When a lodge or tour operator bills itself as eco-friendly, how do you know that’s true? Follow in the footsteps of travelers who have tried them and you won’t have to wonder. Here, five earth-friendly trips IgoUgo members have taken and recommend.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Swim with Dolphins and Swing in Trees
Picture-perfect Puerto Vallarta ranks as many travelers’ favorite vacation spot: Cantin2’s been going for 10 years and says it’s only gotten better, while eight-time visitor Koala_D still has “not run out of new things to see and do.” The best thing to do, says bzychild, is contact Wildlife Connection for an “eco-friendly alternative” to more traditional swim-with-dolphin programs. The founders’ “incredible knowledge, accuracy in finding dolphins, and whale-watching expertise make this eco-friendly excursion one of the best around.” Above sea level, in the jungle of the Sierra Madre, mutantstar recommends Vallarta Adventures’ “great” canopy tours: “Because the organization is environmentally friendly, the platforms are not attached to any of the trees with nails, only suspended and secured with rope.” Stay at the Green Globe-certified Velas Vellarta Suite Resort and Convention Center, “highly recommended” by slevine.
Fort Collins, Colorado: Bike, Hike, and Try Some New Brews
An hour from Rocky Mountain National Park and its hundreds of miles of trails and hundreds of low-impact campsites, Colorado’s Choice City offers its own green charms. In Fort Fun, as Fort Collins is known at IgoUgo, eco-conscious member and frequent voluntourist COwanderer directs us to New Belgium Brewing Company for “tasty beers” from a “socially and environmentally responsible” brewery. “The nation's first 100% wind-powered brewery also donates $1 from every barrel sold to charity,” she says, and “after one year, employees are given ownership and an old-style Flyer bicycle.” At night, sleep green at one of the three Fort Collins Marriotts; all boast ENERGY STAR labels from the EPA.
Bristol, England: Take a Foodie Tour of Recycling Restaurants
The environmental street cred of the port of Bristol may surprise you, but this Fairtrade City was also the UK’s first official Cycling City and is the starting point of the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, an attraction-lined bike path along old railway tracks. Before you tackle the reclaimed route, fuel up at A Fair Cup, a “coffee caravan” that captain oddsocks loves. In addition to putting its strong social convictions into practice, the caravan offsets CO2 emissions, serves drinks in biodegradable cups, and offers blankets in lieu of patio heaters. That’s just the start of Bristol’s cutting-edge and conscientious culinary scene. Our captain oddsocks also recommends Bordeaux Quay, a posh eatery notable for its “preference for sail power over diesel, clever use of reclaimed timber, demonstrable respect for the environment, and top-notch food,” and Mud Dock, a “combined café and bicycle store” whose huge circular window “frames a view of St. Mary’s slender church tower.”
Perryville, Arkansas: Farm for the Future
Perryville may not have the bathhouses that attract tourists to nearby Hot Springs, but it has something even more unique: “international oasis” Heifer Ranch, the place to dip into a wellspring of ideas for tending the earth and helping its population. Whether you have a few hours, a few days, or a few months, Heifer International’s visitor programs shine light on “fighting world hunger and poverty by using livestock and sustainable agriculture to help people help themselves,” according to volunteer (of eight months!) turf2. A spring-break visit coincided with “lambing weekend” for callen60, so he and his family got to meet plenty of new sheep and goats. “This visit was a terrific way to finish our short spring trip,” he says. “My kids are dying to come back and help make a difference by working here. You can’t ask for more out of a vacation.” A bonus: from Hot Springs, it’s a “pretty trip through the forest near Pinnacle Mountain and Lake Maumelle” to the ranch.
Cape Town, South Africa: Meet Penguin Chicks at Africa’s Tip
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Norman is our travel hero. The frequent Earthwatch voluntraveler recently headed to “wonderful” Cape Town for 12 days of measuring, weighing, and monitoring penguins. It’s work that feels like play, but that doesn’t mean you can’t schedule some playtime anyway: head to the “conservation-themed” Two Oceans Aquarium, or take your pick of Rhino Africa excursions (the mindful tour operator is currently “paying it forward” to the Save the Rhino Trust). For accommodation, one of Cape Town’s most notably green choices is also IgoUgo’s top-rated hotel in the city: the lovely Cape Grace. Visit the spa to see why Eric Kater says that “after being cleansed, toned, and moisturized, I confess I did not feel very much like Hemingway in Africa.”
Environmentally conscious IgoUgo travelers have a lot more places to recommend, from Ecuadorian eco-retreats to Namibian wildlife reserves, but we’d love to hear about your green trips too: tell us at our Green Travel Forums!