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The best eco-holidays

The thing about paradisiacal eco-hotels is that, although they may cost you the earth, they won’t actually cost you THE EARTH.


Vermejo Park Ranch, New Mexico, USA

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Ted Turner, the American cable news billionaire, knew a good thing when he saw it. He’s a wilderness nut and philanthropist, and is all about conservation. Big tick there. This place is VAST – 585,000 acres, the largest private ranch in the US, crossing from New Mexico into Colorado, and right over the jagged Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are nine lodges, including Case Grande, a fabulous mansion from 1908 and Ted Turner’s home. You come here to escape, obviously, with day-long hikes into the wilderness to spot elk, bison, black bears, mountain lions, and golden eagles circling in the skies above.

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Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland

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The design at this remote lodge is extraordinary – an ice-white rectangle straddling the moonscape on enormous stilts. Sounds a bit grim; looks out of this world. Inside, all is Scandi-cool and locally-sourced, with genuinely wow views (yes, that IS an iceberg floating past your window). But the best bit is that the whole place is a huge social enterprise, thought up by local ex-Silicon Valley whiz Zita Cobb, who built the lodge as a new means of employment for local out-of-work cod fishermen. It’s stylish and adventurous, and has a beating heart of gold.

Rooms from C$1,875 per night (two guests) / solo travellers get a C$200 reduction /

Nihi Sumba, Sumba, Indonesia

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It takes dedication to get here, but the rustic-chic villas are worth it, with soaring thatched roofs and view of the crashing waves below – this is one for surfers, or wannabe surfers, or those who fancy surfers. Owned by Chris Burch, ex-husband to Tory, there’s bareback riding on beautiful local horses, fishing, paddle-boarding, and a spa “safari”, which ends up with a massage overlooking a waterfall, for goodness sake. And profits go towards the Sumba Foundation, helping the remote local communities of this Indonesian island, including anti-malaria programmes, providing access to clean water, and local training.

Villas from $795 per night, minimum 3 nights stay /


Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Félicité, Seychelles

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This brand manages to be super-sexy AND super-eco, which is a neat trick. They’ve pledged to go plastic-free by 2020 (whoop) and their stylish resorts do all the good stuff like recycle, use solar energy, organic farming, and so on. At their Seychelles outpost (new direct flights make this an easier holiday than you’d think), suites are in stand-alone villas with plunge pools and brilliant bathrooms – there’s a swing in each one, so you can hang out while your beloved has a soak, if that’s your thing. The spa is serious, with treatment rooms angled between granite boulders overlooking the sea, offering everything from a pleasing facial to full-on detoxes and health checks. Great yoga pavilion right over the waves, too.

Rooms from €1,426 per night /

Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda, Italy

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Set high in the hills above Lake Garda is this gem of a spa. It’s hardcore but kind, using a mix of traditional Chinese medicine and modern treatments to spruce you up or chill you out. There’s weight-loss and detoxing, but it’s gentle (really – no depressing broths or shouty PTs here) and there are all sorts of lovely messages to drift away with and salt water pools to wallow around in. And the eco bit is all taken care of: it is carbon neutral, fully organic, certified sustainable and does all sorts of clever things like reuse overspill water from the pool to irrigate the gardens.

Rooms from €290 per night /


Song Saa, Cambodia

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The first private-island resort in Cambodia was built specifically to help the local community, in the shape of the Song Saa Foundation. It’s made huge inroads to protect the archipelago, as well as training local islanders and sending around a weekly doctor’s boat. So that’s all very lovely, but you’re here because the resort is small, quiet and sexy as hell, with thatched villas overlooking the waves and a delicious spa. You can slouch around, stare at the water, have a dip, sip a G&T, pretend to read a few pages of a novel, and do very little else at all.

Villas from $890 per night /

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

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The original Robinson Crusoe-style island hideaway has long been a sustainability trailblazer. No plastic, organic everything, an on-site water purification and bottling plant, lots of social engagement with local communities – AND they carbon offset all guests flights, without even asking. Then there are the ravishing villas, hewn from wood and bamboo, with direct access to the most perfect, baby-powder beach you’ve ever seen, various restaurants (including an entire room devoted to chocolate – not kidding) and a cinema under the stars.

Villas from $2,166 per night /


Wild Coast Tented Camp, Sri Lanka

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Sitting between Yala National Park and a suitably wild stretch of deserted beach, this camp is a design marvel, with space-age, palatial tents that really aren’t tents at all, set around watering holes where wild elephants pop by for a drink. There’s also a free-form pool with a swim-up bar (we love a swim-up bar), the National Park bang next door to explore, and a leopard conservation station on site. They’re phasing out single-use plastics, too. Good on ‘em.

