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It is possible to travel with an eco-conscious heart. A growing number of hotels and resorts around the world are dialing down their environmental impact while dialing up their efforts to protect and preserve the planet. Environmentally-friendly resorts work hard to blend into their environs—deserts, beaches, jungles, anywhere, really. The following properties featured here are among the best in the world, emphasizing minimal environmental impact, local and sustainable practices, and seamless integration into exotic settings ripe for adventure.

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Photo courtesy of Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge: Costa Rica

Eco-tourism was championed in Costa Rica long before it became cool, and this resort is one of its earliest pioneers. It even received the highest rating—five Leafs—for sustainability by the Costa Rican Tourism Board. Perched on the Pacific Ocean coast, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is set within 165-acre Piedras Blancas National Park. Everything here is sustainable, from the treehouse-like architecture (constructed by locals using naturally indigenous and recycled materials) to the energy supply (solar power; backup generators run on recycled vegetable oil) to adventure activities (unlimited hiking, kayaking and snorkeling). The sounds of the jungle and nearby waterfalls will provide the digital detox you’ve been craving.

Photo courtesy of Adrere Amellal Desert Ecolodge

Adrère Amellal Desert Ecolodge: Egypt

If you’re looking for an eco-lodge in the spirit of “Lawrence of Arabia,” one that has played host to upscale guests such as Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, this is it. An oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert, Adrère Amellal overlooks Lake Siwa at the foot of the White Mountain cliffs and boasts 40 hand-built rooms made from salt-rock, palm beams and olive wood that blend into the natural landscape. (Eco-conscious contemporary plumbing is used throughout.) Enjoy organic, locally prepared meals in between exploring the dunes, ancient tombs and regional temples. With no cell phone service and no electricity, the lodge relies on the most ancient form of “electricity” to illuminate the landscape at night: beeswax candles and an infinite canopy of stars.

Photo courtesy of Jicaro Island Ecolodge

Jicaro Island Ecolodge: Nicaragua

This is the place to get off the grid and focus on self-care. Set on a private island in Nicaragua, this sustainable wellness retreat is a short boat ride from Granada, the oldest colonial city in Central America. Jicaro Island Ecolodge‘s nine breezy bungalows offer sweeping views of the Mombacho Volcano and Lake Nicaragua in a setting where sustainability has been built from the ground up. This includes: heating water through solar panel energy; using an island-based wastewater treatment center; using organic and biodegradable soaps, detergents and spa products; and cleaning the pool with a chlorine-free system. Plus, its surrounding habitat contributes to food sources, as the resort has its own onsite chicken coop, pig farm, edible garden and bio-digester.

Photo courtesy of Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve

Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort & Nature Reserve: Guatemala

Tucked into a private nature reserve along the shores of Lake Atitlán, the Laguna Lodge resort is an intimate, eco-friendly getaway with dramatic volcano views—and no crowds. (The only way to access it is by boat.) Its six suites are powered by 180 solar panels producing continuous power. Even the Wi-Fi runs on solar energy. Dining is organic, meat-free and plant-based, a move that reduces carbons and environmental impact, and has won accolades around the world. Laguna also ensures a positive footprint on the local community: The entire staff is indigenous Mayan, and more than 50% are women. Optional tours take guests to visit Mayan ceremonies and local villages to learn about coffee production and traditional weaving.

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Photo courtesy of The Resurgence

The Resurgence: New Zealand

Kiwi-inspired conservation is a major theme at the Resurgence, a luxe hideout tucked into 50 acres of regenerating rain forest. In fact, the husband-and-wife owners plant an indigenous tree for each guest who stays here. Located near the source of the Riwaka River (“the resurgence”), it’s landscaped in a way to attract native birds and vibrant flora and fauna, and local conservationists are on hand to guide hikes, cycles and kayaks into the surrounding areas. With 10 guest rooms total, the main building and private “bush suites” are constructed with recycled timber, most sourced from the property, with natural wool block insulation and a natural air flow design in mind (which eliminates the need for air-conditioning). The resort is intimately involved in advocacy work on behalf of Friends of Flora Conservation and Green Journeys, and integrates these missions into the philosophy and activities offered at the eco-lodge.

Photo courtesy of Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort ad Spa

Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort & Spa: Thailand

No televisions or alarm clocks here! This northern Thailand resort truly encourages you to unplug—literally—from technology and embrace the wellness that comes by sinking into its 2,000 acres of natural bliss. Phu Chaisai‘s motto is “live with nature, not above nature.” Private cottages are constructed with local bamboo, and include complimentary breakfast. The onsite spa uses natural, organic products in all treatments, yoga is on offer, and the resort cultivates a tea plantation, organic gardens and a fruit farm for its cuisine.

Photo courtesy of The Lodge at Chaa Creek

The Lodge at Chaa Creek: Belize

Plug into the sights and sounds of the rainforest at this luxe eco-lodge at the foot of the Maya Mountains. The Lodge at Chaa Creek has pioneered sustainable practices for more than 35 years, employing 160 Belizeans from surrounding villages and towns as a part of its mission. The resort also encourages guests to contribute to community betterment through the Pack-a-Pound program: Instead of packing all clothes, set aside a pound for packing school supplies that will be donated to local schools in need. Atop many other efforts, 10% of all accommodation revenue goes to local social and environmental programs. You will feel like you’re making the world a better place with a stay here.

Photo courtesy of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve

Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat: South Africa

Less than 200 miles from bustling Cape Town, this century-old homestead plants guests in an epic nature reserve of 18,000 acres at the foot of the Cederberg Mountains. Bushmans Kloof serves as caretaker of this habitat, which is home to endangered Cape mountain zebras and ancient archeological sites—including 10,000-year-old rock paintings—along with hundreds of plant and animal species. It helps to care for this setting through ecotourism, conservation programs and community benefit projects, serving as a base camp for guests who stay in its 16 beautifully decorated rooms. There’s also an open-air spa onsite. Plan your visit between June and October, when the landscape showcases flowers in full bloom.

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Tagged: Feature, Top 10 Lists

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.

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