For the environmentally-conscious traveler, there are certain places to visit for vacations that are just… awesome. You want to pick a place that is not only spectacular and fun (it IS a vacation, after all), but your stay should also impact your destination as little as possible, and it should be educational and edifying. Eco-tourism conjures up images of roughing it, however, but that isn’t always the case. It’s possible to enjoy a green vacation and still have a bit of luxury, too. Here is a brief guide to some of the best eco-destinations that you should put on your agenda. Some may surprise you!
This small, peaceful Central American country is a favorite for travelers, expats and vacationers alike. It is a fantastic destination for those who want to experience multiple kinds of ecosystems and amazing biological diversity in a short period of time-and a lot of fun! Costa Rica has some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity anywhere on earth, especially in its nature reserves, which comprise about 25% of the entire country’s territory. Take canopy tours, ride horses, learn how coffee and chocolate are made, hike through virgin rainforest of various types, white-water rafting, volcanoes, hot springs, it’s all there. Plus, there are some excellent eco-lodges where your stay will not put you at odds with nature, such as the Lapa Rios Lodge in the Osa Penisula, right outside the magnificent Corcovado Nature Reserve, or the Selva verde Rainforest Lodge in Sarapiqui, near the Tortuguero National Park’s sea turtle nesting grounds. The food is good, the people are friendly, and you’ll enjoy adding “Pura Vida!” (“Pure Life” in Spanish), which is the Costa Rican informal motto for how life should be led (Simply, enjoyably), to your vocabulary.
Encompassing several countries in the northern parts of Europe, historically Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, but also often Finland and even Holland are lumped in, too. Scandinavia is a more unusual choice for many people when they think of eco-travel-for them, eco-travel equates with hiking and sweating, and sleeping in tents. Not so! You can enjoy the creature comforts that only Europeans know how to provide, all in ecologically-sound venues, with an amazing amount of fun things to do. Alpine vistas, roaring fjords, pebbly beaches, Northern lights and cool green forests provide a welcome break from the mosquitoes in more southern latitudes, and the hospitality is impeccable. Try a dogsled “safari,” snowshoeing, cross-country and mountain skiing, and more. Stay in luxurious or humble accommodations that are in tune with nature, such as the Treehotel in Sweden’s Boreal forests or the Skandic Kna Hotel in Oslo, Norway. You will come away with a new appreciation for the far north, and realize that “white” (snow) can indeed be “green!”
You have never lived until you’ve taken a kayak or canoe trip down a jungle river, surrounded by nothing but the rustling green jungle and the calls of the birds and animals. Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam have been stepping up their tourism ventures, with special props being given to Laos and Viet Nam for embracing eco-tourism. Laos, in particular, has made green tourism their focus. Visit small villages and learn how the people live their lives as they have done for hundreds-even thousands-of years. Visit ancient, crumbling temples that reverberate with the chanting of saffron-robed monks, or those that lie still and silent in the midst of the jungle, long abandoned but still vibrating with tales to be told. Watch the wildlife, take a zipline adventure, ride horses or ATVs, boat excursions, surfing and more. Savor the intensely exotic culture, from the food to the styles of the peoples’ clothing and homes, and come back feeling changed forever. Stay in simplicity with a local family or a guest house, or opt for more luxurious lodgings, such as the Maya Ubud Luxury Hotel in Bali, Indonesia, a four-star eco-resort featuring a full-service spa, and much more. You will be pleasantly surprised at how money stretches in Southeast Asia, where the most expensive thing will be your plane tickets, and your days will be chock-full of interesting and fun things to do and see.
Aside from the war-torn and famine-stricken nations of the Horn of Africa and East Africa, countries such as Gabon, Kenya, and Tanzania have stable economies and governments, and they are increasingly dedicated to ecological aims, such as reforestation and species protection. You can enjoy an eco-friendly photo safari at one of hundreds of game reserves and national parks. Go hiking in the green depths of the mountains, where you may glimpse endangered species. Interact with the indigenous people, such as the Maasai and Samburu tribes, and see how they have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Africa is a haven for environmental treasures. It is also not as expensive to travel in Africa as you may think-as in Asia, the most costly part of the trip will definitely be the airfare. Eco-lodges can be found all over these countries, as most of them exist easily with nature, utilizing minimally-impacting techniques. Take a safari trip where you will stay in a luxurious tent, with the sounds of the bush right outside your canvas walls, or enjoy a jungle lodge such as the Maasai Mara Ecolodge in Kenya, where luxury and green living coexist easily side-by-side.