Eco-tourism is not just a trend. It’s something we need to live by if we want to keep enjoying beautiful destinations. So other than packing your zero-waste traveller’s kit, choosing hotels that have good sustainability practices goes even further to support the cause.
George Town, Penang
Malaysians take food tours seriously—when in Penang, eat! But besides saying no to straws and dining in instead of packing food in plastic containers, you could go the extra mile and select an eco-friendly stay. Hotel Penaga is the first heritage restoration in Malaysia to receive a green rating, and currently holds a gold Green Building Index certification. Much of its restoration depended on recycled materials and reconstructed furniture, like its roof tiles, which were sourced from demolished buildings in Penang. Where new materials are needed, they are usually handmade items purchased from artisans locally or abroad. The boutique hotel prides itself in using sustainable energy sources like solar power, and keeps consumption low with LED lighting where possible.
Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
When The Dusun was established, the owners were mindful of how it would be built into its surroundings – it was designed to fit into the landscape and kept as many trees as possible. Out of respect for other residents in the area, the resort keeps its operations low-density, and reduces its carbon footprint through organic farming, composting, and recycling. All waste water goes back into the ground, so they use eco-friendly cleaning products from Malaysian non-profit Truly Loving Company (TLC), while in-room hotel amenities are from made-in-Penang company Indochine. On top of sustainable tourism practices, The Dusun also exercises responsible hiring, providing job opportunities for the local community within Negeri Sembilan and prioritising the Orang Asli.
For activities, you can join a guided jungle trek to a hidden waterfall (RM80 for the first two people, including jungle entrance fee), learn to cook Minangkabau cuisine (food by Negeri Sembilan’s majority ethnic group; RM30 per person), check out the deer enclosure nearby, or simply take a leisurely hike around Dusun grounds. Shutterbugs can even brush up on their nature photography skills with workshops by award-winning photographer Nikt Wong (pre-booking required).
Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor
It’s like going off-grid (there’s little to no cell phone reception here), only you don’t have to worry about bringing your own food or pitching your own tent – The Sticks provides everything for you (including food!), and all you literally need to do is relax and enjoy nature. Electricity here is supplied from a generator and via solar power, so you’re advised to only use the plug points for charging your essential devices (no hairdryers, please!). You stay in a tendok – a cross between a tent and a pondok (the Malay word for hut) – which resembles a charming kampung (village) house and comes in various styles and sizes to accommodate any number of guests, from couples to small and large groups. These tendoks are each given a unique name to distinguish their respective USPs (names include The Nest, The Opera House and Riverside Tendok among others) and are furnished with beds, lights and ceiling fans, plus rattan chairs on the veranda. Most tendoks come with an attached bathroom, but for the smaller ones that don’t, there are communal showers and toilets. Breakfast and dinner are included with accommodation, though you may add on lunch and afternoon tea for an extra fee.
For activities, you can choose to go paragliding, white water rafting, jungle trekking (various difficulty levels available), swimming in the river (tubes are available for rent), or simply go on a guided botanical walk around The Sticks to get to know the local fauna; and for lazy evenings, partake in a game of Risk, Cluedo or Monopoly. It’s all about going back to basics here (with a touch of glam).
If you hear ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘Kuala Lumpur hotel’ in one sentence, it’s likely that The Element would be part of the conversation: it is known as the tallest green hotel in Malaysia’s capital city, and is certified by the Green Building Index. You’ll find no plastic bottles in your room; instead, each room utilises a water purification system to provide guests with safe drinking water. To further eliminate plastic wastage, shower amenities are provided in refillable pump bottles. The hotel rooms are also designed to let in a lot of natural light, minimising the need for the use of electrical lighting in the daytime. You’ll be keeping your curtains drawn, anyway – the view of the KL skyline is not to be missed. On top of that, this beautiful hotel has easy access to the Ampang Park LRT station, so getting around town is easy, eco-conscious, and traffic-evading.
Alila Bangsar may be in one of Kuala Lumpur’s more bustling suburbs, but it provides a tranquil getaway for city-dwellers to inadvertently prove that eco-tourism and luxury can go hand in hand. It’s the little things that make this hotel both eco-friendly and elegant: tinted windows to maintain a cool indoor temperature, harvesting rainwater for watering plants, and innovative features like a water filtration system to provide safe drinking water. When you’re not making full use of the very pretty pool, there’s always Bangsar’s many cafés to keep you (and your Instagram feed) well-fed. Botanica + Co is just downstairs, or take a walk to Jalan Telawi and Jalan Kemuja for more. Plus, the Bangsar LRT station is right by Alila’s doorstep.
The Kasturi has had sustainability in mind since its construction phase; the beachfront property was not only designed to tread lightly on the ground and built around large trees, the owners even had a turtle hatchery built as a way of giving back to nature. They also used reclaimed materials from old buildings for construction. With just 23 units on 15 acres of land, it’s clear that this tranquil resort prioritises comfort and avoids overcrowding. On top of that, energy-efficient LED lighting is utilised, as are solar panels in the main building. Rain water is saved to supply water for the garden and WC use, and food is sourced from local farmers wherever possible.
A stay here won’t be complete without checking out the turtle hatchery (if you’re lucky, you may be able to release some hatchlings into the sea!), but besides learning about turtle conservation, you can try your hand at The Kasturi’s gamelan set (traditional percussive instruments native to Java and Bali in Indonesia), kayak down the nearby Pak Siak River, and go on guided nature walks where you can spot coastal birds like Southern pied hornbills and giant sea eagles, and even adorable sea otters by the river.