The Best Sustainable Hotels to Book for Every Single Kind of Trip

Photo: Getty Images/David Lew
Eco-minded travelers are experiencing some major cognitive dissonance at the moment. It seems each day brings new intel about the destructive impact of overtourism and the massive amounts of carbon dumped into our atmosphere by airlines. Yet travel also exposes us to otherworldly wildlife and connects us to different cultures, providing for the tangible breed of experiences necessary for highlighting the vast spate of reasons that makes this world worth saving in the first place.

One tactic that may ease the tension of this traveler’s paradox is to choose hotels and accommodations that are working to sustain and give back to the lands and communities from which they benefit. Because as environmental stakes continue to rise, so too does the status quo for hotels everywhere—no matter what type of travel you have in mind, whether that's a remote wilderness retreat, a high-design stay, a luxury getaway, or a big-city respite. So when planning your upcoming itineraries, consider choosing to rest your head at one of the more sustainable hotels rounded up below. You might just sleep better for it.

Remote wilderness retreats


Various locations in New Mexico

You know a hotel has the planet’s back when the man behind it is Captain Planet himself. Media mogul, philanthropist, and creator of that planet-saving cartoon hero, Ted Turner opened Ted Turner Reserves in part to fund conservation efforts on the properties, all four of which rival the size of most U.S. National Parks (only with far fewer tourists) and combine to more than one million acres of Southwest wilderness. Any bald eagles, elk, bison, or black bears you might glimpse while riding horseback through the mountains or fly-fishing the Vermejo river are able to thrive as a direct result of the properties' conservation efforts. Amid the rustic atmosphere, guests can enjoy luxury accommodations and elegant dinners, often featuring game meat harvested ethically on the premises.

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We cannot resist to share our latest guest feedback. Thanks Taylor, you are motivating us even more in what we are doing! "Making the world a better place : Maha Raja has an atmosphere which provides a luxury experience and provides a complete mental reset allowing total relaxation. The food here was amazing and the diving was 100% professional and safe with great local sites. All in all this Island is magical and we had a brilliant stay here... now to the more important part below; To put into words the good that Maha and her staff are doing is impossible. Not only are they supporting local communities, but they are also supporting global ones which take into account our global issues relative to the environment and economy. From the ground up this Eco Lodge was built with conscious effort to ensure sustainability worldwide. You will realize this when using the eco friendly toothbrushes, soap, electricity, vegan food, etc... every last detail has been thought of and by you choosing to stay at Maha you choose to make the world a better place and prove that this style of service is possible. The largest impact you can notice here is the local community learning about how to take care of their own environment. Maha has weekly classes with the local village helping them grow in a positive way. Come stay and see for yourself! " #MahaRajaEcoDiveLodge #MahaRajaNoFilter #ShareTheMagic #ShareTheExperience #ShareTheHeart #OceanLove #PapuanLove #BeautifulDestinations #TropicalIsland #ParadiseIsland #EcoLifeStyle #EcoFriendly #Sustainability #SustainableParadise #EcoTourism #Indonesia #RajaAmpat #Diving #DiveResort #EcoResort #EcoLodge

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2. MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Exploring the world’s most colorful coral reefs is a bucket-list item for many, but if we’re not careful, overtourism might rob future generations of this privilege. If you’d rather be excluded from that narrative, head to the MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge, located on a remote island of the Indonesian archipelago of Raja Ampat. The zero-footprint lodge is committed to conserving the marine wildlife its guests come to see and also educating about ethical and eco-friendly dive practices. The wood for its five overwater bungalows was sourced from 100 different Papuan families on the island, which is just one example of how the Maha Raja also works to spread wealth equally among the island’s native community and help uplift to the economy.

Inspired eco-design


Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain, these 24 design-forward houses are a product of the local Institute of Technology and Renewable Energies. Each home is as architecturally unique as it is energy efficient, contributing carbon emissions and built in harmony with the local landscape using natural materials. Previously only available to architecture and design students or professionals, today anyone interested in a more energy-efficient stay can book them. The casas are more like an Airbnb than traditional sustainable hotels, so you’ll be responsible for sourcing groceries for meals from local markets. Sharing a home-cooked meal on your porch with sea-facing views? Sounds good to us.


Monthey, Switzerland

The Whitepod Hotel is a cluster of energy-efficient, geodesic domes perched amid the Dents-du-Midi range of the Swiss Alps. In addition to the design working in harmony with nature, resembling boulders spread along the mountainside, the dome shape makes each structure much more energy-efficient.

Recently, the sustainable hotel collaborated with Los Angeles and Lausanne, Switzerland-based Montalba Architects to create the Zen Pod Suite, based on traditional, Japanese design principles, offering 360 views of the Alps. Other eco-friendly features? The property's products are locally derived and the resident staff helps to reduce transportation emissions (in addition to providing extensive knowledge about local experiences like skiing, dogsledding, hiking and mountain biking).


