With a healthy environment top of mind for any vacation thanks to the pandemic and two years of shutdown and social distancing, GettingOn Travel asked its team of contributing writers to identify their favorite eco-friendly resorts.
While definitions of eco-friendly vary in the tourism industry, generally speaking, an eco-friendly resort is one that engages in environmentally responsible practices and seeks to sustain the environment, ideally while supporting local communities (for instance, by including locally sourced products in its restaurants). In the end, being green involves so much more than laundering towels less often.
But can a resort be environmentally conscious and still be high-end? We think you will agree that our writers’ finds prove that being environmentally friendly and offering a luxury getaway is not a paradox.
Earth Day falls on April 22 this year, but travelers can demonstrate their support for protecting the environment wherever and whenever they travel.
Eco-Friendly Resorts in the United States
Sun, Sky, and Coastline at the Inn at Newport Ranch
With 2,000 acres and the Pacific Ocean as its backyard, the Inn at Newport Ranch provides an easy opportunity for visitors to distance themselves from the rest of the fast-paced world. In some measure, the history of this ranch is a story of sustainability and repurposing. Initially, this area north of Fort Bragg, California, was a small-town logging community circa the 1860s. When that industry left the area, farming replaced it.
Repurposed redwood is incorporated throughout the oceanfront Inn at Newport Ranch, where a visit is merited just to see its architectural craftsmanship. The ocean views and the open space and those majestic redwoods are the real luxuries.
Stay in the main inn building and enjoy an outdoor soak in a hot tub situated on a water tower before heading down to the main floor for cocktails on the veranda or in front of one of several fireplaces on chillier days. Or opt for a suite in the aptly named Redwood House. With just nine suites or guestrooms at this eco-friendly resort, the inn on the Mendocino Coast is the perfect place for a solitary retreat or a gathering of family and good friends. It is also ideal for a destination wedding.
Learn about microclimates while touring the redwoods or hiking the ridgeline. Both are great ways to work up a hearty appetite for dinner at the inn, where vegetables grown in the ranch’s garden are regulars on the menu.
Bardessono Hotel & Spa in California Wine Country
The sustainably-designed, luxury suites, spa suites, and villas of this award-winning, boutique property are nestled among four beautifully landscaped groves overlooking a tranquil private patio. Hidden off the main street in downtown Yountville (in the heart of the Napa Valley Wine Country), guests can minimize their carbon imprint because the hotel is an easy walk to charming shops, art displays, tasting rooms, and gourmet restaurants (including the Michelin-starred French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro and RH).
Eco-friendly features include geothermal heating and solar panels that obviate the need for almost any off-site energy; organic toiletries, high-quality towels and bed linens, laundry and cleaning products; low-flow toilet fixtures; and the use of locally-sourced salvaged and recycled wood for flooring, furniture, signage and more; availability of loaner bicycles.
The on-site restaurant, Lucy’s, derives inspiration and ingredients for its eclectic menu of food and drinks from Bardessono’s certified-organic herb garden. Fruits, vegetables, and meats at the restaurant are supplied by local organic purveyors. Environmentally-conscious guests who opt out of a day’s housekeeping are invited to plant an herb in the garden in support of a more sustainable future. The hotel has a composting program and when used, all paper products have a high recycled content.
Recognized for its innovative green initiatives, Bardessono meets the high standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Platinum certification. I would return to this eco-sanctuary in a heartbeat, a place where luxury and green are integral to one another.
—Irene S. Levine
Bunnies, Butterflies, and Pups at the Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth
At Maine’s ultra-green Inn by the Sea, caring for the environment isn’t an afterthought. Doing well by doing good drives this beachfront, Silver LEED-certified, luxury resort’s operations.
For starters, its housekeeping program and indigenous gardens help support and protect the endangered monarch butterfly and other native wildlife. It also works with adjacent Crescent Beach State Park to clear bamboo and restore a rabitat for another endangered species, the New England Cottontail. And family-oriented programs highlight ecology and the environment.
