By Diane Small
Ethically and environmentally, the Caribbean has a mixed but generally dark history. Colonialism brought monoculture crops – namely sugar, but there was also some cotton, indigo, rice and coffee – which destroyed much of the indigenous flora and fauna, and as many know, slaves were brought in to farm those crops.
Eventually, colonialism ended and slavery was abolished, but the destruction of the land by monoculture farming practices took much longer to overcome. Mass tourism from the United States and investment by large hotel chains didn’t do much to improve the restoration of native species or improve the livelihoods of local people.
Today, however, many hotel owners are rethinking how they do business, and are planting organic farms, instigating wildlife conservation efforts and launching social programs to stimulate local businesses and economies.
Here’s a list of what we think are 5 of the Greenest Caribbean Hotels that are putting forth some of the strongest efforts towards making tourism on these beautiful islands more ethical and ecological.
Belle Mont Farm is a unique offering; not just because it’s an eco-hotel set amongst the glamour of the Caribbean, but because it deliberately set out to form a community amongst visitors and locals.
You’ll find the hotel nestled amongst 400 acres of organic farmland and tropical rainforest- or as the farm likes to describe it, “an edible landscape”. Belle Mont Farm prides itself on being able to provide guests with organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables, delivering them directly to the doorsteps of the luxury, boutique rooms each morning. As visitors explore the stunning surrounding grounds, they are greeted with ‘pick me signs’ hanging from the fruit trees, allowing guests to act as purveyors of their own snacks and even selecting what goes into their meals.
The farm itself is fully sustainable, and what cannot be produced on the land is sourced from other local farms that also commit themselves to managing resources responsibly. What I love most about the farm is how it couples the beauty of nature with indulgent luxuries, such as by offering outdoor rainwater showers as well as modern gadgets that turn your room into a cinema.
Chic, unencumbered and understated. These are three ways that you could describe the intimate surroundings of Mount Cinnamon.
Found in perfect partnership with the waves lapping at the shore, Mount Cinnamon is proud of fiercely protective of the paradisiacal location, having its own environmental and social sustainability policy in place. The sustainability of the hotel is clear throughout the entire location; many of the ingredients of the gourmet dishes served in its restaurants are grown on the resort, and all products used within the spa are natural and indigenous to the island (with an emphasis on cinnamon and nutmeg scents). In additon, the beach club only offers non-motorised water sports.
Mount Cinnamon has a variety of different accommodation possibilities, from poolside suites, luxurious private villas and even the decadent Azzura Castle – all of which are staffed solely by locals. The government of Grenada is keen to keep its land pristine and protected by encouraging investors in hotels to provide local economies with significant contributions. “In my mind, it is supremely important to give something tangible back to the local communities to help them to thrive long term”, explains Micha Rose Emmett from CS Global Partners.
Having previously been named as one of National Geographic’s, ‘Unique Lodges of the World’ – Rosalie Bay remains one of the most nature-centric resorts in the Caribbean, perfect for those who are passionate about wildlife conservation.
Officially marketed as an ‘eco-boutique and wellness resort’, it has a particular focus on some regular visitors to the island: turtles. The resort works closely with WIDECAST and has set up RoSTI – the Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative, a program that engages residents and guests to help in the recovery of sea turtles both on the island of Dominica and within the Caribbean more widely. Guests are able to learn more about Rosalie Bay’s conservation efforts, witness the turtles nesting and hatching, adopt endangered turtles and participate in the resorts efforts with regards to the conservation efforts.
The World Wildlife Organisation details just why sea turtles are so important: “Green turtles graze on seagrasses and algae, which maintains the seagrass beds and makes them more productive (much like mowing the lawn to keep it healthy). Seagrass consumed by green turtles is quickly digested and becomes available as recycled nutrients to the many species of plants and animals that live in the seagrass ecosystem. Seagrass beds also function as nurseries for several species of invertebrates and fish, many of which are of considerable value to commercial fisheries and therefore important to human food security.”
Along with this commendable contribution to local nature, Rosalie Bay is wind and solar powered and was built entirely by hand – a project that took more than 9 years. As if this wasn’t enough in the eco and ethical stakes, the hotel owners also work with the homeless organisation on the island, a group that works with abused youths and the local school literacy programme.
The resort also has a holistic approach to wellness, offering yoga each morning, fresh and healthy local cuisine and a spa that uses ingredients such as volcanic mud, papaya and coconut oil -all sourced locally.
Situated in eco-friendly area of Portland, hidden away behind 96 acres of tropical jungle foliage and banyan trees, you will find Kanopi House.
The buildings have been a labour of love, constructed using sustainable hardwoods and Kanopi House are quick to point-out that no trees were felled in the construction of the luxury tree houses. Instead, the design and layout of the buildings were adjusted so that they were accommodating to the natural landscape – in some cases the houses were literally constructed around the trees.
Kanopi House pride themselves on their ‘low impact luxury’ ethos; the interior of the elegant treehouses are decorated in a fusion of classic West Indian and colonial, and all of the furnishings have been created by local craftsmen; from baskets woven using banana leaf, wooden floors carved from Spanish Elm and linens – everything is crafted on the island.
Perhaps the element that the destination is most proud of is their ‘grey water’ system that has been processed using a lined reed bed.
As expected the traditional Jamaican cuisine is prepared lovingly using the freshest ingredients that are grown on Kanopi’s mountain garden or sourced locally; the chef also caters for vegetarians and vegans.
All of this eco elegance, in the setting of panoramic ocean views and listening to the sound of the waves on the secluded beach….there’s no other words to describe this scene other than ‘paradisiac’.
Eco-friendly? Check. Colonial charm? Check. A working plantation? Check. The Fond Doux Estate offers it all.
The 250 year old plantation was once condemned for demolition, but has since been painstakingly restored by hand – so as to not to disturb nature. It was transformed by traditional building techniques to become 15 unique, luxury cottages.
Similar to the other resorts covered, Fond Doux only offers local ingredients in its onsite restaurants and spa; it also has a number of nature trails adorned with native plants, 30 organically grown species of fruit trees and exotic birds.
Perhaps most exciting of all is the fact that tucked away within the cocoa groves, the plantation resort offers guests an opportunity to make chocolate, starting from the very beginning of the process (harvesting and drying cocoa beans) to grinding the beans and finally enjoying the end result: a melt-in-the-mouth bar of organic chocolate.
Angus Thirlwell, co-founder of Hotel Chocolat tells us why guests are so fond of this activity: “Cocoa is intensely addictive. The more you learn about it, the harder it becomes to throw any part of the bean away. As well as high levels of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, it contains chemicals with the ability to boost your mood and make you feel fantastic, inside and out.”
Working with local plantations, Hotel Chocolat has helped to transform this once dying industry. This idyllic getaway boasts a Green Globe certification for their commitment to the local environment, a Certificate of Excellence, and amongst a number of other awards, the hotel has been named as the Number 2 plantation retreat in the world by The Guardian newspaper.