Where NOT to Go


Though traveling the world in an environmentally responsible way gets easier every year, there are still some trips worth avoiding. Here’s the lowdown on a few perennially popular options....


Though traveling the world in an environmentally responsible way gets easier every year, there are still some trips worth avoiding. Here’s the lowdown on a few perennially popular options.

Costa Rica
Long lauded for pioneering small-scale ecotourism projects focused on conservation and sustainability, the West Virginia–sized Central American country now receives more than a million visitors a year.  Tourism has become a billion-dollar industry, and some environmentalists worry that newer developments have placed profits before environmental protection.
Avoid: The Guanacaste Coast
Sprawling mega-resorts are popping up along a once-empty stretch of the northwest coastline.
Instead: Lapa Rios
Built by two former Peace Corps volunteers, this ecolodge practically defines the term and is surrounded by protected coastal rainforests and features bungalows built from local materials.

The Yucatan Pennisula
A highly developed strip of hotels and mega-resorts covers about 80 miles of the peninsula’s northeast coast, but head a bit further south and encounter a rarely visited tropical forest steeped in Mayan history.
Avoid: Cancun
The Mexican government has forked over millions of dollars to rebuild beaches swept away during storms like Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The mangroves and other native plants that once helped to keep sand in place are long gone from this spring-break hot spot. 
Instead: Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve
Just 90 miles south of Cancun, Sian Ka’an includes Mexico’s largest protected coastal wetland, plus a tropical forest spotted with Mayan ruins. Rare, a U.S.-based environmental organization does conservation work there, and eco-friendly tours of the 1.3 million acre reserve.

Cruise ships
Large ocean liners pump as many as 25,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean each day. While more and more of these floating cities (some carrying as many as 5,000 people) are sailing the high seas, a number of smaller cruise lines now offer some environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Avoid: The big ones
Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian have all been sued for environmental misdeeds, including illegal dumping of sewage and toxic chemicals. 
Instead: The little ones
Cruise North Expedition, whose passengers number in the hundreds rather than the thousands, has local guides and an onboard naturalist to point out wildlife on their Canadian Arctic cruises. And Lindblad Expeditions works with groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and the National Geographic Society to promote conservation in some of the destinations they visit, including the Galapagos and the Nile.

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