Luxury and sustainability may at first seem an odd pair, but these innovative Thailand retreats are proving that going au naturel doesn’t necessarily mean dialling down the luxe-factor! And because there is nothing more stylish than eco-conscious travel, here are our top picks for a barefoot sumptuous stay that is as rewarding for the soul as it is the ecosystem!

137 Pillars House

CHIANG MAI

Mirroring the laid-back pace of Chiang Mai, 137 Pillars House offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the frenetic city. Lush green spaces complement spacious teakwood suites, complete with high ceilings, Thai-inspired decor, tropical outdoor bathrooms, sweeping patio terraces, and pristine garden or infinity pool views. Beyond the suites, beautifully manicured grounds encompassing a secluded infinity pool fringed by a cascading vertical plant wall, an onsite cooking school, gym, and plethora of specialty restaurants enchant the senses. A palatial library, luxurious wellness centre, and personalised butler service also add an air of luxury and decadence, but the real beauty of this award-winning retreat runs deeper than the aesthetics! Initiating green policies which include eliminating single-use products such as straws and plastic bags, making a conscious effort to use non-toxic chemicals and pesticides, growing organic fruit and vegetables for the restaurant, and sharing knowledge with the local community to broaden community awareness, the hotel also has a positive impact on the environment.

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Keemala

PHUKET

Known for its cocoon-like villas nestled amongst the canopies of the Keemala rainforest, there is a little more to this holistic retreat than first meets the eye. Whilst the unique lodgings speckled throughout the mountainside and rocky outcrops are eye-catching, the design serves an aesthetic and environmental function. As well as offering privacy, and awe-inspiring canopy views, lavish birds-nest-like pods entwined in the treetops make the most of the natural light, whilst canvas-covered tent-inspired hideaways hidden within the jungle floor offer an intimate space to reconnect with Mother Nature, and contribute to the preservation of existing ecosystems. Beyond the plush abodes, the resort’s holistic philosophy proposes healing spa rituals, nourishing home-grown cuisine, and an eco-friendly ethos meaning the only damage a stay at this luxe hideaway will do, is to your bank account (it’s totally worth it!).

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Soneva Kiri

KOH KOOD

Suspended within a tropical rainforest, on the sugar-white shores of an unspoiled beach, Soneva Kiri boasts a seamless blend of unparalleled-luxury and eco-friendly design. Sustainable wood villas and suites minimise the use of man-made materials, whilst earthy outdoor bathrooms take advantage of the natural light and surrounds, and details such as signature organic cotton bedding reduce the use of synthetic fibres. Following the same natural motto, the main restaurant, So Dining, utilises fresh produce from the organic vegetable gardens, creating a seasonally driven menu of Thai classics that are as wholesome as they are delicious! For those who are keen to take home a few eco tips, a tour of the Eco-Centro Waste-to-Wealth centre and organic vegetable garden includes advice in sustainability. On a larger scale, the Soneva Foundation has helped to provide energy to those in need in remote Myanmar, launched a coral restoration project to support the local marine life, and raised $5.5 million through a carbon levy to assist thousands in need.

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Jamahkiri Spa & Resort

KOH TAO

Nestled in the cliffside of Thian Og Bay on the south side of Koh Tao, the natural surrounds at this luxury resort are (almost) beautiful beyond belief! Exotic gardens, shimmering pools, and emerald Gulf Sea set the backdrop for a luxurious and unforgettable island experience. Whilst the dreamy location is a major drawcard, it has also posed some environmental challenges which Jamahkiri have overcome through a number of innovative and sustainable policies. Some of these include using a combination of pump and solar-powered water heating to reduce energy consumption, installing a “BioTech” waste system that produces garden-friendly material, operating a desalination plant that completely eliminates the use of limited groundwater resources, and actively organising regular beachfront and roadside clean ups that encourage the local community and willing guests to get involved. Despite much of this happening behind-the-scenes, guests seeking the ultimate barefoot luxury escape with a conscience will want to put this island-haven at the top of their list!

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Sarojin

KHAO LAK

Luxury, design and sustainability meet at this exclusive boutique resort. Praised for its decadent design which comprises 56 luxury guest residences, situated in seven separate two-storey buildings, each set within 10 acres of private tropical gardens and direct access onto an 11 km secluded white sand beach, the resort has also been spotlighted for helping the local area. Awarded runner up for the Community-Based Tourism section in the 2015 Thai Green Excellence Awards, the Sarojin Khao Lak Community Fund has contributed to a number of projects within the local area and community including medical provision for prosthetic limbs, child care and orphanage support, school classroom buildings and equipment, road building and street lighting, animal welfare and supporting a full time veterinary surgeon, landscape replanting and regeneration, and the building of a boatyard and longtail boat to help restore the local fishing fleet. In addition, guests are offered complimentary transfers to visit community projects supported by the fund so they can get a first-hand look into the wonderful work that is being done.

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Zeavola Resort & Spa

Koh Phi Phi

The popular tourist hotspot Koh Phi Phi often gets a bit of a bad rep when it comes to sustainability, but Zeavola Resort is one exception! Winning awards for its self-sufficiency – including the World’s Best Sustainable Boutique Hotel – and dedication to looking after the natural surrounds, this 5-star resort is the epitome of eco-conscious luxury. The use of earthy tones, locally-inspired furnishings, and a village-style setting create a refined yet rustic feel within the accommodation, whilst energy conservation systems, natural rainwater collection, waste composting, and regular beach and coral cleaning programs account for the resorts environmental footprint on a global scale. To top it off, Zeavola is engaged in money rescue, resettlement and first aid survival assistance for birds, which means guests can expect plenty of memorable wildlife interactions!

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Tongsai Bay

KOH SAMUI

Of the many resorts in Thailand boasting an eco-friendly approach, Tongsai Bay, on the picturesque island of Koh Samui, is among the best! Hidden amongst 28 and a half acres of lush vegetation and established in harmony with the environment, guests here are given the rare opportunity to experience the island’s rich surrounds and wildlife in its pure and natural state. In addition to being vastly beautiful, the resort, which was originally established with the aim of not cutting down a single tree, also maintains a strong passion for environmental conservation which it promotes through a number of self-established initiatives. Minimising waste, energy reduction, community involvement and education, and reducing the use of harmful chemicals are among some of the steps that assist in sustaining the beauty of this lush ‘green’ sanctuary! And it’s not just the environment that benefits, the pristine private beachfront, abundant native wildlife, farm-to-table fare, and fresh, sea air make for a hard-to-top stay for guests as well!

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Amari Watergate

BANGKOK

Located in Bangkok’s energetic Pratunam Quarter, this five-star property may look extravagant, but it has long been a top choice for high-end luxury done sustainably. Blending style and sustainability seamlessly, this chic, centrally located resort is the pick of the bunch for travellers who appreciate the finer things in life (but not at the cost of the environment). Whilst your luxury experience may start from the moment you step foot inside the grand lobby – complete with polished marble floors, cascading chandeliers, and sleek furnishings – eco-consciousness here also extends to the staff! Regularly trained to promote awareness of energy-saving strategies and environmental responsibility, you can expect more than your average check-in upon arrival here! In addition, the hotel supports several local and national initiatives, uses eco-friendly, biodegradable cleaning products, donates all food waste to those in need, and organises village cleaning days to promote awareness. While it might be the glamour of this luxury hotel that initially hooks you, it’s bound to be the feel-good focus of the hotel that wins you over!

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