Travel can be a life-altering, character-building, enlightening experience, and damn if it can’t also get you out of the pit of icy hell that is January in NYC/Chicago/Toronto, etc. But if you prefer your sunny escape with a solid side of sustainability, you’re in luck. There are more options than ever for tropical hotels that are doing their darndest to ensure travelers and locals alike (local plants, animals and humans, that is) stay healthy and thriving despite all those air miles and tourist traps. All you need to do is a little research — and in this case, we’ve even done that for you.
On a recent flight to Mexico, I watched the film Beatriz at Dinner in which John Lithgow plays a heartless hotel magnate intent on wiping out as many species (and Mexican villages) as necessary to get his latest construction off the ground. It’s a fantastic film, and it does a great job of making you super-uncomfortable — especially if “you” happen to be an American jetting to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera for funsies. But instead of a glam-yet-toxic hotel chain, I stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba eco-resort and spent my time ambling through wild mangrove sanctuaries and learning about the resort’s programs to protect countless species — from crocodiles to coral to endangered Melipona bees.
Hotels can be a shady business, it’s true; I’ve seen it. But not all of them are run by evil John Lithgows who treat local flora, fauna and human culture as disposable as long as its disposal will rake in the big bucks. There are good guys — good hotels, rather — out there. You just have to know where to look (and don’t get fooled by the phonies). Ahead are nine of our favorites so you can take that warm winter vacation and feel good about its — low — impact. As for neutralizing the carbon footprint of all those air miles, well, just keep reading.