlife both on land, and at sea.
Ariara support the local community providing employment, training and education to the locals. They support government environmental programs and strive to preserve and enhance the natural habitat in order to support wildlife and marine life. They are also experimenting with renewable energy sources to harness wind and solar power and the use of carbon neutral coconut oil to run their generators rather than fossil fuels.
Watch Ariara Video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6GqyVp7pc
7. Santani Wellness Resort, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Situated in the rolling green mountains of Sri Lanka, Santani is an eco-friendly, intimate sanctuary with 16 rooms that has a spiritual and relaxed philosophy. With a luxurious yet minimalistic approach, every guest’s experience is unique as you become immersed in the power and energy of nature all around you. Santani’s respect for the environment radiates through the variety of healing programs and design, which brings the outdoors in.
Watch Santani Wellness Resort video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv3wfBoi2K8
8. Singita Lodges – Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand, Rwanda
Singita’s evolution from a single lodge company to one that is now responsible for a million acres of land, operating 12 lodges and camps in five wilderness regions across three African countries, has always been characterized by a pioneering spirit and a sincere desire to preserve wilderness areas for future generations.
Its low-impact, high-value tourism model – fewer guests paying a premium for the privilege of experiencing vast open spaces – exists to sustain these wilderness areas and their resident wildlife, while providing an exclusive safari experience.
Set high in the hills amongst dramatic boulders, the organic-shaped buildings of Singita Pamushana Lodge are reminiscent of Great Zimbabwe. The lodge is the ecotourism arm of this 130,000-acre reserve and its role is to help foster the sustainability of the wildlife and broader ecology.
Biodiversity, community and sustainability are the three pillars of conservation supported by Singita. The brand is dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife, and they use high-end ecotourism to do this. Their model is to responsibly and sustainably change people’s perspectives on the planet, and inspire those exposed to it to effect positive change in their own lives and own spheres of influence.
Biodiversity is the sum of all plant and animal life in a given geographical area, such as a reserve, a country or a continent. Efforts to enhance biodiversity are organized into three areas: reserve integrity, ecosystem integrity, and external influencers.
The long-term community development goal is to assist communities to thrive, both economically and socially. They recognize that sustainable operations across all their lodges and urban offices play a major role in achieving their overall purpose to preserve and protect large areas of African wilderness for future generations. They achieve this through continued efforts to reduce their ecological footprint and to improve conditions for their people, and those in neighboring communities.
Watch Singita Pamushana Lodge video https://singita.com/videos/singita-pamushana-lodge/?lodge-id=13652
9. Tri Lanka, Sri Lanka
Tri is Sri Lanka’s first truly contemporary sustainable luxury design hotel. Not far from Galle Fort, on the shores of Koggala Lake (Sri Lanka’s largest natural lake) and within easy reach of the best beaches in the south, 8 suites and villas spiral a six-acre hill of outstanding natural beauty. Ecotourism has never been so inspiring.
Create more, consume less; embrace every opportunity to learn and improve; be innovative and committed; inspire others to positive change; and always look to nature – that is their philosophy. Living walls, green roofs, 100% recycled wood and entirely local materials unify accommodations with their extraordinary landscape. The windows, doors, flooring and cladding have been crafted from entirely recycled local jak wood. Cinnamon sticks are used on exteriors to blend buildings into the land, enhance privacy and regulate temperature. Balconies and terraces are finished with natural pebble wash made from stones sifted from on-site construction sand. Three forms of local granite – natural, handpicked and bush-hammered -are used to create pathways, flooring, steps, vanities and shower walls.
Guided by local green consultancy Carbon Consulting Company, Tri is intent on reducing its carbon footprint annually and promoting sustainable practices at all times, including the careful monitoring of water and electricity consumption.
Watch Tri Lanka video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM01g0Nx1N4
10. Bardessono, Napa Valley
Bardessono is an award-winning hotel and spa in Napa Valley, and pioneer of a new modernity. Bardessono is the perfect resort to explore the wine country of Napa Valley, providing a luxurious guest experience and be very green at the same time. Thoughtfully, and scientifically, they have minimized the impacts of construction and design, and integrating the most advanced environmental technologies to stay true to their beliefs. The result is an incredible experience.
Their environmental initiatives include non-toxic, non-allergenic materials used in construction, organic linens and cleaning supplies, recycling and composting programs, and natural heating and energy sources via rooftop solar panels.
Bardessono Hotel & Spa has an award winning, certified organic restaurant named after the owner Lucy Restaurant & Bar that serves garden and seasonally inspired cuisine, and is a unique farm- to-table experience.
Watch their video: https://www.bardessono.com/green-initiatives.htm
11. Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
Song Saa offers 18 garden and beach villas, and nine over water villas and is known for amazing service. This private island should be one of the eco luxury hotels you consider booking if you are looking to get away from it all in a remote destination.
"Forward-thinking luxury" is the mantra on this tropical Cambodian private island, which prides itself on being an ethical and eco-friendly resort. Daily beach cleaning expeditions, and ongoing conservation programs in the area include community fisheries, a coral nursery, and a tropical marine protection project. Educational excursions are a crucial element of what they do, for guests and locals. The Song Saa Foundation supports community development, raising funds for local school supplies and, partly through the voluntary Pack for a Purpose scheme, providing sufficient medical attention and supplies to the remote area.
