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10 top eco-friendly resorts and hotels in the world

The soon-to-debut Lagoon Sunset Pool Villas at Banyan Tree Mayakoba anchor you with minimal impact to your new neighbors: the hundreds of species that live in and around these emerald waters. | Photo courtesy Banyan Tree Mayakoba The soon-to-debut Lagoon Sunset Pool Villas at Banyan Tree Mayakoba anchor you with minimal impact to your new neighbors: the hundreds of species that live in and around these emerald waters. | Photo courtesy Banyan Tree Mayakoba

As 2020 became the year of staying put—when we watched jellyfish glide through newly transparent Venetian canals and wild goats annex empty Welsh streets—leaders in sustainable travel came to a realization: “If there is a positive effect from the pandemic, it is our collective human perception of our impacts and what we can and must do as a society to respond,”  says Gregory Miller, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST). 

But even pre-pandemic, we had reached an inflection point in the rise of sustainable travel: According to a survey cited in CREST’s 2019 report, 70 percent of global travelers were likelier to book accommodations they know to be eco-friendly.

 So if the stats are any indication, you’re probably looking for ways to minimize your footprint as you venture back out into the world. The eco-friendly hotels, resorts, lodges, and glamping sites you’ll find here are perfect Earth Day inspiration.

Under Canvas Lake Powell–Grand Staircase, Utah

For such a minimalist barrier between you and the surrounding nature (in this case, the Utah desert), each Under Canvas tent is amazingly well appointed. | Photo courtesy Under Canvas

For such a minimalist barrier between you and the surrounding nature (in this case, the Utah desert), each Under Canvas tent is amazingly well appointed. | Photo courtesy Under Canvas

Opening April 1—just in time for Earth Month—this 50-tent outpost sits on the rim of a canyon near the Arizona border. In consultation with the camp’s Adventures Concierge (really a thing), you can arrange visits to some of the greatest hits of the Desert Southwest, from Antelope Canyon to Horseshoe Bend to Glen Canyon. After a day spent hiking, boating, or swimming, you’ll return to safari-style digs, which—despite feeling decadent (especially if you book a Stargazer Tent with a viewing window over the king-sized bed)—are actually virtuous. Like all nine Under Canvas locations, the Lake Powell–Grand Staircase camp limits water usage with low-flow toilets, auto-shutoff faucets, and chain-activated showers. (The amenities are organic, of course.) Should you emerge from your cushy tent at night, you might find a fireside guitarist, a s’mores-making session, or a movie under the stars. Then again, the stars alone put on quite a show around here.

Don’t miss: The Horseshoe Bend River Rafting excursion, which takes you along the Colorado River, through 700-foot sandstone walls and around the iconic namesake bend. Along the way, you’ll hike to a petroglyph panel, swim among rainbow trout, and search for bighorn sheep and nesting birds.

Info: 555 South Jacob Tank Road, Big Water, Utah. (435) 215-4678; undercanvas.com/camps/lake-powell. Rates from $299.

Turtle Bay Resort, Hawai’i

To help preserve its pristine tropical environment, Turtle Bay employs a whole host of solutions—sometimes, literally: In place of chlorine, you’ll find natural salt water-derived saline in the pools. | Photo courtesy Turtle Bay

To help preserve its pristine tropical environment, Turtle Bay employs many solutions—sometimes, literally: In place of chlorine, you’ll find natural salt water-derived saline in the pools. | Photo courtesy Turtle Bay

An Edenic AAA Three Diamond resort on O‘ahu’s North Shore, Turtle Bay is debuting a major eco-friendly refresh this summer but has long been recognized for eco-innovation. The Hawai‘i Lodging and Tourism Association’s inaugural Leader in Sustainability award went to Turtle Bay in 2016, thanks to—among other things—a 665-acre open-land conservation agreement with the state, the first solar roof installation atop any O‘ahu resort, and a program that converted Styrofoam into surfboards. The resort’s new elements include earth- and sea-toned beachy-chic interiors and an educational organic farm that feeds guests and locals.