Cocoon suites from $894 per night which includes one daily game drive /

Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

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Hiding away in a 1,000-acre reserve of wildly lush rainforest, this is THE place to spot crazy South American wildlife – wild macaws, armadillos, butterflies the size of your face, and chattering families of endangered monkeys – while helping researchers protect one of the last lowland rainforest areas in Central America. This was one of the original sustainable pioneers, doing everything from introducing bamboo drinking straws to employing only local staff, building sustainably and using eco-fuel provided by a family of pleasing resident pigs. Don’t be lazy – this place is about adventure, heading into the jungle with the boffins, leaping about in waterfalls or learning to surf at the wild beach near the lodge.

Bungalows from $850 per night /

Tswalu, South Africa

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Did you know that the pangolin is the most-trafficked animal on the planet? Us neither. Poor pangolins. This remote lodge in the Kalahari does all it can to research and protect these weird-ass animals in all their scaley, long-tongued glory. This vast desert reserve is all about conservation, with rolling red sand dunes and all sorts of strange endemic species, like critically-endangered desert black rhino, black-maned Kalahari lions and huge eland. Accommodation is in swanked-up tents and lodges in two locations, plus a “star-gazer” (outdoor) bed if you’re feeling particularly brave.

Accommodation from ZAR 47,600 (approx. £2700) / 

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

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This groovy lodge is set in high in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, with a cool, contemporary design (lots of glass and covetable bathrooms with baths that have tree-top views) and a gaggle of resident nature nuts, who will take you out looking for tropical birds and capuchin monkeys. Profits go right back into conservation and the local community, and there is a Sky Bike, which zips you through the canopy for a bird’s eye view of the jungle. It’s really wild.

Rooms from $1,340 per night which includes return transfers from Quito / 


Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui, Thailand

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A sweet family-run resort set on its own arch of beach, with rooms and villas peppering the lush hill. They take their green credentials seriously, so everything is reused, recycled and low energy – food scraps become garden fertilizer, for example, and cleaning products are home-made, eco and organic. Opt for the two-bed family villa, perched up on the hill with catch-your-breath views. The Beach Bistro is brilliantly located so kids can run wild while you kick back with a beer, and there’s a decent spa offering all sorts of Thai massages.

Beachfront suites from £199 per night /

Grootbos Nature Reserve, South Africa

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This slice of eco-heaven is set high above Walker Bay in the Western Cape, a sweep of beach where whales come to calve. The lodge itself is in set in a vast stretch of protected fynbos – weird, endemic low-lying vegetation – and accommodation is in two lodges (both smart, with lovely bathrooms with sea views) and two enormous villas. It’s laidback, family-run and lovely as anything, with activities like horse riding in the hills, whale-watching trip, or cage-diving with great white sharks (be brave). Or you can pootle about the organic farm and scoff honey from the resident bees. The whole place is a massive social enterprise, training up disadvantaged youths, growing everything organically, and funding a huge local sports camp for township kids.

Family suites from $1,574 per night /

Kasbah du Toubkal

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Set in the lofty heights of the Atlas Mountains, this lodge isn’t swanky or five-star, but it is delightful, filled with locally crafted textiles and furniture and run by smiley staff. The views are the thing, of the awesome mountains all around – not that the kids will give a toss. So take them out, hiking in the valleys, with an adventurous overnight in the Lodge, set even higher in the mountains and a damn sight better than camping. The Great House is top dog for families, with three inter-linking rooms. The best bit is that they support the Moroccan initiative Education For All, helping local girls get access to the best schooling.

Garden House from €820 per night /


The Scarlet, Cornwall


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No kids allowed  (hurrah!) at this beach-side eco-hotel. The rooms have heart-stopping views of Mawgan Porth bay and the sea, with little private balconies to hide away on, and a spa to loll around in. So sexiness gets a big tick, but so does sustainability, with neat tricks like a natural reed-bed filtration system for the pool, entirely ethical building practices, and all-organic everything.

Rooms from £220 per night /

1 Hotel South Beach, Miami

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Miami must be one of the sauciest cities on the planet – the sultry, steamy climate, the white-hot beach, those insanely toned couples in dental-floss swim gear. 1 Hotel is the place to stay, bang on South Beach, with an airy design, lots or reclaimed furniture, a huge living wall and tons of eco credentials. The interiors are all organic cotton and recycled wood, but they also do clever things like pipe triple-filtered water straight into every room, so no need for plastic bottles. And the people-watching around the pool is as Miami as it gets…

Rooms from $399 a night /

Alila Ubud, Bali

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Ditch the eating and praying and get straight to the lovin’ (sorry) at this plastic-free, Balinese haven. They’ve made it easy for clients by being certified by EarthCheck (too dull to go into, but it means they tick all the sustainability boxes – yay them). Set in the hills above the Ayung River, it has dreamy tree-top views, a gorgeous open-to-the-elements restaurant, a proper spa and is just a 15-minute hop to central Ubud.

Rooms from $242 per night /


All imagery courtesy of the hotels

By Francisca Kellett @frankellett

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