Watch Song Saa video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kL5dJRc7Yk
12. Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
Tucked away on one of Indonesia’s most unexplored islands hidden in 567 acres of land with its own private beach is Nihi Sumba Island hotel a luxury resort with a conscience. Almost entirely preserved from urban development, Sumba’s landscape is perfect for adventurers – especially surfers and wanderlusts.
Nihi is dedicated to preserving the natural environment and Sumbanese culture. All 33 ocean view suites and villas are individually decorated and hand-built with thatched roofs by Indonesian craftsmen using sustainable materials. Nihi is also committed to being a carbon-neutral resort and is powered by bio-fuel produced from coconuts at its own bio-diesel factory. A huge portion of profits from the resort are donated to supporting Sumbanese schools, hospitals, and farms through the Sumba Foundation, providing access to clean drinking water, creating educational program. The resort has become the biggest employer on the island and contributes massively to the health and welfare of the community. Since its inception, the Foundation has built 60 water wells and 240 water stations; 16 primary schools; and four medical clinics that provide reliable healthcare to over 25,000 people.
Watch Nhi Sumba video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPFllfd4nM8
13. The Brando, French Polynesia
If there’s one country I am desperate to see it’s stunning French Polynesia and the resort in particular is The Brando which is a unique luxury resort on French Polynesia’s breathtakingly beautiful private island of Tetiaroa – an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a lagoon. The Brando offers carefree luxury in the midst of pristine nature.
Former owner, eccentric Hollywood superstar Marlon Brando’s original vision was its core mission for sustainable tourism. It is close to self-sustainable, or carbon neutral, and is LEED certified meaning that their property has a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. Buildings use resources, generate waste and are costly to maintain and operate. Green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs. Electricity at the complex, for example, is generated from solar panels and coconut oil biofuel, while wastewater is used for sustainable irrigation. And the resort's cooling system uses a "closed loop heat exchanger" that takes very cold sea water from 900m (2,950ft) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean to cool the fresh water and air circulating round the complex. As the cooling system is powered largely by water pressure, it uses very little energy
Good news for guests staying at the resort as they are unlikely to be bitten by mosquitoes either, due to a sterilization program that has slashed Tetiaroa's mosquito population by at least 95% - How is this possible you may ask, well, the program breeds and releases non-biting male mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria that makes wild females - who do bite - sterile.
Watch the resort video - https://youtu.be/VYtYfZuux70
14. Wilderness Safari’s
Wilderness Safari’s operate eco friendly camps in 6 African countries – Zambia, Botswana, Rwanda, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Namibia. All of Wilderness Safari camps are luxurious but they are also smartly designed to have the lightest possible impact on the environment – if they have to be moved in the future, they will leave no trace they were ever there.
They are dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife, and use high-end ecotourism to do this. The Wilderness Wildlife Trust, an independent non-profit entity associated with the Wilderness Group, supports a wide variety of projects across Africa. The projects and researchers that it supports address the needs of existing wildlife populations, seek solutions to save endangered species and provide education and training for local people and their communities.
The Trust focuses its work in three key areas:
Research and Conservation – including species studies, monitoring of populations and understanding human-animal conflicts.
Community Empowerment and Education – such as community upliftment and the Children in the Wilderness program
Anti-poaching and Management – including aerial surveys, anti-poaching units and increasing capacity for researchers in general. The goal of the Trust is to make a difference to Africa, her wildlife and her people.
Bisate is Rwanda’s first genuinely luxurious and eco-sensitive safari camp, centered on Africa’s most immersive wild primate experience. Located in the natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes rearing up through Afro-alpine forests. Six opulent en-suite forest villas maximize comfort and views while adhering to environmentally responsible principles and reflecting the rich culture of rural Rwanda.
Watch their video: https://www.youtube.com/user/WildernessSafaris
15. White Pod Eco Luxury Hotel, Swiss Alps
This resort, located in the Swiss Alps, might be a tad different to what you’re used to. The reason is the luxurious, eco-friendly sleeping pods, which can be utilized all throughout the year. The pods are low impact, which means they use a minimal of water and electricity, and they primarily consist of renewable resources. Since its creation in 2004, Whitepod aims to prove that hospitality and environmental conservation can coexist to create a unique and positive experience. The use of energy and water is controlled. The waste is recycled. Ingredients are purchased locally. The staff lives nearby and simply walks to work. Motorized transport is limited. Sleeping in a pod heated by a pellet stove facing an breathtaking view… Limited transport in the camp means that you have to walk from reception to your pod. This is part of the Whitepod experience. Just like walking in a silent forest or enjoying a local cuisine
There are two reasons domes are energy efficient. The ambient airflow inside the dome is continuous, with no stagnant corners, requiring less energy to circulate air and maintain even temperatures. The energy required to heat and cool a dome is approximately 30% less than a conventional building. The second is the high volume-to-surface-area ratio, requiring less building materials to enclose more space. The lower the ratio of a building’s outside perimeter to its enclosed living area, the less energy is required for building, heating and cooling.
Watch their video
Principles of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:
Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climates.
Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
Remember its up to each of us to do our part to help protect the planet for future generations. So the next time you travel, I hope I’ve inspired you to try one of the above hotels in order to experience eco-luxury at its best.
Get in touch with us at Unique Family Travels and lets make your next vacation/holiday/getaway one that inspires you to contribute to this beautiful abundant planet of ours.