In addition to the usual luxuries, suite amenities include refillable toiletries, binoculars for spotting wildlife, and Sebago Lake water in reusable bottles, and it offers complimentary EV-charging stations. Recreational facilities include a solar-heated pool, a cardio room with recycled rubber floors, and a spa with recycled sheetrock walls and cork flooring.
The inn’s Sea Glass restaurant emphasizes farm-to-table fresh-and-local fare. But it also partners with the Gulf of Maine Institute to promote under-appreciated sustainable seafood. The inn’s community-focused programs include ecology day trips for school children, purchasing books for school libraries, and supporting Maine Habitat for Humanity chapters.
This eco-conscious and especially dog-friendly property even sponsors and loves an in-house, adoption-ready shelter dog. Now that’s a souvenir you can feel good about.
Ocean Friendly at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Wrightsville Beach
With its unique location between ocean and sound, no wonder the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach focuses on environmental protection. Operating for more than 50 years, the family-owned resort has been recognized as an Ocean Friendly Establishment by the Plastic Ocean Project. And, the North Carolina Green Travel Initiative awarded its highest honor for the property’s efforts to reduce waste, conserve energy, and provide community outreach.
Among efforts are food-and-beverage recycling and composting; reusable, recyclable, and renewable products in meeting spaces; plus innovative stormwater conservation efforts.
The property’s Green Team volunteers and tracks progress on other initiatives, too, like rebuilding oyster reefs, bagging oyster shells for re-use, and sorting recyclables, all intending to lessen environmental impact while helping provide a healthy ecosystem for future generations. Mother Earth nods her approval of the four-acre oceanfront and sound-side gardens including a Kitchen Garden yielding herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers.
Inside, the boutique resort’s upbeat décor varies from room to room along with stellar water views, ocean or harbor. The oh-so-Instagram-worthy lobby sports oversized wicker fan chairs, metal palm trees, and teal-colored tile sporting metallic fish behind the small bar. (Don’t forget to hashtag #InvestInOurPlanet).
The gorgeous setting, eco-friendly forward measures, sunset and adventure cruises, eco-tours and super accommodating staff entice climate-conscious travelers, whether seeking family getaways, romance, or solitude.
—Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher
Eco-friendly Resorts in Canada
Off the Grid at Klahoose Wilderness Resort, Desolation Sound
Indigenous-owned and operated, the Klahoose Wilderness Resort is an all-inclusive, off-grid eco-lodge an hour by boat off the Sunshine Coast. The resort reflects the profound relationship between First Nations people and the land.
Surrounded by forest-covered mountains and rainforest on a deep-water cove, it’s a culturally rich, relaxed experience infused with Indigenous storytelling and traditions. I felt immersed in the natural world and removed from everything in a place that lets guests live the potential and responsibility of green travel.
What’s eco-friendly: The resort’s drinking water is provided by a recently updated hydro-wheel filtration system. Refillable metal water bottles are in all rooms. A new power grid will triple the output from the water-powered electrical system, allowing the resort to store energy for peak consumption periods and reducing its carbon footprint by 38 tons yearly.
What’s luxurious: Relax with a glass of wine by the fire in the great room of the 6,100-square-foot cedar lodge. Cedar-walled guest rooms and cabins, all with balconies, are rustic chic with textiles by Coast Salish artist Simone Diamond. There are plush robes in bathrooms. Meals focus on fresh and local, including prawns and halibut. Fall stays include Indigenous-led grizzly bear-watching excursions in Toba Inlet.
Why I’d return: Being surrounded by wildlife and pristine natural beauty in a place rich with Indigenous culture was an unforgettable experience.
Carbon Neutral at the Inn at Laurel Point in Victoria
The connectedness to nature is inescapable at the Inn at Laurel Point, British Columbia’s first carbon-neutral hotel located on Victoria’s waterfront. This includes the landscaped kitchen gardens flush with indigenous plants, the proximity to the ocean, even the curious harbor seals whose heads pop up in the waters at the property’s edge. That connection to nature—especially the preservation of nature—continues throughout the 200-room luxury property, which has won multiple sustainability awards.