Don’t miss: Snorkeling with sea turtles. As the only O‘ahu resort with 5 miles of secluded beaches, Turtle Bay makes its namesake creatures easy to spot (though you should always keep a respectful distance). You’ll also be treated to gorgeous coral beds and schools of tropical fish.

Info: 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, Hawai‘i. (866) 475-2569; turtlebayresort.com. Rates start at $399.

Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, Peru

Hacienda Concepción’s recently debuted spa, Nua, takes its name from the local Ese Eja word for sky—precisely where your head will be after any of the rainforest-inspired natural therapies on the menu. | Photo courtesy Inkaterra

Hacienda Concepción’s recently debuted spa, Nua, takes its name from the local Ese Eja word for sky—precisely where your head will be after any of the natural therapies on the menu. | Photo courtesy Inkaterra

Founded 45 years ago on the principles of environmental conservation, native cultural preservation, and sustainable tourism, Inkaterra was the first Peruvian enterprise to be declared carbon-neutral (back in the 1980s, no less). The brand has garnered environmental accolades ever since—and one of the easiest places to learn why sits just outside the Amazonian gateway town of Puerto Maldonado. Hop a boat, head 25 minutes downriver, and you’ll find Hacienda Concepción, one of three Inkaterra rain forest lodges where the expert naturalist guides will introduce you to local howler monkeys, giant river otters, white-throated toucans, two-toed sloths, and mohawk-feathered hoatzins, among others. But this particular lodge offers a bonus: a new sustainable spa, where the treatments range from a cacao-based exfoliation to local river stone massage.

Don’t miss: A day trip to Inkaterra’s nearby Field Station, where guides train, scholars research, conservationists strategize, and nature lovers just hang out. The sheer number of native plant species being grown, studied, and catalogued here is dizzying.

Info: Rio Madre de Dios Km 7, Puerto Maldonado 17000, Peru. (800) 442-5042; inkaterra.com. Rates start at $190.

Lefay Resort and Spa Dolomiti, Italy

Built into—and sworn to protect—one of Italy’s most stunning natural backdrops, Lefay has signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment to undertake various CO2-neutralization measures. | Photo courtesy Lefay Dolomiti

Built into—and sworn to protect—one of Italy’s most stunning natural backdrops, Lefay has signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment to undertake various CO2-neutralization measures. | Photo courtesy Lefay Dolomiti

If spa treatments rank high among your getaway priorities, consider visiting the Dolomites, where the Italian eco-wellness brand Lefay recently opened its second property. Having signed an agreement with the government to help protect the surrounding wilderness (part of a UNESCO-designated Global Geopark), Lefay has done a lot to conserve the environment, from cataloging local species to installing a low-emissions biomass boiler and innovative water-management systems. Not that your brain will be engaged in energy efficiency calculations as you stare out the floor-to-ceiling windows at towering pines and peaks as a therapist massages you with—for example—chestnut flower and alpine butter. 

Don’t miss: A hike to Nardis and Lares waterfalls, gorgeous byproducts of the glacial melt that streams into the Sarca river.

Info: Via Alpe di Grual 16, 38086 Pinzolo, Italy. dolomiti.lefayresorts.com. Rates start at $390.

Amigo Motor Lodge, Colorado

A favorite spot to take in the mountain air that surrounds Amigo Motor Lodge: the “cocoon chairs” that hang out front (rivaled only by the fire pit-adjacent cocoon chairs).  | Photo by Anthony Barlich, courtesy Amigo Motor Lodge

A favorite spot to take in the mountain air that surrounds Amigo Motor Lodge: the “cocoon chairs” that hang out front (rivaled only by the fire pit-adjacent cocoon chairs). | Photo by Anthony Barlich/Courtesy Amigo Motor Lodge

Given the recent road trip boom, even the casual observer has surely noticed that retro motels are having a moment. But there’s more to the Amigo Motor Lodge than chic vintage vibes. Located in Colorado’s high desert, near a river that locals depend on for irrigation, the newly renovated property conserves water with low-flow showers and drip-irrigated landscaping. Other sustainable measures include pump-dispensed natural toiletries, hydronic heating in rooms, and ethically sourced decor. (If you’re a fan of The Citizenry, you’ll feel right at home.) As for the stunning nature that these hoteliers are working to protect, explore it on foot (there’s a concentration of 14,000-footers here), on wheels (mountain biking is a year-round local passion), or on skis (Monarch Mountain is home to the nearest slopes). And if you prefer to stay socially distant in an Airstream or tepee, both are options as well.

