A Quartet of Sumptuous Green Globe Getaways
Champions of the environment, four Caribbean resorts spearhead a new era of luxury tourism with more than just a hint of green.
Words by Juliet Austin.
Blending environmental responsiveness with an authentic, upscale vacation experience, a handful of forward-thinking resorts are putting money where their mouths are and announcing for all and sundry that the buck stops here. Emerging fresh from the ashes of decades of ‘slash and burn’ tourism, these ‘placemakers’ not only recognise the dollars and sense of minimising their carbon footprint, but also of living up to their collective responsibilities as custodians of the Earth. Highly attuned to the innate sustainability and sensitivity of their surroundings, they show how integrating green technologies and supporting community initiatives creates the sort of paradise demanded by a new breed of environmentally savvy clients; ones who desire only to take memories and leave footprints in the sand.
A view with a room in St Lucia
Located in the port town of Soufrière on the southern end of this island paradise of soaring volcanic peaks, teeming rainforests and crystalline waters, Ladera surveys the unspeakably beautiful vista from its breathtaking mountainside elevation. Perched 1100 feet above sea level on a forest ridge within St Lucia’s famed UNESCO World Heritage site, Ladera’s list of stellar environmental credentials is impressive. Garnering a host of prestigious awards including Condé Nast Traveler’s Best Hotel in the World, the Green Globe certified resort’s “hopelessly romantic” property offers guest the ultimate in idyllic tree-house living and luxury eco-chic.
Formerly part of Rabot Estate, one of the town’s oldest cocoa plantations, Ladera’s progressive earth-friendly stance has been evident from the get-go when it first opened its doors in November 1992. Featuring a clutch of six luxuriant villas and twenty-six sybaritic suites set against the iconic backdrop of the dramatic Petit and Gros Pitons, Ladera is the brainchild of late American architect, John DiPol. Pioneering its “view with a room” eco-lodge style, the resort boasts a profusion of natural wood, stone, locally made tiles and other St Lucian artisan touches that work, “in perfect harmony” with the surroundings.
A paragon of privacy and seclusion, masterfully oriented hilltop suites offer an ingeniously off-the-wall design coup: with no westerly fourth wall, nothing inhibits the magnificent spectacle of a sun setting just for you. “We have a number of measures in place to ensure that we are preserving the sublime, yet sensitive, environment in which the resort is located. For us, it’s about being authentic and responsible and extending that experience to each and every guest,” explains Holly Scott, the Owner Representative. Energy conscious measures include solar-powered hot water showers and private plunge pools, low wattage bulbs and energy efficient floodlights on dimmers. Also close to its heart, the resort participates in green programmes and community projects such as the adoption of the nearby Les Etangs Primary School.
Cooled by natural tradewinds and accompanied by the rhythms of the rainforest, rooms come free of distractions. While every modern convenience is available, there is a notable absence of telephones, televisions and other contraptions – a gentle reminder that contact with the outside world is purely optional. Instead expect to find your own personal Necessaire Kit complete with binoculars, eye mask, slippers and a constellation chart for nights of unobstructed stargazing. Handmade fourposter beds, nineteenth-century French colonial and wicker furnishings and a smattering of charming visual surprises such as the quirky, decorative mosaics adorn the resort giving it a stamp of “sumptuous authenticity.”
Add to this Dasheene, its awardwinning restaurant serving fresh, organic farm-to-table cuisine flavoured with indigenous, island-grown herbs and spices and the Ti Kai Posé Spa (translated from local patois as ‘Little House of Rest’) a haven of restoration and renewal, and it is easy to see why Ladera is on top of the world. Simply put: respect for the environment is as deeply ingrained in this special place as the desire to serve guests the ultimate Caribbean dream. “The Green Globe certification helps underscore our commitment with a seal of approval that shows we meet important standards,” states Scott, “but Ladera was an ecoresort before anyone knew what that was… Being respectful of the majestic environment, in every way informs who we are and the authentic experience that draws guests to us. It is in our DNA.”
Rocks the Eco-vibe in Jamaica
Jamaica’s Rockhouse Hotel covers all the requisites for a luxury boutique resort: stretching across the rugged cliff tops of Pristine Bay, Negril, on the westernmost point of the island, suspension bridges and stone carved steps lead down to magical hidden grottos and ancient limestone alcoves; sumptuous thatch-roofed cottages with private sunbathing decks nestle amid eight acres of tropical rainforest gardens and, a sixty-foot freshwater pool, chiselled out of rock at the cliff edge, is a surreal oasis merging into sea and sky - witness to some of the most breathtaking sunsets imaginable. It is, without question, the quintessential Caribbean retreat, so deeply reflective of the “rich and fabled” land in which it resides. Little wonder so many have fallen under its spell. Yet, despite its bohemian allure, its storied past and insanely chilled out charm, Rockhouse is more than just its beautiful façade, vibrant colours and raw perspectives. Here, guests are ‘local on arrival,’ and offered a rare chance not only to feel good but to do good.
