The glossy magazine image of a honeymoon in Asia often focuses on a pristine beach looking towards a turquoise horizon, with only you and your newly-wed leaving footprints in the sand. While that has plenty of appeal – we daydream of those beaches too! - it’s not the only possibility out there. The increasing number of hotels combining distinctive experiences with an ecological, community-focused ethos make interesting, ‘outside-the-box’ honeymoon options. From falling asleep to the sounds of the Sri Lankan wilderness to having breakfast with elephants, we’ve picked a few of our favourite alternative honeymoon hotels that have sustainability at heart.
The handful of traditional wooden villas at Muang La Resort have become secluded havens where you can cosy up and enjoy time together. There’s no TV, phone or internet in the guest rooms, so you are fully immersed in the natural tranquillity of northern Laos. Building materials, fabrics and produce for the restaurant are sourced from the local area, and there’s a strong sense of community with the nearby villages. Honeymooners can enjoy private dinners in the sala, romantic scented saunas, and blissful soaks in the thermal springs. You can socialise with the locals, who still access the thermal pools thanks to the resort’ determination to safeguard the ancient rights of way, and learn about the hotel’s inspiring projects focused on supporting and preserving the customs and community of this remote region.
Camping might not immediately spring to mind as a luxury honeymoon option, but the lodgings at the Mahoora Safari Camps around Sri Lanka’s National Parks are no ordinary tents. Full-sized beds, hot showers and comfy living areas are all included in these deceptively spacious canvas suites where you can fall asleep together under the stars. A trained guide is on hand to lead you on wildlife treks through the wilderness, and the exceptional quality of the meals prepared upon your return keeps clients coming back here again and again. Your tent is pitched in preparation for your arrival and packed down as soon as your stay is over, minimising the project’s environmental impact in keeping with their carbon neutral ideals. All that remains is for you to decide which National Park you want to head to first!
Staying in Sri Lanka, the stylish Heritance Kandalama approaches the idea of eco-luxury from a different direction. Designed by the renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa, the sleek, modern lines of this hotel blend seamlessly with the hillside vegetation, ensuring there is nothing to detract from the area’s natural beauty. Climbing plants have been encouraged to grow up the supporting walls of the hotel, creating an unobtrusive fusion of natural and man-made structures that sits lightly in the landscape. Once inside, you find yourself in the ultimate showcase of elegant contemporary style – quite a contrast to the overgrown exterior! Indulge yourselves with a few blissful spa treatments, or relax in the lakeside infinity pool, before hand-picking your dinner from the organic garden to be eaten on the terrace or even by flickering candlelight in the resort’s atmospheric cave.
Using renovated Javanese bridal houses and sustainable bamboo, the founders of Bambu Indah have created a fairy-tale landscape of quirky cottages hidden within the Ubud jungle which are ideal for total honeymoon seclusion. Originally set up as a private venture for family and friends, the owners have now opened up this responsible living project so that you can experience their unique combination of sustainable living with home comforts, in your choice of the cottages. From the calming all-over blue of Bira House to the glass floors of Udang House (which allow you to see through to the pond below) they all have their unique character. Take a relaxing dip in one of the chlorine-free natural-style pools, enjoy a private dinner with panoramic views, or make beautiful music together… on the resort’s sound architecture harp, we mean!
Experience a little animal magic at Elephant Hills, Thailand For many of us, the best bits of travel are the unusual experiences which leave behind enduring memories. What better way to celebrate the next chapter of your life together than by doing something out of the ordinary to anchor that happy honeymoon feeling? Elephant Hills in Khao Sok is world-famous for its award-winning elephant conservation and sustainability projects, which they combine with a surprising level of luxury accommodation. Wake with the rising sun in a high-end glamping pod, complete with plush beds and stylish en-suites, and enjoy breakfast in the fresh morning air. Alternatively, stay in a secluded floating cabin on Cheow Lan Lake with the romantic backdrop of the water-birds taking flight at sunset. Either way, your days can be spent being inspired by the rescued elephants; bathing and feeding them, and watching them play.
The Shinta Mani is a leading example of a hotel using its tourism profile and luxury status to give something back to the local community. On the face of it this is simply a high-quality resort of chic suites, spa treatments, cocktails and fine cuisine. Guests can enjoy day-bed dining in the Kroya restaurant, therapeutic massage and relaxing dips in the pool after exploring the nearby Angkor temples. So far, so typical honeymoon. However, in addition to the high standard of facilities for their guests, behind the scenes is a core of sustainability ensuring a high standard of social responsibility too. The resort’s organic farming project models how to grow healthy and robust crops for the local area, and they help maintain the infrastructure in the surrounding villages by building homes, digging wells and celebrating traditional customs.
