Last Updated on August 24, 2023
Travel today by its very nature is at odds with sustainability. From your plane flight or car ride’s carbon emissions to the added single use plastics you’ll need to use along the way and while on vacation, the water consumed by your resort’s pool and landscaping, the carbon emissions to bring all that wonderful food you’ll be enjoying in from around the world, the habitat loss of more and bigger roads, airports, hotels, etc., etc., etc.
Conservation-minded travelers like myself despair at the prospects of how pursuing our passion for travel damages the environment. I try keeping in mind that personal actions are overrated in combating the world’s dual existential threats of climate change and an extinction crisis when compared to what governments and large corporations should, and generally aren’t, doing to face these simultaneous and related catastrophes. Why should I be a martyr and sacrifice what I enjoy most in life when governments and industry pollute and destroy at a global scale?
Travelers concerned with conservation can, however, make choices. An increasing number of resorts, destinations and attractions around the world are making efforts to reduce the heavy footprint they stomp on the environment. Many of these efforts amount to “greenwashing” – admittedly – more window dressing than meaning, but some do make a difference.
Travelers to the Caribbean may want to consider the following eco-conscious options for your next visit.
Ocean Club Resorts, Providenciales in Turks & Caicos
Located directly along the world-renowned Grace Bay Beach sits Ocean Club Resorts, two all-suite properties that provide the ideal open-air setting and direct beach access for guests of all ages to enjoy. The resorts were the first properties to be Green Globe Certified in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Leading the way in sustainability, the resorts had to pass a series of rigorous eco-friendly tests and audits that measured their efforts and ultimately deemed them certifiable by the globally recognized Green Globe program. A few of the eco-forward initiatives that made the resorts eligible for the certificate include: placing cloth reusable shopping bags in each suite; replacing plastic straws with paper and Styrofoam containers with paper boxes; use of LED lighting, encouraging guests in each suite to reduce water and energy use waste during their stay.
By purchasing eco-friendly products, partnering with like-minded vendors and making sound eco-operation decisions while continuing to provide a high level of service for their guests, the resorts create a more sustainable travel destination.
Hotel Belmar, Costa Rica
As a family-owned (and managed) independent property, Hotel Belmar has been an integral part of Costa Rica’s Monteverde community since it opened in 1985. Over the years, Hotel Belmar has crafted an organic hospitality model rooted in eco-friendly practices and innovation, pioneering programs that leverage unique aspects of hospitality to further sound environmental stewardship, regeneration of the ecosystem and economic benefit to the local communities.
Hotel Belmar’s long-standing commitment to sustainability is evidenced in the scope, strength, and growth of its initiatives, including its authentic farm experience Finca Madre, which uses the Biointensive Agricultural Method. Finca Madre Tierra is the first agricultural project of its kind in Costa Rica to earn carbon-neutral certification.
SAVIA, the Hotel’s own private reserve, engages raw nature, non-invasive architecture, and science to highlight the holistic connection between the human soul and the forest.
HOTELES XCARET, Riviera Maya
Grupo Xcaret, a leader in sustainable tourism and recreation for more than 30 years, has consistently embraced the concept of cultivating economic, sociocultural, and environmental value in a harmonious manner to ensure the growth of their business. Guided by their overarching vision, the company developed a Sustainability Policy and their Xustainability Model consisting of three core pillars known as the “3P:” people, planet and prosperity always considering the impact they have on the environment.
The brand launched their hotel portfolio in Riviera Maya in 2018 with the opening of Hotel Xcaret Mexico, an all-inclusive luxury resort located along the shores of the Mexican Caribbean Sea, featuring eco-integrated architecture and design infused with a passion and respect for nature and Mexican culture. In 2021, Grupo Xcaret opened two additional luxury all-inclusive properties, Hotel Xcaret Arte and the ultra-luxury boutique hotel, La Casa de la Playa.
