- Bill Starkey
Spotlight on Ecotourism: 5 of the World's Greenest Hotels
Although tourism can have positive impacts, such as cultural heritage preservation, job crea
tion, and other economic benefits, it can also have significant drawbacks. Large influxes of visitors can lead to environmental damage if natural attractions aren't properly managed and if hotels operate without regard for sustainability.
Emerging in the 1980s, ecotourism is a niche tourism segment that promotes responsible travel that sustains the wellbeing of local people, preserves the environment, and promotes greater understanding of the natural wonders that support local tourism economies.
Fueled by greater awareness of the harm caused by traditional tourism, ecotourism enables environmentally conscious vacationers to travel in a more responsible way. From the Philippines to Costa Rica, we look at a handful of prominent ecofriendly hotels and the unique experiences they offer.
1. Jetwing Vil Uyana – Sri Lanka
Continuing a family business that started in the 1970s, brother and sister team Hiran and Shiromal Cooray have adopted sustainable management practices at their resort to respect the local environment without scrimping on comfort. Located within a nature reserve and manmade wetland, the hotel grounds boast an array of vibrant birdlife, butterflies, mammals, and amphibian species.
From guest cabins constructed from woven reed walls and cogon grass roofs, there is no better place to watch the sunrise. Just a few hours’ drive from Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, Jetwing Vil Uyana is also an excellent base for exploring Sigirya Rock, a fifth century palace fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Kagga Kamma – South Africa
Surrounded by a rugged, arid expanse, Kagga Kamma’s cave-style rooms and open-air chambers are carved into the otherworldly pink rock of the Cederberg Mountains. Situated on the Western Cape of South Africa, this eco-resort runs on solar power and other sustainable energy sources and recycles water when possible. In 2020, Kagga Kamma was named among the "21 Top Eco Resorts and Eco Hotels Around the World" by US News & World Report.
Kagga Kamma guests while away their days mountain biking or hiking the network of trails traversing the area and keeping a lookout for wildlife, which ranges from aardvarks to zebras. The resort also provides educational classes on local reptile life and guided tours of ancient rock art sites. A natural rock pool and restaurant serving an array of South African dishes round out the on-site amenities. Guests can opt for to spend the night in an open-air suite beneath a sky bursting with stars.
3. Finca Rosa Blanca Inn – Costa Rica
Situated a short drive from San José and within a few miles of active volcanoes, the Finca Rosa Blanca Inn is surrounded by organic coffee plantations. It was established in 1985 by an artist and a Tai-Chi instructor. The couple had one ambition: to create an ecofriendly hotel with minimal environmental impact. Examples of their commitment to sustainability include reusing coffee pulp as fertilizer and burying the facility's electrical system below ground to minimize the impact on local wildlife.
The resort welcomes guests on guided tours where they can taste ripe coffee berries and learn about the high-quality organic coffee produced here. Finca Rosa Blanca was named among Fodor’s Best 100 Hotels in the World and one of National Geographic's Unique Lodges of the World.
4. Kachi Lodge – Bolivia
Kachi is the first permanent lodge on Bolivia’s ethereal salt flats, Salar de Uyuni, at the foot of dormant Tunupa volcano. Sitting at an altitude of 3,600 meters, Kachi Lodge offers a luxurious, ecofriendly "glamping" experience at high altitude: guests stay in dome-shaped tent cabins built on wooden platforms and equipped with stoves for heating. Located nearby are the sacred grounds of Alkaya, where ancient mummies can be viewed. Guests can also hike to the top of Tunupa to enjoy views of the ochre and red landscape. Rare plant and animal life surrounds the lodge, including giant cacti that can grow up to 10 meters high, flamingoes, foxes, and a llama-like species called the vicuña.
Kachi Lodge runs on solar energy and utilizes a greywater recycling system. The resort is currently undertaking testing to assess the viability of integrating a wind turbine to boost its energy supply. In each guest room, incineration toilets instantly burn waste, leaving just a small ash residue with no blackwater to treat or discharge. The resort is also making progress on its goal to become 100% plastic-free.
5. El Nido Resorts – Philippines
The El Nido Resorts in the Philippines' remote Palawan archipelago adhere to a green ethos: buying local products and employing local staff, providing guests with opportunities to experience local culture and nature, and developing new sustainability programs each year. The resorts operate a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant combined with native reed bed filters to ensure that no greywater or sewage is discharged into the surrounding crystal-clear seas. By utilizing a rainwater catchment and filtration system and low-flow water fixtures, the resorts also reduce water consumption.
El Nido Resorts also operates a materials recovery facility. Taking steps to minimize its non-recyclable waste production, the resorts implemented a refillable drinking bottle system over a decade ago.
For these and other efforts, El Nido Resorts have won several awards, including the World Travel Awards' Asia's Most Responsible Tourism Award and the World Boutique Hotel Awards Southeast Asia's Best Sustainable Hotel.