Zero Island (near Helsinki), Finland

Sweden is on a mission to become completely fossil free by 2045, and Zero Island is helping to ensure that happens. The conceptual destination, located on a pristine Finnish island near Helsinki, features zero-emission and zero-waste tiny cabins that help prove what’s possible for the future of hospitality and sustainable hotels. Robin Falck designed the compact, A-frame cabins for eco-living think tank Neste, and each features many forward-thinking amenities, including stoves for cooking and heating that run on diesel made from waste and residue.

High-luxury sustainable hotels

1. Six Senses Resorts

Various locations

Six Senses has made a name for itself in the luxury resort world by building sustainability and impact tourism into the core of each property. Those wanting an island getaway can head to the Fiji outpost, which claims the nation’s largest solar-powered microgrid and directs excess solar power to a nearby desalination plant. Last year brought a new Six Senses to Bhutan, where guests can stay at a single high-end, low-impact lodge or visit multiple as part of a unique wellness itinerary designed to mimic a spiritual pilgrimage. Six Senses Bhutan also works with local farms to implement best farming practices that boost Bhutanese communities. And in spring 2020, the much-anticipated Six Senses Shaharut is set to open in Israel's Negev Desert as a 60-room hotel and spa with expansive desert views. The property will also implement a carbon-cutting ban on nonelectric vehicles.

2. COMO Hotels & Resorts

Various locations

COMO is another name in luxury hospitality that takes its commitment to sustainability seriously. In addition to sourcing locally whenever possible, the Singapore-based resort brand supports reforestation efforts in Bhutan and invites guests to take part in coral propagation programs in the Maldives. COMO hotels also seek to uplift the local communities of which they are a part, which is an initiative integral to sustaining a destination’s native ecosystem. COMO Cocoa Island, set to reopen this month after a recent renovation, helps local Maldivian high school students obtain diving certifications to expand employment opportunity. And in Miami Beach, COMO works with Feeding South Florida to combat food insecurity within the local community.


Zanzibar, Tanzania

This tranquil escape off the coast of East Africa was the first resort in the world to achieve EarthCheck Gold accreditation for sustainable design. Its 56 indoor-outdoor bungalows, suites, and villas are outfitted with locally made art and furniture. The property runs a number of community and environment-oriented programs, including the "Keep Kendwa Clean” initiative to improve waste management in the community while providing employment opportunities for local women. And regarding wellness, the sustainable hotel has the traditional resort offerings like yoga and spa treatments in addition to art therapy classes and a variety of eco-friendly creative projects, like making mandalas and upcycling and eco-printing with leaves.

City getaways, the green way

1. The Palms Hotel & Spa

Miami Beach, Florida

Miami Beach is the place to stay for easy access to the city's beautiful beaches as well as the cultural offerings and shopping scenes of downtown Miami. Yet, should sea levels continue to rise, the area stands to see major damage, which is one reason why The Palms has worked to become Florida Green Lodging accredited and has been awarded the Sustainable South Florida Award in the Green Practices category by the Miami Chamber of Commerce. The sustainable hotel hosts quarterly beach cleanups, and guests are encouraged to rely on reusables whenever possible especially now that (single-use plastics) are banned in the area. The hotel’s “Green Team” includes members representing every level of employee and meets regularly to discuss what more can be implemented to up the eco-ante.

2. Virgin Hotels

Various locations

With its first locations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Dallas, Virgin Hotels has demonstrated a serious commitment to sustainable hospitality. In addition to properties being LEED Gold Certified, Virgin Hotels invites guests to choose a “Green Your Stay” option that designates $1 of each nightly rate to a carbon offset initiative of their choosing—part of its effort to become completely carbon neutral by 2030. The Chicago property uses an on-site composter (lovingly named “Oscar”) to liquidize composted material and decrease waste. Hopefully the brand's commitment to creating sustainable hotels continues in its much-anticipated 2020 openings in Las Vegas, Nashville, and New York City.


London, England

Late 2019 saw the launch of this new, eco-friendly hotel brand from Starwood Capital Group, which operates sustainable hospitality brand 1Hotels. Just like the treehouses of your youth, Treehouse Hotel takes steps to inspire a love of nature and the outdoors in its guests. It employs resident horticulturists, who give tours of local gardens, and features walls adorned with living, breathing foliage throughout its design. Like its sister brand 1Hotels, this London property will also implement robust composting and recycling programs, as well as keep single-use plastics to a minimum, in order to minimize waste.

Beyond hotels, here's what it means to be a sustainable traveler in 2020. And if you're looking for a sustainable venue for your destination wedding, check out Indonesia's Bawah Reserve.

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