When our team of editors and contributors set off for a year of hopscotching the globe to put together Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List, we could never have imagined that by the time we were able to announce our winners, we would be staying home for the foreseeable future. In 24 years of putting together this compendium of the latest and greatest industry openings, we’ve never published it in a year like this. Many on this list have had to, at least temporarily, close their newly opened doors. Even still, these winners prioritize environmental protection, salvaged materials like reclaimed woods, and community engagement, and quickly attracted the attention of travelers who value progressiveness over thread counts and room service. Though of course, you’ll find those comforts here, too, which make them a natural choice of stay when we can get back out there again. Below, the 2020 Hot List picks for the best new sustainability minded hotels of the past year.
Click here to view the full lineup of the year’s best new hotels.
Courtesy Zannier Hotels
At 55 million years old, not only is the Namib the planet’s most ancient desert, but its vastness, dryness, and extreme temperatures land it among the most forbidding places on earth. Even its name, derived from the Nama language, means “an area where there is nothing.” Ominous, sure, but not quite as accurate now that Sonop, a furiously smart, astonishingly placed camp from forward-thinking brand Zannier, has arrived. The main lodge and 10 guest tents—all entirely solar-powered—are set amid a 100-foot-high pile of boulders, and connected by curving boardwalks and stairs. Only the bone-dry wind interrupts the silence as herds of springbok and oryx stalk the desert below. Although the landscape of alien sand flats and rocky hills has the potential to overwhelm—not to mention the luminous cosmos arching overhead after dark—designer Geraldine Dohogne grounds the interiors with a forceful sense of civilization: four-poster beds, clawfoot tubs, antique steamer trunks, and the occasional pith helmet. There’s plenty to do—electric biking with nature guides, or a hot-air-balloon breakfast safari—but that’s not really the point. The lodge is more about escaping into profound simplicity; an immensely welcoming place in this extraordinary expanse. —Maggie Shipstead
Insider Tip: At sunset, head to the poolside cinema to experience the giddy beauty of black-and-white film glowing against a supersaturated starry sky. From about $620 per person per night, full board
Courtesy Finca Serena Mallorca
Finca Serena Mallorca
The inland region known as es Pla (“the plain”) is still an empty space on most visitors’ mental map of Mallorca. Part of a new wave of hotels making inroads into the agricultural hinterland, Finca Serena is not the kind of glamorous aristocratic pile you might expect to find in, say, the Tramuntana mountains, but rather a fine old farmhouse in pinkish sandstone sitting pretty on a hill overlooking the town of Montuiri. The first rural opening from Catalan hoteliers Unico (best known for Principal in Madrid and Central in Barcelona), it plays with the aesthetics of sparseness and rusticity. Stools and tables are made of untreated wood, sofas and armchairs covered, Axel Vervoordt-style, in soft linen slipcovers; the vaulted interiors are simply whitewashed and rush-woven baskets hang on hooks like art. These days every country hotel worth its flor de sal aspires to the farm concept, but this one comes closer than most. The 98 acres property sprawls over olive groves, vegetable gardens, fruit orchards and vineyards. With just 25 rooms, it has an intimate, wraparound feel. You won’t miss the coast’s noise and crowds; many guests are happy simply to retreat to the spa, set in a former cowshed. By day, the view of sun-warmed cornfields from the terrace is bucolic, and nights here are remarkably dark and silent. Serena—the name is aptly chosen. —Paul Richardson
Insider Tip: The hotel is well geared up for cycling, with a bike shed and mapped-out routes around the plain. Doubles from about $370
James Baigrie/Courtesy 1 Hotel West Hollywood
1 Hotel West Hollywood
Although it spans just under two square miles, the little city of West Hollywood (WeHo) is, like much of Los Angeles County, having a big hotel moment. What makes the arrival of 1 Hotel West Hollywood so special—in a wave of openings that includes the Edition’s first West Coast property and the Pendry—is its sharp focus on sustainability. Interior design star Tony Machado used elements of biophilic design (incorporating the natural world—materials, light, vegetation, views—into a built space) by adding greenery to every corner imaginable: a hanging garden at the entrance; a moss-covered wall that imitates the famed Hollywood sign; huge stone planters scattered around the lobby; and no less than three potted plants per bedroom. And almost everything—the flooring, the keys, the enormous sculpted tree-trunk reception desk—is made of reclaimed wood (around 72 tonnes of pine and olive trees downed during storms), while carpets are fashioned from repurposed ocean plastics. The effect of these materials and all the sunshine streaming in from enormous windows is a blurring of the inside and outside and an undeniable sense of wellbeing. The actual outdoor spaces—the rooftop pool and bar—have views of downtown and Laurel Canyon and, on a very clear day, all the way to the beach, while a 5,000 square-foot garden is filled with native plants. It feels like a small miracle that this spacious, verdant retreat exists on buzzing Sunset Boulevard. —Krista Simmons
Insider Tip: At 1 Hotel’s FaceGym, facial massage and toning treatments are a cutting-edge, noninvasive alternative to needles. Doubles from about $350
Courtesy Nayara Tented Camp
Nayara Tented Camp
Costa Rica packs a punch of nature for its small size. Tropical rainforests, blue zones: this is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. But it’s also the land of fire, with more than 100 volcanoes. Perhaps the most recognizable is the perfect cone of the Arenal. And the sight of its smoking tip as the dawn light spreads across the jungles below is one of those standout travel moments. Access to this mesmerizing lookout is a big reason why this, the newest of Nayara’s trio of retreats, is the star of the set. Older siblings Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens are also in the shadow of the volcano. But as they are at the bottom of the valley, that peak is never clearly in focus—and the near-guarantee of clouds due to the humid conditions doesn’t help the chances. Nayara Tented Camp, however, has taken over the sloping hillsides that lead up from the rainforest and planted 21 bells-and-whistles canvas rooms among the trees. A steaming flask of excellent locally produced coffee is delivered tent-side every morning for early risers heading out to spot sloths and armadillos (if there are none on the hike, ask to see Tony, Nayara’s unofficial three-toed mascot, who’s usually hanging upside down by the reception). These walks aren’t too strenuous, but a splash-about in the tiers of natural hot springs feels fantastic straight afterwards. And the same waters feed into the private outdoor pools of each room, for rest-of-the-day soaking with a soundtrack of tree frogs and a backdrop of those glorious views. —Erin Florio