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California road trip: eco-friendly hotels for your budget

Wilbur Hot Springs
Wilbur Hot Springs
Trinette Reed/Chris Gramly,

Ready for a getaway? How about a stay-cation? The summer sun and cool breeze are inviting you to leave workday monotony, jump in your car, and drive (or bus, or train) to an oasis to enjoy the seasonal temptations of lounging, carousal, and mind-clearing vibes. But who has the time for a far-flung weeklong vacation? Consider traveling somewhere in your backyard, or at least keep it local to reduce travel time and your carbon footprint. Whether you’re a California native, recent transplant, or first-time traveler, odds are you haven’t experienced all that this beautiful state has to offer. Check out these eco-friendly hotels that suit your budget and plan your next great escape that's Mother Earth-approved!

coastal driving
Eric White,


Wilbur Hot Springs Williams $150*
These off-the-grid natural hot mineral baths have served as 100-degree silky havens for over a century thanks to a unique configuration of natural minerals, immersing guests in a state both therapeutic to the body and soothing to the soul. Here, clothing is optional, but basking the peacefulness is not. The hot springs are truly disconnected for optimal relaxation – there’s no cell service to interrupt your solitude. Enjoy the serenity of a Japanese onsen surrounded by a Northern California nature preserve, then venture off to hike among the wildflowers and river raft, as well as partake in the added luxuries of massages, yoga, and meditation. A range of experiences can be had at Wilbur – they offer campsite facilities, a bunkhouse, and private guest rooms, all with a professional kitchen to prepare your own meals. Regardless of what you choose, its rustic charm will bathe you in nature for a unique rejuvenation.

Green Elements Wilbur Hot Springs is 100% powered by solar panels and its renovations are performed with eco-conscious building materials and practices. Products such as LED lightbulbs and eco-friendly products and amenities such as low-flow toilets are in use. The hot spring flumes are non-impact – they are simply diverted from geothermal source and then returned to the creek with zero chemicals added.

The Good Hotel San Francisco $159
Claiming its fame as San Francisco’s greenest vacation destination, The Good Hotel’s simple name reflects its effortlessly cutting-edge eco-chic disposition. Nestled among the vibrant nightlife, art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants of SoMa, its Earth-friendly offerings fit easily into one of the greenest cities on the coast – but you’ll appreciate the friendly reminder to ‘be good’ on the nature-infused wall of your room anyway. Other fun touches, like a lobby photo booth and changeable in-room artwork, are signs of what there is to explore mere steps from the hotel’s doors – the Academy of Sciences, Anchor Brewing Company, Union Square, and of course, that beautiful golden gate.

Green Elements The Good Hotel speaks true to its name, featuring furniture of 100% recycled wood, bedding made of 75% soda bottles, recycling bins, and water conserving facilities. The hotel offers the conscious transportation of complimentary bicycles, free parking for hybrid cars, and two on-site ZipCar vehicles.

ecoNEST Forest Knolls $175
You can’t get much more earth-friendly than a lodging called the ecoNEST. It’s organic, sustainable, and a certified green business – and rightly so. The home is a two-person maximum occupancy abode in the heart of West Marin County, just 45 minutes from San Francisco, and a truly private eco-sanctuary. You’ll find organic, sustainable, and recycled amenities, from the pillows to the tea, and bamboo flooring to the cleaning products. What you won’t find is a kitchen for cooking, Wifi, or TV – the ecoNEST invites you to open up the 3-sided floor-to-ceiling windows for natural light and fresh air and become one with this hidden tree house. The surrounding points of interest match the delightful retreat: meditate at Spirit Rock, have a drink at the local saloon, peruse an indie bookstore, and fill a basket with nature’s fresh pickings at the farmer’s market. Of course, there are outdoor activities aplenty such as hiking, swimming, and kayaking. Looking for a destination that brings you as close to nature as possible? The ecoNEST is your place.

Green Elements A chemical and mold free environment, amenities and products that are organic, sustainable, and recycled, minimal water and energy usage, public transportation, and minimal pollution.


H2hotel Healdsburg $295
Looking for a quaint town that offers the best of both worlds? Healdsburg is calling your name. This boutique hotel is eco-chic at its finest – rooted in nature and fluid by design. An undulating roof of succulents at its height and a babbling creek at its feet, h2hotel was built with all aspects of green form and function in mind. You can cruise on a bike, lounge by the pool or fireplace, take yoga, visit the Hand Fan Museum, and explore the hip wineries; there a million ways to enjoy town and sea in the Hollywood of wine country.

