Architectural gems so sleek or sophisticated, it's easy to forget that they're good for the environment.
1 Couran Cove Island Resort, Australia
THE LOOK Luxury beach condos with a mind for conservation.
GREEN FACTOR All 351 rooms on the sandy island are wired for conveniences such as refrigerators and Internet access, yet the hotel reaps planetary gains with the latest eco-gadgetry. Mosquitoes are lured away with patented UV traps. The property hired colorists to blend the buildings against the bottle-blue sky and tawny melaleucas. And the TV's let guests monitor their personal usage of water, gas, and electricity and the resulting greenhouse-gas emissions.
South Stradbroke Island, Queensland; 61-7/5597-9000; www.couran.com; doubles from $141, including some meals and activities (three-night minimum).
2 Ecolodge Shimanto, Japan
THE LOOK Ecotourism's answer to the Japanese bullet train.
GREEN FACTOR The lustrous concrete-and-glass walls and cantilevered photovoltaic panels lend an air of industrial chic to this 30-room retreat owned by a rail company. Hundred-year-old shipping barrels are used to collect rainwater, and the nature walkways are paved with old railroad ties. Guests can park their cabooses in one of the outdoor cast-iron hot baths or meditate alongside the aquamarine Shimanto River, one of the purest in Japan.
Shikoku Island, Kochi; 81-8803/31600; doubles from $220, including meals and spa access.
3 El Monte Sagrado Taos, New Mexico
THE LOOK Part desert oasis, part mad scientist's project.
GREEN FACTOR Tom Worrell's textured adobe-style villas are made of Gunnash, the ash from coal mines. Exotic fruits and organic herbs, grown in the hotel's "biolarium," show up (along with yak meat) on the spa menus conceived by Johnny Vinczencz, one of Florida's top young chefs. Although the 38 casitas have satellite TV and overstuffed couches, the (mostly) solar-powered sanctuary hints at the future of sustainable travel. If you're not convinced, consult the in-house psychic.
317 Kit Carson Rd., Taos; 505/758-3502; www.elmontesagrado.com; doubles from $300.
4 Hotelito Desconocido, Mexico
THE LOOK Twenty-nine thatched palafitos on a wildlife estuary between the Sierra Madre and the Pacific.
GREEN FACTOR Fireþies and tiki torches illuminate the paths to candlelit cabanas on stilts over a lagoon. Windmills pump water for spa treatments; organic produce is purified with herbal iodine. There are no phones (or any other electrical devices), but ordering a morning snackis as easy as raising a red flag from inside the room.
Playón de Mismaloya, 60 miles south of Puerto Vallarta; 800/851-1143 or 52-322/222-2526; www.hotelito.com; doubles from $230.
5 Pole Pole, Tanzania
THE LOOK Six bungalows with gauzy drapes and mahogany verandas.
GREEN FACTOR In Swahili, the name means "slowly, slowly," as if anyone needed a reminder of how to swing a hammock in this sumptuous hideaway on the Indian Ocean. Run by a young Italian couple (the bed linens are from Italy, too), the thatched bungalows have floors of tropical afrormosia wood and bathrooms with bidets. Worry not. Wastewater is treated in a phyto-purification system; hotel profits fund local education initiatives; and the resort launched the first recycling program in the 325,000-acre Mafia Island Marine Park, a protected coral reserve. Word is spreading quickly, quickly.
Mafia Island Marine Park; 255-22/260-1530; www.polepole.com; doubles from $320 (plus $20 park entrance fee), including all meals and activities.
6 Scandic Simonkenttä, Finland
THE LOOK A glass-and-steel tower with an emerald heart.
GREEN FACTOR Smack dab in the center of Helsinki, the new-millennium Simonkenttä is a gleaming example of what a big urban hotel can do for the environment. The 360 rooms incorporate earth-friendly materials throughout, from the parquet þoors made of specially cultivated Nordic trees to recycled rubber trash bins to organic bath products.
9 Simonkatu, Helsinki; 358-9/68380; www.scandic-hotels.com; doubles from $135, including breakfast.
7 Shompole, Kenya
THE LOOK A Masai masterpiece: pale thatch, private plunge pools, and fig-wood furnishings.