Striking a balance between bringing visitors to fall in love with Bali’s unique natural landscape, which helps to ensure its continued protection, and leaving the fragile ecosystems unaffected by human presence can be difficult, but projects like the Plataran Menjangan Resort are rising to the challenge. Set on a remote stretch of coastline in West Bali National Park, this assortment of secluded villas looks out towards the reef and the ocean beyond. Sheltered from view by the abundant jungle greenery, each villa is a spacious oasis where couples can hide away and relish their honeymoon bubble. Alongside enjoying the luxury facilities, guests are encouraged to get involved with the resort’s comprehensive conservation and sustainability projects such as the endemic tree planting scheme, the starling sanctuary, and the wide ranging on-site conservation research.
Remember those impossibly-perfect golden sands and crystal seas we mentioned at the start? Well, here they are! There’s no reason why traditional tropical luxury and eco-sustainability can’t go hand in hand, and the Six Senses Con Dao displays that marriage perfectly. The bay surrounding Con Dao Island forms a major marine habitat for endangered turtles and dugongs, and the resort is working in partnership with the National Park to make it an officially protected area. They also fund education programmes for local schools and Turtle Club swimming lessons to increase swimming confidence in the coastal population. Back at the resort, you can witness the conservation up-close during turtle hatching season, dine on local delicacies at romantic private beach picnics, rejuvenate at the spa and, of course, walk hand-in-hand along that idyllic shoreline.
Often cited as one of Thailand’s top eco-resorts, the Six Senses Yao Noi sets a high bar for combining luxury and sustainability. On the site of a former rubber plantation, the resort has allowed many of the remaining rubber trees to grow and thrive which has preserved the soil structure and laid the foundations for the reintroduction of endemic flora. They are well on the way to bringing the eco-system back to a state prior to human intervention. Take a walk in the dappled shade along a specially-built mangrove walkway and you’ll spot many native birds, such as Hornbills, that are returning to the area. Soak in your own private pool, bask undisturbed on a sun-lounger looking out across the Phang Na Bay archipelago, and indulge in the Six Senses’ famous spa treatments. Arrange a candlelit dinner at the Hilltop Reserve to complete your perfect honeymoon.
Since its inception in 2011, Song Saa has become one of the most celebrated resorts in Cambodia, even worldwide, and with good reason. Surrounding a tiny islet in the Koh Rong archipelago, everything about Song Saa is built upon achieving the highest standards. The villas are simply beautiful, exemplifying the epitome of contemporary architecture and style. Overwater bungalows connect to the shore with separate walkways which allow honeymooners to enjoy blissful seclusion while still being close to the facilities. The founders are passionate about sustainability, and they talk the talk as well as walking the walk, speaking at global summits and establishing marine reserves among other achievements. They then bring that passion and expertise to the resort where everything is run to minimise environmental impact. This really is the gold standard in sustainable luxury.
Borneo Rainforest Lodge Deep in the Sabah rainforests, the award-winning Rainforest Lodge achieves a gentle balance between luxury accommodation and being in touch with the natural surroundings. Wooden chalets raised on stilts put you right up among the foliage and the resort’s unique rainforest walkways let you wander through the jungle canopy where, if you’re lucky, you might spy orangutan or two. With their eye firmly on conservation and responsible tourism, the resort takes every step to minimise its environmental footprint including reducing energy consumption, recycling waste, supporting the local economy and funding orangutan conservation. Soaking in a private hot tub on your terrace, you can enjoy the seclusion, stillness and soothing songs of the rainforest as you learn about the resort’s work preserving this precious ecosystem.
Perched on two hilltops overlooking the Sapa Valley, the Topas Eco Lodge has 360˚ views over the undulating terrain of this remote region of Vietnam. Within the modest-looking, thatched cottages are cosy interiors sympathetically furnished with warm wood, cool tiles and natural fibres. Stripping back the clutter leaves a calm and open space where you and your newly-wed can simply enjoy undisturbed time together. Taste traditional Vietnamese cuisine, cosy up in the alpine-style lounge and soak away the trekking aches in a traditional herbal bath. And it doesn’t just look the part – this ecolodge puts its money where its mouth is. Working closely with the local population, they have created a best-practice showcase for sustainable tourism by creating shared resources, running education projects and passing on the benefits of their work to the community.