If Earth Day 2012 has re-inspired you to make earth-friendly choices, travel is a great place to start. New eco-conscious lodges and “green” hotels are opening each year as travelers look to reduce their impact on the planet and experience a little nature during their stay. We asked the expert editors at Fodors.com to recommend a few of the top hotels for ecotourism to inspire your next trip:
The Waipiata Boutique Lodge, Warkworth, New Zealand
The Waipiata Boutique Lodge is a 5-star luxury accommodation that sits on 5 acres of neatly manicured lawns and gardens. The large orchard, vegetable, and herb gardens on the lodge’s property are organically grown, and guests can sample their contents through Waipiata’s vegetarian, organic, and locally sourced cuisine. Through this and initiatives like a solar heating system, a strong recycling program, and an advanced system for reusing waste water, the Waipiata Boutique Lodge has earned an Enviro-Gold award.
Expert Tip: Enjoy the lodge’s eco-features firsthand by hiking through the thousands of native trees and watching for the large number of birds that they attract. If you would like to take your bushwalking farther, nearby marine reserves and bird sanctuaries offer educational experiences.
Gaia Hotel and Reserve, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
The Gaia Hotel and Reserve is an adults-only 5-star beachfront resort that is one of the most green-enthusiastic hotels in existence. The hotel dedicates three-fourths of its land to a private nature reserve, and guests can take part in complimentary guided ecotours, hiking through papaya trees and flowering passion vines while passing wide-eyed red tree frogs, listening to birds of paradise, and watching monkeys munch on mangos. For those in the mood to indulge, Gaia Hotel’s Terra Spa treatments feature only locally harvested ingredients.
Expert Tip: Green-conscious foodies will love the hotel’s Saturday morning Farmer’s Market Tour, where they can see locally-grown fruits, vegetables, cheeses, home-baked breads, flowers, fresh-squeezed juices, and cashews.
Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, North Carolina
Geothermal energy is used to run refrigeration equipment in the on-site restaurant, and energy from the sun heats nearly 60 percent of the hot water provided at the Proximity Hotel, the first LEED-Platinum resort in the country. The hotel’s construction resulted in the restoration of 700 feet of streambed, and 87 percent of all construction waste was recycled.
Expert Tip: The Proximity sits adjacent to The Greenway, a five-mile public jogging and biking path.
Bardessono, Yountville, California
Don’t expect plastic water bottles at Bardessono, a 62-room LEED-Platinum luxury resort (pictured above) in the Napa Valley. Instead, guests receive glass (and therefore reusable) bottles of house-filtered water every day (and only upon request). Other green features include concrete floors and motion sensors that shut off each room’s heat and air-conditioning when guests leave.
Expert Tip: The hotel discourages car transportation around the Valley, and provides free bikes for all guests.
Sindabezi Island, Livingstone, Zambia
Sindabezi Island is the Zambezi’s most environmentally friendly property. The island makes use of recycled wood chips and solar power for heating, all the gray water is recycled, and the chalets are constructed mainly from sustainable forests. There’s a strict 10-guest limit and each of the island’s chalets is raised on a wooden deck built artistically around the existing trees. There is absolutely no electricity on the island, and hot water is provided on demand.
Expert Tip: If your party takes Sindabezi exclusively, the guide, boat, and land vehicle are at your disposal. Dinner is served by lantern and candlelight on a sandbank or wooden deck under the stars.
For more recommendations on the best eco-lodges throughout the globe, visit www.fodors.com.