Where wellbeing, design and sustainability blend to perfection… Architect Câncio Martins has alchemised a rice farm into Instagram-perfect bedrooms and pool villas inspired by fishing villages. They’ve been super-sensitive about being light-touched with the environment and working closely with the community. Organic in every sense, all vegetation is indigenous, herbs create their essential oils and everything you eat is seasonal and locally sourced. Carvalhal is 10 minutes from the sweeping white beaches and just over an hour from Lisbon. Like we said, it’s the dream. Add to that: the spa has the biggest glass pool in Europe.
1 Hotel South Beach, Miami, United States
This is a polished urban take on sustainability (white Teslas parked outside set the tone) where nature is certainly the muse for the design: living walls don’t get more impressive than the one in the lobby here. Commandeering an entire oceanfront block of Collins Avenue, between 23rd and 24th Streets, a skip from South Beach one way, and Mid-Beach in the other direction.
Amid four hundred-plus acres of nature Heckfield Place has an incredibly impressive biodynamic farm which feeds Skye Gyngell’s culinary imagination and Kitten Grayson’s floristry designs. The sophisticated interior design at this 18th-century Georgian property is a joy to behold but it’s knowing how much has considered in terms of sustainability that makes it especially pleasing — from the biomass fuel to the biodiversity and the love and care that goes into tending all their trees.
Where the jungle meets the beach, these 28 chic vaulted tents at the edge of Yala National Park let you join conservation experts for guided safari experiences.
Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
Bill Bensley’s 16 riverside tents in Cambodia’s southwest rainforest display environmentally-aware architecture and represent an honorable hospitality model which works in partnership with Wildlife Alliance, Fauna & Flora International and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, to conserve and protect these threatened wildlands. The Shinta Mani Foundation is an NGO which has been enabling education, employment and healthcare in underprivileged villages around the world since 2004.
Roça Sundy Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Príncipe
This cocoa plantation on a remote island off the coast of West Africa, just north of the Equator, where sustainability is of paramount importance... The two houses have been painstakingly restored to provide six rooms in Colonial House and nine in Plantation House.
This Caribbean resort isn’t only resplendent in all the Caribbean honeymoon clichés — sun, sea, snorkelling, secluded sands — this exclusive hilltop hotel is also a sustainable architectural triumph thanks to its LEED GOLD certification status. A luxury retreat that has a wonderfully cavalier attitude to windows and walls: suites are entirely open to the elements at least on one side, and most boast a private Piton-view infinity pool to watch sunset from.
Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, Canada
On Canada’s rugged, rocky easternmost coast this 29-room hotel and its angular art studios at the edge of the Atlantic has, in its short life, graced many a style magazine thanks to Todd Saunders’ arresting architecture. It’s the MO of its founder, Zita Cobb – creator of the Shorefast Foundation – that will have you thinking differently about luxury travel.
Kasbah du Toubkal, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
The world’s most special Berber mountain resort — an extraordinary community-run lodge in the High Atlas which empowers local Berbers to host guests of its 14 rooms for remote off-the-grid escapes, within an hour and a half’s drive of Marrakech.
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Nature is at its richest all around this 22-suite lodge in the Ecuadorian rainforest promises high design at 3,116 feet above sea level, framed by lower montane forest and rainforest, and powered by hydroelectricity, even has a Scientific Research Centre to improve knowledge about the reserve’s biodiverse ecosystem.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
10-story sustainable ground-up development right by Dumbo in Brooklyn. Many of the 194 guest rooms promise views of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and New York skyline. Bamford Spa, Field House fitness centre, 50-seat screening room. Triple Clear water filters in every tap, sink, and shower; rainwater reclamation; state-of-the-art, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and more.
Hotel Playa Viva, Juluchuca, Mexico
This sustainable boutique yoga retreat has 12 treehouses and casitas on the western coast of Mexico.
Valsana Hotel & Apartments, Switzerland
At the edge of the Arosa forest, this 40-room nine-apartment beauty is run using energy from a hydro-power plant and by capturing heat waste and storing energy in an ice battery. Thanks to a new cable car linking Arosa to Lenzerheide it’s also a very appealing ski destination.
Cempedak, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia
Through the Island Foundation, Cempedak — sister to Nikoi — is working to help improve the income, health and education in its local communities to address environmental concerns and implement sustainable community-based projects centered on social justice, community organisation, micro-finance and entrepreneurialism. Poverty alleviation is the long-term goal, and because so many issues flow from this in terms of poor education, sub-standard healthcare, low environmental standards, lack of economic opportunity, pessimism and fixed local hierarchies. Cempedak staff take great pride in these projects and are encouraged to get involved with the programs run by the Island Foundation.
Sujan Sher Bagh, Ranthambhore, India
This camp of 12 luxurious tents at the edge of Ranthambhore National Park is inspired by the classic Golden Age safari stays of the 1920s, as friendly to the environment as it is cosseting of its guests.