GREEN FACTOR Shompole seamlessly blends understated luxury and responsibility in its six soaring tent structures with their river-rock walls, in-room springs, and 180-degree big-game views. The natural fuelheated showers and composting toilets are impressive, but the real revolution is Shompole's partnership with the Masai community, which is training more than 40 tribespeople to assume majority ownership within 15 years.
22 miles southwest of Magadi; 254-2/884-135; www.shompole.com; doubles from $660 (plus a conservation fee of $20 a person per night), including all meals and activities.
Places where the primary emphasis is on protecting and conserving the flora and fauna.
8 Birch Pond Lodge, Alaska
THE SETTING Tucked away on 100 acres of paper birch and spruce forests, with views to Mount McKinley.
GREEN FACTOR The new Beaver Lodge was fashioned from trees felled by spruce-bark beetles. Fortunately, the logs are solid enough to keep in the cozy heat and keep out the nosy moose (not to mention the otters, lynx, loons, beavers, bald eagles, and grizzly bears). But the thrills here tend to be human-powered, including hand-cranking fresh ice cream and tapping the birches for the morning syrup.
Willow; 866/495-3820 or 907/495-3000; www.birchpondlodge.com; doubles from $440, including all meals and activities.
9 Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, South Africa
THE SETTING 18,000 acres in the foothills of the Cedar Mountains.
GREEN FACTOR When Bill McAdam purchased the vast tract of wilderness in 1991, the property was a virtual wasteland of overgrazed veld. Today, the Kloof blooms with 800 tree and plant species, down to rarities like the Clanwilliam cedar. Threatened wildlife has come thundering back, too, including red hartebeests, black wildebeests, bontebok, aardwolves, 150 rare birds, and one of the largest private herds of endangered Cape mountain zebras in the world. More than 130 ancient rock-art sites dating back 10,000 years are also safeguarded in their natural environment. After a day in the wild, it's nice to know that the 16-room Relais & Châteaux lodge has hand-sewn bed linens.
28 miles north of Clanwilliam; 800/735-2478 or 27-21/797-0990; www.bushmanskloof.co.za; doubles from $426, including all meals and activities.
10 Canopy Tower, Panama
THE SETTING Up among the howler monkeys and sloths on a verdant hill 630 feet above the Panama Canal.
GREEN FACTOR The geotangent dome emerges from the jungle canopy like a single-scoop ice cream cone on an endless summer lawn. The view is the cherry on top, as birds of every beak and bill (an astonishing 380 species, more than half of what's found in all of North America) perch in the nearby fig and palm trees. Of the 12 simple rooms down below, the best nest is the Blue Cotinga Suite, with its diaphanous canopy bed, plantation wood furniture, and outdoor veranda swing. Almost makes you forget that the showers are water-saving.
Gamboa, 25 miles north of Panama City; 800/854-2597 or 011-507/264-5720; www.canopytower.com; doubles from $250, including all meals and forest tours.
11 Concordia Eco-Tents, U.S. Virgin Islands
THE SETTING On a cliff above some of the finest snorkeling in the Caribbean.
GREEN FACTOR When Bronx-born engineer Stanley Selengut first welcomed guests to Maho Bay in November 1976, his 14 tents had the sort of canvas-and-cot ambience only a National Guardsman could love. These days, the resort's eco-centric founder, now 74, commandeers a kingdom of 125 space-age structures that epitomize off-the-grid R&R. Concordia, gently tucked into a hillside of palms that fronts the beach, has solar showers, translucent walls, heat-repelling roofs, futon beds, refrigerators, and an owner with enough Bronx moxie to power a small island nation.
2027 Estate Concordia, St. John; 800/392-9004; www.mahobay.com; doubles from $85.
12 Luna Lodge, Costa Rica
THE SETTING Teetering over the virgin Osa Peninsula rain forest.
GREEN FACTOR Owned by American expatriate Lana Wedmore, Luna has all the emerald-legged, furry-tailed, rufþe-feathered wildlife thrills—without the mania of toucan cams and laser lizard-finders. Prepare to share a trail with sloths, tapirs, kinkajous, anteaters, spider monkeys, and the occasional jaguar. Not natural enough?The eight stylish bungalows all have private tropical gardens.
Carate, Osa Peninsula; 888/409-8448 or 011-506/380-5036; www.lunalodge.com; doubles from $250, including all meals.