Whether your idea of a great trip is sipping fruity drinks on the beach, hiking through the rain forest or hiding away in a quaint bed and breakfast, there's an eco-friendly lodging option for you. Green hotels come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, and can be found almost anywhere, from the streets of San Francisco to the grasslands of Kenya. With the number of eco-friendly options on the rise, there's no excuse not to "go green" on your next trip!
The list that follows is the best of the best: our 10 favorite ecolodges and green hotels, selected from thousands of properties around the world. We chose them for their spectacular locations, outstanding guest amenities and extraordinary commitment to conservation. For more details, we encourage you to contact each property directly or visit their website; most of them have their environmental policies clearly linked from their home page, and all of them have staff members who will be happy to tell you about the steps they're taking to protect the planet. Here are a few questions to ask.
Want to find more green hotels? Check out our Eco-Friendly Lodging Resources.
The smoke-free, 86-room Orchard Garden Hotel in downtown San Francisco opened in November 2006 as the only hotel in the city to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally friendly design. Its energy-saving electric key card system automatically stops power to each room when a guest leaves and turns it back on when he or she returns. The hotel also uses energy-efficient light bulbs to further cut its electricity usage.
Rooms are equipped with low-flow toilets, organic bath products and recycling bins, and are cleaned with chemical-free products. The hotel also reaches out to the community by featuring the work of local artists in the lobby.
For a tropical getaway that's both luxurious and eco-friendly, head to the private beach bungalows of Tiamo Resorts, tucked away on the pristine Bahamian island of South Andros. The resort is 100 percent solar powered, with all hot water heated by the sun rather than electricity or gas. The buildings were designed to minimize erosion and maximize airflow, and constructed by locals from wood taken from sustainable forests. Tiamo uses composting toilets and water treatment systems to minimize waste -- and even gets guests involved by neatly packaging plastic products to be taken home and recycled (there are no recycling programs in the Bahamas). A wide variety of outdoor activities are offered, and staff are always eager to educate guests and the wider community about the resort's environmental efforts.
The beautifully restored 17th-century house and chapel of Old Chapel Forge provide an eco-friendly stay in the heart of England's Sussex countryside. Old Chapel Forge has been awarded the highest rating from the Green Tourism Business Scheme for its environmental programs, including the use of solar panels to heat water, and partnerships with local farmers and merchants to provide locally grown organic meals. Other green efforts include composting, grey water recycling and guest education.
Get up close and personal with Africa's "big five" mammals (Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhinoceros) and support the native Maasai community at Campi ya Kanzia, luxurious safari camp in southern Kenya. The camp and its 400 square miles are owned by the Maasai people, who work with the camp's Italian hosts to preserve the local wildlife and provide a personalized and sustainable experience for visitors.
The camp's six thatched-roof tented cottages were constructed of local materials without cutting down any trees. Electricity and hot water are generated by solar power, and waste is composted or recycled. The menu includes organic eggs, milk and vegetables, and all meals are cooked with eco-friendly charcoal.
The Graycote Inn offers all the comfort and charm of a traditional New England B&B with an eco-friendly twist. The inn has streamlined its resource use with energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency furnaces and air-conditioning units, and water conservation fixtures on all toilets, showers and sinks. To reduce waste, all Styrofoam food packaging has been eliminated, and the inn has established comprehensive composting and recycling programs. Breakfast options include organic coffee and locally grown produce. And the inn's location -- just a five-minute drive from Acadia National Park and within walking distance of Bar Harbor's shops and restaurants -- makes for a low-gas getaway.Learn More About Green Travel
Deep within the subtropical rain forest of Queensland's Lamington National Park is the Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and Campsite, an ecolodge where guests can enjoy hiking, bird watching, abseiling and numerous environmental education programs. Accommodation options include safari-style canvas tents or a more luxurious room in the main lodge. Binna Burra was founded in 1933 on land that had been cleared and farmed; since then, the lodge has restored the land to its original rain forest state and encouraged the growth of native plant species. Recycling, composting, low-flow water fixtures and the use of energy-efficient lighting are just a few of the lodge's environmental initiatives. Binna Burra makes regular contributions to research projects within the national park as well as to other environmental organizations.
Looking for your own place under the Tuscan sun? Try Tenuta di Spannocchia, a working organic farm that produces its own meat, eggs, grains, vegetables, honey, wine and olive oil. Guests can rent their own farmhouse for a week or stay for a few nights in one of two bed and breakfast facilities. Visitors are welcome (but not required) to learn about and get involved with the farm's day-to-day operations, which rely on sustainable farming techniques.
Spannocchia is home to one of Tuscany's first natural waste water treatment systems, and guests are strongly encouraged to participate in the farm's composting and recycling programs. Housekeeping and linen changes are done once a week. To stay at Spannocchia, guests must become members of the Spannocchia Foundation, which supports conservation and sustainable agriculture.
Bolivia's Madidi National Park is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the planet, and a stay at the Chalalan Ecolodge puts you right in the heart of it. Guests stay in Tacana-style cabins built from environmentally friendly local materials, with balconies overlooking the jungle. The lodge was founded in the 1990s by members of the indigenous community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas in an effort to support themselves and protect the beauty and eco-diversity of their homeland. The lodge is still community owned and operated. Environmental provisions include solar-powered lighting, a liquid waste treatment system, a water purification system and a composting program.
During your stay in Bayfield, Wisconsin, even the cars have been known to run on used vegetable oil from local restaurants. This is just one way the innkeepers show their commitment to sustainable living, a commitment that's also visible in every aspect of life at Pinehurst. The 19th-century inn boasts energy-efficient appliances and lighting, solar panels to heat water in the newly built Garden House, and organic cotton linens and towels in all rooms. Locally grown organic food is served at breakfast. Non-toxic cleaning products are used inside, while outside the innkeepers refrain from using pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers anywhere on the grounds.
The Proximity Hotel is one of the greenest hotels in the country, using 40 percent less energy and 35 percent less water than a conventional hotel. Much of the hot water for the hotel and its restaurant is heated by 4,000 square feet of solar panels on the roof, and water-saving fixtures are used throughout the guestrooms and other facilities. Bikes are available for guests to ride on a nearby five-mile greenway.
Guestrooms may be green but they're also luxurious, featuring 32-inch flat-panel TVs, original artwork, complimentary Wi-Fi, large windows that allow plenty of natural light, and many other amenities.
--written by Sarah Schlichter