Green Getaways

Vacation With a Conscience

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Going green doesn't mean you have to sacrifice luxurious travel. Visit five beautiful getaways that are good for the mind, body and conscience.

Llao Llao Bariloche
 Patagonia, Argentina
Built by architect Alejandro Bustillo in 1939, the resort was completely refurbished in 1993. The luxury hotel, a part of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World, has 147 standard rooms, 11 suites overlooking Lakes Moreno and Nahuel and one private Lake Moreno bungalow. This hotel is for the eco-minded traveler who just so happens to have a whole lot of green in the bank.

Mountain-biking is one of the resort's most popular pastimes. The lake region offers spectacular views and the hotel staff will organize bike tours for all skill levels. If you prefer to hike, there are many trekking tours and nature trails on the hotel's immense grounds. Canoeing and archery are also available, complete with necessary instruction.

Visit the hotels information on eco-tourism for several outdoor activities, the most intense of which is rafting the Manso River. Anyone with skill degrees II and higher can run the Manso on a day-long, guided journey.

As a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the Llao Llao provides customers with the option of carbon-neutral travel and offers the chance to make a financial contribution on their behalf to offset their energy consumption. The organization also donates to Sustainable Travel International to minimize the environmental impact of guests' overnight stays; the hotel still uses electricity and carbon fuel, but it does try to counteract that use.

Banyan Tree Hotel and Resort
 Seychelles
The Banyan Tree Hotel and Resort, Seychelles is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches and lush tropical forests. Located in Intendance Bay overlooking the Indian Ocean, the resort is comprised of 60 airy pool villas all of which offer astounding views of the idyllic Seychelles.

The resort offers scuba-diving so guests can get a closer look at the area's rich diversity of coral reefs and sea life. Guests are encouraged to explore the ecological wonders of the granite and limestone islands; 46 percent of the country's total land area is designated nature reserves and national parks.

The country is so beautiful that when General Gordon visited Seychelles' Valle�� de Mai on Praslin Island over 100 years ago, he thought he had discovered the Garden of Eden. Seychelles' guests can explore this same valley today, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Banyan Tree Resorts employ a "green imperative." Company wide, all their hotels have been built to minimize the impact on their surrounding environments. At the Seychelles location, the resort is active in an environmental program working toward Hawksbill turtle and beach conservation.

Kona Village Resort
 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Established in 1965, the resort is home to 125 thatched-roof bungalows called "hale," each created in the Polynesian architectural style. The resort sits on 82 oceanfront acres that include three distinct geological zones: sand, lava and lagoon. Bungalows are available in each zone, and they are cooled only by tropical winds and energy-efficient ceiling fans. The Resort is peaceful and calm, in part because no radio, telephones or televisions are included in the hales.

The resort offers a multitude of activities including snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and outrigger-canoeing. Adventure packages are available for diving and golf enthusiasts. The diving package includes three dives per accommodation, unlimited shore dives and round-trip ground transportation to the hotel. The popular golf package includes discounted rounds at the beautiful Hualalai course.

Thaba-Metsi Adventures
 Magoebaskloof, South Africa
As the name suggests, Thaba-Metsi is more about the adventure than the accommodations. The center is located on the Silver Mist Game and Trout Estate in South Africa's Limpopo Province.

Adventure activities include quad-biking, canyoning, abseiling, fly-fishing, tubing and horseback-riding. Those looking for an adventure unlike any other should try kloofing (aka canyoning) in scenic George's Valley Gorge. Explore, float, swim, cliff-jump and rock-hop -- it's an adventure that's not for the faint-hearted.

Accommodations include six cabin-like chalets and campsites. There are five two-man tents on raised platforms with bunks and plots for those ready to rough it. Leave the desire for luxury at home and pack your sense of adventure, this South African retreat trades bells and whistles for the call of the wild.

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an
 Mexico
The Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an, or CESiaK, is situated on Mexico's Caribbean coast, near the Mayan Ruins of Tulum. Part resort, part ecotourism and education center, it's a model for sustainable development. The revenue from tours, fishing, accommodations and on-site activities is used to fund conservation programs within the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve.

The center uses ecologically responsible solutions for waste management, water collection and energy consumption. The accommodations are beautiful, comfortable and ecologically minded. With minimum impact to the surrounding forest, the main building was built on top of the concrete ruins of the site's former hotel. The luxury tents are constructed on platforms allowing for ecological and hydrological processes and come fully furnished.

During the day, relax on the beach or explore the wilds of the reserve. You'll find climbing monkeys, nesting sea turtles, mangroves and Mayan ruins. The center offers several guided tours of the canal and a beautiful sunset bird-watching tour. This truly is the ideal getaway for those on a budget and seeking a relaxing yet educational experience.