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Travelers who want to leave a smaller carbon footprint when they explore the world should consider staying at an eco-hotel or resort. These properties are committed to implementing sustainable practices, energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting, as well as other unique environmentally-focused initiatives. In the U.S., many look to the LEED system of rating hotels on how “green” they are, while in Central America many resorts keep things rustic and simple. Here are 10 best eco lodges for your next vacation.
Best Overall: Proximity Hotel (North Carolina)
With more than 70 sustainable practices in place, Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina might be America’s greenest hotel. The 147-room, LEED platinum-rated beauty has 100 solar panels on the roof, an elevator that re-generates power and geothermal energy for the refrigerators. Rooms and suites are loft-style and have floor-to-ceiling windows, soaking tubs, in-room dining, filtered air systems and artwork from a local artist. Cocktail service is available in the beautiful garden courtyard, or guests can dine in the European bistro and bar attached to the hotel with a lovely creekside terrace. Other amenities include in-room massages, airport transfers in a London-style taxi and free bike rentals that are available on a first-come, first serve basis.
Best Design: H2H Hotel (California)
The grass-covered, curved roof that filters rainwater offers travelers a sneak preview of the unique eco-friendly design found at H2H Hotel in Healdsburg, California. The rooftop solar panels heat the swimming pool and hot water in the 36 eco chic hotel rooms that feature sustainable bamboo flooring, chemical-free rugs and organic bathrobes. The bar and restaurant provides locally-sourced food, wine, and spirits, or guests can borrow a bike and explore the dining and shopping options in Healdsburg. Even the spa incorporates local products, with a serene garden patio and Jacuzzi under the tranquil olive grove. TripAdvisor members gushed about how fabulous the included breakfast was, and loved the urban chic décor found throughout the hotel.
Best Beachfront: Al Natural Resort (Panama)
Tucked away in a secluded part of Bocas Del Toro, Panama, the Al Natural Resort consists of seven, thatched-roof bungalows that overlook the sparkling Caribbean waters. Accommodations run on solar power, and have open air walls (that can close if needed), hammocks and orthopedic mattresses. The resort hosts a number of yoga retreats, and scuba diving courses are offered in the lagoon in front of the hotel. TripAdvisor members raved about the meals at the resort, which are prepared from fresh, local ingredients and are served at the communal picnic table - making it easy to mingle with others.
Best in Wine Country: Bardessono (California)
As a LEED platinum-rated property, the 62-room Bardessono is a premier wine county retreat with top-of-the-line amenities and service. The hotel is in the center of Yountville, surrounded by rolling hills and several award-winning wineries, and features salvaged wood floors, energy-efficient cooling systems and solar lighting. Guests can lounge by the rooftop swimming pool or enjoy a spa treatment in the comfort of their suites, which have a minimum of 750 square feet of space. These rooms have private courtyards, iPads to order in-room services, luxurious bathtubs and gas fireplaces. The restaurant on the property has a fabulous wine list and serves organic, American fare with ingredients straight from the hotel garden. Valet parking and bicycles rentals are included.
Best Green Spa Resort: Crystal Mountain (Michigan)
Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan is known for its environmental efforts that include in-room recycling programs, a ski chairlift that runs on renewable energy, an eco-certified golf course and an 18,500-foot spa that received the honor of being the first LEED-rated spa in the Midwest. Unique treatments entice spa-goers (think peppermint bark body scrubs, coconut cream pie pedicures and eucalyptus massages), but the spa also has steam rooms, infrared saunas and an outdoor mosaic garden with a hot tub. A ski resort in the winter and a mountain retreat in the summer, Crystal offers year-round fun for all ages. Rooms are separated into three distinct buildings and have rustic décor and modern amenities. Guests staying at Crystal Mountain receive a discount at the spa.
Best Learning Experience: Rancho Margot (Costa Rica)
Rancho Margot in El Castillo, Costa Rica is ideal for travelers who want to learn about eco-tourism and participate in some hands-on activities. The ranch features twice-daily yoga, farm tours, cow milking and cheese making, Spanish classes and instruction on organic agriculture and medicinal plants. The hotel also has natural swimming pools that are heated with excess energy. Accommodations include bunkhouse rooms with shared baths and common areas, or private bungalows with hammocks and wrap-around terraces. Other nearby activities include hiking, kayaking Lake Arenal and horseback riding. TripAdvisor members have noted that the ranch tends to attract many student travelers.
Best Nightlife: ARIA Resort & Casino (Las Vegas)
Sin City has a number of hotels that follow green practices, but the 4,004-room Aria Resort and Casino is the largest building in the world to have a LEED gold status. Aria also has the world’s first fleet of natural-gas powered stretch limos. The sprawling resort has more than 15 dining options, seven lounges and a premium nightclub, as well as a 150,000-square foot casino to keep the excitement going. Rooms have stocked mini bars, bathrobes and slippers and floor-to-ceiling windows to reduce the need for lighting, but also offer fantastic views of Las Vegas. During the day, guests can soak in one of three pools (including an adults-only pool) or relax with a spa treatment. TripAdvisor members appreciated the tablets in the rooms that allowed them to control in-room technologies.
Best Ski Lodge: Hotel Terra (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Eco-minded skiers should head to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where the entire roof of the 132-room, Hotel Terra is made of recycled products. As a luxurious LEED-certified silver hotel, the guestrooms have organic mattresses, fresh air circulating from outdoors and energy-reducing lights – not to mention premium amenities such as fireplaces, vanity bathrooms with heated floors and private terraces. After a day on the slopes, curl up by the lobby fireplace, relax in the spa’s sauna, steam room or in one of six treatment rooms. Other amenities include a ski valet and school, as well as warm-weather activities such as hiking, horseback riding and fishing. TripAdvisor members also loved the rooftop infinity pool and hot tub with killer views of the mountains.
Best Pet-Friendly: Inn by the Sea (Maine)
At the 57-room, Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, both humans and pets have a chance to be pampered. The beachfront hotel has been welcoming furry friends free of charge for more than 15 years and provides water bowls, beach towels, blankets and treats during turndown. Unwind with a sea-inspired spa treatment using seaweed and other marine products, or get a massage for your pet. There’s also doggie day care, pet friendly beaches and hiking trails and gourmet pet menus. Green initiatives are found all over the property and include a garden habitat for wildlife, a fitness center with recycled rubber floors, as well as a restaurant that serves fresh, local cuisine. Rooms have elegant, coastal-themed décor with luxuries such as iPod docks, plush robes, soaking tubs and separate showers and balconies.
Best Boutique: Hotel Skyler (Syracuse, New York)
Located in downtown Syracuse, New York, the 58-room Hotel Skyler is a historic boutique hotel with some serious eco-friendly merits. Built in 1921 as a temple and later transformed into a theater, the building is now a LEED platinum hotel, with locally-sourced construction materials, a geothermal heating system and even organic and fair-trade items served in the on-site café. An artisanal breakfast is included in the rates, as is parking and Wi-Fi. Rooms and suites have a modern, bohemian style and each are uniquely designed (think tree-shaped bed posts and dome-shaped ceilings). TripAdvisor members also appreciated the lobby bar with local craft beers on tap.