When we get to travel again, here is a list of “Destinations With Responsible Tourism.”
Belize — Where Every Day is Earth Day
Central & South America are known for arresting greenery that blankets most of the continent, and the country of Belize having the privilege of being both in Central America and the Caribbean, benefits from both regions; spouting lush rainforests, secret waterfalls, mystical Mayan ruins and dotted islets. It should come as no surprise, then, that the country abides by the motto “Every Day is Earth Day” and has enacted multiple preservation efforts to build environmental awareness, including: phasing out all single-use plastics removing the Belize Barrier Reef from the danger list (the largest in the Northern Hemisphere) after almost a decade, to banning off-shore drilling touting eco-friendly accommodations that are tucked between rainforest canopies and waterfalls, and, most importantly, ensuing over 103 areas of Belize’s forested jungle landscape is protected. When it comes to finding sustainable travel destinations, Belize leads the charge on preserving it’s natural beauty. For more information, visit travelbelize.org.
Complimentary Zero-Emission Transportation — Park City, UT — known as Winter’s Favorite Town — takes pride in being a budding ecotourism destination, allowing visitors to travel responsibly without compromising the vacation experience. Just 25 minutes from the Salt Lake City International Airport, frequent shuttles carry passengers around the clock and once inside city limits, transportation is provided through complimentary zero-emission buses. By investing in green transportation, the town has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 70,000 tons since 2005. Additionally, Park City ski resorts use low-energy-consuming snow guns, recycle bins next to every trash can and only locally-sourced culinary ingredients. Throughout the town, there is a community-wide plastic bag ban, along with a community recycle center: Recycle Utah. Continuing the momentum surrounding green initiatives, Park City has North America’s most ambitious climate goals: to be net-zero carbon and run on 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2022, and for the whole community by 2032. For more information, visit visitparkcity.com.
Clean Energy Resolution — Tallahassee, Fla.
Tallahassee, Fla. offers ways to practice sustainability within the community. In February 2019, Tallahassee adopted the Clean Energy Resolution, a goal to move to 100 percent private and public use of renewable energy by 2050. Through programs, such as Tallahassee Solar, renewable energy is harnessed from solar farms and allows residents to lock in a fixed utility rate until 2037, incentivizing Tallahassee to practice different forms of sustainability. The capital city provides safe accommodations to encourage the community to bike for recreation and transportation. In 2018, Tallahassee was recognized for its efforts by earning the Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designation from the American League of Bicyclists. For more information, visit VisitTallahassee.com.
Montage Palmetto Bluff — Bluffton, S.C.
Nestled in a lush, 20,000-acre coastal nature preserve between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Montage Palmetto Bluff furthers its mission for continued conservation and preservation for the historic land that is home to Palmetto Bluff, alongside a partnership with the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy. By assisting in maintaining the ecological and environmental integrity of the land for generations to come, the Conservancy team has placed thousands of acres under conservation easements (nearly half of it’s 20,000-acres) that are protected from development in order to maximize bio-diversity. Complimentary to resort guests, and the community, the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy offers a robust schedule of 200+ educational programs a year, including guest lectures and activities that are dedicated to increasing the understanding and importance of the natural and cultural environment of the Lowcountry. For more information, visit montagehotels.com/PalmettoBluff.
Mahekal Beach Resort — Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Nestled between the dense Riviera Maya jungle and Playa del Carmen’s longest stretch of beach lies Mahekal Beach Resort, the only resort of its kind in all of Playa del Carmen. The waterfront oasis is known for their private palapa-style bungalows, open-air terraces with swaying, crotchet hammocks and an abundance of surrounding nature — think, cascading trellises, lush greenery, iguanas grazing the property freely and 160 species of native planets. Mahekal strives to be eco-conscious within their daily operations by conserving energy and limiting water waste, performing waste separation, offering local, organic toiletries made in biodegradable and recyclable packaging, equipping staff with eco-friendly cleaning supplies and supporting local markets by serving locally sourced and organic foods. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Mahekal employees were also teaming up with locals + guests to execute weekly beach cleanups led by the resort’s Sustainable Development Manager, Jennifer Lara. For more information, visit mahekalbeachresort.com.