Steadfastly operating to the world’s highest environmental standards, the resort began developing a propertywide Environmental Management System to minimise the impact of its operations on physical and social environments five years after its inception in 1994. Having achieved prestigious Green Globe Benchmarked status in 2008, the Jamaican Gleaner applauded its, “Unwavering philosophy of giving back to the community and the country which [had] facilitated its great success.” Lead by its Green Globe Coordinator and a trained Green Team, ongoing environmental efforts underscore a commitment, “to touching the earth lightly,” with a host of exemplary green initiatives devised in partnership with a global environmental management company.
Sited by Patricia Schults as, “One of the thousand places to see before you die,” Rockhouse’s style-sensitive design seamlessly fuses an architecture of minimalist geometry with the undulating natural contours of rock and cliff face to create the illusion of having emerged directly from its natural surroundings. Fashioned out of dressed and polished locally crafted timber, rough-hewn stone and thatch, the resort’s spaces exist symbiotically with the environment. Inside, accommodations are funky luxe featuring four-poster beds and whimsical showers open to the skies – a feast to the eyes of design mavens the world over. The recipient of numerous celebrated awards and accolades, Rockhouse is proof in the pudding that what is on offer here is the best of the best. Proof also that the altruistic tourism product is in high demand in the twenty-first century marketplace.
While nurturing the senses is high on the agenda, Rockhouse is about body and soul. One day, guests may opt for the classic or New Jamaican cuisine on offer at any one of three on-site restaurants or subject themselves to a sublime massage on the sheer limestone cliffs overlooking the churning cerulean seas. The next, they may visit the Negril Basic School or Library, just two of many community projects sponsored by the hotel. In fact, all who cross the threshold are invited to get caught up on the riptide of environmental and social consciousness pervading every aspect of the resort’s operations from its linen reuse programme to its monitoring of energy and water consumption.
Here solar power rules and compact fluorescent light bulbs reign supreme; here water saving appliances are the order of the day and composting is par for the course. This is a place where power tools are silenced and hand tools give wings to the voice of nature; where old plants propagate new seedlings and purchasing is driven by biodegradable and local products – just because, it is the right thing to do. Living out a credo of authenticity, brotherhood and goodwill, Rockhouse champions the luxury eco-vibe like the rock star it is.
Antigua's Caribbean Classic in a Billionaire's Playground
In 1784, Admiral Horatio Nelson established Britain’s most important Caribbean base on Antigua. With its complex coastline and wealth of safe harbours and inlets, it made the perfect hideout for British naval fleets during the European battles for supremacy of the eighteenth century. Years later, celebrities of the calibre of talk-show host and media goddess Oprah Winfrey, rock legend Eric Clapton and fashion guru Giorgio Armani continue to take winter refuge in resplendent hillside estates and sumptuous seaside mansions followed by a throng of fellow sun-worshipers and peace-seekers all held in the spell of Antigua’s sleepy bays, sapphire oceans and outrageously pretty beaches. And so is the story of late American horticulturist, Howard Hulford, original founder of the Eastern Caribbean island’s oldest and most revered resort, Curtain Bluff.
Situated on a rocky headland on the southern tip of Antigua’s intricate shores, the luxury all-inclusive resort has had five decades of “getting it right,” including garnering Green Globe certification as early as 2005. Offering an irresistible setting of surf and turf, Curtain Bluff’s rambling 20-acre tropical estate is bolstered by two spectacular beaches – the dramatic Atlantic surf side and the picture-perfect Caribbean. With worldwithout- end views of faroff Guadalupe and Monserrat, its distant smoke plume snaking into the heavens, Curtain Bluff stands as a proud testament to the coexistence of Man and Nature. Successfully fulfilling stringent environmental criteria, the resort pairs thoughtful eco-conscious management with discreet, serviceoriented hospitality, a magic formula given credence by its enviable 65% repeat clientele.
Still family-owned and operated, Curtain Bluff’s seventy-two rooms and suites possess a refined glamour and magical timelessness combined with “gaze-all-day” views and in-the-blink-ofan- eye access to mesmerising powdery sands. Dotted along the beach and scaling the rocky bluff, white stone staircases lined with latticework and overflowing with tropical vines and brilliant hibiscus blooms, lead to accommodations characterised by exotic wood furnishings, hammock-slung terraces, coffered raw wood ceilings and louvered windows – perfect for admitting the cooling breezes sweeping in across the ocean.
