Vacations Gone Green: A Guide to the World’s Best Ecotourism Destinations

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With the world in an environmental crisis, the push to go green is stronger than ever. Everything from buying a hybrid car to eating organic foods is helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the world’s citizens. Even the way a person chooses to vacation with their family can be eco-friendly.

Most travel organizations that specialize in eco-tourism follow the same principles. They work in local communities and focus on giving back to those same communities, and the employees they hire are local residents. They also focus on sustaining the environment and preserving their area’s wildlife.

Planning a trip to an environmentally friendly resort will prove to be a relaxing and guilt-free experience. There are over 2500 destinations around the world termed “eco” or “green, and excluding Antarctica, eco-friendly vacation destinations can be found on every continent on Earth.

1. Europe

The Mjolfjell Youth Hostel in Norway is a popular backpacker destination, and it boasts pristine views of surrounding lakes and mountains. A small hydroelectric plant provides power to a ski lift and heats the swimming pool. There are also various activities available that require no source of energy at all, including fishing, horseback riding, and canoeing.

Europe is also home to a number of other green ski lodges. Two of the best are Lech in Austria and Saas-Fee in Switzerland. Lech is found in a town where a majority of the town’s energy for heat comes from a biomass plant. Cars are banned at Saas-Fee, and there is a free bus service around the resort, which helps to reduce the number of carbon emissions released.

2. Africa

Another eco-friendly destination worth checking out is the Guludo Beach Lodge, which is found in the Quirimbas National Park in Mozambique. Each room is specifically designed to overlook Guludo beach, which has been named one of the top 20 deserted beaches in the world. The lodge aims to reduce pollution and non-renewable energy use, minimize the use of harmful chemicals, and raise awareness about environmental issues. Additionally, the Bespoke Experience, which is the lodge’s parent company, aims to use their organization to support areas of extreme poverty by giving jobs to the community to relieve poverty and by attempting to protect the environment.

The Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is located near Gansbaii, South Africa, and it is located just above Walker Bay. The foundation was developed in order to implement environmental projects for Grootbos back in 2004. Guests are able to choose from a variety of green activities, such as whale watching, horseback riding, hiking, and guided eco-tours.

3. North America

The El Silencio Lodge and Spa, located near Sarchi, Costa Rica, is also doing their part to provide an eco-friendly vacation destination. All materials used in constructing the lodge were environmentally and ecologically friendly, and its development left minimal impact on the surrounding wildlife. Guests can coordinate activities with an eco-guide, which can range from hiking, kayaking, rafting, and a thrilling ride down a canopy zip line.

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The Hotel Eco Paraiso Xixm, found in Yucatan, Mexico, features 15 bungalows overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and situated in natural surroundings. This ecological hotel has an extensive water recycling program, where all water used at the resort is recycled biologically. Organic waste is composted, and the resort does not purchase any individually packaged item that would result in non-recyclable materials. The heated swimming pool is warmed by solar panels.

4. Asia

The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa, located in Malaysia, was the recipient of the Pacifica Asia Travel Association Gold Award in Environmental Education Programs. This resort has implemented solar energy, a water treatment plant, and energy efficient lighting. Guests can partake in hiking, kayaking, golfing, and snorkeling, among other eco-friendly activities.

Also found in Asia is the El Nido Miniloc Island Resort in the Philippines. The resort is situated in an area of extreme biological diversity, and it has severed as a sea turtle sanctuary, marine reserve, and as a managed protected area.  The resort is also committed to environmental management and protection, and they are constantly surveying the area for marine pollution and illegal fishing, in addition to doing research on protected or endangered animal populations within the area. Activities that guests can partake in include fishing, swimming, Cudugnon Cave tours, snorkeling, rock climbing, and spa treatments.

5. South America

The Hotel Patio Andaluz is a luxury hotel located in Quito, Ecuador. Part of the hotel is over 400 years old, but the rooms have been renovated to include hardwood floors and beautiful courtyard views.This resort is dedicated to reducing waste, preserving energy and water, and recycling. They also have a food donation program, offer organic food choices, and compost. Guests are able to check out the historical district of Quito, which is located within blocks of the hotel. Some notable sites to see include El Sagrario Church, Independence Square, and Carondelet Palace.

The Tambopata Research Center near Puerto Maldonado, Peru is also a popular ecological vacation destination. It is situated on the uninhabited Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. This secluded getaway also provides access to remarkable Amazonian rainforests. The resort is active in a macaw rescue and rehabilitation program, and many of the birds can be seen in and around the resort area.

6. Australia

Melbourne’s Alto Hotel on Bourke has been the recipient of many eco-friendly rewards, including the Sustainable Tourism Award. The hotel prides themselves on a major recycling program as well as energy and resources conservation. Don’t think that you will be roughing it in one of these rooms, though, as each comes with a flat screen LCD TV, a granite bathroom, and noise-proof insulation.

The Daintree Eco Lodge and Spa is located within one of Australia’s largest rainforests, the Daintree. In 2009 it earned the award of “World’s Leading Eco Lodge.”  Each of the hotel’s 15 villas is either built at the base of trees of in the trees themselves. The lodge is committed to reducing carbon emissions and waste, and it is involved with the Karrba Foundation, which works to improve the lives of the Aborigines.

Australia is also home to the Paperbark Camp in New South Wales. This camp is made up of safari-style, canvas tents situated within the Eucalyptus. Guests can spend their time canoeing, snorkeling in Jervis Bay, scuba diving, experiencing a Wreck Bay Walkabout, and many other exciting activities. Paperback Camp is a low impact experience that helps to preserve the local ecology, provide local benefits, and promote the unique natural environment of Australia.

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