Best for: Holistic wellness and alternative therapies
Rosewood Phuket offers the ideal balance of wellness, indulgence and sustainability. If you’re looking for a quick retreat away from Hong Kong, this makes the top of the list. The passionate staff (majority local to Thailand), Sandra Watermann, the hotel manager, and Andrew Turner, the general manager have worked together to create an environment that truly invites and relaxes you. Guests are instantly welcomed as part of the rosewood family, and every person you meet here has a smile on their face.
The quality of food and local produce is second to none, with three restaurants and a bar on offer. To unwind, head to the chilled pool-side restaurant with incredible ceviche and even better service. Right beside it is Mai Bar, a romantic, rustic beach bar serving refreshing piña coladas and a thirst-quenching ginger beer sangria. Sip your way through the day whilst overlooking the most secluded part of Emerald Bay. For dinner, head to Ta Khai, a candlelit resto located right by the seafront, run by a married chef couple. The European influence is seen in the impeccably designed Italian restaurant, featuring its own pizza oven and a warm team, including friendly Italian chefs and Thai pastry makers. This indoor-outdoor haven doubles as a breakfast spot, where you can expect everything from Belgian waffles and French crepes to homemade pastries and signature baked eggs. Ingredients are local wherever possible, and you won’t spot single-use plastic anywhere in the hotel!
Taking sustainability to be an individual discovery, the icing on the cake here is the holistic wellness approach. Asaya offers so much more than that 90-minute spa treatment you’ve been craving. From wellness retreats, daily yoga classes, alternative therapies (think: sound meditation and tapping solutions), you’re guaranteed to leave feeling like a fresher, healthier, better version of yourself. We had the pleasure of meeting Steve Harvey, the Resident Wellness Practitioner. He epitomises the Asaya ethos of meeting people wherever they are on their wellness journey, ensuring that they feel supported, safe and stimulated in a sustainable way.
Best for: An all-round approach to eco living
Cambodia’s Sihanoukville is a firm spot on a backpacker’s bucket list, but if you’re looking for sustainable luxury – Song Saa Private Island is the place. The hotel sits in a self-made marine reserve (Cambodia’s first – measuring one million square metres), and there’s a team of marine biologists as staff at all times. Waste initiatives are in place, and the hotel is involved in sustainability projects in nearby villages.
There’s even a Song Sa Foundation, which provides vital healthcare to local people, and distributes items like educational materials and water filters to the community. Kit Wong, Expert Travel Designer from Jacada Travel says that “Song Saa is the pioneer in sustainable lodging in Asia”, the closest thing to “paradise” in Asia. This place is all about “Small Steps. Big Changes”, and we’re fully on board. If you’re looking to volunteer in Cambodia, there are plenty of ways to your individual contribute skills and time meaningfully and sustainably.
Read more: What to do in Cambodia: Backpacking Siem Reap and Koh Rong Island
Best for: Exploring new unusual holiday activities
If Ecuador isn’t yet on your list, it will be now. Set in one of the world’s most important bio-regions, Mashpi Lodge is a futuristic and environmental “cocoon in the clouds”. Powered with 100% hydroelectricity, it’s no surprise this lodge is praised for its ecological, modern design.
Dining at Mashpi offers another form of exploration: a discovery of the diverse regions of Ecuador through the locally sourced ingredients that are found in the hotel’s gourmet dishes. Pair it with exquisite wines and cocktails and soak in the panoramic views. The sheer amount of greenery is a breath of fresh air for Hong Kong travellers!
For Instagram goals, it’s truly a lodge you’d compare to no other. Make sure to check out the reserve whilst you’re there – there’s a group of dedicated biologists and para-biologists who spend their days and nights within the forest. Oh, and if you’re looking for the trip of a lifetime, it’s worth checking out Jacada Travel’s Ecuador itinerary. This luxury travel company offsets 100% of carbon emissions from every trip sold (proving it’s possible!).
Best for: Discovering ocean wildlife in Asia
Nihi is a resort with a conscience. The space is almost entirely preserved from urban development, and the motto is to “return to a life well lived”. Majority of the restaurants’ produce is grown in the resort’s organic garden, fed by a carefully constructed composting and water-recycling system. And the hotel’s green ethos extends through community outreach programmes in local villages. The turtle hatchery is a truly impressive initiative, and the Sumba Foundation is tirelessly working to clean water and reduce malaria on the island.
For activities, expect everything from Yoga & Wellness, Surfing, Fishing, Spa Safaris and an exploration of all the eco features Nihi has to offer.
Best for: Waterslides and tan lines
Boutique hotel Soneva Fushi’s eco-chic villas are straight out of a daydream. The relaxing resort has made sure responsibility and sustainability are at the core of the philosophy. The hotel strives to offer a community that works hand in hand with the environment to craft beautiful, bespoke experiences.
With one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, food grown and sourced locally wherever possible, and a purpose-built centre for waste management and recycling, it’s incredible to see more luxury hotels taking the initiative. We’re particularly impressed by the marine conservation programme where the hotel has managed to keep pockets of the island’s coastline untouched so turtles can continue nesting there.
Read more: Planning a Week in Paradise: The Maldives Travel Guide
Best for: Uninterrupted time away from the Hong Kong hustle
Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort has made hugely successful advances in eco-tourism. It was the first resort in the South Pacific region to recycle paper and plastic – and in the process, it set up a recycling program for the entire town of Savusavu. We’ll applaud to that! Today, the resort has a reef protection programme, a giant clam-breeding project and an in-house marine biologist.
The resort has developed “edible landscaping”, meaning that the plants on-site also supply the restaurant with fresh herbs and produce. Buildings are tailored to the tropical environment, with sustainable timber construction and roofs thatched from local reeds. Oh, and if you’re keen for some spa time, Pure Fiji toiletries are used in the spa, and all water is recycled through lotus-dotted lagoons.
Best for: Exploring a UNESCO World Heritage
Though China may not be a place we automatically associates with sustainability, Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain proves us wrong. Located at the picturesque gateway to the majestic Qing Cheng Mountains, it’s a natural paradise. In fact, the hotel was created specifically to complement the UNESCO World Heritage & Natural Cultural site near Dujiangyan.
Staying in line with Six Senses’ philosophy, the resort is committed to improving the ecological and carbon footprint resulting from the resort operations. The idea is that the hotel and guests can work together to ensure the maximum benefits. For example, the Six Senses purifies and mineralises its own drinking water (in re-usable glass bottles), sources responsible ingredients and produce from the local community and grows its own organic gardens. Stay tuned for the upcoming partnership with Panda Mountain, and the efforts to support a sustainable education within local schools.
Best for: Experiencing new sustainable practices
Surf, sand, sun, sustainability… It all goes hand-in-hand, really. The Harmony Hotel is a passion project by the founding couple. Priding themselves on creating an eco space, the hotel composts, uses solar-powered water heaters, landscapes with native plants and ensures at least 60% of the staff are locals.
We love that a greenhouse and farm provide most of the organic food served in the restaurant and juice bar. The experts here actually calculate and compensate for the hotel’s carbon emissions with a “Plant a Tree” project, where guests and staff plant trees in the local community. The dedicated staff also work with a local non-profit to protect the local sea turtle habitats and end poaching. There’s even a spigot near the reception area that provides purified rain-water!
Read more: Sustainable Style: Eco and Ethical Local Fashion Brands
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2017 by Tania Shroff, and was updated in September 2018.