Katamama, Bali, Indonesia
A boutique hotel made by artisans — that's this 58-suite hotel in Seminyak's tagline. Every detail of Katamama has been handmade or handpicked, using Indonesia's centuries-old traditions. Andra Matin’s bold architecture used 1.5 million red bricks and artisans in leafy Darmasabavillage were deployed for two years, hand-pressing the slender blocks usually used to build temples – it was a commission which saved their business, and the economy of its community. That's just the start of the story.
The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell, London, United Kingdom
One of the greenest hotels in London would you believe it; thanks to The Zetter Group, this 13-bedroom Georgian townhouse proves that sustainability doesn’t in the least bit hinder personality. While guests enjoy supper bowls from chef Bruno Loubet and award-winning cocktails from drinks titan Tony Conigliaro, the hotel is busy ensuring that the local environment, community, and its employees are equally well taken care of.
Three Camel Lodge, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Luxury yurts where you get an authentic feel for life as a nomadic herder, staying in their camp away from wifi and phone signals. Voted one of the top 10 hotels in Asia by Condé Nast Traveler’s readers, this is what true travel is about celebrating the culture and traditions of true Gobi life and introducing all to the dramatic beauty of this unique landscape.
Song Saa, Cambodia
When they first journeyed to the Koh Rong archipelago in 2005, Song Saa founders Rory and Melita Hunter took inspiration from the beauty of the islands and the smiles and energy of the people. When they starting building Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia’s first luxury coastal resort in the Archipelago, they knew that a commitment to preserving the local environment and culture, had to underpin everything they did.
Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, Epirus, Greece
Owner of this 24-room retreat in the Pindus Mountains, Vasilis Iosifids hiked many trails in the Zagori region before finding the perfect place to settle — the quaint village of Aristi. While building his own house, with views towards Vikos Gorges’ eastern wall and the snowy peaks of Mt Astraka, Vasilis vowed to share this pristine environment with others, so he built a hotel. Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas has been built in complete harmony with its surrounding landscape and architecture, and that’s just the start of its green story…
Bawah Island, the Anambas Islands, Indonesia
It took five years for Bawah Island, a new resort designed by Sim Boon Yangis, to be hand-built using recycled materials. Made up of six islands 300 km north-east of Singapore in a remote area of natural beauty, between the Malay Peninsula and Borneo in the South China Sea. It is only accessible via private seaplane, the first hybrid in Indonesia. It uses solar power to heat its water, it has a zero-waste programme, and has nixed fishing and anchoring in nearby waters with a permaculture garden. The Bawah Anambas Foundation was created to channel funds back into the local community and runs programmes to educate farmers and local fishermen in sustainable practices.
Bambu Indah, Ubud, Bali
Sustainable bamboo is the story behind this stay. Bambu Indah means "beautiful bamboo" in Bahasa combines traditional Balinese architecture, rustic design, with a modern attitude and sustainable practices. It all started when John and Cynthia Hardy brought antique Javanese bridal homes to Bali so that friends and family could be immersed in nature and the history of Indonesia, care of a boutique eco hotel.
Uxua, Trancoso, Brazil
Authenticity is the greatest luxury a visit to Brazil's picturesque and historic Bahia state can offer. And no place delivers the experience like Trancoso's Quadrado, its car-free, Unesco-protected town square. Restored by designer Wilbert Das alongside local artisans and reclaimed materials, half of UXUA's casas date back 500 years. The result is a place to stay that lives and breathes local soul.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Hermanus, South Africa
Every aspect of Grootbos' scattered, luxury lodges has been designed to integrate with, and accentuate, the surrounding 2,500 hectares of pristine botanical paradise, two hours from Cape Town. As well as having staggering views of Walker Bay, guests in the villas and suites often glimpse the Marine Big Five from the shore of this milkwood-forest-enshrouded retreat. The owners of Grootbos are seriously conservation-minded — so much so that funds generated by the resort are invested back into the Grootbos Foundation, supporting environmental and social initiatives here in Hermanus, close to the Garden Route.
Whitepod Eco-luxury Hotel, Valais, Switzerland
Since the creation of this eco-luxury hotel & Alpine experience in southwestern Switzerland in 2004, Whitepod has been proving that five-star hospitality and conservation can coexist for the benefit of all. Under two hours from Geneva and Chamonix, the six geodetic pods have all the comforts of a hotel despite having virtually no impact on the environment. Whether a romantic snug or family suite, guests are embedded into the hillside, surrounded by nature and with nothing other than the magnitude of the Alps to ponder. A true Bouteco Hero, this hotel is one of the original eco-pioneers.
Tri, Koggala, Sri Lanka
Sustainable intelligent luxury in southern Sri Lanka. Rob Drummond’s luxury eco-conscious hotel on six green, leafy acres by Koggala Lake was designed with Shanghai-based A00 and architect Raefer Wallis, a trailblazer in sustainable design.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, the Blue Mountains, Australia
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is as high-end as conservation‐based resorts get. Two and a half hours from Sydney, this secluded five-star luxury retreat sits between two national parks — the Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone National Park — in the World Heritage‐listed Greater Blue Mountains. It occupies only one per cent of a 7,000‐acre carbon‐neutral conservation and wildlife reserve, operating at the highest level of environmental credibility. Practices that protect the regional biodiversity support a broad range of threatened species and the extensive conservation work helps ensure a brighter future for many of the region’s 1,500 native and endangered species.
