All over Asia, hotels have ramped up efforts to offset carbon footprints by rolling out programs to preserve the biodiversity that draws travelers there in the first place. From the Philippines islands to the outskirts of Beijing, here are a few eco-friendly hotels and resorts leading the way in sustainability, energy efficiency, recycling, marine conservation, education initiatives, and more.—Kate Springer
A private island oasis off the coast of Cambodia, Song Saa is fashioned almost entirely from reclaimed materials. Partnering with the local community in the archipelago, the hotel owners turned this dilapidated island into an oasis by removing trash, replanting trees, and setting up a marine conservation area. Because of their efforts, marine life began to return to the area and the water cleared dramatically. Song Saa incorporates driftwood, stones, sand, and natural materials from the islands in the design and construction of the rooms. Contributing to community development, the hotel employs residents from the nearby islands and began the Song Saa Foundation, which is dedicated to cleaning up the Koh Rong archipelago.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cambodia Guide
Six Senses Chengdu
WHERE: Chengdu, China
Tucked in the green hillsides outside of Chengdu sits the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain, the eco-friendly brand’s first foray into China. Located inside a UNESCO World Heritage & Natural Cultural Site known for its Giant Panda habitat, this gorgeous property celebrates its natural surroundings with wood interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and loads of sunlight. When it comes to sustainability, the hotel has made an effort to showcase and protect its environment, incorporating spacious courtyards, app-controlled lighting and air-conditioning, reusable glass bottles, and an all-day restaurant, Farm2Fork, which uses ingredients from the hotel’s own organic garden. The hotel recently added a new service: Tesla Model S electric cars for airport transfers. And it’s not just any old electric car—the Tesla model boasts a glass roof so you can enjoy the lush scenery along the way.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chengdu Guide
WHERE: Palawan, The Philippines
Though oft-overlooked in favor of Bali or Thailand, the Philippines is home to some of the world’s most pristine beaches. Hoping to keep the natural beauty intact as more travelers make the journey, several hotels have stepped up their ecological pursuits. A pioneer of eco-friendly practices in the region is El Nido Resorts. Located in the Palawan archipelago, El Nido Resorts comprises four luxury island resorts in various locations, all built using renewable materials and low-impact architecture to protect the area’s landscape and biodiversity. Each retreat takes a sustainable approach to luxury, offering locally sourced food, state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants, water recycling programs, desalination plants, on-site composting, and solar panels. Additionally, they’ve initiated a tag-and-release turtle program, wildlife monitoring measures, and educational talks to further efforts in environmental conservation. Recreational activities offered at the resort are designed to minimize the effect on the environment—you won’t find motorized boats or jet-skis, but there’s plenty of snorkeling, hiking, diving, coastal cleanups, and more.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s The Philippines Guide
Gayana Eco Resort
WHERE: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Gayana Eco Resort spreads out across the ocean like spectacular seashells. The 52 over-water villas are the area’s most luxurious accommodations, featuring glass floors that peek into the marine life below, outdoor hot tubs just steps from the sea, and views of Mt. Kinabalu. But stylish abodes are only part of Gayana Eco Resort’s mission—the boutique property also has its own marine ecology research center, dubbed the MERC. A team of marine biologists focus on a few key areas: restoring and stabilizing coral reefs, rehabilitating the near-extinct giant clam population, and nursing injured sea creatures back to health. While you’re there, check out sister property Bunga Raya Island Resort, which is located on the same island. It’s another luxurious outpost, but with wood villas scattered about a private forest setting.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kota Kinabalu Guide
WHERE: Hong Kong
You might be a little skeptical of the service at a “teaching” hotel, but Hotel ICON prepares its students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management well. This luxury address is dedicated to great service, education, and sustainability—evident in the sky-high vertical gardens and abundant botanicals throughout the property. There are more than 8,000 plants within the hotel, and the eco-efforts don’t stop there. Hotel Icon has also set up energy-efficient cooling and heating systems, natural lighting and ventilation, LED lights, paperless check-in, a garbage recycling program, a food donation program, and a Green Limousine Service by Tesla for airport transfers. On top of all that, Hotel ICON boasts some of the best views of Victoria Harbour from its 262 elegant hotel rooms.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Hong Kong Guide
