What It Means to Stay at an Eco Resort
Enjoy your vacation and do some good, too.
As avid recyclers, animal lovers and supporters of our local community, my husband and I wanted to spend our one-year anniversary at a place that shares the same values as we do. When we came across Sandos Caracol Eco Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, we knew we could have an equally relaxing, educational and adventurous vacation with a guilt-free conscience. Yes, we had to travel by plane to get there, but our accommodations, meals and activities impacted the environment in a more positive way than most places we could have chosen.
So, what does it mean to be a true eco resort? Simply put, an eco resort is a lodging facility that takes active steps toward environmental sustainability and social responsibility by helping its natural surroundings and the local community. Sandos Caracol, the resort at which we stayed, offers several programs to minimize their eco footprint, and here are the ones that top my list:
Recycling, Reducing + Reusing
Throughout the resort you'll find recycling containers so guests can separate organic and inorganic trash. In 2016, all four Sandos resorts in Mexico recycled more than 200 tons of materials.
Since this is an all-inclusive resort, guests go through a lot of drinks. But to eliminate waste, Sandos has integrated a program that includes reusable cups, a "Say No to Straws" policy and the inclusion of water jugs in guest rooms. (We went through three, five-gallon jugs during our stay!)
On-Site Organic Garden
Yes, there's an on-site garden and yes, it's beautiful. The staff uses all organic leftovers from the restaurants and kitchens as compost.
On-Site Plant Nursery
The resort created an on-site plant nursery to grow and reforest endemic plant species into the Riviera Maya jungles.
Plant a Tree Program
Before guests leave Sandos Caracol, they're encouraged to plant a local tree to commemorate their stay and help reforest the area. In 2016, guests planted approximately 140 trees a month as part of the "Plant a Tree" program.
On-Site Water Treatment Program
Each Sandos property houses an on-site water treatment plant that takes used water and makes it clean again. The water is then used in the gardens and nurseries.
Sandos Caracol houses three natural ecosystems, so you'll find a variety of wildlife roaming freely and happily throughout the resort, including coatis, spider monkeys, iguanas, raccoons and turtles. Sandos is also dedicated to animal rescue. Just behind the outdoor lobby you'll find a mini farm with donkeys, pigs, roosters, peacocks, rabbits, birds, cats and more. Some of these animals, however, roam free around the resort (and love making friends with guests).
As a Cat Lady, I loved seeing the rescued felines roaming around. They had escaped a lousy past to now live happily on the grounds of a beautiful resort. Sandos has programs to provide food, shelter, spaying/neutering and veterinary care to the resort's rescue cats.
Xcalacoco loosely translates as 'jungle life,' and it's all about living in tandem with the plants and animals of the Mayan jungle. We were there during Spring Equinox, a particularly special time, so we got the ultimate Xcalacoco experience including amulets that had been purified by a Mayan chaman. Created to celebrate the history and heritage of the Mayan region, the resort's Xcalacoco program provides eco tours, cultural workshops, evening Mayan performances, traditional Mayan cooking, sensory experiences and so much more. There are activities every day, with each day honoring a different element — Earth, Wind, Corn, Water, Sun, Fire and Roots.
Each summer, Sandos protects sea turtle nests on the beach then releases the newly hatched baby sea turtles into the ocean in the fall. The Sandos Turtle Camp helps eggs and hatchlings survive potential predators and bad weather so they can reach the ocean.
Is an eco resort the right fit for you? Research the hotel and find out. But remember, you can always travel sustainably no matter where you go.
Eco Beach Resort
Eco Beach is an award-winning eco-resort set amongst a pristine and untouched environment in Western Australia. With no televisions or telephones, Eco Beach strives to offer a complete wilderness experience and to have minimum impact on its surroundings.
Luxurious and eco-sensitive, Longitude 131° lies at the gateway of the dual World Heritage listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia, complete with stunning and private views of the sun rising and setting over Ayers Rock.
Finca Rosa Blanca
Finca Rosa Blanca is the perfect getaway for nature and coffee lovers. This boutique hotel has the highest rating in Costa Rica for sustainable tourism and even its own organic shade-grown coffee plantation.
WildSpring is a small, secluded eco-friendly resort on the Southern Oregon Coast. Set on five acres of old Native American ground, with a zero carbon footprint, you'll sleep in a peaceful forest and enjoy breakfast overlooking the ocean.
Laguna Lodge Eco Resort
Laguna Lodge Eco Resort and Nature Reserve is set on Guatemala's stunning Lake Atitlan. Enter this modern Mayan world by boat and stay in suites inspired by nature and created from volcanic stone, adobe and palm.
Our list of the best beach resorts in Mexico.