Once a novel concept embraced by a thin sliver of the market, sustainable tourism has surged into the mainstream as engaged consumers are more aware than ever of their own ecological footprint. Research points to the pandemic as a pivotal moment for the movement, and according to a 2022 report, 81 percent of travelers now believe sustainable travel is important. And luxury brands are taking note.
“In the luxury space, sustainability is not just a moral imperative, it is also a business imperative,” says Leo Ghitis, CEO and cofounder of Nayara Resorts. “Consumers are increasingly demanding ethical and sustainable practices, and brands that fail to deliver on these expectations will not thrive in the long term.”
A new class of resorts is balancing luxury and sustainability, implementing elements like solar panels, coral restoration, and food waste-reduction programs. From Panama to Greece, here are five resorts where travelers can indulge in an elevated green getaway.
Opening this month, Six Senses Kanuhura encompasses a string of three private islands in the Maldives’ idyllic and far-flung Lhaviyani Atoll. A commitment to sustainability has been synonymous with Six Senses since its inception in the mid-90s—long before it became a buzzword in travel: “Sustainability is one of the core values of the Six Senses brand,” says the resort’s general manager, Bryce Seator.
“It is not a part of our operations or part of our initiatives, it is who we are.” This ethos, notes Seator, is reflected in elements like the property’s water-bottling plant (part of a company-wide commitment to removing virgin plastic from its operations), local island conservation efforts led by an on-site marine biologist, and a garden where chefs and spa therapists converge to gather organic ingredients for their recipes and treatments. Among them, the 90-minute Maldivian honey, papaya and coconut cocoon combines a scrub, wrap, facial massage, and sound healing. From $1,019 per night
Set on a private island off the coast of Panama, Nayara Bocas de Toro is decidedly off the grid, with a rainwater purification system and solar energy powering the property. Earlier this year, the adults-only luxury resort debuted another wild element: two treehouses, perched 50 feet off the ground.
Designed by the acclaimed Bali-based firm IBUKU, led by Elora Hardy, the lofty accommodations were constructed from four varieties of locally-sourced bamboo and hardwood reclaimed from the bottom of the Panama Canal, and have deep-soaking tubs and open-air living rooms that overlook a canopy of mangroves. The resort also recently partnered with the Caribbean Coral Restoration: The local company installed artificial reefs to boost the surrounding sea life—a boon to snorkelers and kayakers to boot. From $1,500 per night
The Santorini-based collection of luxury hotels unveiled three new or expanded properties this summer, including The Villas by Santo Collection. Set on the cliffs of Oia and overlooking the Aegean Sea, two private, four-bedroom villas were envisioned with an equal emphasis on design and sustainability. Airy rooms spill out to private pools, while the properties are equipped with state-of-the-art water and energy management systems to reduce consumption.
The collection has also implemented eco-conscious farming initiatives, and a new Sustainable Supplies program — the first of its kind in Greece’s hospitality industry—which educates its supply chain on earth-friendly practices. Sustainability is the new normal for the tourism sector and a necessary focus for luxury resort properties, says Santo Collection’s sustainability manager, Marigianna Chalkiadaki, who adds, “a new generation of eco-conscious travelers is interested.” From $6,351 per night
As guests approach the Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, which opened last fall in a private nature reserve on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, “they may wonder why the drive through the jungle seems to go on forever,” says Felix Murillo, the resort’s general manager. “This is simply because we exist to protect and maintain the largest wild natural reserve of its kind in Mexico.” The nine-acre resort is situated among thousands of untouched acres, where, according to Murillo, wild cats and over 180 bird species make their home.
On-staff researchers and biologists lead guests on morning hikes to get a closer look at the region’s natural beauty. Guests won’t find disposable water bottles or any other single-use plastics, instead there’s an on-site water filtration plant, plus a nearby low-impact farm that supplies ingredients for the restaurants and taqueria, and a food waste-reduction program that includes a family of Mangalica pigs that help tackle the property’s organic waste. From $1,495 per night
Set amid the lush green oasis of Hawai‘i’s Kohala Coast, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort opened this summer with an array of luminous accommodations and amenities, including the refined beach bungalows inspired by traditional Hawaiian hale and an Asaya, the brand’s holistic wellness concept.
Equally impressive, the resort is also powered by 100 percent solar energy. It’s one way the brand is highlighting how sustainability has long been an intrinsic part of Hawaiian culture. Opening a resort in Hawai’i, says the resort’s managing director Sandra Estornell, “where natural resources are so precious and the cultural heritage and history so rich, pioneering a sustainable approach is absolutely critical.” From $2,500 per night