As the last few years have proven, sustainability is mission critical to the future of our planet and the people who live here. And it matters for the future of travel, too: Opened in the last two years, the 14 new and renovated properties that make up our 2022 Stay List prioritize community-centered, socially responsible, environmentally sensitive operations. Their owners are helping to redefine hospitality in ways that benefit both guests and locals. Here are the visionary hotels changing the way we travel.
Franschhoek, South Africa
Book Now: From $780, sterrekopje.com
After an international search for a regenerative farm, Dutch entrepreneur Fleur Huijskens and her wife, Nicole Boekhoorn, settled on South Africa’s Western Cape wine region. Located less than five miles from the town of Franschhoek, Sterrekopje sits on 124 acres with 17th-century farm buildings. Fleur and Nicole have opened an 11-room sanctuary that strives for sustainability in everything, from its gray water treatment system to a minimum waste restaurant. Chefs use eggs and other seasonal produce from the property. The point of the resort is to step away from the hectic pace of life and recenter yourself on the farm during three to seven day stays. Travelers pick their path toward tranquility, be it a Reiki treatment in the spa or a pottery class at the onsite arts studio. The guest rooms are all individually designed with cool tile floors, exposed beam ceilings, and wooden fourposter beds crafted in Lamu, Kenya. Some have fireplaces, while others feature soaking tubs and outdoor showers.
Six Senses Shaharut
Negev Desert, Israel
Book Now: From $850, sixsenses.com
In southern Israel’s Negev Desert, the Six Senses Shaharut works with local communities to arrange visits to a traditional kibbutz to learn about permaculture and organic farming. Guests can also take a guided tour that retraces part of an ancient 1,200-mile incense route, hearing about the history of regional trade along the way. Nothing in this otherworldly, arid landscape was removed from the site where the 60 LEED-certified guest rooms now stand. Each accommodation was created from wood and limestone reclaimed or sustainably sourced from the settlement grounds.
Silky Oaks Lodge
Mossman, Queensland, Australia
Book Now: From $1,250, silkyoakslodge.com
The Daintree Rainforest, 180 million years old, has been home to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people for more than 50,000 years—and teems with buff-breasted paradise kingfishers, musky rat-kangaroos, and bioluminescent fungi. Sitting on 80 forested acres next to the rain forest in northeast Queensland, the recently reimagined Silky Oaks Lodge is an eco-conscious retreat for travelers seeking a deeper understanding of the world’s oldest forest and indigenous cultures. The 40 guest rooms include treehouse suites with outdoor stone tubs. When guests want to learn about ancient medicinal plants and spot the vibrant blue Ulysses butterfly, Aboriginal-owned tour operator Walkabout Cultural Adventures leads the way, tapping into millennia-old knowledge of the rain forest.
Golden Rock Resort
St. Eustatius, Caribbean
Book Now: From $470, goldenrockresort.com
Few travelers have visited the tranquil volcanic sand beaches of remote St. Eustatius, an island in the Caribbean reachable via a 20-minute plane ride from St. Maarten, its more famous neighbor. Now that Golden Rock Resort has opened, that’s about to change. On 40 acres overlooking the sea, Golden Rock is the first luxury resort on the island, and it’s entirely solar powered. Drinking water comes from a reverse osmosis machine that treats salt water, and a complex gray water system built with reeds and bamboo irrigates the property’s landscaping. The 32 guest rooms, with private balconies and wooden floors, make comfortable bases for exploring the 12-square-mile island. Guests can choose from two dozen hiking trails, including some that reach acacia-covered Boven National Park and the dormant Quill volcano. St. Eustatius, which residents call Statia, also has some of the region’s best diving, thanks to protective measures in place from St. Eustatius National Marine Park. In the park, visitors can observe coral-covered shipwrecks and swim with manta rays and sea turtles.
Gros Morne Inn
Shoal Brook, Newfoundland, Canada
Book Now: From $750, grosmorneinn.com
There wasn’t much in the way of notable lodging near Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. That changed with the opening of Gros Morne Inn, whose owners, Ian Stone and Rebecca Brushett, make sure that travelers can experience the area’s rugged coasts, thick forests, and awe-inspiring fjords while treading as lightly as possible on the destination. Whatever carbon foot print the 15-room hotel can’t offset through operations—repurposed materials, no single-use plastics, renewable energy from hydroelectricity—it donates in kind to a local nonprofit. Gros Morne is aiming to have its restaurant become certified by the nonprofit Ocean Wise for serving only sustainably sourced seafood.
1 Hotel Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Book Now: From $525, 1hotels.com
Over the last seven years, 1 Hotels has proven that eco-conscious luxury can be successful in North American cities ranging from New York to West Hollywood. The 1 Hotel Toronto, located in the center of town, is no exception. Architecture and design firm Rockwell Group partnered with the developer Athens Group for 1 Hotel’s first Canadian property, bringing in Toronto-based craftspeople to build custom dining and side tables out of local wood in the 112 biophilic guest rooms and public spaces, where every shelf spills over with native plants. The hotel works with recycling partner Green Planet to convert leftover kitchen oil and grease into biofuel.
Guild House Hotel
Book Now: From $200, guildhousehotel.com
These days, it’s common to see old buildings repurposed into magnificent new hotels. Philadelphia’s Guild House Hotel stands out not just as a thoughtful restoration of a National Historic Landmark, but also for the story it tells. The Victorian building is the former home of the New Century Guild, a group of women who were outspoken abolitionists, suffragists, and artists in the late 19th century. First-time hotelier Brennan Tomasetti hired the female-owned interior design firm Rohe Creative to reimagine the property, now a hotel with 12 rooms furnished with custom-designed wall paper and antiques. Each guest room is dedicated to the story of a former guild member, including Eliza Sproat Turner, the founder, whose love of nature is reflected in botanical prints in a room that was once the guild’s library.
