These hotels prove an eco-friendly vacation doesn’t have to mean roughing it


With the concepts of “sustainability” and green living becoming increasingly mainstream, hotels around the world have jumped on the bandwagon and taken to adopting a range of eco-friendly practices. And that’s certainly a good thing: After all, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism is responsible for about 5 percent of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the world — so any action taken to mitigate that damage, big or small, is moving in the right direction.

And as travelers, it’s valuable to know which accommodations are on board, so we can book our stays accordingly whenever possible. But it’s also valuable to know which spots are making significant moves toward sustainability versus others that don’t go terribly far beyond simply calling themselves “green.” Ahead, four hotels around the globe that fall into the former camp.

Cala Luna

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

This boutique hotel is set among endless, natural Costa Rican beauty. It’s located within Las Baulas National Park (which serves as a sea turtle sanctuary); and walking along the pathways, you can relish the lush greenery and colorful plants, and perhaps even encounter a howler monkey or two hanging out in the trees. But Cala Luna doesn’t stop at just existing in nature: The hotel actively practices and promotes sustainability, from using solar panels for energy and eco-friendly cleaning products to providing bamboo straws and reusable water bottles and — perhaps its sustainability pièce de résistance — cultivating a nearby organic farm not only for restaurant ingredients but also a meaningful experience for guests. Cala Luna visitors can visit the farm, La Senda, to check it out firsthand, learn about the hotel’s sustainability and conservation practices and take part in an on-site farm-to-table dinner. “We created the farm-to-table dinner because we wanted our guests to connect with nature and experience firsthand the quality, scent and flavors of organic and sustainable farming,” said Federico Pilurzu, Cala Luna’s general manager. “We want to educate and inspire everyone that visits La Senda on the importance of sustainable farming.”

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Sustainability isn’t just a daily practice for this Grand Cayman resort; it was literally built into the design of the hotel and its grounds. Kimpton Seafire features a community bike and walking trail made entirely out of recycled glass; solar panels cover the roof of the building; the air conditioning in guest rooms only works when the balcony doors are shut and all of the outdoor lighting near the beach (including the beach bar) is intentionally turtle-friendly. The lights are angled downward so as not to shine on the beach and confuse turtles into thinking the moonlight is out and they should return to the water. The design allows the local turtles to come ashore and lay their eggs during the nesting season and safely return to the sea with their hatchlings when it’s time.

Courtesy of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa

Ganesha Kampot Eco Guesthouse

Krong Kampot, Cambodia

Sustainability has been top of mind since Ganesha — a small retreat with only nine private units, two private rooms and a dorm for budget travelers — first opened in 2012. Per its website, the guesthouse aims to provide guests with “an organically uplifting environment” and does so with a sustainable kitchen, recycled and upcycled materials, a rain water collector and a tropical garden. “At Ganesha, the food for the on-site restaurant is grown on the property in a sustainable manner; you can sleep in yurt[s] [and] huts outside with nature and the guesthouse focuses on creating a peaceful, mindful vibe,” said Lauren Pears, a freelance travel writer and blogger. “It’s located about four kilometers [about 2.5 miles] outside of town, where you’ll be surrounded by rich mangrove and tropical gardens. As someone who desperately needed a digital detox and to immerse myself in nature for a few days, Ganesha was the perfect stay. I left feeling very rested and more in-tune myself.”

Timbers Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii

Courtesy of Timbers Kauai

Timbers is a luxury boutique resort within Kauai’s 450-acre Hokuala resort community; and its location along the Pacific Ocean and among the lush landscape of the “Garden Island” pairs perfectly with its focus on wellness and sustainability. Through its organic community farm, The Farm at Hokuala, guests can take part in agri-education classes to learn about sustainable farming practices, pick fresh produce (the surplus of which is donated to local schools) and enjoy the farm’s fresh ingredients during meals at Hualani’s Restaurant or a private, in-residence cooking class and dinner. “Everything we do at The Farm at Hokuala is organic and encourages sustainable living through the stewardship of the ’aina (‘land’),” said farmer Cody Meyer. “Our kuleana (‘personal sense of responsibility’) is to preserve the traditional foods of the native Hawaiians, protect the indigenous flora and fauna of Kauai and teach [people] how to live a healthy lifestyle through agri-education. The fruits of our labor are enjoyed by the community beyond just the resort, sharing a surplus of Hokuala’s bounty with local schools. The farm is the heart of our community at Hokuala, and together, through the growing and sharing of food, we give thanks for all that we have on this lush and magical island.”