Best eco lodge vacations

The world is awakening to the benefits of an eco lodge. As we become more conscious of our surroundings and our impact on the planet, we want to experience hotels and vacations that reflect this new found ethos. 

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What is an eco lodge? 

Adventure holidays have long been about experiencing nature and natural surroundings (for some of us) and there is no better place to do this than Africa. This makes it the natural birthplace for eco lodges. 

When I still worked for a safari company, this type of holiday was the very definition of an eco lodge. A place that you could go that was deep in the wilderness, but with relative safety of experts and sometimes fences. Built using natural materials like wood. Buildings with low impact on the environment around them. Sometimes very low impact, under canvas without plumbing and electricity. Electric generators supplied many of them with power. Ingredients for diners were natural and sustainably sourced. Cooked over open fires or in rudimentary kitchens. Cleaning materials were likely a basic broom, brush and soap transported in with the guests. A microcosm of sustainable living

What do you do at an eco lodge?

What you do at an eco lodge depends on where the eco lodge is. A natural thing to do is to enjoy the natural surroundings and this differs by location. 

In Africa it would be walking or driving to see animals and plants. In Patagonia, tracking the Puma or multi-day treks. In Iceland it might be a relaxing view of the incredible landscape, the northern lights, or the geothermal plant that is right on the doorstep of Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel. Activities here range from walking on glaciers, caving, touring on snowmobiles, fishing and snorkeling. 

In Barbados, it is likely to be a combination of sea life, beach life including diving and snorkeling and forest animals. Similarly in Costa Rica, the rich wildlife and biodiversity and the incredible beaches and sea are likely to be your daily activities. Of course, in some eco lodges, the activities are about sustainable living, like in Dominica where you can spend the day learning about solar energy, wind power, hydroelectricity and organic farming practices.

What makes a good eco lodge? 

The principles that make a good eco lodge are the same as those that make a more sustainable home. The perfect eco lodge has:

  • clean energy supply, 
  • a low impact on the surrounding environment, 
  • uses sustainable building materials, 
  • stocks biodegradable toiletries 
  • aims to be plastic free, 
  • uses green cleaning products, 
  • has a good waste policy, etc. 

These are all things that you can learn about on this site. 

In addition, a good eco lodge has to have the best hotel standards and guest experience at heart. The best hotels have a great location, excellent customer interactions and efficient bookings, clean rooms and comfortable beds, delicious food and friendly helpful service from every staff member. They are part of a community and as a business, need to demonstrate their ethics in fair employment and fair trade. 

Eco lodge Patagonia

Probably the most famous eco lodge in Patagonia is Eco Camp. This eco lodge demonstrates what makes a great eco lodge in all aspects of the business. It is powered almost entirely by renewable energy with 75% hydroelectric and 20% solar power. You’ll need to digital detox on your visit as there is no WiFi and a no hairdryer policy might put some people off, but others will be grateful for the break. The domes have been constructed without any concrete, so they could be removed without any impact on the terrain. They are built on wooden platforms and walkways which prevent damage to local flora and soil erosion. Domes are heated using wood burners that are fired with recycled wood. The composting toilets save water, and the compost is used for soil regeneration. Toiletries in the showers and bathrooms are biodegradable. The wastewater is filtered and fed back into the environment, apart from kitchen water which is handled separately. The eco lodge staff separate waste and recycle as much as they can (especially because the nearest recycling point is hundreds of kilometers away!) The kitchens and bars use foods found in the local habitat. They also buy in food from a community of organic farmers, thereby supporting the local community. They sell fairly traded crafts and the eco lodge funds school educational visits and national park restoration. They also run programs to help less able travelers to visit the eco lodge, like Wheel the World. They carbon offset the remainder of their emissions and though they are not quite at zero emissions, their ethos is clear. In part this is due to the fact that they are close enough to see the effects of climate change on the national park and glaciers in Patagonia. We are impressed. 

Eco lodge Barbados

Eco Lifestyle & Lodge on Tent Bay in Barbados is a luxury experience as you would expect on Barbados. The eco lodge is run by New York Natives Kyle & Maryam who have renovated it to reflect their sustainable lifestyle. They are part of a local close knit community in Bathsheba. The eco lodge sustainable lifestyle includes solar energy and LED lighting. Food in the restaurant is farm to table, one of the only ones on the island. Recycling efforts include the furniture, glasses, waste baskets, etc. Over 90% of their single use plastic has been eliminated and innovations include bamboo straws from their own garden. Composting feeds local pigs and they have a medicinal and kitchen garden. Guest rooms benefit from an eclectic mix of pieces picked up during travels, upcycled wood furniture and organic toiletries. The eco lodge supplies reusable water bottles and homemade mosquito spray. They also stock coral-safe sunblock and surfing wax in their store. If your dream vacation is to swing in a hammock under the trees and watch the sun rise and set over the sea, this is the place for you. Ditto if you want to get out and explore, the team can help you book your tours and activities, including surfing the breaks like the Soup Bowl which is a favorite of world champion surfer Kelly Slater. 

Eco lodge Costa Rica

Pacuare Lodge is an eco lodge in Costa Rica, a country that has incredible biodiversity in its forests. Aventuras Naturales own this eco lodge and they have bought up parcels of pristine forest in order to conserve them so that they are not stripped for agriculture. These add up to 840 acres. The eco lodge’s other sustainability initiatives include clean hydroelectric and solar energy for lighting and hot water. Soap and shampoo are biodegradable and the wastewater is handled by a special septic tank system to stop it entering local groundwater. The lodge buildings were built with local timber from a reforestation project and thatched by local Cabécar Indians using traditional skills. This is very similar to many African safari lodges. The food is organic ‘as a rule’. The eco lodge staff and white water rafting guides are almost exclusively local residents. In addition to employment, the lodge also supports local communities with funding for schools. The best bit about Pacuare Lodge is the activities as being close to the Pacuare river, one of the world’s most scenic white water rivers. They offer white water rafting and canyoning. Being situated in the rainforest, they offer birdwatching and trips up into the tree canopy. A zipline can take you down to lunch. Food culture and cultural trips are also on offer and the eco lodge also provides spa treatments. 

Eco lodge Sri Lanka

The Rainforest Eco Lodge in Sinharaja, Sri Lanka is a unique property with chalets made out of recycled shipping containers on stilts above the tea that Sri Lanka is famous for producing. The interiors are decorated with local materials like bamboo and recycled railway sleepers. The scheme is the first in Sri Lanka to be awarded the LEEDS Platinum award for Sustainable Tourism by the U.S. Green Building Council. The Rainforest Eco Lodge supports a community of tea workers that had previously been marginalized and isolated on the Enselwatte Tea Estate bordering the Sinharaja rainforest reserve. Sinharaja is home to nearly half the mammal species found in Sri Lanka including the purple faced leaf monkey, forest elephants and cats like leopard and civet. Bird watching and trekking form the main activities or taking a dip in the natural pool. 

Best eco lodge roundup

The best eco lodge is one that is situated in an amazing landscape surrounded by nature and community but only impacting it in the best way possible. An eco lodge vacation is the perfect way to remind ourselves of just how incredible the planet we live on is, and how we can live comfortably without damaging our local environment. They also offer the opportunity to see animals on the edge of extinction and forests that are endangered and remind ourselves of why we want to live a sustainable life.