No question about it: Curtain Bluff knows how to live the high life. Amid gardens boasting eighty varieties of palms and just feet from the sea, perches a new 5,000 square foot spa, complete with infinity plunge pool, caviar and pearl facials and champagne drawn from the legendary 25,000 bottle wine cellar. World-class gourmet cuisine features a fusion of indigenous Caribbean flavours from fish plucked fresh from the sea, seasonal local herbs and spices to an exotic smorgasbord of fruits – papaya, mango, passion fruit and pineapple – all purchased from local farms and markets. Evoking nostalgia for a bygone era of travel and exploration, guests are encouraged to change for dinner and enjoy cocktails on the deck at sunset. How many more times, you may well ask, can one resort make the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List for excellence? Interesting to note then, that all this is underscored by a myriad of green initiatives.
While guests forget the world, languishing under the spreading Tamarind tree or practising the fine art of somnolence beside the lapping tides, a garbage compactor is hard at work disposing of waste and reducing landfill contributions; a Membrane Bio-Reactor is filtering wastewater efficiently and fresh drinking water is in the process of being created from seawater via an ingenious system of reverse osmosis. Avoiding the use of harsh chemicals, salt chlorinates the pool and environmentally friendly cleaning products are used throughout the resort. And for those who feel the need for airconditioning – rest assured, the R410A system keeps noise pollution and energy consumption to a minimum.
Add to this, Curtain Bluff’s commitment to cultivating not only plants and seedlings, but also the local Old Road village community from which it employs 99% of its staff, and it is clear that the principles guiding this green dream run far deeper than the oceans that surround it: a Caribbean classic with fifty years’ experience getting it right.
SOUTHERN CROSS CLUB
A Change in L'attitude in Little Cayman
Established in 1958 when the tiny island – the smallest in the trio of Cayman Islands – boasted a total population of just twelve people, Southern Cross Club is living proof of the local adage that in Little Cayman, “time stands still.” Luring divers, solitude seekers, fishermen and daydreamers to its sunblessed shores and “Seas of palest emerald merging to darkest blue,” the unique and charming fish and dive resort stands on the cusp of arguably the deepest and most dramatic sheer wall drop-off in the world, the Holy Grail of the dive world: Bloody Bay Wall. If its legendary plummeting depths are a portal into the mysterious and enticing underwater world, then Southern Cross Club must surely play the role of gatekeeper to one of the last unspoilt paradises on earth.
With just twelve beach bungalows spanning a mesmerising nine hundred foot stretch of picture perfect beachfront, guests may well wonder what heavenly stroke of fate brought them to this nirvana where native rock iguanas and rare birds still outnumber humans. Named after a constellation of stars that form a visible cross in the spectacular night skies – a sort of celestial treasure map of sorts – X marks the spot of a sublime tropical hideaway: a green dream of a place where untouched beaches, tranquil lagoons and a hammock with your name on it lie at your beck and call, typifying a wild Caribbean that has all but been forgotten. At Southern Cross, custodianship of the dynamic island ecosystem – that wild Caribbean – is pivotal to its identity as an eco-friendly resort on the lookout to minimise it global footprint in the sand.
Green Globe Certified since 2009, the resort closely monitors waste, weighing its garbage and using organic matter from the kitchens to provide nutrient-rich soil for the kitchen garden which is, in turn, watered using grey water collected from the guest cottages. Energy efficiency, use of recycled plastics and water conservation are encouraged at all times with a solar water heater providing hot water to all accommodations. Chairman of the Central Caribbean Research Institute (CCMI) located on the island, owner, Peter Hillenbrandt is passionate about exploring renewable energy designs and educating about environmental awareness, working in conjunction with the institute to launch its 2009 Preserve Our Planet campaign. “It’s a no-brainer,” he states, matter-of-factly. “We have a responsibility to protect our pristine environment.”
With its signature casual sophistication and barefoot elegance, Southern Cross Club is a remote but easily accessible destination for tropical travelers, and has become a mecca for those seeking the ultimate luxury chill-out zone sans pretence. Despite being located on an island so small that it rarely ever makes it onto the maps of the Caribbean, it has garnered international recognition as one of the top-rated dive resorts in the world by the likes of Condé Nast Traveler Magazine and documentary film maker, Philippe Cousteau.
With its thoughtful, low-density layout, unimpeded ocean views and unaffected hospitality, each cottage is unique in design featuring vibrant, island colours and exotic fabrics paired with contrasting dark wood and custom whitewashed beech furnishings and dreamy outdoor showers. Guests are encouraged to grab a beach bicycle and explore the idyllic palm fringed beaches or feed the prehistoric rock iguanas that can be found basking on many a sun-kissed trail. Failing that, they can wile away the hours diving for conch in a shallow reef lagoon or kayaking out to the nearby-uninhabited islet of Owen Island, for a romantic picnic à deux. Here, amid the natural splendour of South Hole Sound, a Robinson Crusoe fantasy awaits, making it possible to believe, for one brief moment in time, that you are the only person on earth.
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