Best Eco-Tourism Resorts and Hotels within Five Hours of the United States
Prana del Mar features two complementary studios tailored to fit the a range of yoga practices
Prana del Mar features two complementary studios tailored to fit the a range of yoga practices
The Wellness Sanctuary Spa is a community space that includes a pool, hot tub and wet deck
Learn to fire dance at the southern tip of Baja, Mexico
Accommodations at Panama's Canopy Lodge above the waterfall
A rope swing is available for Canopy Lodge adventurers
Canopy Lodge's award-winning, world-class birding in the hills of El Valle de Antón
Chaa Creek’s accommodations include Tree Top Jacuzzi Suites that put you at the top of the Belizean Jungle world in comfort
Enjoy a guided horseback riding tour over the trails of the Chaa Creek Nature Reserve through sub-tropical broadleaf forest and past ancient Maya sites.
Rent a canoe at The Lodge at Chaa Creek and explore the Macal River
One of the 2 pools at Copamarina
Kayaking is a feature of Copamarina's Adventure Packages
The outdoor reception area at Copamarina
The term “Eco-Tourism” calls to mind images of high school kids volunteering at rural orphanages or sharing a cot with various wild animals in a run-down hut on the beach, and while both of those experiences have their rewards (some of those wild animals are quite snuggly), the reality of Eco-Tourism is very different.
There are eco resorts comparable to the best luxury offerings, and more and more travelers are opting to help the world as they take their vacations. According to the Center for Responsible Travel, the number of international eco tourists will reach 1.8 billion by 2030, and the tourism industry has started to take notice. Hoteliers are responding to the demand for conscious tourism with new sustainable construction and retrofitting existing hotels to be greener.
While achieving zero human impact on the earth may be impossible, each of these four hotels and resorts is doing its part to create lux accommodations with an emphasis on ecology, preservation of biodiversity, and humanitarianism without skimping on the room service. And with flight times at around five hours, you won’t have to travel too far to get there. If you’re expecting Gilligan’s Island, think again.
Prana Del Mar
Los Cabos, Mexico
Only 15 minutes from the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas, but a world away from the reggaeton and all-you-can-drink margaritas, is the eco-friendly and yoga-heavy Prana Del Mar (translation: breath of the sea) resort. Owner Erik Singer fell in love with the remote desert location on the Pacific Ocean, on one of his many surf trips. As he puts it, “The stark contrast of the arid desert and green mountains surrounded by the vastness of the sea, the golden morning and evening light, and warm hospitality of the people.” The focus here is on week-long retreats with an emphasis on yoga and wellness. The entire facility is off-grid and solar-powered, with luxury details like organic linens, a stunning solar heated saltwater pool the same azure blue as the ocean, and strand-woven bamboo floors. Guests dine on organic cuisine with ingredients from the on-site garden. If downward dog isn’t your thing, Prana Del Mar is an ideal base for surfing, whale watching from the sprawling terrace, horseback riding, and hiding out from the rest of the world.
El Valle de Anton, Panama
The Canopy Lodge is to birding as Las Vegas is to gambling. Visitors flock to book one of the 12 luxurious rooms, then set out on full- or half-day birding tours in El Valle de Anton, a picturesque and nature-focused community located in the heart of an extinct volcano. The property has over four acres of private trails that wind through cloud forests and waterfalls filled with wildlife and over 1,000 species of birds, including the elusive Tody Motmot and Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. August and September are quiet for the tourism industry in Panama, but Jenn Sinasac, resident biologist at Canopy Lodge, points out that this is the best time to view butterflies and book at reduced rates. The Canopy Lodge is owned and operated by an El Valle de Anton native, who hires local guides and donates a portion of the hotel’s profit to local and international birding clubs. Guests can hang out on their oversized balcony or hike suspension bridges and swim in a waterfall.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek
San Ignacio, Belize
The Lodge at Chaa Creek allows guests a wide range of luxurious sleeping accommodations, from “glamping” (glamorous camping, of course) in 10 well-appointed camp casitas on the Macal River to luxe tree-top suites with private Jacuzzis. Guests can explore 365 acres of private nature reserve on foot, horseback, and canoe. There aren’t many properties where visitors can pamper themselves in the spa, eat an organic Creole inspired breakfast, then learn about indigenous healing plants from a Maya tour guide, all before noon, but Chaa Creek does just that and they’ve done it with personality and attention to detail since 1981. Spokesperson Larry Waight shared Chaa Creek’s defining moment, “[W]hen two young travelers stumbled across a patch of jungle within the Macal River Valley after journeying by dugout canoe and horseback to discover what came to be their newly adopted home. From a very humble beginning rich with eager inquisitiveness and a quest for discovery came the birth of an industry – Belizean ecotourism.”
Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa
Guanica, Puerto Rico
Though Puerto Rico receives a high volume of visitors every year, Guanica still remains largely untouched. The Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa is built on a half-mile long beach facing the Caribbean Sea. The hotel is the largest employer in the region and schedules weekly beach cleaning events. From Copamarina Beach & Resort, there’s fast access to the Bio Reserve Guanica State Forest, home to 700 plant species of which 48 are endangered and 16 exist nowhere else on earth. Visitors can hike explore 36 miles of hiking trails and beach. The nearby Wall at Playa Santa is where divers get up close and personal with dolphins, eels, and turtles from a continental shelf dropping more than 1,500 feet. Molly Olive, a hotel representative recommends, “Gilligan’s Island also offers calm waters for swimming and is a suitable destination for families with small children.” Or castaways.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.
Here by Richard McGuire
A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.
The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.
NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.
Over Easy by Mimi Pond
When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.
Shoplifter by Michael Cho
Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.