Global interest in ecotourism, defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people”, has grown rapidly in recent years.
- According to the Center For Responsible Travel’s Travel Trends & Statistics report, around one in five consumers (21%) say they would be willing to pay more for a trip with a company that has a better environmental and social record.
- A report by The Travel Foundation found that 66% of travelers surveyed would like to be able to identify a “greener” holiday more easily.
To make sure the eco-resort of your choice is not engaging in greenwashing look for credentials.
What’s The Difference Between An Eco-Resort, Eco-Lodge, Or Eco-Hotel?
The biggest difference is the setting in which you’ll find them. Eco-resorts and eco-lodges tend to be more remote, located in relatively pristine natural environments such as exotic islands, forests, and mountains. Most eco-resorts tend to be more dependent on the natural environment than eco-hotels.
- Eco-resorts: located on larger properties, offer more amenities, a choice of restaurants, and/or a variety of local tours
- Eco-lodge: travel experts agree that the terms eco-lodge and eco-resort are used somewhat interchangeably.
- Eco-hotels: located in cities and towns.
Resort & Hotel Eco-Offerings: They all emphasize environmental responsibility and minimizing negative impacts; are active in nature and wildlife conservation; offer visitor education about local ecosystems; connected with the area’s indigenous culture (whose influence is often incorporated into the resort’s decor and menu). This reinforces the concept of ecotourism as a sustainable long-term business model.
- Eco-friendly toiletries.
- Energy-efficient lighting.
- Locally sourced food.
- Non-toxic cleaning supplies.
- Non-disposable dishes.
- Organic linens.
- Recycling services.
- Renewable energy sources.
- Water conservation methods.
Reputable certification programs to fact check your eco-resort.
- Green Seal and Global Ecolabelling Network are devoted to improving, promoting, and developing labeling systems for eco-friendly products and services.
- Green Key Global is an eco-Rating Program, which evaluates properties on an environmental, social, and economic level, has certified around 2,370 eco-hotels and eco-lodges in 52 countries.
- Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria is sponsored in part by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, is widely considered the gold standard in “green” certification. Criteria include:
- Effective sustainability planning.
- Maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community.
- Enhancing cultural heritage.
- Reducing negative impacts on the environment.
BEST ECO-RESORTS IN THE WORLD
This list was compiled from the Green Global Travel site.
1. HAMANASI ADVENTURE & DIVE RESORT (BELIZE)
- Green Globe-certified.
- Set on the picturesque Caribbean coast; named Belize’s Hotel of the Year in 2009; perfect for nature-lovers and adventurers alike.
- Hamanasi is part of a pilot project supported by Conservation International, using the Caribbean Association of Sustainable Tourism’s methodology.
- Sustainable initiatives include composting, rainwater collection, eco-friendly cleansers, louvered windows and ceiling fans to minimize AC usage, extensive recycling, and hiring over 90% of staff from local communities.
- 10 acres of pristine protected nature reserve.
2. NIMMO BAY WILDERNESS RESORT (BRITISH COLUMBIA)
- A NatGeo’s Unique Lodge, located in the old-growth wilderness of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
- Surrounded by majestic mountains, pristine forest, glistening fjords, and tumbling waterfalls, it’s accessible only by helicopter or floatplane.
- Widely considered one of the first true eco-resorts in the world.
- Has become a bucket-list destination for adventure-seekers (drawn by hiking, fly fishing, and kayaking) and wildlife aficionados.
- A 5,000-foot waterfall drives the hydropower turbine creating enough energy to run the entire resort off-grid.
- Have a partnership with the area’s First Nation communities, through which they use indigenous guides and offer educational cultural activities.
3. CASA CORCOVADO JUNGLE LODGE (COSTA RICA)
- Like staying in Corcovado National Park.
- One of a few Costa Rican eco-resorts to have earned the 5-Leaf rating from the country’s Certification For Sustainable Tourism.
- Located on 170-acre nature preserve two hours by boat from the nearest town.
- Swimming pool fed by a natural spring.
