Four quirky eco-resorts

Noah Surf House: a Californian-style beach resort on the Portuguese coast

From a surfing hotspot in Portugal to a wildlife retreat in Sydney, Australia, Chris Carter picks four eco-resorts.

“Spotlit in the early evening light, the geometric buildings of Noah Surf House are as incongruous as they are striking,” says Isabel Choat in The Guardian. It’s “as if someone has airlifted a Californian beach resort and accidentally placed it in an unremarkable Portuguese town”. Based in Santa Cruz, north of Lisbon, the resort was an instant hit when it opened last year. A rack of surfboards stand by reception and a giant TV screen plays surfing videos on a loop. There’s an infinity pool overlooking the beach, a hot tub and skate park and a garden with chickens.

Rows of bungalows on stilts are stacked up the slope from the beach. Some are painted a pale terracotta colour. Others are clad in wood. Sustainability is the watchword. Recycled and upcycled materials are used throughout the hotel, the buildings are insulated with cork and solar panels heat most of the hot water. There’s more distressed wood in the restaurant, along with “artfully arranged fishing paraphernalia”. Razor clams, grilled octopus, tuna steaks and other fish are all served in a “mesmerising setting on the sand”.

From £148, noahsurfhouseportugal.com

An enclosed tropical paradise

The Brando, a luxury resort on the Tetiaroa atoll in French Polynesia, “is one of the most delightful places I have ever stayed”, says Stanley Stewart for Telegraph Luxury. It is named after Hollywood actor Marlon Brando, who bought the atoll after falling in love with the islands while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. This is the Brando’s fifth year, which sees the launch of new three-bedroom Polynesian houses just across the lagoon from the main resort. Each residence comes with its own grounds, soaring interiors, a private beach, pool and staff. The resort is a one-off – “a low-lying atoll in an ocean of mountainous islands”. There are a dozen tropical islands, some no bigger than a sandbank. A coral reef protects the atoll, so it feels like an “enclosed world”. In the wide lagoon, “turtles nest on empty white beaches, sea birds stalk the shallows and cloud shadows scud across the aquamarine waters like phantom ships”. The resort is “the steward of this remarkable place”. So, “settle into a hammock and listen to the soft rattle of the palm trees and the slow sound of the surf”. The Brando “is an escape that feels a world away from everything”.

From €2,900, thebrando.com

A wildlife retreat in the heart of the city

The best way to adapt to the slower pace of life at the new Wildlife Retreat at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is to do as Robbie does, says Lauren Sams in the Australian Financial Review. Robbie is a 30-year-old echidna and he walks, eats and lives slowly. “Nothing seems to bother him.” That’s because his home is in the sanctuary within the retreat. “From the moment you set foot in the beautifully appointed N’gurra Lodge… to the daybreak walk the following morning… to see the elephants wake up and the zoo at its most tranquil, everything about the retreat is exactly as the name suggests: a true break from the outside world.”

After breakfast, and before the zoo opens, guests can take a private tour, which includes a rare-bird show and visits to the red kangaroos and Tasmanian devils. In the kitchen “indigenous” ingredients are used, “although the point isn’t laboured”. That “zip in your butter is lemon myrtle, that crispy herb on top of fresh spanner crab is fried saltbush”. But it’s the animals that make a stay special. After all, “where else in Sydney can you watch koalas nestled in the eucalypts as you have your morning coffee or catch a glimpse of a wallaby settling in for the night as you settle in with your chardonnay”?

A$790, taronga.org.au/sydney-zoo/wildlife-retreat

Whimsical design in Mexico

Tulum is the holiday capital of Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula thanks to its “crystal-blue waters” and “beautiful ruins”, says Osman Can Yerebakan for Travel + Leisure. But for all that, Azulik, a 48-villa eco-resort just outside the city centre, manages to stand out.

Since 2003 it has offered “an alternative understanding of luxury and meditation to visitors who are charmed by the hotel’s mesmerising architecture and connections with nature”. Electricity is replaced by candlelight and “access to the digital realm is limited”. Wooden log bridges connect the rooms and facilities, which include a spa, restaurants, a meditation centre and a “whimsically designed” art museum. In the museum, “plants cut through pathways made out of logs while smooth concrete walls resemble drapes flowing in the wind, contrasting with the woods’ darker tones”. The striking architecture is Azulik’s most distinctive feature.

From $342, azulik.com/tulum