It’s safe to assume that the idea of a remote travel destination tucked away in an unspoiled natural landscape sounds like a good idea to you. Have you met the eco lodge yet? This hospitality concept allows guests to immerse themselves — fully — in the surrounding scenic environment. It’s a concept that works extremely well in some of the most breathtaking parts of the world; namely, forests, deserts, and wild coastlines.
And beyond the satisfaction of escaping the realities of email inboxes and everyday responsibilities (many of them have limited, if any, WiFi), eco lodges are also rooted in sustainability. The way this manifests depends on the region that the lodge exists in. If it’s somewhere in the jungle where building a property would be disruptive to the eco-system, some lodges will commit to not cutting down any trees in the process, rather, building around them. If it’s located on a wildlife preserve in Africa, close attention can be paid to waste water treatment. And on top of these types of environmental principles, many eco lodges also funnel money and resources to charities and philanthropic programs that support the local communities and the surrounding land. Below, 15 jaw-dropping eco lodges to add to your travel bucket list.
Journey into the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in Belize to book a stay at GAÏA Riverlodge. The hotel is surrounded by the Five Sisters Waterfalls of the Privassion River and is hydro-powered from the waters below the lodge. It’s one of only five properties in Belize to be Green Globe Certified and has an organic garden that’s grown with Mayan farming practices (the fresh produce is incorporated into the menu for GAÏA’s Five Sisters Restaurant and its sister property Matachica Resort). The accommodations are a mix of cabanas, suites, and a villa, all with breathtaking views. And the best part? GAÏA does not have WIFI in the bedrooms, just in the main building. Take a dip in the natural swimming pool created by the Privassion River (accessible via tram) and soak in the glorious feeling of not being able to check your email.
In Laikipia, Kenya the Ekorian Mugie eco-tourism camp is a haven for travelers looking for that organic, authentic safari experience. It’s composed of six tents on raised wooden decks and covered with a papyrus roof. Each tent has hot running water and flush toilets and most importantly — the camp is silver eco rated by the Kenya eco-tourism board. They use solar power, minimize use of plastics, and all toiletries are organic and locally made. They also sell artisanal goods in the camp shop, most of which are in support of philanthropic causes, like the beadwork made in collaboration with The Moyo Foundation. While you’ll be going out early in the morning and late at night, you can also enjoy Tala the giraffe at Mugie Headquarters as she wanders around the property (she’s been a regular visitor for years).
A Caribbean hospitality icon, Secret Bay on the island nation of Dominica was recently re-certified with a Green Globe Certificate and maintains a long list of sustainability principles (a few examples include biodegradable food packaging, locally-sourced food and herbs, drip irrigation processes to reuse wastewater, among others). Each villa has its own private grow box, which helps guests learn how to garden and compost by allowing them to forage for their own ingredients like peppermint and turmeric. Also, the villas were built using sustainably-sourced Guyanese and were designed to embrace natural lighting and fresh air — eco lodge characteristics at their dreamiest.
Namibia’s Sossusvlei Desert is a certified Dark Sky Reserve and the world’s oldest desert. It’s also home to Little Kulala, a breathtaking eco lodge with 11 suites, each designed with their own sleep-out rooftop deck (a stargazer’s paradise). Or, guests can take to the sky themselves in a hot air balloon to soak in the expansive landscape. The camp lies along the dry Auab riverbed and is by the dunes of Sossusvlei and panoramas of Dead Vlei, a famous white clay pan. The property is totally solar-powered and each of the climate-controlled suites has its own plunge pool.
Tucked away in the remote jungles of Mexico, Picocanoa Rodavento is an eco-adventure lodge that’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and those on a budget (rooms start around $100 a night). Here, you can go whitewater rafting, mountain biking, rock climbing, and even soar through the treetops on a zipline. On property, guests can choose between adobe cabins and glamping-type safari rooms, both feeling magically immersed in the jungle. Also not to be missed: wellness treatments, like the traditional Mayan temazcal prehispanico steam baths, massages, and holistic mud baths.
If you’ve never paid a visit to Jamaica, let Kanopi House serve as your excuse to finally book a trip. It’s unique positioning on a lush hillside evokes the feeling of being in a treehouse among the vines. The hideaways (there are six of them) are built from locally-sourced, renewable materials and the furnishings and decor are handcrafted by Jamaican artisans. Each private room has floor-to-ceiling French doors that open out to the rainforest and are also steps away from the Blue Lagoon. Something especially noteworthy about Kanopi House: no tree was felled in the making of the property. To respect the natural landscape, construction plans were adjusted and some trees simply continue through the rooftops. The lodge even repurposed a Guango tree that was cut down by a neighbor into dining and occasional tables.
