5 Hot Green Travel Destinations to Visit in 2011


Photo: ewen and donabel/Creative Commons

Ready to shake up your vacation routine? Getaways around the world -- ranging from private islands and bustling cities to rural escapes and off-the-grid beach villas -- have new green initiatives underway.

From a new LEED-certified Disney resort to your pick of farms in Iceland to a sustainably-built bungalow in Indonesia, these green vacations offer the eco-conscious traveler a unique new way to see the world.

Of course, the greenest vacation is the one you take at home -- with no flights and no hotels -- but if your wanderlust just can't be satisfied by a staycation, then these destinations will help you maximize your time off while minimizing your travel footprint.

1. Oahu, Hawaii

The newest Disney property, Aulani, is scheduled to open on the island of Oahu this summer -- but you won't find Mickey or the princesses here.

Instead, the resort is designed to highlight local culture, with restaurants using fruit, vegetables, and fish from island producers, day trips like snorkeling and kayaking, a conservation pool where visitors can pet stingrays, and native art on everything from the walls to the textiles, according to Green Lodging News.

It's also been reported that the 21-acre resort is aiming for LEED certification, although the company hasn't yet explained what exactly they're doing to reach that goal.

2. Koh Kood, Thailand

Photo: miserychick/Creative Commons

The Eco Villa at Soneva Kiri resort, a Six Sense property, hosted its first overnight guest last summer in a building made from mud and lumber harvested on site (no cement or concrete here).

Skylights let visitors look at the stars at night (although LED bulbs let you read your vacation novel, too), and the insulation is made from recycled newspaper. The off-grid villa gets its power from a wind turbine, solar panels, and a hydro system run by wastewater from the resort's restaurant.

Of course, there are amenities, too: a private, 150-bottle wine cellar with a solar cooling system; an "ecologically-filtered" pool; and a 50-watt television.

3. Nikoi Island, Indonesia

Photo: wjklos/Creative Commons Nikoi Island is a little more than two hours by ferry from Singapore, but a stay at this 15-hectare island feels like you're a world away.

Accommodations comprise of 15 individual beach houses with driftwood roofs and natural ventilation, and the resort makes conservation a priority: It designed the property layout to build the villas without cutting down trees, runs a program that protects native wildlife, and employs locals who are committed to keeping the island in pristine condition.

4. A Farm Holiday in Iceland

Photo: WorldIslandInfo.com/Creative Commons

Nearly 160 farms in Iceland -- including 10 new ones for 2011 -- open their homes to visitors as part of Icelandic Farm Holidays.

You choose your sleeping style (private or shared rooms, cottages, or camping) and can enjoy meals in the farm's own kitchen in between horseback riding, hiking, and other activities.

The organization is also certified by Earth Check for its sustainability initiatives, which include reducing waste, buying local, and supporting the neighborhood economy.

5. New York City

Photo: Adam Lerner (away)/Creative Commons

The new Element hotel in Times Square is a LEED-certified, 411-room spot with furnishings made from recycled materials, low-VOC paint, low-flow fixtures, and an Energy Management System that regulates lights and temperatures.

The hotel also offers free bikes you can borrow to ride along the Hudson River and see the city in a whole new way (plus you'll have access to all of the city's best local, organic, and vegetarian restaurants, eco-friendly boutiques, and public transportation options).

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Tags: Beaches | Conservation | Tourism