Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
The Alila Villas Uluwatu combines the best of tropical luxury and sustainable design. The Earthcheck-certified resort on Bali’s southern Bukit Peninsula finds its inspiration from the local homes in which local farmers live. The rooms’ decorations, from handmade ceramic tiles to rattan furnishings, are made by local artisans. Each of the villa’s walls were built out of limestone excavated onsite. Passive cooling design (not air conditioning) reigns with the villas arranged to capture the brisk ocean breezes that flow over the resort’s salt water ponds and through the room’s bamboo rafters. Landscaping only features local fauna, all of which is irrigated thanks to a grey water capturing system. Underground water cisterns capture rain runoff for the bathroom’s toilets. Waste generated at the resort is converted into biofuels, which will provide energy until a nearby wind farm can operate at full capacity. The Alila Villas’ management also has a strong social commitment with its support of local families who live below Indonesia’s poverty line, as well as abandoned and orphaned families.
Treehotel, Harads, Sweden
Treehotel in Sweden’s Lule River Valley, just 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle, is a fantastic place to experience Scandinavia’s long and glorious summer nights. The hotel’s founders had different architects design each of the “tree rooms” to blend into the surrounding forest without felling one single tree. The wood used to construct the rooms, which are as high as 20 feet above ground, was heated at a high temperature to strengthen it, therefore avoiding the use of chemicals. Local hydropower provides electricity and combustion toilets prevent the need for any local sewage system. Wastewater from the room’s sinks is captured to irrigate the resort’s plants. If you cannot make it to Sweden, you can order a prefabricated version of Treehotel’s Mirror Cube, which is camouflaged in mirrors to reflect the local boreal forest, to install on your property for a taste of innovative Nordic design.
Gamirasu Hotel, Cappadocia, Turkey
The Gamirasu Hotel in Turkey’s Cappadocia Region is a prime example of how the greenest building is one that already has long been in use. For over 1000 years this troglodyte labyrinth of caves was a retreat for Byzantine monks. Now the Gamirasu is a 30-room hotel spread across these former subterranean monk cells. A local volcanic rock, tufa, insulates the rooms so they maintain a comfortable temperature for guests. When you are ready to get out of your cave, you will be met with a treat. Be prepared to indulge in the finest of Ottoman cuisine — the best reason to visit Turkey. Everything from the apricots to the honey and cream from the hotel owner’s cow is either organic or local. Vegetarians will love the dinner entrees based on lentils, beans, a huge variety of vegetables and thick sumptuous yogurt. The hotel can also arrange lessons at a local farm where guests can learn how to dry apricots, make fruit jams, and bake bread in a stone oven.
Pousada O Forte, Mangue Seco, Brazil
Mangue Seco was completely isolated until a telenovela by the same name made this a popular vacation in destination spot in northeast Brazil. A giant sand bar that juts into the Atlantic Ocean, Mangue Seco (“dry mangroves”) and its 300 residents are confronting a host of ecological challenges. But for eight years a French Brazilian family has embraced sustainability with the loving care of Pousada O Forte. The five acres of beach front property hosts 12 sustainably built bungalows constructed out of locally harvested woods. A rainwater capture system irrigates the plants and like the rest of the village, your only outdoor lighting at night are the stars above. Locally caught fish is on the menu and fresh coconuts from palms sprouting all over the property will hydrate you during the day. Meals are eaten outside under a canopy with the only air conditioning coming from the cool breezes drifting from the Atlantic Ocean. Nightlife is a church and a snack shop featuring ice cream made from fruit grown in the owner’s yard. Not that you will want to venture far, as the locally woven hammocks will lull you into long daytime, and evening, naps. Ives, the owner, regularly runs trash collection campaigns throughout Mangue Seco and pays his workers a high wage.
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood, Thailand
Soneva Kiri is a gateway to Thailand’s tropical rain forests, white sandy beaches and timeless Thai traditions with a keen focus to preserving the local environment. Koh Kood is Thailand’s fourth largest island and it is also one of Thailand’s least developed regions — and Soneva Kiri’s management works on keeping it that way. Green design features include ample use of daylighting to conserve electricity, passive cooling forces cooler air below to villas to flow the rooms, and green roofs help keep guests cool in Thailand’s tropical humidity. The resort’s guests have access to electric carts and bicycles to explore the 150 acres, and when the return for a meal after an excursion they dine on a cuisine based on organic and local ingredients. Best of all is the treetop dining pod: engineered out of woven rattan, this private dining room in the sky offers spectacular views of east Thailand’s finest beaches.
Hotel La Lancha, Tikal, Guatemala
Your 4:00 a.m. wake up call will be the roar of the howler monkeys that claim their turf. Evenings are spent staring at the stunning Lago Peten Itza. And 30 minutes away is Tikal, the most glorious collection of Mayan ruins in Central America. Tying all of this together is Hotel La Lancha, one of Francis Ford Coppola’s resorts. The ten individual casitas are built from local woods and are furnished with locally hand made Guatemalan crafts. The rooms are only cooled by ceiling fans, but the towering trees provide enough of a canopy to ward off the tropical heat. Dinner, a showcase of locally sourced ingredients, will be by candlelight. Forget about watching TV as the rooms do not have one, but kayaks and bicycles are available to explore the nearby villages and lake’s wildlife. And if you forgot your toiletries, the ones La Lancha provides are organic and made nearby.