When it comes to vacation ideas, green is the new black. Eco vacations are becoming more and more popular as travelers seek experiences that enable them to get close to nature without leaving a mark.
So what’s an eco vacation and where do you find one?
TIES, The International Ecotourism society, says ecotourism complies with the following principles:
- minimize impact
- build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
- provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
- provide direct financial benefits for conservation
- provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
- raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate
An eco vacation can be luxurious or spartan. If you’re in the mood for roughing it and hard work besides, take a look at some of these volunteer vacations. But if you’re looking for something a bit less demanding, consider some of these trips.
The Cottages at Spring Hill Farm in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains feature a fully equipped kitchen that you can have stocked for a fee upon arrival. Each cabin has a private drive, a fireplace, custom-built beds and a deck with hot tub. The six cabins on this 92-acre nature preserve were made from reclaimed lumber. Spa treatments are available in your cabin and guests can order a three-course dinner to be delivered to the cabin.
Bison Quest Sanctuary and Spa at Wild Echo Bison Reserve in Montana is all inclusive. The experience, booked for only one private group at a time, includes spa treatments and a variety of activities from studying the bison up close with the Reserve’s staff biologists to whitewater rafting to horseback riding. Or you can just relax with a sauna in a sweat lodge. Guests stay in cabins with their own baths or Native American tipi. The facility is off the grid; electricity comes from solar and wind power and low-water composting toilets are used.
At Pacuare Jungle Lodge in Costa Rica guests sleep in thatched roof bungalows with a private bathroom and shower. The lodge, deep in the heart of the Costa Rican rainforest, practices sustainable tourism. There is no electricity. Guests are provided with candles for their bungalows, and the main lodge is lit with gas lanterns at night. Activities include guided tours of the rainforest or a visit with the nearby Cabecar Indians. Combo packages include side trips to the Tortuguero Lagoons and Canals; Caño Island. Costa Rica’s best spot for diving; or he hot springs at Ecotermales del Bosque.
Sleep in a treehouse at the Rosalie Forest Eco Lodge in Dominica. Cabins are also available and arrangements can be made to stay with a local family. Eco workshops are among the activities offered, in addition to hiking through the rainforest, lazing in a hammock or getting a massage. There is a restaurant and bar as well as a communal kitchen where guests can do their own cooking. Light is powered by a wind turbine, and water is supplied through the use of collected rainwater. We also offer a range of nature, adventure and community eco tourism services, facilities and activities to suit all.
Mystic Blue offers eco friendly sailing tours of the Greek Isles. Biologist Dr. Panayiotis Pafilis leads two tours that explore the area’s wildlife. Each night of the tour, you’ll sleep on a different island.
Maho Camps and Estate Concordia offer a range of accommodations on two resorts on St. John in the US Virgin Islands from private apartments to tent cottages connected by wooden walkways. Each tent has a separate sleeping area with twin beds and an extra mattress behind the sleeping-couch in the living area. Bed linens, blankets, towels, cooking and eating utensils are all provided, including propane stove and ice cooler. Every tent-cottage has its own private deck, electric outlets, lights and fans. Barbecue areas and fresh water are available. Nearby bathhouses are equipped with modern, low-flush toilets and pull-chain showers connected to a recycling system that irrigates the surrounding vegetation.
The Mountain Trail resort in Mukteshwar, India is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Guests can go on guided nature walks, go rock climbing or bird watching, or take yoga and classes, among other activities. The eco friendly resort is built to blend in with nature. There are 10 double rooms and two quadruple rooms–all with Western-style bathrooms–available.
North Island in the Seychelles is a luxury resort of 11 guest villas located on a once-deserted island with four beaches. The resort has a full-service spa and a restaurant with no menu. Instead, the chef interviews the guests, finds out their food preferences and designs meals accordingly. Each villa is self-contained, with a bedroom, writing and changing area and a marble bath. The resort’s owners bought the deserted island and implemented the “Noah’s Ark” concept, which endeavors to turn back the island’s environmental clock 200 years by reintroducing many critically endangered species slowly over time.
The Web provides a number of resources for travelers looking for eco vacations:
- Eco Tropical Resorts has listings for resorts in every continent but Antarctica.
- Ecotours lists eco travel agents, tour operators and eco resorts throughout the world.
- TIES has a searchable database of tour operators, travel agents and hotels and resorts that have been approved by the organization.
- Green Travel Hub allows you to buy carbon offsets and find hybrid car rentals in addition to providing a list of green hotels.
- Green Globe member hotels and resorts are committed to sustainable tourism.