Don’t miss: A soak in one of the area’s hot springs; at least four are within an hour’s drive of Amigo.

Info: 7350 W. US 50, Salida, Colorado. (719) 539-6733; stayamigo.com. Rates start at $105.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico

Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s new Beachfront Sunrise Pool Suites use eco-friendly local materials such as chukum (limestone-based stucco) and Mexican artisanry to elevate the outdoor/indoor vibes of the plunge pool terraces. | Photo courtesy Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s new Beachfront Sunrise Pool Suites use eco-friendly local materials such as chukum (limestone-based stucco) and Mexican artisanry to elevate the outdoor/indoor vibes of the plunge pool terraces. | Photo courtesy Banyan Tree Mayakoba

Along the stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coast known as the Riviera Maya, you’ll find a retreat that’s equal parts green and glam. The AAA Five Diamond Banyan Tree Mayakoba—a cluster of private pool villas, new beach suites, and, as of this spring, over-water villas—is EarthCheck Gold–certified and a partner of the Rainforest Alliance and a local environmental protection agency. So, what does all that eco-cred look like in practice? For starters, organic waste that becomes farm feed, used cooking oil that becomes biodiesel, and mass tree-planting events that become CO2 offsets. For guests, the environmental measures also mean crystalline lagoons to swim in, flourishing native species to marvel at, and abundant organic fare to fill up on.

Don’t miss: The Ixchel trajinera boat-dining excursion, in which you feast on local and global specialties as you ply Myakoba’s serene canals and mangroves, ideally at sunset.

Info: Carretera Federal Chetumal-Puerto Juárez Km. 298 Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (855) 421-1507; banyantree.com/en/mexico/mayakoba. Rates start at $379. 

Soneva Kiri, Thailand

Why yes, that is a zip-lining waiter. And if you book his services at Soneva Kiri, he’ll deliver locally sourced delicacies to your bamboo tree pod in an ancient, seaside rain forest. | Photo courtesy Soneva Kiri

Why yes, that is a zip-lining waiter. And if you book his services at Soneva Kiri, he’ll deliver locally sourced delicacies to your bamboo tree pod in an ancient, seaside rain forest. | Photo courtesy Soneva Kiri

Though any fan of tropical wilderness would do well at this Thai island retreat, nature-loving foodies won’t know where to begin: To start, there’s Treepod dining (picture yourself suspended in the canopy of an ancient rain forest, where your waiter delivers your order via zip line) and a mushroom cave lunch (all manner of house-cultivated fungi served in a jungle cavern). Plus, to help protect these habitats and others on the island, the resort is expanding existing eco-measures by introducing a series of “conscious experiences” that “encourage guests to travel for good.” One foodie favorite is the Traditional Thai Fishing Experience, a star- and moonlit lesson in generations-old sustainable fishing practices aboard a classic wooden boat. Also true to tradition, your catch will be prepared Thai-style on deck.

Don’t miss: The Koh Kood Butterfly Quest, led by the resort’s ecologist, who’ll take you through the rain forest and past a secret waterfall to find the 100 or so local butterfly species.

Info: 110 Moo 4, Ko Kut District, Trat 23000, Thailand. (855) 766-0025; soneva.com/soneva-kiri. Rates start at $552. 