Streamsong Resort — Bowling Green, Fla.
Founded on a commitment to sustainability, Streamsong Resort — owned by Mosaic Company, the largest U.S. producer of phosphates — was developed as part of a reclamation project on former mining land. Decades of mining in the region formally known as “Bone Valley” left behind a unique topography of sand, lakes, and dunes, creating the perfect foundation for three award-winning golf courses. Every design detail was made with respect to and for the 16,000 acres of natural surroundings, from the minimalist architecture that seamlessly blends into the scenery to a copy of “A Land Remembered” in every room’s library, telling a similar story of land preservation in the heart of Florida. For more information, visit streamsongresort.com.
Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica – Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Despite its landmass only occupying .03 percent of the planet’s surface, Costa Rica is home to over 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Because of this, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort Costa Rica has made it a top priority to conserve natural resources and keep its carbon footprint to a minimum – striving each day to be responsible stewards of this beautiful blue rock called home. The resort’s wide-ranging conservation program includes reusable keyless entry bracelets; on-site composting and recycling programs; energy efficient lighting, A/C and appliances; low-flow toilets and shower-heads; elimination of plastic water bottles and straws; and adopting the eco-friendly Vero Water® purification system. Committed to the community as well, Planet Hollywood sources food from local farmers and donates the surplus back to feed the farmer’s livestock. Blue Flag certified, Planet Hollywood Costa Rica has been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education for its high commitment to the protection of the beach and marine species. For more information, please visit planethollywoodhotels.com.
Royalton Saint Lucia — Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Recently awarded the Green Globe Award for their dedication to Sustainable Tourism, Royalton Saint Lucia is set on a private cove and dedicated to preserving the natural flora and fauna of the surrounding landscapes. As a part of their commitment to the environment, Royalton Saint Lucia eliminated single-use plastics in 2017, and plastic bottles are being phased out and replaced with the Vero water purifying system. To conserve energy, each suite is equipped with room temperature controls and motion sensor lighting. Royalton Saint Lucia’s onsite reverse osmosis plant and wastewater treatment facilities create a self-sufficient system that produces desalinated water and diverts wastewater for irrigation purposes. Overall, Royalton Saint Lucia has taken deliberate efforts to reduce their environmental impact and will continue these practices to keep Saint Lucia pristine and picturesque. For more information, please visit royaltonresorts.com.
Mystique Blue — Isla Holbox, Mexico
Mystique Blue is a luxury boutique resort located off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula on Isla Holbox. The resort itself is designed with the destination’s five most important concepts in mind: vegetation, sea movement, regional wood, Mexican architecture and organic elements. Mystique Blue’s suites celebrate the island’s culture with aged wood features and decorative elements comprised of a natural Henequen fiber made by local artisans. In addition to the resort’s features, Mystique Blue works closely with the Holbox Hotel Association to reduce the impact tourists have on both the beaches and wildlife by supporting several of the island’s sustainability practices, such as the decrease in single-use plastics, reduction of PET bottles, use of oxo-biodegradable trash bags and the payment of external trash companies to take the resort’s waste off the island to pre-approved landfills. As a whole, Mystique Blue is committed to keeping Holbox’s natural beauty alive. For more information, please visit mystiqueresorts.com.
Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort & Pier — Cocoa Beach, Fla.
As part of their efforts to preserve the environment, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier offers only pasta straws at each of their five oceanside restaurants, Pelican’s Bar & Grill, Rikki Tiki Tavern, Keith’s Oyster Bar, The Boardwalk Bar and Sea Dogs. By eliminating plastic straw waste, guests will be able to indulge in a cold and refreshing custom beverage while supporting clean ocean waters and beaches to protect the wildlife that call Cocoa Beach their home. A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier stretches 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and is home to restaurants, bars, gift shops, and live musical entertainment. In addition, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier offers beach rentals, beach volleyball courts, and some of the best surfing on the East Coast. For more information, visit cocoabeachpier.com.