West London, England
Book Now: From $145, room2.com
The idea behind Room2 Chiswick, part of a growing, multi-property brand in Europe aiming for net-zero carbon emissions, is that sustainable hospitality should be for everyone. Indeed, nightly rates at this 86-room hotel in West London—which is predicted to use a whopping 89 percent less energy than the average U.K. hotel—start well below $200. Reclaimed terracotta tiles line the lobby floors; carpets in the corridors were made from fishing nets reclaimed from the ocean. The hotel brand partnered with the Forest Stewardship Council to source sustainable timber for head boards and furnishings, and planted 4,400 trees in Nicaragua to offset the carbon generated from the furniture-making process. The hotel is heated and cooled via solar panels and heat pumps, and its “blue roof” can collect more than 13,000 gallons of water to deter local flooding.
Explora El Chaltén
Book Now: From $1,270, explora.com,
Since 1993, Explora has offered guests conservation adventures in South America. Now the group is bringing its ethos to a remote corner of Argentine Patagonia near the famous trekking destination Mount Fitz Roy. Explora El Chaltén opened in the private 14,000-acre Los Huemules Reserve, which is covered in native ñirre and lenga trees. There, the lodge’s mainly female guides lead rock climbing and glacier-hiking excursions, helping guests identify remarkable birds of prey (Andean condors and white-throated caracaras) along the way. The 20 guest rooms were constructed in Mendoza out of prefab modular units that minimize waste and site disturbance; they sit off the ground on timber stilts to further lower their footprint.
Book Now: From $350, terrestrehotel.com
In the Oaxacan hills with views of the Pacific Ocean, Hotel Terrestre marries modern style and sustainability. Mexican hoteliers Grupo Habita commissioned Mexico City-based architect Alberto Kalach, who is known for his sustainable approach that harmonizes with nature, to design the property. (Not too long ago, he created the Casona Sforza retreat in Puerto Escondido.) He fashioned Hotel Terrestre’s 14 villas out of local clay, wood, brickwork, and concrete that blend into the sand-colored landscape. Each accommodation has a private terrace with an outdoor shower, dipping pool, and hammock. Custom furniture pieces designed by Oscar Hagerman were built by area craftspeople. The hotel, entirely solar powered, is cooled by fans and cross ventilation. Landscaping includes endemic flora (copales and mesquites) that thrive in the arid climate.
Ikuchijima, Seto Inland Sea, Japan
Book Now: From $560, azumi.co
The new Azumi Setoda invites visitors to a corner of Japan unknown even to many domestic travelers. Part of an archipelago in the Seto Inland Sea, Ikuchijima is a quiet island with a population of 10,000. There, Kyoto based architect Shiro Miura was entrusted to transform a 146-year-old private residence into 22 guest rooms. The accommodations offer a con temporary take on the traditional ryokan, with rooms featuring rice paper screens, cypress wood bathtubs, and gardens that face a landscaped court yard. Meals feature seasonal ingredients such as octopus and Omishima wild boar, all served on antique plates from the original owners of the estate. With an eye toward improving the property’s sustainability, Azumi is working to ensure it will use only renewable energy sources by 2023.
Wilderness Safaris Vumbura Plains
Book Now: From $1,570, wilderness-safaris.com
The safari lodge company Wilderness Safaris has been on a long and evolving path toward sustainability since 1983. Its Botswana-based Vumbura Plains camp underwent a complete refurbishment in the spring of 2022. The 14 new guest suites are the work of interior design firm Reflecting Africa, founded by Cate Simpson, who collaborated with local craftspeople to design the high-ceilinged thatched roofs, natural wood flooring, and handwoven textiles. It’s a stylish place to retreat to after seeking out elephant herds and birdlife in the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO-designated site. Vumbura leases land from five nearby villages and employs 150 community members. Travelers will especially appreciate the lodge’s partnership with the Okavango Community Trust, created in 1996 to represent key priorities of the villages, while offering assistance in farming practices and COVID-19 related relief projects.
Benguerra Island, Mozambique
Book Now: From $5,000, kisawasanctuary.com
Ocean conservation continues to lag behind land-based efforts, which is why it’s refreshing to see a tourism project centered so heavily on marine research and preservation. Sitting on more than 700 acres of beach and coastal forest on Benguerra Island, off the central coast of Mozambique, Kisawa Sanctuary is a collection of 21 guest bungalows constructed and decorated with local timbers and 3D printing. (The technology was also used to construct artificial coral for nearby reef restoration.) The retreat partners with the Bazaruto Center for Scientific Studies, a nonprofit marine conservation center whose buildings are powered by solar energy. Its research not only helps international scientific organizations better understand the Indian Ocean but also augments the experience for guests, who can help tag sharks or explore underwater landscapes from the same dive center that equips scientists and documentarians.
Alila Marea Beach Resort
Book Now: From $950, alilahotels.com
There’s a new place for travelers to rest their heads in Encinitas, a city along the Pacific Ocean 25 miles north of San Diego. The Alila Marea Beach Resort collaborated with sustainable-tourism advisory group Earth Check to ensure it contributes zero waste to landfills in the next five years. Some of the tactics Alila employs: no single-use plastic water bottles and composting all unused food and paper products. Four EV charging stations allow guests to plug in their vehicles, and visitors can borrow electric bikes to explore Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a beach community within Encinitas known for its surf spots. The 130 guest rooms, with Pacific Ocean or lagoon views (some with patio fire-pits), use the property’s smart LED system that turns lights off when areas are not in use, which is estimated to reduce energy consumption by 80 percent.