Located in the Mexican jungle, Grupo Xcaret relocated 80% of the trees and plants that were displaced during the resorts’ construction, serving as a testament to their unwavering dedication to the preservation and safeguarding of nature. These resorts, catering to both families and adults, pay homage to Mexican culture and use many décor items handmade by local Mexican artisans in all their suites.
Among their many sustainability efforts, the resorts have adopted the use of salt, rather than chlorine, for treating their pools and water features, provide guests with reusable cups, filled over 2,600 bottles of water daily on-site and grow organic herbs within their on-site garden for use in its restaurants, among many others.
Through its foundation, Grupo Xcaret has extended its commitment to fostering sustainable tourism across its trio of hotels and extensive array of parks and tours. Notable efforts include: a responsible waste separation and disposal program, the implementation of a sewage treatment plant program, the installation of an osmosis treatment facility, and the installation of water fountains for employees and guests to help reduce single-use plastics.
In addition, Grupo Xcaret also promotes and supports the consumption of local and regional products, the creation of the Riviera Maya Forest nursery, initiatives like the mangrove restoration project and the rehabilitation of the Nichupte Sistema lagoon, as well as the Escuela Verde project (reforestation in public schools in Quintana Roo) and the protection of beaches.
Dominica is acclaimed for its commitment to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation, making the Nature Island the Caribbean’s most environmentally conscious island. The island is creating a pathway for green industrialization by leveraging their natural resources to combat climate change and ensure resilience.
Over the past decade, Dominica has been working towards replacing diesel-generated electricity with more sustainable options. Most recently, Dominica has completed drilling the wells needed for their first ever geothermal power plant, which is expected to be completed within two years, making Dominica one of the first islands in the Caribbean to successfully replace fossil fuel-generated energy with green energy.
Voluntourism in Dominica focuses on assisting communities to improve the lives of its residents through specific projects such as education, agriculture and environmental activities. It follows the trend toward economically, environmentally and socially responsible tourism, with the end goal of improving lives on the island.
Sustainability is enshrined in Dominica’s entire tourism product, offering many activities for travelers to immerse themselves in the natural wonders on the island, while also educating travelers on the importance of protecting the abundant nature and wildlife. Their extensive natural park system and water marine parks are protected, and the island has a complete ban on single-use plastics on styrofoam, ensuring these harmful materials stay out of the ocean.
Additionally, visitors to the island have many accommodations to choose from, all of which put sustainability at the forefront of their offerings. Many of the island’s hotels are built using sustainable methods and materials, and each hotel has its own mission of sustainability.
For those looking for a sustainable yet luxurious stay, the Intercontinental Dominica Cabrits Resort and Spa, Jungle Bay and Secret Bay are perfect options. For those looking for sustainable, one-of-a-kind stays, Coulibri Ridge and Fort Young Hotel do not disappoint.
Fairmont Mayakoba is a AAA five-star diamond luxury resort located in Riviera Maya that truly sets the industry standard as a sustainable resort. From the very early stages of development, sustainable land and water management have been critical for Fairmont Mayakoba. The unique freshwater canal system that weaves its way through the resort’s thick jungle and mangroves was created by tapping into one of the world’s most extensive underground river systems that lies below Yucatan. By bringing fresh water to the surface in a highly protected area, the resort created a viable and flourishing ecosystem, which has seen an increase in population of many species that call Mayakoba home.
Most recently, Fairmont Mayakoba was awarded its 10th consecutive Sustainable Tourism Certificate by Preferred by Nature, an international non-profit organization that seeks to improve land management and business practices that benefit people, nature and the climate.
Fairmont Mayakoba also has a Coral Reef Restoration Program in partnership with Oceanus AC that provides guests with the opportunity to help save the planet by restoring the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest in the world. This reef expands in front of Mayakoba’s beach, and guests can sail away in a guided catamaran to experience how baby corals are being reintroduced to the ocean. Since the partnership began in May 2015, Fairmont Mayakoba has focused on rebuilding coral reefs by creating nurseries which has led to the transplantation of more than 1,500 corals with an 80% survival rate that continues to grow.