15 Hotels That Give Back

Travel can change the world, especially when we make smart choices. These hotels embrace responsible tourism by giving back to the local community and preserving and protecting the environment. Some even let guests lend a hand.

Race Course, Oracabessa, Jamaica
Goldeneye, to be clear, is not an easy place to leave. The land—the former home of Ian Fleming, where he wrote each of the 14 James Bond thrillers that would cement his place in literary and cinematic history—sits next to the tiny town of Oracabessa, on the northern coast. A warm, blue-green lagoon curls from the ocean around a small island and then lets out into a bay. You can look one direction and see a jungle, then turn around and see pristine white sand.

Blackwell bought the property in 1976 as a vacation home and a space to entertain family and friends but later he decided to transform it. In 2016, Goldeneye debuted a jumble of new huts, arranged around a small cove, a short walk from Fleming’s house and the resort’s original villas. The huts vary in height, designed to capture cooling breezes and allow guests to forgo air conditioning. And, crucially, they’re much cheaper to book than the Villas. Which is key because, up until this point, if you wanted to plan a visit to Goldeneye, you needed to either know Blackwell personally or have the excess capital to shell out potentially five figures on a vacation. (Part of the resort’s enduring gravitational pull is that many of the celebrity guests check both boxes.) With the beach huts, Blackwell has expanded, once again, the ambition of his famous resort.
600 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA
When your hotel offers a third-generation German goldsmith just steps from your room, you can be confident you will enjoy a comfortable stay. From the 400-thread-count Frette linens to the L’Occitane spa and the mini bar stocked with 12-year-old scotch, there’s a reason this hotel is ranked among the world’s best. It’s set among the other behemoths of Nob Hill—the exclusive aerie that San Francisco’s Big Four called home—and housed within a neoclassical manse with beefy columns and ornate stonework befitting its 1909 birth year. But a revamp in 2015 brought the hotel’s 336 guest rooms and suites squarely into the present day. And despite the culinary temptations that await just beyond the top-hatted valets, be sure to enjoy at least one meal at the in-house Parallel 37. (Book the chef’s table and let chef Michael Rotondo handle the rest.).
Quinta Vale de Abrão, 5100-758 Samodães,Lamego, Portugal
Six Senses is known for top-tier, sustainability-focused resorts in far-flung locales like the Maldives but, in 2015, the Bangkok-based hospitality brand opened its first European resort in Portugal’s wine-producing Douro Valley. Housed in a 19th-century manor house with a terracotta-tiled roof, the property features a contemporary interior, outfitted in shades of muted gold, gray, and white. Set high on a hill, the 57 rooms, suites, and villas offer stunning views of rolling vineyards, lush forests, or the property’s courtyard.

For what are undoubtedly the best vistas, choose one of the fifth-floor Quinta Panorama Suites, each with floor-to-ceiling windows that look straight onto the meandering Douro River. A wine cellar and library showcase the best of the region’s vintages, while three restaurants make use of vegetables and herbs harvested from the resort’s own organic garden. Apropos of a spa in wine country, nail treatments come with wine and cheese tastings, and scrubs and masks are individually blended with grapes, salts, herbs, and other natural ingredients.
Makunufushi South Malé Atoll, 20109, Maldives
Each of the Como resort’s 33 over-water bungalows has a private terrace that lets guests jump straight into the lagoon and snorkel amidst colorful fish and coral. Some of the larger suites are built in the shape of dhoni boats, the traditional wooden vessels used by local anglers. Cocoa Island is home to some of the best diving in the Indian Ocean, with at least 25 sites near the resort, including a shipwreck. Como recently launched its Coral Propagation Program, which allows guests to help protect and regrow the 1,000-plus species found around the resort by planting a coral frame.
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743, USA
The sweet smell of plumeria floats on gentle trade winds into each guest room at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. When entering the room, you may be surprised that floor-to-ceiling picture windows and a beautiful private lanai (patio) beckon you to step back outside—closer to the rhythmic surf and paradise in nature. In the hotel’s main building, each morning you can wake up to warm accent colors in your room that recall the previous evening’s sunset. Natural light fills the entire space and you can brew a lovely cup of Kona coffee before leaving your room to face the world. A 2009 remodel of the main building rooms along with a 2013 beachfront wing renovation enable guests to unwind in the comfort of updated interiors that still remain true to Laurance S. Rockefeller’s original vision.
Hoba Wawi, Wanokaka, West Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Founded by a surfer in search of the perfect wave, Nihiwatu is a model of sustainable luxury. The resort’s remote location on the jungle-edged coast of Sumba Island lures travelers looking for true escape and the hedonistic pleasures of private, candlelit dinners in a tree house and hikes to cliff-top spas. But it’s the cultural and community experiences that set Nihiwatu apart from other far-flung hotels. Sumbanese villagers make up 90 percent of the staff, and the resort contributes to the Sumba Foundation, which funds health clinics, water wells, and educational initiatives. Guests can observe island traditions, tour the projects, or volunteer at a school lunch program. From $900. This appeared in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue.
andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, 3936, South Africa
The landscape surrounding Phinda Private Game Reserve is totally different from what you’ll experience in Kruger, Madikwe, or the Kalahari. Here, moisture from the Indian Ocean breathes life into gently rolling hills; flat, grassy wetlands attract hippos, antelope, and far too many bird species to list; and dense forests house the Big Five and even cheetahs. The 25 rooms at &Beyond’s Phinda Rock Lodge sit atop a granite outcropping, overlooking these lush surroundings. No matter which one you’re in, you’ll feel as if you’re hovering high above the treetops and the valley below.

A stay at Phinda Rock Lodge is all-inclusive, complete with twice-daily safari drives, a Zulu village tour, bush walks, and other conservation experiences. Since the lodge is so close to the Indian Ocean, guests also have the unique opportunity to explore South Africa’s marine life. In the summer, you can join a nighttime excursion to watch leatherback and loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the beach, or go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore the coral reefs near Sodwana Bay. While Phinda is approximately a two-hour drive from Richards Bay Airport, Airlink flies direct from Nelspruit to the lodge’s private airstrip, making it easy to connect a safari in the Greater Kruger National Park with a visit to Phinda.
A mojito-making station, sunken bathtubs, and a private chef are just three of the perks on offer at Song Saa’s Royal Villa in Koh Rong, Cambodia. The two-bedroom overwater bungalow is located on the resort’s private island, where lodging includes only 24 rooms total.
Carretera Caimari-Mancor
One of Mallorca’s oldest converted fincas (rural farmhouse estates), Es Castell epitomizes the eco-conscious boutique hotels that are subverting the island’s conventional tourist image. From $175. C/Binibona s/n, 34/971-875-154 This appeared in the October 2014 issue. Tom Downey explored Mallorca beyond the beach and found...shoes? Read the full story here
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks