For many years, the concept of responsible travel and ecotourism had the image of tree huggers and backpackers in Birkenstock sandals going for days without a shower or a decent meal. Many of us were probably backpackers (maybe even tree huggers) in our college days, but enjoy the ” creature comforts” of luxury or five star hotels and resorts on our travels today. We think that adventure and comfort as well as sustainability and luxury can mix quite well in a vacation experience. Here is some help on how to find hotels, resorts and lodges that offer a five start service experience combined with a sense of place, protection of the environment and support for local communities and its people.
Choosing a luxury or five star destination or hotel can be challenging. The definition of luxury has changed quite a bit over the years. Traditionally, it was about golden faucets, Italian marble bathrooms and exotic items from around the world on the restaurant”™s menu. For the more experienced traveler this has changed. Authenticity and sense of place, remote and pristine locations, locally harvested and produced food and drink, unique wildlife and nature experiences and connections with people have become today”™s new luxuries.
So while an eco lodge in the rain forest might not have air-conditioning in their rooms, the experience of waking up and hearing howler monkeys, scarlet macaws and toucans right next to your screened window is an experience that many people now consider luxury. And when a freshly brewed cup of organic locally grown coffee is delivered to your door, there is a bit of the traditional luxury factor back in the equation.
When checking a hotel or resort for their sustainability practices, take a look at their website and look for information on sustainability, conservation of flora and fauna and practices that enhance the development of local communities. But dig deeper. Ask the reservations agent about some of the things you read on the website to make sure they are not just PR or even green washing. And when at the hotel or resort, try to take a look behind the scenes of the hotel operation and visit local schools or projects that are supported by the hotel. This could be a life changing experience.
When you made your decision on where to stay and chose a green lodging operation or eco destination, these are some of the ” compromises” that you might encounter in sustainable hotels and resorts and eco lodges:
- Not all the seafood in the world and not even all the seafood in the country might be found on the menu. Certain endangered species are banned. Tuna, for example, should be caught the traditional way and consumed in moderation. Certain times of the year, certain species should not be offered.
- Air conditioning is not always available. But usually, the cross ventilation and location of the guest rooms in eco lodges does not require A/C. In many sustainable Hotels that offer air conditioning, it might be a more enjoyable to open the windows, turn on the ceiling fans, let the breeze come in and listen to the ocean waves and rain forest sounds.
- If your idea of luxury is many free plastic bottles of water all over your room, then you might be disappointed. They are banned from many eco lodges and instead reusable water bottles are provided to drink the locally sourced water. This might cost the lodge serious money, but it is the right thing to do.
- When staying at an eco lodge or sustainable resort, they are most likely located in pristine nature locations. That means that there are animals in all forms and shapes. Usually nothing really dangerous, but it is a different experience from the sterile environment of a city apartment. A certain level of enthusiasm and tolerance for nature is recommended.
- Things might not always be perfect. Truly sustainable hotels, resorts and lodges hire and train local staff. Many all-inclusive and branded resorts bring in expats to take care of guests. That might ensure a bit better service efficiency and language skills, but can lack authenticity and ” heart”.
If you enjoy freshly prepared, local seafood, can trade in A/C a couple of days for Ocean breezes, are ok with drinking water from a rainforest well, and don”™t mind monkeys and iguanas hanging out on your balcony, you should take a look at the Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges. And the ” sacrifices” that you make will be more than compensated by the authenticity of the experience and especially the warmth and friendliness of the lodge and hotel staff that will take care of you.