The ultimate guide to eco hotels in Latin America

From a tented camp hidden deep in the Costa Rican jungle to a sleek, ultra-modern hotel in Chilean Patagonia, Eco Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio combines luxury with impeccable eco credentials.

By Eco Hotels & Resorts
Published 19 Apr 2021, 09:22 BST, Updated 29 Jul 2021, 10:17 BST
Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, is renowned for its jutting peaks, gigantic icebergs ...

Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, is renowned for its jutting peaks, gigantic icebergs and rippling golden grasslands.

Photograph by Getty Images

Latin America’s luxury hotels are leagues ahead on sustainability. Why? Because often they’ve had to be. A remote, ends-of-the-earth location — deep in the Nicaraguan jungle, on the slopes of a Costa Rican volcano, or at the crinkle-cut end of Chilean Patagonia, say — is all well and good, but free-flowing water, regular food supplies and abundant electricity are not always guaranteed. When these hotels were built, conscious design came first, not later — as this sustainable, switched-on selection from Eco Hotels & Resorts reveals.

Olas Tulum is a boutique hotel of eight suites, where curved walls circulate air, and energy comes from solar power.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

1. Olas Tulum, Mexico
 

Olas Tulum proves that small-scale sustainability can make a big impact. What started in the 1970s as an energy-efficient home for Austrian naturalist and engineer Carlos Schober is now the oldest building on the beach — a bijou boutique hotel of eight suites, where curved walls circulate air, and solar power and rainwater harvesting ensure luxury remains light-touch. The hotel boasts platinum LEED status, too (awarded to buildings that lead the way in environmental design) and the chef sources produce from local farmers, fruit sellers and fishermen. Lazy days run from morning yoga sessions to afternoon massages and communal lunches, where conscious travellers gather to meet and eat. Doubles from $310 (£226), including breakfast. 
Don’t miss: A kayaking trip through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve to spot crocs and rare manatees — and learn about the fragile ecosystem.

Las Nubes de Holbox has an enviable north-coast location that’s primed for swimming with mantas.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

2. Las Nubes de Holbox, Mexico    
 

Isla Holbox is unlike any other island along Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Internet is patchy and electricity can disappear at a moment’s notice. Accordingly, many high-end hotels have shied away from the challenge. But not Las Nubes, which lays on three pools, a beach club, the Orquídea spa and a north-coast location that’s primed for swimming with mantas, bathing in bioluminescent bays, and watching the sunset — all while guarding the fragile environment via a state-of-the-art solar panel system and rainwater harvesting. A key cornerstone is the hotel’s ‘go green’ programme, which lets guests roll up their sleeves for regular beach cleans and more. Doubles from $249 (£180), room only. 
Don’t miss: Whale shark season runs from May until September, with the chance to swim alongside the world’s largest fish as they feast on plankton and krill.

Between every tent at Nayara Camp, indigenous bushes have been replanted to encourage Costa Rica’s wildlife to thrive.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

3. Nayara Tented Camp, Costa Rica
 

Costa Rica’s ethos of pura vida (‘pure life’) underpins the entire country, including its hotels. Canvas-covered hideaway Nayara Tented Camp, on the doorstep of Arenal volcano, is living proof that a life lived simply doesn’t have to lack in luxuries. Staff are hired from the surrounding area, food is sustainably and locally sourced, education, health and free transport are provided to local villagers and between the 21 stilted tents, indigenous bushes have been replanted to encourage Costa Rica’s wildlife to thrive; these include guarumo trees, to keep sleepy sloths happy. Within the tents, clever design harnesses natural sunlight and ventilation to minimise the need for air conditioning and heating, and water-saving fixtures go unnoticed (while making a big impact). Doubles from $1,017 (£737), including breakfast. 
Don’t miss: Naturalist guides showcase Costa Rica’s adventure capital via volcano hikes and whitewater rafting on the Sarapiquí River.