A favorite among the safari-obsessed, The Bushcamp Company’s outpost in Mpika, Zambia is jaw dropping in every sense. The six Bushcamps and Mfuwe Lodge are located in South Luangwa National Park and each chalet and tent has its own solar water heating system and uses solar panels for power, lighting, charging, fridge-freezers, and to pump water. The lodge even has a worm farm where it takes kitchen waste and composts it down to produce an organic fertilizer, which is then used for their tree planting programs in the villages. Parte in a walking safari or go for a game drive with expert guides, every experience here is nothing short of life changing.
Costa Rica, land of gorgeous eco properties, is home to ORIGINS Lodge. They have six luxury lodges and one three-bedroom villa that are suspended within 111 acres of rainforest jungle and each one has a private plunge pool and outdoor fireplace. The culinary program is French fusion farm-fresh fare (think: local Latin ingredients sourced from the onsite organic garden that are incorporated into a menu by French chef Guillaume Boileve). And a trip to the jungle isn’t complete without meaningful wellness; at the lodge, guests can begin the day with yoga and holistic therapies or even partake in a breath work retreat.
If diving is your passion, a trip to Raja Ampat in Indonesia is a must. MahaRaja Eco Dive Lodge is a scenic home base for your aquatic adventure. It’s located on the private island of Dokri and consists only of five over-the-ocean traditional Papuan bungalows (complete with a private wooden terrace). On property, guests enjoy fresh bio vegan meals and access to pristine dive sites. You can even go for a night dive to view the marine life in fluorescent. There’s also the opportunity to snorkel, trek the Batanta waterfalls, stargaze, and paddle board. If you’re searching for a getaway that truly feels remote, this is it.
Though the term ‘eco lodge’ tends to evoke images of far-flung rainforests, at Post Ranch Inn along California’s Big Sur coastline, this kind of experience also exists. The property’s Ocean House offers dramatic ocean views plus a biophilic architectural design. The freestanding rooms have curved, living roofs that are covered in grass and wildflowers and they’re designed with natural glass, stone, COR-TEN steel and wood, which includes reclaimed redwood from wine casks. In 2020, Post Ranch Inn became the first hotel in the states to introduce a non-toxic cleaning and disinfection solution called Premium Purity™.
Spot elephants, hippos, and crocodiles at DumaTau in Linyanti, Botswana. The eco lodge can be found deep within the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve and has access to both the Linyanti River and Savuti Channel. The reserve is located on 126,000 hectares (about 311.353 acres) and up-close wildlife encounters are common. There are eight tented suites with price plunge pools; interiors are made from hand-crafted mosaic tile, acacia wood, and local textiles. The camp is entirely solar powered and waste water is treated in an above ground sewage plants (meaning it is clean before entering the natural environment).
The beachfront of Cape Range National Park in Western Australia is home to Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, a solar-powered eco-camp with fifteen wilderness tents. The property also has composting toilets, organic linen, and monitors daily washing water per guest. The eco-lodge gives guest access to UNESCO World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef and there you can dive in for water excursions like swimming beside whale sharks, humpbacks, or snorkeling with 500 species of vibrant fish and 250 coral species. Fun fact: it is the world’s largest fringing reef and stretches nearly 200 miles.
Valle de Guadalupe is a breathtaking wine region in Mexico and is also the destination for eco-lodge Encuentro Brada. The property has 20 rooms (also called EcoLofts) and a five-bedroom villa. While here, guests can enjoy unique wine experiences, like tastings directly from the barrel and classes that explain the vinification and aging process.
VOMO Island Fiji is a bucket list destination for luxury, eco-minded travelers. These beachfront accommodations are the epitome of island life, with activities ranging from lounging under a coconut tree to a rigorous hike up Mt Vomo. The privately-owned island of Vomo is 255 acres and with two new private residences opening — Reef House in November 2022 and Talei Taki having debuted earlier this year — there’s never been a better time to pack your bags and head for the south pacific. VOMO’s sustainability practices include an automated freshwater bottling plant, eWater systems that turn desalinated water into cleaning products, and the elimination of small single bottle toiletries; instead, they’ve been replaced with products bottled in locally made Fiijan pottery.
An iconic eco lodge you’ve likely already discovered on your Instagram feed, Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland offers 29 one-of-a-kind rooms and suites with sweeping floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic Ocean. It was built on the principles of regenerative tourism and is an initiative of Shorefast, a registered charity. It’s a 100% social business and community asset, meaning all operating surpluses are reinvested in Shorefast’s initiatives to preserve Fogo Island. All of the meals are crafted using ingredients that have been fished, farmed, and foraged on the island. Activities abound, with things to do including pottery making, jam and jelly classes, whale watching, bird watching, garden strolling, hiking and biking, and much, much more.