Green Elements H2hotel was built by rigid LEED certified standards using the latest technology, with a solar roof, reclaimed wood and recycled materials, reducing waste, water, and energy use, and eco-friendly details many others don’t feature, such as an Ecospace elevator and high efficiency irrigation system.

Tenaya Lodge Yosemite $119-389
This lodge is in majestic, awe-inspiring Yosemite. Surround yourself with the Sierra National Forest and check the Yosemite National Park off your bucket list in green cabin comfort. Besides becoming entranced by the area’s natural beauty, Tenaya offers an ice-skating rink, rock climbing wall, mountain biking, gold panning, and a guide to a secret waterfall. After roughing it outside and experiencing the sublime, you can continue the feeling in this lodge’s high ceiling-ed retreat, by lounging in the Western-style restaurant or in front of the cozy limestone fireplace. Tenaya awakens your senses to clearer sunlight, fresher air, and naturally stunning scenery you can’t go without experiencing.

Green Elements A Gold TripAdvisor GreenLeader and double Silver LEED certified, Tenaya practices GreenPath’s program of environmental stewardship, which includes everything from locally sourcing food, to contributing to local charities, as well as green meeting facilities, electric vehicle charging station, and standard eco-friendly products.

Venice Beach Eco Cottages $215-250
Welcome to the new way to experience Los Angeles – in a comfy green cottage by the beach. These homey retreats allow you to live like a local with conscious, providing the proximity to Venice Beach, the trendy eateries of Abbot Kinney Blvd, and a warm, chic place to come back to. Choose between the baroque Bébé Cottage, lakeside cabin feel of Aunt Zoe’s, or the woodsy charm of Papa Hemingway’s, and experience the coolest block in America with comfort, style, and humble earth-friendliness.

Green Elements All of the cottages were built with sustainable and non-toxic materials, have solar power panels, and house recycled and organic products and energy-saving amenities. Even better, part of their proceeds go to charity.


L’Auberge Del Mar San Diego $370
This luxurious San Diego destination offers views of the Pacific, a private path to the beach, and plush accommodations, not to mention access to Del Mar Village, hiking trails, and the Torrey Pines State reserve. It has the feel of a private coastal estate, where you can revel in the relaxed vibes by day and thrive in the spirited ones by night. L’Auberge is highly rated by Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure for opulent accommodations and prime location, but also its award-winning restaurant. Taste the flavors of the sea in the wine-lined walls, rent a private cabana, grab a cocktail from poolside Bleu Bar, or get active with gold, tennis, or surfing. L’Auberge provides the best of the SoCal coast at its most beautiful and lavish.

Green Elements The hotel works to decrease energy and water usage, reduce waste, increase recycling and composting, as well as purchasing local and organic food and beverages. They have a Green Meetings program, 100% biodegradable key cards, and use eco friendly office supplies and spa products.

MacArthur Place Sonoma $349
Named one of the country’s best hotels by Condé Nast Traveler readers, this beautiful Sonoma Valley wine country estate is perfect for unwinding in luxury. MacArthur Place is a 1850s boutique inn that’s modestly charming but also lush – your designer furnished retreat is nestled in a seven-acre estate of manicured gardens and original sculpture, striking the perfect balance between nature and nurture. Get pampered in the spa, visit a gallery, go wine tasting, and enjoy the scenery at a place that truly indulges all of the senses.

Green Elements MacArthur Place uses solar energy, other energy conserving technology and lighting, is mindful of water usage for the entire property, reduces paper waste, recycles materials, purchases recycled products, and the restaurant sources local food and practices composting. The inn is a TripAdvisor Gold GreenLeader and is recognized by 5 institutions as eco-friendly.

Post Ranch Inn Big Sur $945

This Big Sur award-winning hotel is pulling out all the stops with mindful flair. Post Ranch Inn is a destination for romance, relaxation, and connection with nature. Each accommodation embraces the dramatically beautiful California coastline, whether it’s peering off of the cliff to meet the ocean or basking in the open air and panoramic views on top of grass and wildflowers. Its amenities make the resort one of the best in California – there is complimentary morning yoga, guided hikes, stargazing, and a rejuvenating spa. Post Ranch is rustic yet sleek, nature-inspired with modern comforts, indulgent yet extremely in-tune with its surroundings.

Green Elements The luxury inn was built with sustainable materials, uses solar energy, has a biodegradable cleaning system, drought-resistant landscaping with native plants, and its grounds provide habitat for 4 endangered species. It also provides hybrid vehicles for guest use.

Whatever your budget, you can sneak away from the hustle and bustle for relaxation or adventure – all while being friendly to nature and easy on the wallet. Check back next time for tips on how to have the greenest of vacations! Where will you travel to this summer? Share below!

*All prices are the starting rates for two people per night

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