The wooden walkways at Nayara Springs weave past secluded, standalone villas and tropical gardens brimming with blue morpho butterflies.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

4. Nayara Springs
Costa Rica

Nayara’s adults-only offering is just a few minutes away from its tented sister, with an onsite sloth sanctuary in Arenal Natura Ecological Park. The luxuries and environmental approach are the same, but here, wooden walkways weave past secluded, standalone villas, where visitors coo over tropical gardens brimming with blue morpho butterflies and bathe in private, spring-fed plunge pools. Indeed, the whole grounds have been planted with nature-nurturing palms, cycads and heliconias, best witnessed at the free morning yoga sessions, taught in Nayara’s open-sided pavilion. By night, live bands light up Latin bistro AmorLoco, and fine-dining Mis Amores serves up ceviche and views of Arenal. Doubles from $847 (£615), including breakfast. 
Don’t miss: The hotel’s Lava Fields Walk, which takes you around Costa Rica’s cone-shaped stratovolcano, ticking off native flora and fauna. 

Morgan's Rock has planted hundreds of trees to guard against illegal logging and deforestation.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

5. Morgan’s Rock, Nicaragua
 

Nicaragua’s first luxury eco lodge still sets the gold standard today. Set in 4,000 wildlife-rich acres, bordered by the mile-long Playa Ocotal, the hotel helps to protect the endangered turtles that visit its sandy shores and counts howler monkeys, macaws and anteaters among its regular guests. Over the decades, Morgan's Rock has planted hundreds of trees to guard against illegal logging and deforestation, and helps defend the area against poaching, too. Solar panels are used to heat bath water, locals make up 90% of the staff, and rainwater is used to irrigate the hacienda’s fruit and vegetable gardens, which feeds back into the ocean-edge restaurant. Doubles from $576 (£418), half board.
Don’t miss: Visit the hotel’s hacienda to feast on a farm-fresh breakfast, meet the animals, master the art of tortilla-making and learn about organic farming. 

Tierra Patagonia sits in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, beside the cave-carved shoreline of Lago Sarmiento.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

6. Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile 
 

Way down south, in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia sits beside the cave-carved shoreline of Lago Sarmiento — the place to spot elusive pumas in the wild. As with all Tierra hotels, sustainability is no afterthought: the hotel is in the process of planting a kitchen garden to make pampas-to-plate meals a possibility and works with the Chilean Forestry Association on a reforestation project that aims to plant a million trees across Chilean Patagonia’s national parks. Indeed, it takes its environmental work so seriously that during the building process, vegetation was moved, placed in a greenhouse, nurtured and then replanted — a process that has reaped rewards in the shape of the guanacos, rheas and foxes that graze on the hotel’s grounds. Doubles from $3,900 (£2,827) for a three-night, all-inclusive stay. 
Don’t miss: Skirt the limestone edge of Lake Sarmiento with Tierra’s guides, keeping an eye out for Patagonian rheas and pumas. 

Tierra Chiloé blends perfectly into the Rilán Peninsula, with views across the Pullao Wetlands.

Photograph by Eco Hotels & Resorts

7. Tierra Chiloé Hotel & Spa, Chile
 

It’s as if Chile couldn’t quite cram all its drama into one contiguous country, so cannily created Chiloé. This 30-island archipelago lingers off the Los Lagos region, separated by mere miles, yet a world apart with moody black-sand beaches and millennia-old rainforest. By virtue of its location, Tierra Chiloé had to do things differently. Low-impact techniques and island materials were used to create its sleek design, with thermopanel windows that let light and heat in, and renewable biomass energy to keep things toasty. The result is a building that blends into the Rilán Peninsula, with views across the Pullao Wetlands, where the hotel plays a lead role in protecting Chilean flamingos and curlews. Local farmers supplement Tierra’s organic 50-acre plot, where some of Chiloé’s 300 potato varieties are grown. Doubles from $6,900 (£5,002) for a three-night, all-inclusive stay. 
Don’t miss: Explore the churches and craft markets of Chiloé capital Castro, home to the wooden stilt houses that inspired the hotel’s design.

Plan your trip
 

Eco Hotels & Resorts is a collection of 16 beautiful, sustainable hotels, found not only in Latin America, but in Spain, Tanzania and Zanzibar, too. 

For more information on how to book, go to ecohotelsandresorts.com

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