The Top 7 Sustainable Stays in California

| © Ventana Big Sur / Expedia
Katie Watkins

Go a little bit greener on your next vacation by staying at one of California’s numerous eco-friendly hotels.

From comprehensive recycling programs to eliminating the use of plastic water bottles, hotels are taking measures to reduce their waste and become more sustainable. Two Bunch Palms Resort in the Coachella Valley is now carbon-neutral since installing their own solar panel field in 2015.

Meanwhile, The Ranch at Laguna Beach has cut down its water usage by 21.2 million gallons a year through a system that uses recycled water for irrigation. So the next time you’re planning a trip in California, try one of these seven green accommodations.

1. The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Resort, Eco Hotel, Golf Hotel

Outside of the Ranch at Laguna Beach with mountains in the background
Courtesy of the Ranch at Laguna Beach / Expedia

Nestled where canyon meets coast, The Ranch at Laguna Beach sits on 87 acres (35ha) in the Aliso and Wood Canyons in Orange County. One of The Ranch’s most unique measures is the use of a GLSand glass-bottle crusher, which creates a sand-like product from recycled glass bottles. Besides reducing waste volume, the resulting product can also be used for pavement repairs and pool filtration at the hotel. The Ranch also partnered with The Ecology Center of Southern California to create a half-acre on-site garden that provides fruit, vegetables and herbs for the resort’s restaurant, Harvest. Because of its sustainable practices, The Ranch at Laguna Beach was selected as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.

2. Ventana Big Sur

Resort, Eco Hotel

The outdoor pool with sunbeds, lined with plants and greenery, at Ventana Big Sur
Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur / Expedia

Reopened in the fall of 2017, Ventana Big Sur sits among redwoods and meadows on 160 acres (65ha) overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Inspired by the surrounding natural environment, the eco-resort has taken numerous sustainability measures, from integrating low-flow faucets and LED lights to using 100% recycled water for irrigation. Some of the on-site furniture was constructed using fallen redwood trees from the resort property and surrounding area. Ventana also offers sites for glamping that are only accessible by foot. When it comes to food, the hotel is part of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, meaning that they serve local seafood purchased from sustainable sources.

3. h2hotel

Eco Hotel

The reception area with a woman at the desk, and lobby area with shelves, at h2hotel in California
Courtesy of h2hotel / Expedia

The undulating roof of h2hotel is literally brimming with life. Planted with succulents, the living roof filters rainwater and reduces the amount of heat the hotel gives off. Also on the roof, solar panels heat the swimming pool and water in the hotel rooms. Instead of plastic water bottles, guests are given a reusable glass bottle and tumblers made from recycled wine bottles. Located in Healdsburg, h2hotel is a bike ride away from Sonoma vineyards, and guests can borrow complimentary wheels during their stay.

4. Orchard Garden Hotel

Eco Hotel

The rooftop terrace, with tables and chairs and a view of city buildings, at Orchard Garden Hotel
Courtesy of Orchard Garden Hotel / Expedia

A year after it opened in 2006, the Orchard Garden Hotel became the first hotel in San Francisco to be a LEED-certified hotel, an internationally recognized system that vets green buildings. Among their extensive list of eco-friendly practices is a key card energy control system that turns off the electricity when guests leave their room. Orchard Garden Hotel also uses 100% recycled paper, and for every review left on TripAdvisor they plant a tree in partnership with the Plant a Billion Trees initiative.

5. Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter


The rooftop balcony with couches and a view of city buildings lit up at night at Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
Courtesy of Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter / Expedia

Located in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, Hotel Indigo was the first LEED-certified hotel in the city. Both the hotel’s 9th and 12th floors have green roofs planted with native species that help reduce the heating and air conditioning costs. Hotel Indigo also has an on-site recycling and composting program. Due to its location, the hotel is walking distance to public transportation, food and entertainment options, allowing guests to go car-free during their stay.

6. Bardessono

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

A single bed in a hotel room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a terrace with a pool at Bardessono Hotel and Spa
Courtesy of Bardessono Hotel and Spa / Expedia
Bardessono puts the chic into eco, with 62 coolly low-rise guest rooms basking amid the undulating vineland horizons of Napa Valley – more precisely, in the gourmet town of Yountville, which glitters with Michelin stars. Marrying funky materials – salvaged Monterey-cypress timber, repurposed tufa stone – with endless vast glass panes to minimize electrical lighting, rooms feel like soul-nourishing relaxation spaces, particularly the 37 Spa-Suites, with their massage tables and deep-soak tubs. Guests can even tend their own herbs in the culinary garden, which delivers fresh produce to the hotel’s Lucy restaurant. NB: its gazpacho Andaluz is a tangy treat.

7. Two Bunch Palms Resort

Resort, Eco Hotel

The pool with sunbeds, surrounded by trees and palm trees, at Two Bunch Palms Resort
Courtesy of Two Bunch Palms Resort / Expedia

Considered one of the first sustainable resorts in the US, Two Bunch Palms in the Greater Palm Springs area is completely carbon neutral, generating electricity from 100% renewable sources, including their own 3.5-acre (1.4-ha) solar farm. The restaurant grows produce on-site, and the resort also uses biodegradable cleaning products. Known for its wellness program, Two Bunch Palms is home to 600-year-old mineral hot springs. The naturally warm water flows into a pool at the resort where guests can relax. Among their famed spa programs is mud bath therapy, where visitors float in a tub mixed with peat moss and their mineral waters, and clay.

Additional reporting by Nick Redman

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