09.05.19

The Secret Eco Hotels in India You Need to Visit

Olivia Burton

India has always been a tourist hotspot, with its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and incredible food.

It’s also the birthplace of yoga. The interest in visiting India has clearly not slowed down, with 8.9 million foreign tourists visiting just last year, up 11% from the year before.

Alongside tourist growth, India itself is also transforming. The economy is expanding, the younger generation is dominating the population and it’s consumers are environmentally conscious

Image: Vivenda Dos Palhacos, South Goa

eco hotels India

India itself is a complicated environmental jigsaw, with a huge population and a large number of people living in rural poverty. However, the government is taking action against climate change, for example, single-use plastic is banned from 2022.

I was lucky enough to visit Mumbai and Goa in India late last year with my sister and dad. My dad had backpacked India after university in the 1970s, so he decided 2018 was a good year to venture back. The wonderful thing about India is the choice, there is an eclectic mix of affordable accommodation. We selected our accommodation the old fashioned way, based on good ol’ recommendations from friends. They also happened to be phenomenal, eco and socially conscious and reasonably priced.

Here’s are my secret hotel choices of India (don’t tell anyone).  

eco hotels India

Abode Boutique Hotel, Mumbai

Waking up in India’s largest city Mumbai is an experience like no other.

Before I’d even looked out my hotel window in Colaba at 5am, I could hear the city bustle had already started. Food and fashion market stalls were being set up, builders were digging up the street opposite and people in the street below were separating clothing in the street to be resold or recycled. Don’t forget the immense traffic and non-stop honking.

Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is one of the most intriguing and diverse cities that I’ve ever visited. Alongside the cosmopolitan city, hustle are brightly coloured markets, ancient architecture and a large university culture.

There are places to stay that really make a holiday special and Abode Bombay is one of those places. This beautiful boutique hotel is situated in the hub of Mumbai in trendy Colaba.

We were greeted at the airport by a lovely woman from their car service. They provide employment for women from Mumbai, many of who are single mothers. This was followed by breakfast and chai in the open plan living room, all made with seasonal and local produce (& all plastic free including filtered water in copper jugs).

The social and eco-initiatives don’t stop there, Abode offers guests massages from skilled massage therapists that are blind, which also offers these workers training and a stable income. I was also able to purchase gifts to take home from the hotel such as jewelry, which supports local NGOs. The hotel is also able to offer reasonable tours from a local of the city (including an early morning fish and flower market tour). Apparently, Abode is opening in Sri Lanka, so i’ll be looking out for that!

Goa is a coastal region which has something for everyone, from wild nightclubs to world-heritage architecture and endless coastline. Goa was colonised by Portugal until 1961, with Portuguese influence clearly leftover. I think it should also be noted (with great excitement from my dad) that Goa also has exceptionally cheap Indian beer called Kingfisher and native feni liquor.

eco hotels india

Dwarka Eco Beach Resort, South Goa

Have you ever arrived somewhere and laughed in (good) shock? That’s Dwarka Eco Beach Resort.

This resort is off a dirt track, perched along a coconut grove with lots of steps down into seemingly the middle of nowhere. The owners Clemente and Arlene apparently found the spot whilst scouting for a film and I can see why they couldn’t let it go.

There are only 10 cottages available in this slice of actual heaven, each one facing the ocean on a non-developed, empty beach. The meals are also all-inclusive, with a beautiful deck on the beach serving up endless delicious curries.

Both me and my sister kept going back for multiple courses from the wonderful staff (who probably thought we had worms). The small group was the perfect size to relax and chat, with the owner Clemente making an effort to talk to everyone in depth.

For what to do? Swim, dolphin tours, kayak, yoga, visit local towns or just relax on the beach.

In terms of environmental practices, Clemente collects food waste from the restaurant and local spots and drops them all off in their compost bin. He also ensured the resort was kept to minimum size to avoid damage to the pristine area. In terms of the rooms, there was no plastic in sight (unless you wanted to buy water which unfortunately is very difficult to do without). The best part? They have two adopted stray dogs that live on-site and curl up on your feet at dinner.

eco hotels India

Vivenda Dos Palhacos, South Goa

This absolutely magnificent Portuguese-style house is 100 years old, hidden away in a quiet South Goan village.

The house is close to a beach but if you don’t want to move, there is also a 12m pool to cool-down from the Indian heat.

The best part of this house is the encouragement to eat lunch and dinners together as one large family, with three-course mouth-watering courses from the on-site chef. We were only there for a few days yet managed to meet fascinating people from around the world over cocktails and local delicacies.

The house thankfully has no screens in sight, just endless books to read and a private garden. The place is owned by a brother-sister team Charlotte and Simon, with an exceptionally lovely team of kitchen and wait staff.

For my family, Vivenda will be a beautiful memory that we hope to return to.

Olivia Burton

Olivia is an eco-writer, producer, science graduate & ocean enthusiast. After moving from London to Sydney, she found her love for the outdoors and recycled textiles, which led her to start writing about science and sustainable fashion. Olivia is really passionate about brands using fashion for good and innovation in the industry. She now splits her time between several not-for-profit organisations in communication roles. Olivia is also a Centre for Sustainability Leadership alumni and sits on the Fashion Revolution committee for Australia & New Zealand.