Saddlebrook Resort — Wesley Chapel, Fla.
As a certified Florida Green Lodging property situated on a gated 480-acre Florida nature preserve, Saddlebrook continues to set the bar for environmental conservation with a comprehensive resort-wide recycling program, active climate controlled systems, an advanced irrigation golf course water system (that utilizes a fraction of the water required by a typical Florida golf course), and robust habitat preservation efforts. Exceptionally beautiful natural corridors, not only enhance guest enjoyment, but also serve to protect several plant and animal species indigenous to the region — including the Great Egret and Bald Cypress Tree, two key endangered species of flora and fauna that are fighting for a place in the local wetland ecosystem. For additional information, visit saddlebrookresort.com.
Voluntourism / Educational Programs
The Crystal Coast — The Southern Outer Banks, N.C.
Home to 85 miles of coastline, and glimmering unspoiled beaches, North Carolina’s Crystal Coast welcomes one of nature’s most interesting cycles, the sea turtle nesting season. During this time, turtles travel thousands of miles to lay their eggs at area coastal gem, Emerald Isle, which is designated as an official sea turtle sanctuary. Guests to Emerald Isle often rent beachfront vacation homes through local realty companies, all of which make a conscious effort to educate visitors on the do’s and don’ts of nesting season. Additionally, at the nearby North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, conservation efforts are underway to protect five (of seven) sea turtle species that live in the region’s coastal waters — this includes caring for sick, stranded or cold-stunned turtles, deploying stranding networks, nesting beach patrols, and providing rehabilitation facilities to aid the animals. For more information on conservation efforts, and how to actively participate in voluntourism programs, visit ncaquariums.com.
Montage Palmetto Bluff — Bluffton, S.C.
In a recent partnership with the University of South Carolina at Beaufort (USC Beaufort), Montage Palmetto Bluff proudly supports the institution’s Dolphin Research Program, and has welcomed a new sustainability representative, “Lucky” the dolphin as its symbol. Boasting 32 miles of riverfront, the maze of waterways throughout the surrounding May, Cooper and New Rivers provides a safe haven for the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin and the community strives to make a bigger difference in protecting its natural life, in order to provide the ultimate destination for eco-tourism. Through only visual spotting and photography by Dr. Eric Montie and his team at USC Beaufort, the research offers insight into behavioral traits, while ensuring that the environment and ecosystem in which they live will remain in proper balance for generations to come. Montage Palmetto Bluff offers a variety of ways for guests of all ages to get involved with the initiative, including attending guest lectures, enjoying dolphin-sighting boat tours or earn a “Dolphin Spotter” badge through the resort’s complimentary Montage Merits program. For more information, visit montagehotels.com/PalmettoBluff.
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa – Gatlinburg, TN
Located minutes away from the Great Smoky Mountains, Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa offers families the opportunity to take advantage of their mountain getaway while learning how to be a true local mountaineer with the resort’s Adventure Education workshops for kids. The year-round educational program includes the Leave No Trace Workshop, teaching kids the seven “Leave No Trace” principals to honor Mother Nature. Additional adventures include Mountain Meditation, Wild Tea Making and Archery where students will learn the traditional way Cherokee Indians would gather food for their families. For more information, visit wgsmokymountains.com.
The Tallahassee Museum— Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida’s capital city is home to a large, outdoor nonprofit museum — The Tallahassee Museum. The museum pracitices sustainability through a chain lake system and offers different educational programs. The chain lake system surrounds the facility so storm water can permeate into soil and filter naturally into the ground. Educational programs at the museum detail Florida’s natural and cultural heritage with history, nature and endangered wildlife. For more information, visit VisitTallahassee.com.
Presented by The Zimmerman Agency