Eco-friendly highlights: The Inn at Laurel Point is a bit of an anomaly in the luxury vacation space. Since 2008, it has operated as a social enterprise under a trust—meaning it’s a money-making business with social objectives, which include investing in its employees and community, and a measurable commitment to safeguarding the environment.
Instead of electricity to power air-conditioning units, the Inn uses hydrothermal technology (making use of the nearby seawater) to cool its 200 rooms. LED lighting and low-flow fixtures were installed in 2018. The Inn’s recycling program has managed to keep 77% of its waste out of the landfill. In fact, the Inn has reduced its landfill waste by more than 50% since 2014. The hotel is proud of its 5 Green Key rating, the leading standard for excellence in environmental responsibility and sustainable operations in the tourism industry. The hotel was one of the earliest in Victoria to install an electric charging station for guest vehicles, and the first hotel in North America to sign onto The Climate Pledge.
Superb luxury and comfort: A short (and scenic) walk from the city center, the Inn’s modern, sleek, almost minimalist rooms—including the 1,106-square-foot panoramic penthouse suite—bear the stamp of internationally-renowned architect Arthur Erickson. The recently redesigned Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio offers guests an elegant setting to enjoy a globally-inspired small plates menu featuring dishes made with local, farm-direct ingredients. Wine, cocktail, and craft beer options also favor local producers.
Why would I return: As a three-time visitor, I was initially—and still am—seduced by the sleekness and contemporary feel of the rooms and the food at Aura restaurant while enjoying that ever-present connection to nature. Every view looks out onto water or greenery. And, of course, there’s the pool overlooking the waterfront. I’ll be back.
Urban Greenery at 1 Hotel Toronto
Entering the fragrant lobby of 1 Hotel Toronto is like wandering into an urban Eden. Located in the trendy King West Village neighborhood, it’s the first Canadian outpost of this ultra-environmentally conscious international brand.
A wall of plants faces the Flora Lounge where a living sculpture of moss, vines, and flowers encircles the bar. Take your room key, made of a chip of recycled wood, and walk the corridors made of elm planks reclaimed from a barn in Blyth, Ontario. Three live plants freshen the air in every suite, a boon for allergy sufferers. Furniture in organic shapes is made by local woodworkers Just Be Woodsy from downed and salvaged trees.
The hotel’s three kitchens are zero-waste. Honey and herbs from the on-site greenhouse join responsibly sourced and ethically raised menu items and all oils are recycled into biofuels. In keeping with 1 Hotel’s paper-free policy, bedside notepads are replaced with chalkboard tablets, and newspapers and magazines are available online. Hotel information is online on an app that also communicates with the front desk. The rooftop pool at Harriet’s Bar with 360° views of Toronto keeps guests coming back. Read about its sister property 1 Hotel West Hollywood on WhereToLady.com.
Eco-friendly Resort in Belize
Escape to the Belizean Jungle at the Cotton Tree Lodge
Whether you are taking a propeller plane to Punta Gorda and then boating on the Moho River or driving on dirt roads to get to the Cotton Tree Lodge in the Toledo District in Southern Belize, be prepared for an eco-friendly escape that features thatched roofs, lazy swings in a hammock, and howler monkeys that will delight in reminding you where you are.
Onsite, take a jungle survival tour on the 100-acre property, tour the lodge’s vast garden, and be prepared to eat very locally sourced food in the main lodge (the day’s catch may well end up on your plate!).
What’s luxurious here are your surroundings—tropical plants, lush jungle, the river—and the remoteness. The Cotton Tree Lodge is ideal for a socially distanced vacation. The population of this area just isn’t that large.
When you are ready for more adventure, the Lodge can provide excursions to learn about local culture, indulge in some chocolate making, swim in a cave, visit Mayan ruins, or support local craftspeople with some shopping in downtown Punta Gorda.
Under new ownership since 2019, the Cotton Tree Lodge has continued its focus on sustainability. With lodging largely constructed of natural materials and a local staff that had a hand in building the place, the Cotton Tree Lodge’s interest in environmental conservation is apparent. Want to help out? Contact the Lodge before your visit to see what school supplies and other items could be of use to villagers in San Felipe, where the Lodge is located.
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