Celebrate Earth Day in some of our favorite ecotourism destinations

Published March 2022

a man jumps across rocks to take in the amazing view in Big Bear during a hike

As part of our spring travel trends survey, we discovered that 46% of Americans reported feeling that sustainable, responsible tourism is important when making travel plans—and that percentage jumps even higher for the eco-minded Generation Z and millennial travelers. For some, that could mean opting for a greener way to get to their destination or choosing lower-impact accommodation options. And for many (including 33% of those we surveyed), they’re making the extra effort to buy from local businesses and support the local economy.

Energy consumption and carbon emissions are serious concerns when it comes to tourism, so consider the carbon footprint that large hotels and high-volume resorts can have—and the energy it takes to power hundreds of rooms for 24 hours a day! Vacation rentals are often an existing asset and are, by their nature, more energy efficient and sustainable than traditional lodging.

For example, a home’s heating and cooling can be controlled to operate only during guest use, water consumption is reduced by providing linen service between stays vs. daily, and single-use plastics often found in hotels—from keycards to toiletries to water bottles—are also used minimally.

So, if you’re celebrating Earth Day by way of exploring our beautiful planet, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite ecocentric destinations to help you start planning. Below, find our top picks along with an ecotour or activity in each locale to help you reconnect with nature—and support those who call that area home.

1. Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

Costa Rica has long led the ecotourism movement. With roughly 25% of its territory made up of national parks and biodiverse reserves, it’s a green destination in every sense of the word. Costa Rica also uses 95% renewable energy with a goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country.

In Guanacaste Province, you can immerse yourself in nature by exploring the rare dry tropical forest, surfing in world-renowned waters, or counting over 250 species of birds from its endless beaches. In this tropical oasis, you’ll almost always be immersed in exotic landscapes, but the private palapa-style patios in a vacation home like Casa Atardecer let you take it all in from the comfort of your home away from home.

Recommended eco-friendly activity: At Costa Rica’s only oceanfront adventure park, zip line (nearly a mile long!) through Diamante Eco Adventure Park and visit the Animal Sanctuary, home to native species and known for its wildlife protection services and education.

2. Yellowstone National Park

It doesn’t get more natural than 3,500 square miles of wilderness. The borders of Yellowstone National Park mostly wind around Wyoming, but parts spread into Idaho and Montana too, offering plenty of locations to call home base. The expansive national treasure is home to dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, and gushing geysers, including the famous Old Faithful—not to mention incredible wildlife, from bears and bison, to wolves, elk, and antelope.

Aim to book a home near one of the park entrances (bonus points if it’s near a lake, like the Rainbow Point Sabo Cabin), and make the most of being surrounded by the great outdoors with cozy nights around a fire or lazy mornings cooking a hearty breakfast in your cabin’s full kitchen.

Recommended eco-friendly activity: Register for a field seminar through the park’s official non-profit partner, Yellowstone Forever, to learn about the unique ecosystem through a combination of fun field excursions and presentations.

3. Quintana Roo, Mexico

From a car-free island to miles of uninhabited virgin land, the region of Quintana Roo is rich with natural wonders and eco-friendly spaces to explore. Most recognized for its towns of Cancun, Cozumel, and Tulum, the Mexican state has now been touted as an ecotourism haven since the local government teamed up with tour operators to create more experiences that genuinely support the environment. Be sure to choose a vacation home in Quintana Roo with plenty of outdoor space like the Penthouse Lili 308 @ Real Zama so you can appreciate the sights and sounds of the jungle around you.

Recommended eco-friendly activity: Join local dive shop Agua Clara to experience the crystal clear waters of Quintana Roo’s famed cenotes—underwater caves derived from the Mayan word for “well”—and nearby reefs on an eco-friendly scuba or snorkel tour.

4. The Blue Mountains, Ontario

Not far from Toronto—one of the most innovative cities in the world and an early adopter of green technologies—lies the Blue Mountains. The idyllic mountain range is known for its alpine skiing in winter, but the remaining three seasons deliver a slew of outdoor recreation that’s not to be missed. Between nature excursions or strolls through the pedestrian-only Blue Mountain Village, embrace the simple life in a lodge-like escape such as Birchview 157.

Recommended eco-friendly activity: At Scenic Caves, hike through 17 unique geological features that were naturally carved millions of years ago—and finished with a stroll across a suspension bridge perched 82 feet above the forest floor.

5. Lake Chelan, Washington

For some, embracing an earth-friendly mentality might mean living off the land, and Lake Chelan Valley, known for its world-class fishing, is a place to do just that. With an abundance of cutthroat and kokanee salmon in the water, alongside rainbow trout, bluegill, largemouth bass, and crappies, Chelan is an angler’s paradise. Whether you’re reeling in fish or winding down with wine (the area is known for its many sustainable wineries), Lake Chelan State Park is a prime spot to lounge on sandy beaches and revel in Mother Nature. There are dozens of vacation homes to choose from along the shores of the lake, from charming cottages to family-sized homes, like Sunny Chelan.

Recommended eco-friendly activity: Take the path-less-pedaled via a Chelan Electric Bikes tour, where riders can spot bald and golden eagles, ospreys, blue heron, king fishers, migrating salmon, and even bighorn sheep.

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