Camp Denali, Alaska

At its most reflective, Nugget Pond turns Camp Denali’s legendary views into an even greater spectacle. But you may spot more than peaks and pines on the surface: The (very) occasional moose has been known to swim here. | Photo courtesy Camp Denali

At its most reflective, Nugget Pond turns Camp Denali’s legendary views into an even greater spectacle. But you may spot more than peaks and pines on the surface: The occasional moose has been known to swim here. | Photo courtesy Camp Denali

As Denali National Park’s lone lodging with views of Denali and the Alaska Range, this place has drawn many notables, from PBS’ national parks documentarian Ken Burns to nature photographer Ralph Clevenger. In addition to the surreal mountain vistas, the park is home to grizzlies, caribou, moose, and 160 or so species of birds (to say nothing of the alpine meadows and wildflowers). Small wonder Camp Denali does as much as possible to protect the environment. To that end, the owners recently installed an upgraded photovoltaic system to provide for most of the camp’s electrical needs. Though there are countless additional eco-friendly measures in place, a point of particular pride is the staff’s self-powered commuting (rare is the place where you can walk, bike, and ski to work). You, too, will be making your way through some of the park’s 6 million acres on your own power: The lodge offers daily guided hikes for a range of fitness levels. There are also gentle “forays” for anyone with limited mobility.

Don’t miss: Taking a canoe out on Wonder Lake. Its name is no exaggeration—as you’ll discover when you’re gaping at the reflections of the surrounding peaks on the water’s glassy surface. Just don’t forget mosquito protection.

Info: Denali National Park, Alaska. (907) 683-2290; campdenali.com. Rates start at $655.

Kasbah Bab Ourika, Morocco

Between its serenity and scenery, Kasbah Bab Ourika is beloved among wellness seekers and photographers—thus the series of yoga, detox and photography retreats on the 2021 calendar. | Photo courtesy Kasbah Bab Ourika

Between its serenity and scenery, Kasbah Bab Ourika is beloved among wellness seekers and photographers. Thus it offers a series of yoga, detox, and photography retreats on the 2021 calendar. | Photo courtesy Kasbah Bab Ourika

Little more than a half hour outside Marrakech, this Atlas foothills retreat is a contrast to the city’s buzzing souks and squares. Quiet, serene, and encircled by mountain vistas, Kasbah Bab Ourika is a perfect place to recharge. Solar panels power a good portion of the kasbah’s operations, and plans for biodigester-generated (read: waste-reusing) electricity are in the pipeline. As for what you’ll do here if you can pry yourself from whatever seductive surface you’re lounging on: There are treks of many kinds, (including with camels) that take you to nearby Berber villages, olive fields, plum orchards, herb gardens—the saffron farm is particularly stunning—and national parklands.

Don’t miss: A stop into the kasbah’s hammam for a traditional steam bath and the works (including a black soap scrub). 

Info: Ourika Valley, Tnine Ourika, Morocco. kasbahbabourika.com. Rates start at $182. 

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands

While there’s no bad spot on Necker Island, one favorite is the high-up perch of Leha Lo, where the all but unobstructed Caribbean breeze means you won’t miss the AC.  | Photo courtesy Necker Island

While there’s no bad spot on Necker Island, one favorite is the high-up perch of Leha Lo, where the all but unobstructed Caribbean breeze means you won’t miss the AC. | Photo courtesy Necker Island

For the ultimate splurge, consider Sir Richard Branson’s private island—a 35-minute boat ride from Tortola, or a 15-minute helicopter ride, if you prefer. After his property sustained epic hurricane damage in 2017, the Virgin Group founder and entrepreneur has rebuilt this corner of the British Virgin Islands with an even keener eye to sustainability (and given his reputation, that’s saying something). Most impressive are the three new wind turbines, whose output will supplement the power from 1,232 new solar panels (all blended as discretely as possible into the landscape). And you’ll be sharing said landscape with not just native creatures (the flashiest of whom are the flamingos, reintroduced after being hunted out of existence here) but also Madagascan lemurs, whose preservation is a pet project of Branson.

Don’t miss: Any form of sailing. The British Virgin Islands are legendary for it. So whether you want to take out one of the resort’s Hobie Cats for a couple of hours, book serious sailing lessons, or have someone else ferry you around the islands, just make sure you get out on the water.

Info: (877) 577-8777; virginlimitededition.com/en/necker-island. Rates start at $5,000.

Abbie Kozolchyk is a Los Angeles-area writer and host of the Well-Traveled with AAA podcast.

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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