Sail along the River Amazon at 10 kilometres an hour, admiring the verdant tropical scenery of the planet's 'green lung'. Enjoy the natural peace and tranquillity as the sun sets over the Amazon jungle. Swim in this, the largest river in the world, find the tracks of animals such as the jaguar, meet the indigenous people... It all sounds very, very green, and even more so when you're staying at a houseboat hotel.
La Casa Navegante – the 'Sailing House' – on the Amazon River in Colombia, is, without a doubt, a fine example of a hotel that favours low-impact tourism and conservation of natural resources. But it's by no means the only one: more and more across the planet, the hotel world is going green and proving that ecology and comfort are not mutually exclusive.
If you favour a healthy lifestyle, prefer a smoke-free atmosphere, use natural cosmetics and beauty products, if you don't mind paying a little more for organic produce, and opt for traditional massage and therapies... if you recognise and appreciate the generosity of Mother Nature, we suggest a handful of hotels that should appeal to you. All with an 'environmentally-friendly' label:
Ecohabs Tayrona Park, Colombia
In the Tayrona Park, on the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia, the Ecohab accommodation is inspired by the indigenous houses of the pre-Columbian civilizations, but offers all the comforts of the twenty-first century; there are also cabins, hammock and camping areas. The coastline boasts coral reefs, pristine beaches and natural rock pools, and there is a huge variety of flora and fauna in the different ecosystems of the 180 square kilometres of park.
Punta Islita, Costa Rica
This luxury hotel located in Costa Rica's Guanacaste province comes complete with infinity pool and stunning ocean views. The resort comprises a group of open bungalows with thatched roofs, inspired by the architecture of the ancient native cultures. A range of outdoor activities are available in this fabulous natural setting.
Orchard Garden, San Francisco
Built to the standards laid out by the U.S. Green Building Council and located in the heart of San Francisco, the Orchard Garden offers a 'green' oasis for business travellers and tourists. In the boutique hotel's stylish bathrooms the products are all organic, and the Roots restaurant – named San Francisco's Best Organic Restaurant in 2009 – offers a fusion-style menu focused on locally-sourced products, naturally-raised meat and sustainably-caught seafood.
La Gree des Landes, La Gacilly, France
Inspired by the natural setting of the forests of La Gacilly, in Brittany, France, the cosmetics company Yves Rocher has recently opened this boutique eco-hotel and spa. The 29 ground floor rooms, the Botanical Beauty Spa, with pool, hammam, and various treatment rooms, the gourmet restaurant... everything here is run according to ecological principles.
Angsana Ihuru, Maldives
A real island paradise in the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean. The hotel architecture is based on local styles, and local staff are employed at this guest- and environment-friendly retreat. The resort sponsors marine environment research projects in an attempt to preserve the endangered reefs that surround the island.
Parador de El Saler, Valencia, Spain
Recently renovated throughout, the modern architecture of the El Saler parador – with glass a major design feature – respects the natural environment and ensures minimal impact on the local ecosystem of the Natural Park of La Albufera. The hotel boasts efficient sustainable energy, as well as one of the best 18-hole golf courses in the world.
Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
Luxury – and ecological – accommodation for lovers of trekking, located 1,800 metres above sea level, at the foot of the peak Jbel Toubkal, the highest in North Africa in a setting chosen by film directors such as Martin Scorsese. The hotel maintains a close relationship with the native Berber people, including hiring local staff, buying produce from local farmers, use of local transport...
In the historic Norfolk market town of Swaffham, this typical English country mansion has been converted into an exclusive family-run boutique hotel where luxury and respect for the environment go hand-in-hand. The restaurant offers organic food from local producers and Strattons is managed throughout with full ecological awareness. Within easy reach of the bird reserves along the north Norfolk coastline, it was the first hotel in the UK to win the prestigious Queen's Award for Industry for 'Outstanding Environmental Achievement'.
Puerto Campeche, Mexico
Set in the historic centre of the city of Campeche, a World Heritage Site in the Yucatan Peninsula, this typical hacienda blends the traditional Mexican lifestyle with modern luxuries. The seventeenth-century houses that make up the complex have been fully restored and tastefully decorated with deep colours and rich textures. The hotel is part of the Planeta Sostenible project for sustainable tourism, with initiatives focused on the development of Mayan communities, from sale of fair trade goods to organisation of craft workshops using local materials and techniques.