- Sustainability initiatives include a solar electric system using photovoltaic panels, hybrid solar convection for creating hot water, an electric (rather than gas-powered) generator, a hydroelectric turbine for water conservation, and a wastewater management approach that includes nine septic tank systems.
- All proceeds from the recycling program benefit the local high school.
4. SECRET BAY (DOMINICA)
- Located on the northwest coast of the Caribbean island of Dominica, Secret Bay is a 5-star eco-resort with six sustainable luxury villas.
- Composed entirely of sustainably-sourced tropical hardwoods.
- Syndicate Nature Reserve and a popular scuba diving spot can also be found within a 15-minute drive.
5. HACIENDA TRES RIOS RESORT (MEXICO)
Hacienda Tres Rios was built to be sustainable. Roads and buildings were elevated on pillars to allow water from the surrounding mangroves to flow uninterrupted beneath the resort.
- Located in the middle of 326 acres of tropical rainforests, where three rivers meet the Caribbean Sea. Here you’ll find three distinct ecosystems– jungle, mangrove forest, and coastal dunes.
- Six different restaurants serving Mexican and Italian to Japanese and an international buffet. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables served are sourced from the resort’s 2,500-acre organic farm.
- All of the water used at the resort comes from two reverse osmosis desalination plants, and rainwater catchment systems line the roof of every building on the property.
- All grey water is used for the gardens and plant nurseries.
- Approximately 60% of the resort’s waste is recycled.
- Organic material from the restaurant kitchens is composted for use at the plant nursery.
6. TWO SEASONS CORON ISLAND RESORT & SPA (PHILIPPINES)
A sanctuary for giant clams and sea turtles, this eco-resort is located on the Malaroyroy Peninsula of Bulalacao Island in northern Palawan.
- It’s a 100% zero waste resort.
- The resort’s amenities include kayaks, HydroBOB submersible scooters, Scuba diving courses, and much more.
- The resort must be 100% self-sustaining.
- Solar panels are used to heat water.
- A desalination plant produces over 21,000 gallons of fresh water in a day.
- A sewage treatment plant that produces grey water to be used in the bathrooms for flushing, and a separate system wherein solid waste is discharged on a drying bed and used as fertilizer.
7. KURA DESIGN VILLAS (COSTA RICA)
Situated high in the hills of Uvita above the pristine waters of Marino Ballena National Park.
- A biologist is the mastermind behind Kurá Design Villas’ sustainable initiatives.
- The infinity pool overlooking the jungle is filled with salinated water (no chlorine).
- The treated septic water is used for irrigation on the lushly landscaped local plants.
- Much of the hotel’s food comes from a hydroponic garden next to the hotel.
- Private rooms provide biodegradable soaps, LED lighting powered by photovoltaic solar panels (which also heat the water), and recycling bins.
8. KAWILAL HOTEL (GUATEMALA)
With the dramatic Pacaya Volcano in the background, this sustainable eco-hotel offers the healing thermal waters of Santa Teresita to soothe sore muscles and improve circulation.
- Kawilal Hotel is the first hotel in Central America with LEED-NC Gold certification.
- Built into the hillside with grassy roofs and is oriented to catch evening breezes for natural cooling- no air conditioning needed.
- The Thermal Circuit has water heated by the volcano.
9. THE GREEN HOTEL (INDIA)
Located in southwest India outside the city of Mysore, you’ll find a Chittaranjan Palace that was saved from demolition and restored as a lovely eco-resort.
- The beautiful gardens that surround the palace have won first prize in the Mysore Horticultural Society’s Best Garden category for over ten years running.
- The Green Hotel restaurant serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
- The hotel’s sustainability initiatives include using solar energy and recycled water for the garden.
- The work of award-winning local craftsmen decorates the hotel, and all profits are distributed to charitable and environmental projects in India.
10. LAS NUBES DE HOLBOX (MEXICO)
- Located on Isla Holbox island, Las Nubes de Holbox is a beautiful beachfront eco-resort nestled between a picturesque sandbar and the Yum Balam Nature Reserve.
- Traditional Mexican decor is used to accent the 28 rooms.
- Locally-sourced ingredients are the foundation for all of the dishes at their excellent El Sabor de las Nubes restaurant.
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