Green vacations: 10 sustainable places that don't cost the Earth

7/6/2017, 5:11 p.m.
Travelers are more socially and environmentally conscious than ever, seeking to get away safe in the knowledge they've had minimal ...
Annapolis sun rise over City Dock (Photo: Robert Peterson)

— Travelers are more socially and environmentally conscious than ever, seeking to get away safe in the knowledge they've had minimal impact on the planet's resources.

With 2017 named as the United Nations' International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the spotlight is even more on the tourism and hospitality industry. While a lot of destinations claim to be doing their part to minimize their footprint, there are some who've striven to take sustainability to new levels.

Here are 10 of the best global destinations and experiences where vacations don't cost the Earth:

  1. Soneva Fushi, Maldives

Kunfunadhoo was a deserted island in the Indian Ocean idyll of the Maldives until Eva and Sonu Shivdasani built their first resort there, in the process pioneering the trend for environmentally responsible ultra-luxury holidays. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, the castaway property has proven the doubters wrong and has been fully carbon neutral since 2014.

They recycle 90% of their waste, including 100% of food waste that's used in their organic gardens, in turn reducing the cost of transporting food. Construction includes building blocks made from Styrofoam packaging, while all glass goes to their on-site studio where it's turned into works of art. The solar-based system provides all daytime electricity needs and 100% of water used is desalinated.

Soneva -- which today has a property in Thailand and a second in the Maldives -- also led the way in implementing a mandatory 2% carbon levy on rooms to support their Soneva Foundation which works in developing regions on reforestation and renewable energy projects.

Soneva Fushi, Kunfunadhoo, Baa Atoll, Maldives; +960 660 0304

  1. Bom Bom Resort, Sao Tome

Few destinations are as unvisited and untouched as Principe, the smaller of two main islands in the tiny country of Sao Tome and Principe, lying in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa.

Only 5,000 people live there, and Bom Bom Resort comprises just 19 bungalows on the beach, surrounded by tropical forest.

World-class scuba diving and hiking in UNESCO Biosphere reserves, visiting cocoa plantations and fishing villages are on the agenda, while Africa's smallest city, San Antonio, is also there to discover. For many, it's also the draw of wildlife, from whales to nesting turtles, monkeys and especially birds found nowhere else on Earth.

  1. eXtreme Hotel, Kite Beach, Cabarete, Dominican Republic

It's perhaps unsurprising that one of the world's kite surfing capitals -- Cabarete in the Dominican Republic -- is also home to a genuinely ecologically sustainable small hotel. Surfing and yoga, horse riding and hiking are literally on the doorstep for those not into kite surfing.

The property is 100% solar powered and purposefully not air-conditioned, but uses intelligent ventilation to make the most of the naturally windy beach to circulate cool air.

Rainwater collection systems are used to manage water consumption and an organic farm has 2,000 trees to further offset carbon emissions, in addition to providing local, seasonal produce. The hotel also aims to empower the local community through education, training and work opportunities for local Dominicans who number more than 70% of employees.