Going Green: 5 Top Eco-Friendly Trip Ideas
Celebrate Earth Day and help save the planet on an eco-conscious retreat.
Discover destinations that are upping the green factor.
With a rising number of resorts, destinations and travel companies introducing environmentally friendly initiatives, it's never been easier to map out a minimal-impact vacation. In fact, countries near and far are prioritizing responsible travel by lowering carbon emissions and committing to sustainable development practices. And that's just the start. Hotels and ecolodges in far-flung corners of the globe are going beyond issuing reusable towels or utilizing recycled building materials with integrated organic food sourcing and community driven projects. So, if you're passionate about preserving the planet, commemorate Earth Day by planning your escape to these eco-friendly vacation destinations.
With the Belize Barrier Reef – the second-largest reef complex on the planet – Belize beckons to visitors with its impressive snorkeling and dive sites. And beyond its underwater splendors, Belize abounds with eco-focused lodges. Take the Turtle Inn, which partners with the Southern Environmental Association to help preserve marine life and gives guests the chance to contribute to community-focused projects. Belize also offers a "fantastic rainforest and ecosystem on land," says Ford Cochran, director of programming for National Geographic Expeditions. Kids who sign up for one of National Geographic's Student Expedition programs can learn about 80 different marine life species, Cochran explains. Another tour option is Belize Bike With a Purpose through Planeterra, a foundation dedicated to championing sustainable tourism by developing social enterprises in underserved locations. Thanks to its partnership through local tour operator G Adventures, students can gain valuable tourism skills as they show visitors around Caye Caulker.
"Singapore was green before being green was cool," says Carol Hong, the area director of business development, brand and communications for Singapore Tourism Board Americas. The so-called Garden City prioritized sustainability before its economic development, she explains, noting that the first efforts to make the city eco-focused date back to 1963, when Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, planted the first Mempat Tree, marking a national initiative to create well-laid-out parks and green spaces to ensure the city would serve as a green oasis for residents. And the city's eco-friendly approach carries over to its iconic Gardens by the Bay and its green hotels and resorts. Hong points to the Parkroyal Hotel. "As you're walking through the corridors, you feel like you're in nature," she says, citing its impressive features, like natural sky gardens, rain censors to regulate water usage and 70 percent energy savings.
In recent years, Costa Rica has put sustainability at the forefront, Cochran says. He highlights the Pacuare Lodge, which sits on 25,000 acres of lush rainforest, rising over the Pacuare River. Apart from enjoying high-end thatch-roof bungalows, you can embrace a special appreciation for the local wildlife with kayaking and rainforest hiking as you keep your eyes peeled for monkeys, ocelots, jaguars and other local creatures. Plus, the property puts an emphasis on wildlife conservation and even spearheaded a project to rescue and reintroduce displaced howler monkeys. Best of all, during your visit, you can expect to help support preservation efforts and keep your footprint low with the lodge's eco-friendly features, including biodegradable soap and solar-powered showers.
Coral reefs, relaxed tropical vibes, verdant rainforest and isolated beaches are all part of Fiji's enduring appeal. And happily for those yearning to plan an environmentally focused getaway, there are plenty of companies and resorts elevating the green concept with organic, locally sourced meals and long-term commitments to preserving natural resources. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort on the island of Vanua Levu, for example, has taken measures to cut down its carbon footprint by composting, not using air conditioning and relying only on recycled paper and plastic and solar panels to supply water heating. The resort also bans reef fish or endangered species from its menus, and features a coral farm and a mangrove reforestation program, among other conservation efforts.
Rather than simply visiting the incredibly diverse species inhabiting the Galápagos Islands, including giant tortoises, short-feathered penguins and iguanas, a Planeterra tour, in partnership with G Adventures, allows you to support the islands' people, too. On the tour, you'll branch away from the main island, Santa Cruz, to visit Floreana Island, an under-explored area, where you'll help residents learn tourism skills and aid their efforts to preserve the island's unique heritage and habitat. And thanks to Chile's recent initiative to create the biggest marine reserve, the Galápagos Islands' ecological system is protected, allowing visitors to explore the area's biodiversity under the guidance of responsible tour operators, such as those in partnership with the International Galápagos Tour Operators Association.
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