Looking for sustainable lodging that’ll allow you to do some good for the planet while on vacation? Start with one of these eco-friendly hotels. From conserving energy and water to restoring our delicate coral reefs, these properties are not only giving back to our planet, but they’re also engaging travelers in the process, with special activities and incentives designed to educate guests of all ages. Consider one of these eco-friendly hotels for your next trip with the kids.
Editor’s note: Some amenities and services at these locations may be altered/halted due to the pandemic. Save these ideas for when it’s safe to travel again, and always follow all COVID-19 restrictions, rules, and safety regulations both at your destination and upon returning home.
1. Fairmont Mayakoba – Rivera Maya, Mexico
The Fairmont Mayakoba (about 20 minutes from the center of Playa del Carmen) is a Rainforest Certified resort, situated within 240 acres of tropical forest, mangrove waterways and along the Caribbean Sea coastline. This all-inclusive luxury Mexico resort features multiple pools, beach games, a spa and so much more. But Fairmont Mayakoba is also giving back to the Earth.
The resort minimizes its impact on the Mayakoba ecosystem with LED lights, software-controlled air conditioning, water-saving and efficient toilets, and showers and sinks that save nearly 800 gallons of water each day. Organic waste is donated to farms, plant waste is used to make compost, and whenever possible, local and organic foods are served to guests.
On top of those initiatives and many others, Fairmont Mayakoba is also helping to save the coral reef that sits on the sea floor in front of the resort. The Mesoamerican Reef in the Caribbean Sea is the second largest barrier reef in the world and the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere. In partnership with Oceanus, A.C., the resort’s Coral Reef Restoration Program uses coral fragments that have broken naturally and been rescued to create man-made coral nurseries that are then transplanted back into the natural reef. The restoration process takes time as coral grows at a very slow pace—but it’s working and the coral reef is slowly being restored. Families can book a snorkeling tour at Fairmont Mayakoba, where they can learn more about the resort’s Coral Reef Restoration Program and see the new coral nurseries slowly growing on the sea floor firsthand.
2. The Palms Hotel and Spa – Miami Beach, FL
Located minutes from South Beach, the Palms Hotel and Spa offers families tropical gardens, pools and white-sand beaches—beaches that can sometimes need a clean-up. The world’s largest, one-day volunteer beach clean-up event takes place annually with the help of the hotel. Smaller beach clean-up days take place throughout the year, but the larger event involves the hotel guests, staff and community, who all come together to reduce marine debris.
The hotel wants its guests to be inspired by nature when visiting. So in addition to the beach clean-ups, food and beverages are locally sourced from area farmers, as well as the hotel’s own onsite, organic garden. More than 65 percent of the hotel’s furniture was made from recycled, renewed or locally produced materials. Paper straws are used at the hotel and only used if a guest requests one. The parking garage features an electric car charging station, and energy-efficient air conditioning and lighting systems are in the guestrooms of this eco-friendly hotel.
3. Fairmont Waterfront – Vancouver, Canada
The Fairmont Waterfront is located in Vancouver, a city that has made great strides in its quest toward large-scale sustainability. So, it’s only fitting that the Fairmont Waterfront has joined the community in this initiative. The hotel features a 2,100-square-foot rooftop garden that produces herbs, vegetables, and fruits that are enjoyed at the hotel’s restaurants.
Also buzzing at the rooftop garden are six beehives and more than 250,000 honeybees. The honeybees were first welcomed to the roof of the hotel in 2008, and their facilities continue to grow each year. There’s even a rooftop pollinator hotel for the bees and an observation hive for guests to safely watch them! The hotel’s Bee Butler (yes, seriously) invites guests on a daily beehive tour in the summer months, where they learn that the bees forage around 26 square Vancouver miles from 60 different species of plants. In total, the bees produce 600 pounds of honey each year. Enjoy it in the hotel’s restaurants or take some home—it’s available for purchase.
4. The Orchard Garden Hotel – San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is on a continuous mission to make itself a zero-waste city and has one of the highest recycling rates in the nation. They were well ahead of the curve with banning plastic bags in 2007 and the Orchard Garden Hotel is the first LEED certified hotel in San Francisco, second in California and fourth in the United States. A Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is the most honored “green” certification in the world. Some of the green practices and designs at this sustainable hotel include carpets made of recycled materials, low chemical emissions, and energy-efficient systems in guestrooms and throughout the interior and exterior of the building. Small plastic amenity bottles have been eliminated in favor of bulk dispensers; all cleaning products used are organic; menus and paper products are recycled paper; kitchen waste is composted, and water faucets and toilets are low flow. But the Orchard Garden Hotel gives back to the entire planet (in partnership with Plant a Billion Trees) when it plants a tree for every review (positive or negative) that’s posted on TripAdvisor.
5. Villa Pescadores Tulum – Tulum, Mexico
This eco-friendly boutique hotel directly on the beach of Tulum, Mexico, created a cooperative with the fisherman who were the first to sustainably utilize the beach. Tulum’s Fisherman Cooperative was granted federal permits to fish on this beach, called Playa Pescadores (fishermen beach) and in 2014, the hotel signed an agreement with the Cooperative to coexist with the fishermen boats and respect the environment and traditions of the fishermen. Villa Pescadores Tulum built the hotel using existing Mayan huts and reusing materials, and disrupted as little as possible of the natural environment. No mature trees were disrupted in the building process and trees that were used were locally sourced.