Good Hotel, Royal Victoria Docks, London
Combining premium hospitality with doing good for the local community right on the River Thames, Good Hotel is a profit for non-profit business. This means it employs a social business model that re-invests all its profits combining business with doing good. The concept first popped up for a year in Amsterdam and now it's providing do-gooding hospitality in East London.
The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Arguably the UK's best boutique eco hotel, The Scarlet's award-winning Ayurveda-inspired spa and art-filled restaurant are part of why this glam grown-up getaway is also fantastically green. Perched on cliffs overlooking Mawgan Porth beach, every room comes with its own balcony or outdoor ‘pod’ with soul-stirring sea views. Since its inception they've thought about the impact their every action and activity has on the environment and their local community and their ‘Cherish the World’ ethos is embraced by the whole team. Clifftop hot tubs, a natural reed-bed swimming pool and a knockout of a location along Britain's south-west coast.
Nikoi Island, Indonesia
Just three hours overland from buzzing Singapore this 15 hectare private island is graced with pristine white sand beaches, coral reefs and its own thriving rainforest. Traditional Indonesian architecture and materials help keep beach houses cool, as does 'nature's aircon' — a steady sea breeze. Responsible tourism commitments go well beyond the environment with most team members being from the local community, alongside all supplies brought to the island and in 2010 Nikoi's founders set up The Island Foundation, which has so far educated more than 3000 local people.
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Soneva takes great pride in supporting conservation and restoration efforts and is the original desert-island good guy — Soneva Fushi is their paradise in the Baa Atoll in the Maldives. Set in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve Soneva Fushi there are many initiatives under the Soneva Foundation umbrella. The preservation of the environment is essential to them and responsible tourism plays a key role in the protection of the ecosystem and endangered species.
SALT of Palmar, Mauritius
Salt is unlike other Mauritian luxury resorts as it strives to connect guests with the destination in a different way — particularly through the food which is fresh, local, homemade, homegrown, seasonal and part of a zero-waste programme. BOUTECO worked with Salt to make sustainability such a compelling part of their story.
This science-minded paradise resort is as pioneering as it is romantic — the 35 carbon-neutral beachfront villas set on lagoon northeast of Tahiti are built from all natural materials but with cunning enhancements such as a seawater-cooled air-con invention — SWAC — powered by sun rays and coconut oil.
Saffire, Tasmania, Australia
By connecting with its environment this award-winning Tasmanian luxury hotel generates authentic, enriching, rejuvenating and uplifting experiences. Built using a framework of environmental sustainability, core principles underlying the development were the protection of healthy sites and the healing of damaged areas.
QO Amsterdam, Amstelkwartier, Amsterdam
Paul de Ruiter’s intelligent architecture next to the Amstel River and an aquaponic rooftop garden which grows scores of herbs, vegetables and edible flowers — this hotel celebrates Amsterdam's energy-saving spirit, just 10 minutes from the history-rich city centre.
Cottar’s 1920’s Safari Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya
Nine characterful tents kitted out in campaign and colonial antiques from African safaris of yore set in a 6,000-acre private conservancy, a kilometre from the Maasai Mara game reserve.
Fivelements, near Ubud, Bali
This riverside wellness retreat brings together the wisdom of traditional healing cultures with innovative wellbeing concepts and the founders are entirely motivated by their shared vision for a better, happier and healthier world. 15 minutes south of Ubud, it’s a thatched, bamboo paradise ensconced in nature where each detail feels characterful and considered. Every tableau is a charm — this is wild, tropical wellbeing at its most organic and transformational. When designing the hotel, they considered the natural environment in every way, as well as local customs, prioritising natural materials in their unprocessed forms. They have an impressive system of processing waste and consuming energy.
Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan
A 26-room solar-powered lodge in Dana Biosphere Reserve in Wadi Feynan which invites you to pause for mint tea with a local Bedouin family, or shadow a shepherd for the day — travel experiences don’t get more authentic.
Bankside Hotel, London SE1, United Kingdom
A welcoming, residential air pervades every space of Bankside Hotel through the use of hand-picked furnishings, specially commissioned artworks with a grown-up, but laid-back atmosphere right by London’s South Bank.
Suarga means heavenly world or paradise in Sanskrit: set on the north-western coast of the Bukit Peninsula overlooking one of Indonesia's best surf spots, this rough-luxe retreat strives to be part of the solution.
Independent recommendations you can trust…
We don’t receive any payment to make these recommendations, we simply celebrate the design-led hotels we love for being exemplars of social or environmental sustainability: watch this space for more boutique, eco inspiration as we share our favourites around the world…