The word “eco” evokes a back-to-nature style approach to living with rustic cabins and sparse amenities, but it does not always have to be. From the slopes of the Swiss Alps to the islets of Nicaragua, here are ten of the most beautiful – and luxurious – eco-hotels in the world.
This compact concrete structure is nestled in a 13-acre green refuge on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico and peers out into the ocean. Inside, the 19 minimalist-designed loft apartments boast cool, lime green and sky-blue walls and ceilings with creeping vines and swinging wood-board windows. The entire hotel is solar-powered, and water collects from showers and basins and flows to nearby papaya and lemon trees.
“Pod” is an understatement to describe the living arrangement here – Whitepod’s 18 large futuristic igloos rest on the snow-covered Alps in Monthey, Switzerland, their humble white façades shielding elaborate fireplaces and wooden bathtubs inside. The “pods” are heated by pellet stoves and are built on wooden platforms with stilts driven into the ground; the hotel staff live nearby and walk to work. Far from other ski cabins, Whitepod has its own private ski lift so guests can enjoy the slopes to themselves.
This is the ultimate Chiang Mai mountain retreat where thatched-roof homes blend with the natural surroundings of fan palms and banana trees. Lisu Lodge is named after the Lisu hill tribe, some of whom also work at the hotel and as local tour operators. It’s tempting to spend all day reclining on the raised rattan beds and staring at the handwoven bamboo walls, but there’s much to do on-site including biking and rafting. Food is made from the lodge’s own rice fields and vegetable gardens.
Sprawl out with a pisco sour on a hammock under a fishtail palm rooftop and enjoy the view of the Madre de Dios River. Set in a 42,000-acre private ecological reserve that’s home to over 500 bird species in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, near the Bolivian border, Inkaterra Reserva Amaozonica consists of 35 wooden bungalows inspired by the indigenous Esa’ Eja culture and are linked by wooden pathways lit by candles in the evening. It’s also the perfect location to set out to explore Lake Sandoval and Gamitana Creek.
The Six Senses brand conjures ultra-luxury and their Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam property certainly lives up to the name. Make a grand entrance, James Bond style, arriving by boat, then checking into a hilltop villa hugged by giant rocks. Each of the resort’s 58 rooms come with private plunge pools overlooking the bay. Don’t be shy to ring your butler for room service. Meals are prepared with vegetables and herbs grown in the resort’s organic gardens, while the resort’s goats – yes, goats – provide milk and the free-range chickens lay eggs for breakfast.
Live out your private island dreams at this eco-resort with nine double-storey treehouse casitas made with hurricane-felled cedar trees on Nicaragua’s Granada Islets. Located on Lake Nicaragua, guests at Jicaro Island Lodge can get around the neighbouring islets by kayak or stand-up paddle board. Locals staff the lodge and serve as guides for eco-tours that guests can sign up for, including excursions to the base of Mombacho Volcano and hikes through the tropical forests of La Calera Natural Reserve.
Prepare to be surrounded by more animals than people in this exclusive eco-lodge in the cloud forests of the Chyulu Hills of southern Kenya. Campi Ya Kanzi allows only 16 guests at a time in their suites and villas which are thoughtfully constructed with stone and wood and powered by solar energy. The camp itself sits on a 283,000-acre Maasai-owned game reserve and from their private verandas, guests can see zebras, giraffes and antelopes roaming freely.
Two words: overwater villas. The 45 double-storey overwater villas at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives on Lankanfushi Island are not just palatial, they’re also built with sustainable materials including palm, teak and bamboo. Plastic is banned on the property, food waste is composted and the resort has its own organic vegetable and herb garden. There’s a “no shoes, no news” ethos here that encourages guests to go barefoot and turn off their phones – easy to do when the entire ocean is your swimming pool.
Costa Rica is known to be a pioneer in eco-friendly resorts and this quirky hideaway, easily recognisable by its curved white contours, in the hills of Santa Barbara, does not disappoint. Guests stay in one of the 14 rooms with bold textiles and spacious patios overlooking a sprawling coffee plantation shrouded in tropical gardens. Here, you can learn about how coffee beans are processed and practice cupping and even have a chocolate scrub at the spa.
Escape the tourist crowds at this stately 93-room eco-resort perched above Italy’s iconic Lake Garda. Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda produces its own olive oil from olive groves and its restaurant uses seasonal produce from neighbouring farms. But it’s really all about pampering here – relax in one of the six saunas or take a dip in the infinity pool which looks out at the lake. There are also 21 treatment rooms, some with lake views, to choose from.