WHERE: Beijing, China
Just an hour outside of Beijing, Brickyard Retreat is a one-of-a-kind lodging that’s committed to sustainable practices. Brickyard was founded with an aim to boost the village economy by hiring local employees and increasing sustainable tourism. The retreat was renovated from a smoke-spewing tile factory, the remnants of which can still be seen in colorful tiles artfully strewn about the premises. The charming boutique hotel is home to just 25 beautifully appointed rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase unparalleled views of the Great Wall. It’s all about relaxing and re-connecting with nature, so you’ll find an organic garden, yoga terrace, spa, skylights, native stones and wood, and lots of eco-friendly touches—think LED lights, waste composting, recycling program, thermal-paned windows, and natural ventilation. Committed to measuring their progress, the owners release a detailed report every year to outline the hotel’s energy consumption, water usage, hiring practices, waste production, and more.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Beijing Guide
WHERE: Langkawi, Malaysia
Flanked by ocean on one side and a 10-million-year-old rainforest on the other, The Datai Langkawi is known for its private plot of sand and sustainable approach to tourism. The restaurants on site source their herbs and spices from the hotel’s gardens, and the spa uses some of the same ingredients in its homemade remedies. To further educate guests about the flora and fauna in this UNESCO Geopark, The Datai employs a resident naturalist and marine biologist who lead tours and talks. The hotel has a full roster of non-disruptive outdoor activities, such as mangrove swimming, kayaking, birdwatching, jungle trekking, and a UNESCO Geopark cruise through the mangrove forests on a small boat that can fit up to 12 people.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Langkawi Guide
WHERE: Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Surrounded by green rice paddies, mango trees, and mountains, Kalundewa offers an all-natural way to experience Sri Lanka’s diverse beauty. This boutique address in Dambulla stretches across 100 acres of land, which it shares with local farmers and village families. The concept aims to connect travelers with local life, as well as provide a support system for neighboring villagers by establishing medical clinics and educational initiatives. Everything there has been created to minimize the human footprint and accentuate the environment, from the six glass-front chalets to the natural spring swimming pool, a fruit and vegetable garden, solar-energy harvester, and wind-mill powered water pump. While there, you can ride bikes and explore the property, paddle-boat across the lake, hike around the gardens, wake up early for a private yoga session, or take a nature walk with the on-site naturalist to spot snakes, birds, and lizards.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sri Lanka Guide
WHERE: Bali, Indonesia
Part of the PTT Family—which is also behind the famous Potato Head Beach Club in Bali—Katamama is dedicated to showcasing local talent. Opened in April 2016, the boutique address in Seminyak was built by some of Indonesia’s most talented craftsmen, featuring locally made bricks, teak furniture, handmade tiles, and more. Local craftspeople are also responsible for the textiles and furniture, as well as the artisanal food and beverage outlets peppered about the property. The lineup of dining options is pretty impressive—there’s Movida restaurant (hailing from Melbourne), One-Fifteenth Coffee café, Akademi bar, and Alchemy raw food restaurant. To further highlight local culture and craftsmanship, local brands and artisans are invited to visit the hotel and showcase their talents during workshops and events.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bali Guide
PARKROYAL on Pickering
You can’t walk past the Parkroyal on Pickering without craning your neck in curiosity—the captivating facade is unlike any hotel you’ve likely seen before. The mixture of undulating gray tiers and cascading gardens is meant to resemble a Balinese rice paddy. The Parkroyal on Pickering is green inside and out, with a rainwater harvesting program, solar panels, and LED bulbs throughout the property. The hotel rooms feature enormous windows to let in natural light, carpets and headboards designed to mimic various flora (like moss), and energy-efficient air conditioning. Elsewhere around the hotel, guests will find living walls, open-air corridors, and even waterfalls along a 300-meter-long garden walk that wraps around the building. For its eco-friendly efforts, the hotel won the Green Mark Platinum Award, which is among the highest honors in eco-tourism.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Singapore Guide