In 2016, the hotel was awarded Green Key Status, meaning the hotel is actively reducing its carbon footprint. The hotel reduces, reuses or recycles as much as possible. They use a rain water catchment system to provide water for the gardens and to prevent dune erosion. The hotel’s to-go cups, straws and trash bags are made of corn starch and are biodegradable. Organic waste is composted and used to fertilize the gardens and every morning the beach is raked for trash, where it’s then disposed of properly or composted.
Families staying here will be delighted to unplug (there are no televisions in the rooms) and have their home away from home be directly over the sand and surrounded by Mexico’s natural beauty.
6. Santa Juana Lodge – Quepos, Costa Rica
You will quite literally be surrounded by Costa Rica’s biodiverse eco-system when staying at Santa Juana Lodge, about 60 minutes (by 4×4 vehicle only!) from Manual Antonio National Park. The drive to the hotel is not for the faint of heart (let the professionals handle it!), but once you’ve reached the top of the mountain and see the greenery that engulfs this lodge, it will have been worth the bumpy and windy mountain journey.
Santa Juana Lodge is part of a collection of sustainable Costa Rican hotels called Greentique Hotels, a company that’s committed to conserving and educating visitors about Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity.
Along with being an eco-friendly hotel, Santa Juana Lodge also offers tours that combine nature-based adventure with sustainable practices. Hikes to waterfalls, birdwatching or coffee tours are a few of the options. Additionally, families staying here can participate in reforestation by planting a tree through the hotel’s tree adoption program, too.
7. Canyon Lodge and Cabins – Yellowstone National Park, WY
As the largest sustainable lodge in a U.S. National Park, the Canyon Lodge and Cabins features more than 500 guestrooms and cabins on its expansive property in Yellowstone National Park. This seasonal eco-friendly hotel is open from June through October and is located near the Grand Canyon. The Lodge is LEED certified. The guestrooms feature high-performance windows that conserve energy, countertops in the bathrooms are made from recycled glass and recycled fly ash (a coal combustion product), wood fixtures are recycled materials, and 30 percent of all materials used to construct the lodge were sourced within 500 miles. And with extreme energy efficient laundry machines, it now takes the hotel 0.3 gallons of water to wash one pound of clothing.
8. 1 Hotel Central Park – New York, NY
Steps away from the serenity and greenery of Central Park in New York City’s concrete jungle, 1 Hotel Central Park is an urban hotel inspired by nature. This LEED certified, eco-friendly hotel was designed using reclaimed materials and promotes health and wellness for its guests. The lobby features a “farm stand” filled with complimentary fruit, vegetables, granola and nuts for guests to enjoy. The kids (or seedlings, as the hotel calls them) will love the opportunity for in-room camping, complete with sleeping bags and games. The Greenhouse Suite features a living green wall of ferns and ivy, a hemp mattress with organic bedding, a yoga mat, filtered water taps, a five-minute shower timer, Hepa-air filters, and an eco-ionic hairdryer.
9. Hotel Xcaret Mexico – Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Hotel Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, Mexico is situated directly within the Xcaret eco-park and seamlessly merges jungles, caves, rivers and the Caribbean Sea with luxury accommodations and service. This all-inclusive Mexico resort includes unlimited access to all of the Xcaret parks, which are impressive eco-focused parks promoting sustainable tourism recreation. Hotel Xcaret pays tribute to the Mayan region and culture and uses nature itself as the essential element at the hotel. It is the first hotel in the Americas to receive the EarthCheck Building Planning and Design Standard certification. EarthCheck is the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification for travel and tourism. The certification recognizes Hotel Xcaret for promoting sustainable architecture, construction and projects.
The hotel group produces more than 130,000 native plants from Mexico, 100,000 of which are used for reforestation in and outside of the Xcaret properties. They have created water management and energy saving initiatives that save 70 percent of the waste from the parks, and they also go the extra mile for wildlife. Xcaret began a conservation and specimen program in 1994 for the scarlet macaw bird, which was nearing extinction; by 2017, more than 200 birds were living again successfully in the jungles of Mexico and continue to increase population. The scarlet macaws, marine turtles and other sea and wildlife have all benefited from Xcaret’s conservation programs.
10. Element Basalt Aspen – Aspen, CO
All Element Hotels give back to both the environment and the community, as clothing donation bins can be found in the hotel lobbies. Element Basalt Aspen, about 30 minutes outside of downtown Aspen, is a short drive from skiing, hiking and biking trails, giving guests those breaths of fresh mountain air when visiting. Families will love the indoor saltwater pool after a day of skiing, and the guestrooms feature a fully equipped kitchenette, too. This eco-friendly hotel, which was designed and constructed using recycled materials wherever possible, features an electric car charging station, low-flow bathroom fixtures and bulk-sized bathroom amenities in order to reduce plastic bottles. S’well reusable water bottles can also be purchased at the hotel’s pantry so guests can reduce their plastic use even more.
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