The most heart-stirring hotels in the world are the ones that also consider their communities and the climate, says Juliet Kinsman, Sustainability Editor of Conde Nast Traveller. From established individual hotels to exciting new arrivals, here are 10 of great examples of sustainable hotels—the forward-thinking few who walk the talk everyday.
Nikoi and Cempedak Private Islands – Indonesia
These private island escapes in Western Indonesia, a short transit from Singapore, set the bar for eco escapes. Cempedak is a bamboo-spectacular romantic adults-only all-inclusive setting new standards in hospitality, while Nikoi is its family-friendly sibling. In the South China Sea, staying at these tropical-bliss escapes also supports the Island Foundation’s community-based projects. Both are as socially conscious as they are environmentally kind, modelling how to give prospects to local people while ensuring as little impact on nature as possible plus a smarter way of eating thanks to as much as possible being grown on their farm on Bintan rather than imported.
Vila Planinka – Jezersko, Slovenia
In this as-green-as-it-gets European nation, this new boutique bolthole is appealing for its sophistication and sustainable sensibilities. Just over half an hour from the capital, Ljubljana, 23 sleek chalet-like suites are setting new light-touch high-style tourism standards in the village of Jezersko. Until now, this rural community resisted encouraging visitors, so there’s a wonderful authenticity alongside Michelin-listed cuisine and world-class wines hailing from local vineyards. Spending time at this revived mountain lodge is good for you, too. For centuries, locals have celebrated four ‘energy points’ believed to hold healing powers. Add magnesium-rich waters from the nearby heart-shaped lake, and wellness magic awaits.
Learn more about Vila Planinka here
Sujàn Jawai – Rajasthan, India
For awe-inspiring wildlife-saving safaris, you don’t always need to head to the continent of Africa. Sujàn’s luxury tented adventures have been funding their unrivalled conservation endeavours in India for more than two decades. Sujàn Jawai is a first of its kind in the country and thanks to their personalised hospitality, they have helped restore around 40 square miles of habitat for leopards, birds and flora. Their sister camp, Sujàn Sher Bagh, funds the Village Wildlife Volunteers at a time when anti-poaching around the greater Ranthambhore area is more vital than ever.
Find out more about Sujàn’s luxury camps and hotels here
Green Safaris – Zambia and Malawi
From these pioneers of responsible green-energy safaris operators comes a brand new biophilic-designed Chisa Busanga Camp. This clutch of solar-powered weaver-bird-nest lodges on a small one-tree island close to the centre of the Busanga Plain is the stuff of fantasy. Another property to take note of is Kaya Mawa, their lakeside lodge that deserves praise as the first in Malawi to run entirely on renewables.
Find out more on Green Safaris here
Heckfield Place – Hampshire, United Kingdom
How does such a drop-dead gorgeous, high-end hideaway qualify as being eco? In the case of this country-house hotel, it actively tackles one of the most important topics in the climate emergency conversation: the improvement of soil health. Heckfield Place is the first luxury hotel in the UK to achieve biodynamic status thanks to Market Garden’s clever lunar-calendar planting. And under Skye Gyngell’s culinary direction, restaurants Hearth and Marle are reason alone to taste what they’re growing and rearing—earning the Michelin Guide’s revered Green Stars.
Find out more on Heckfield Place here
Isla Palenque – Panama
This private-island resort in the Pacific has only eight secluded casitas set right on the sand, coupled with four hundred acres of primary forest, various beaches to explore, as well as ecological and archeological wonders. What’s winning about this Robinson Crusoe barefoot luxury paradise is also their back-of-house Sustainability Tours. As with all Cayuga Collection-managed properties, guests get a sneak peek at all that goes into making the hotel exceptionally eco—from how they convert their food waste into compost to how they filter water. Touring the organic kitchen garden and the carpentry workshop makes you realise it takes 45 members of well-looked-after staff to bring guests this remote and responsible sustainable-luxury experience. That’s human sustainability in action.
Find out more on Isla Palenque here
The Datai Langkawi – Malaysia
A lesson in sustainable reincarnation, this beloved refined rainforest retreat proves a hotel can transform itself from a traditional upscale paradise of 121 rooms, suites and villas to a forward-thinking, nature-positive conservationist which still promises every first-class holiday perk. The Datai first opened in this 10-million-year-old rainforest in 1993, and its rebirth post a multi-million renovation included a Nature Centre and permaculture system. What’s special about these naturalist-led treks and garden tours is that they engage and educate everyone on why we all need to care about ecology for the sake of all people and the planet.
Find out more on The Datai Langkawi here
Borana Conservancy – Laikipia, Kenya
Here in the Kenyan highlands, accommodation ranges from Arijiju, a five-bedroomed house, to luxe Lengishu overlooking the Laikipia plains and Borana Lodge. A spell here at the foot of Mount Kenya helps finance the protection of the black rhino and lions and the maintenance of elephant migration corridors. The properties are also a member of The Long Run, a non-profit dedicated to the support of conservation-dedicated lodges, and their all-important boosting of biodiversity and protection of wildernesses and wildlife.
Find out more on Borana Conservancy here
São Lourenço do Barrocal – Alentejo, Portugal
This 200-year-old family-run estate, which is celebrating its anniversary this year, isn’t a conventional eco-retreat. What makes this fancy farmhouse two hours from Lisbon appealing for conscious travellers is that while you nourish yourself on delicious home-grown ingredients and organic wines, is that there’s a strong sense the owners looked after everyone in their ecosystem throughout the pandemic.
Locally and independently owned hotels tend to be better custodians and communitarians. Here they encourage guided walks around the prehistoric monuments—these barrocais boulders lend Barrocal its name. As well as history and archaeology lessons, they host pottery workshops with the country’s oldest ceramics producers. In the newly credited Dark Sky Alqueva region, you can also enjoy universe-expanding night sky viewings with an astrophysicist that underlines the benefits of encouraging less light pollution. All reminders to appreciate the nuances of cultural conservation, responsible agriculture and people’s interplay with geography gets our thumbs-up.
Find out more about São Lourenço do Barrocal here
Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani – Maldives
The Soneva brand sparks lust on Instagram for their pool villas with slides into the sea, and butler-tended thatched cabins. What gets those in the know when it comes to positive-impact accommodation really excited? Soneva’s attitude to garbage and their policy-changing Namoona initiative. In an island country which produces 365,000 tons of solid waste annually, municipal waste facilities are limited, meaning rubbish is burnt or chucked in the sea. This partnership between the world-class hotel brand and the islands of Maalhos, Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, Common Seas marine charity and local government, shows us that luxury trips supporting the education of locals about ocean stewardship is what is most worth us swooning over.
Juliet Kinsman is a London-based journalist, sustainability expert and broadcaster who has spent three decades sharing stories about the world’s most special places. The first-ever Sustainability Editor of Condé Nast Traveller, Juliet extols eco-luxury for the BBC through to The Times, and her book ‘The Green Edit: Travel (Easy Tips for the Eco-Traveller)’ is essential reading for more responsible adventures. The founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith and author of Louis Vuitton City Guides, she’s most recently founded non-profit consultancy Bouteco, which inspires all to strive for more positive impact through their escapes.