Eco-resorts come in so many different shapes and sizes. On one hand, you might end up in a tent or a cabin that reminds you of the place you stayed when you went to summer camp as a child. On the other hand, you could find yourself in a luxury hotel that is set in a natural location. Sometimes a luxury eco-resort does little more than offer its guests views of the surroundings. The best high-end nature-themed properties, however, provide all the wilderness adventure their guests can handle, while giving them access to endless pampering and upscale experiences at the same time.
Obviously, these "best of both worlds" venues are the perfect places to stay if you want adventure without foregoing comfort. When choosing an eco-resort, there are certain things that you should consider. Yes, location is important, but so is the menu of services and the resort's willingness to take you out into nature (rather than just letting you see if from afar). At the same time, you don't want to end up in a resort that looks nice on the outside, but lacks the luxury services that its appearance hints at.
Here are some questions to ask when searching for the perfect luxury eco-resort.
Does the resort live up to its theme?
Eco-resorts often advertise themselves according to a certain theme. For example, The Serai, near the colorful Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer, has the image of a classic safari camp. It seems like the kind of place that India's rajas would have stayed at a century ago. Of course, these kings of old would have been pampered to no end. The Serai lives up to its royal-safari-camp image with amazing services such as gourmet meals served in private corners of the camp. You should always look at the services that a resort provides to make certain that it is not a cheap imitation of the real thing.
Where is the resort really located?
Some eco-resorts might have garden-like grounds, but once you leave the property, there is little nature to be found. Nayara Springs is a resort that is right next to the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. It is in the middle of a national park that features virgin rain forests. You can actually see the volcano from the deck of your private villa (and from the private plunge pool that sits right off that deck). Make sure that your eco-resort is inside a national park, protected area or game preserve.
Look beyond the eco-resorts that are traditionally popular in a certain destination
Ok, that's not a question, but it points out a very important thing to consider. Eco-resorts are not just about jungles, safaris or mountains. At some of Africa's best eco-resorts, the goal is not to get pictures of all of the Big Five. Take Azura Quilalea, for example. Located off the coast of Mozambique, this African eco-resort brings guests something different. It is a private island with amazing beaches and beautiful open-air villas with African-chic decor. The private island setting is ideal for exploring on land and in the teeming waters. Quilalea is part luxury beach resort, part diving destination and part hip eco-resort. This is a new generation of African eco-resorts that are focused on giving guests unique experiences in beautiful settings. A vacation at a place like this is nothing like a classic safari, but in generations to come, this kind of hip luxury holiday might be considered a quintessential African travel experience.
Will it be crowded?
The best eco-resorts give you a great deal of privacy. Having too many guests crowded in a lodge may bring back those summer camp memories. You are taking a nature-themed vacation to immerse yourself in nature, not to party with other guests or socialize all day. Worthwile luxury eco-resorts will have private villas or suites, and they will have a limited number of them. Casa na Areia, about an hour from the heart of Lisbon, Portugal, is a great example of how much size matters when it comes to eco-resorts. It has only four cottages, each one set on a "beach" near a river. Nearby farmlands provide the natural setting, while the pool and delicious food provide the comfort.
Have you ever experienced the mixture of pampering and adventure that a luxury eco-resort can provide? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section.