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Sustainable stays that inspire eco-friendly travel

Ecotourism can take you to some of the world’s most alluring vacation spots, and these destinations’ commitment to sustainability keeps their remarkable statuses intact. | By Paul Oswell | April 6, 2023

It’s natural to think about the impact your lifestyle has on the world around you. From energy efficiency and lowering carbon emissions to minimizing your environmental impact, sustainable travel is on many people’s minds. These eco-friendly destinations take a proactive approach to ensuring future generations can enjoy the same sights and natural wonders that we do today. Explore these three eco-friendly locations for a memorable and sustainable stay:

  • Punta de Mita: From teeming marine parks and estuaries to spectacular jungle waterfalls, the biodiversity is truly incredible

  • Washington: The U.S. capital city’s foundations are built on green spaces and a responsible approach to urban planning, with modern restaurants taking up the eco-friendly mantle

  • Cabo San Lucas: The region’s world-class beaches are a lesson in environmental stewardship, and visitors can reap the benefits

man and woman walking on pathway
Embrace tranquility as you explore protected ecosystems and stunning natural landscapes.

Punta de Mita, Mexico

Punta de Mita, on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, has exceptional unspoiled landscapes, making it one of the country’s most alluring destinations. Plus, there are many ways to enjoy the region while staying eco-friendly. One of the most beautiful natural spots is the wonderful Los Arcos Marine Park, famed for its incredible biodiversity and granite arches. It’s a flourishing ecosystem with a protected status, and visitors can see penguins, pelicans and other sea and land animals coexisting in their natural habitat. It’s especially great for snorkeling and scuba diving, and you can spot eels, rays, trumpetfish and even sea turtles.

Another protected natural area to explore is the El Salado estuary, a spectacular aquatic nature reserve, comprised of sprawling marshes and mangroves. The estuary is home to hundreds of species of bird life, spiny-tailed iguanas, American crocodiles and boa constrictors. Take an expert-led boat tour through the waterways that wind through this incredible natural treasure. If you enjoy the outdoors, then a hike to the Palo Maria waterfalls is a must. Hidden in the jungle of the Sierra Madre Mountains, Palo Maria is accessible via an easy 45-minute trail that takes you to a collection of 12 cascading waterfalls — each as photogenic as the next.

Preserving these natural attractions is important to Conrad Punta de Mita. Surrounded by a coastal rainforest, undisturbed nature and a vibrant local community, the resort is committed to reducing its environmental impact with sustainable practices. Ninety-five percent of the property is lit by LED luminaires for energy efficiency, and the property has a comprehensive recycling program that responsibly dispenses with everything from glass and vegetable oil to plastic and wastewater, which goes to garden irrigation projects. With seven distinct restaurants, lounges and bars offering authentic Mexican flavors with modern influences, a spa that incorporates indigenous products and 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of pristine white-sand beach, it’s an enticing, eco-conscious coastal escape.


The U.S. capital has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to a sustainable outlook. Its designers in the late 18th century made provisions for vast networks of public walking paths and urban gardens. The modern city stays true to this vision, with the 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) National Mall, the 2.7-square-mile (6.9-square-kilometer) Rock Creek Park and abundant green spaces overlooking the Potomac River, just to name a few.

A great way to see the city’s sweeping views in an eco-friendly way is to take a curated bike tour tailored to your interests (and pace!) with companies like DC Cycling Concierge. The company’s Rising Tides tour takes in the city’s geographic and cultural history with discussions around the sea levels and threats of tidal flooding. The tour was developed with climate change experts and offers great context to consider while seeing the city’s most famous attractions.

You can make your stay in Washington a truly sustainable one at Conrad Washington DC. The hotel is LEED Gold certified and takes a proactive approach with green practices built into its design, operations and offerings. The property’s dining outlets — Estuary restaurant and bar and Summit, the hotel’s rooftop bar — employ unique cooking methods, including sustainable vendor sourcing and solar cooking in the form of a solar oven when possible. Its kitchen aims for zero emission cuisine, which includes packaging that is 100% eco-friendly, the elimination of single-use plastics and working closely with local organizations for organic recycling and composting as well as donating left-over food. Vegetation grown on the hotel’s green rooftop not only creates a relaxing oasis for guests, but also helps to insulate the building and reduce energy consumption from heating and cooling systems, while the planted herbs are infused into syrups and spirits and used as cocktail garnishes. This all helps to make their enticing seasonal menus not just one of the best in town, but also one of the most environmentally responsible.

Washington takes pride in its culinary scene, and many of its best restaurants take a sustainable approach to dining. Equinox is a family-owned restaurant a block from the White House and is an industry leader in the zero-waste movement. Taking a conscientious approach to cuisine, the kitchen gets creative, with dishes such as carrot peel soup and strawberry-hull pesto.

Nature's photography at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos
Enjoy one-of-a-kind eco-experiences at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

This coastal paradise, in Mexico’s Baja California, is where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, and the region’s beaches are truly world class. This doesn’t just happen by accident, though — it takes a dynamic approach to maintaining the region’s ecosystems, a commitment that has paid dividends.

Cabo San Lucas is rightly famous for its scenic, secluded coves and sandy stretches, and it boasts a high proportion of Blue Flag beaches. To qualify for this prestigious, internationally recognized award, these beaches must meet and maintain a series of strict criteria on sustainability, safety, environmental impact and accessibility. You can enjoy these spots with the reassurance that they are clean, safe and respectful to the surrounding ecosystem and wildlife. Over 20 beaches in the region enjoy Blue Flag recognition, including Acapulquito, Las Viudas, Palmilla and La Gaviota.

Away from the coast, there are also several eco-friendly attractions. Tamarindos is an organic farm and restaurant around 5 minutes from San Jose del Cabo. Enjoy a farm-to-table dinner or book a tour of the farm to harvest your own herbs and vegetables before immersing yourself in a hands-on cooking lesson. Expert chefs help you prepare a traditional four-course meal (which you get to enjoy afterward) while educating you about their sustainability practices.

Sustainability practices are also paramount at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal. The property's signature restaurants, El Farallon and Don Manuel’s, have committed to recycling all their kitchen waste. The hotel also boasts cross-departmental energy efficiency drives, including the use of solar panels where possible. The property has a federal permit to maintain a turtle nest, with 24-hour beach monitoring, the protection of eggs, turtle release and ongoing environmental education for both guests and Team Members. It’s a heartwarming and important factor of daily life at the hotel.

Being an environmentally responsible traveler is the best way to preserve the natural beauty found at your destination and beyond. Proactively research locations and prioritize your eco-friendly goals to align with local practices and offerings for an enriching — and mindful — getaway.

Paul Oswell is a British award-winning journalist and published travel author based in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. His books include Bucket List North America and The Great American Road Trip, as well as New Orleans' Historic Hotels. He has also been an editor of and contributor to several guide books/editions published by Dorling Kindersley (owned by Penguin), including New Orleans, Florida, Orlando, Los Angeles, California and The United States. His work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure (both of which he has written multiple online travel guides for) and The Guardian, as well as dozens of international newspaper and magazine titles, and inflight magazines for major airlines.

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