Ecotourism: A Traveler's Guide

Whether seeking to travel around the world or wanting to explore close to home, ecotourism presents a unique way for travelers and residents of a particular area to experience their surroundings. Instead of just playing the role of a tourist, ecotourism promotes responsible tourism, playing the role of a tourist who seeks to benefit a community in some way. Ecotourism takes multiple forms, but whether volunteering, limiting your travel to natural spaces or visiting underdeveloped areas in hopes of boosting the local economy, the goal of ecotourism is to make a difference or improve the world in some way.

Benefits of Ecotourism

Ecotourism is designed to leave a positive footprint on the world. It is not just about reducing consumption. It is about making a difference in communities, socially, environmentally and economically. When an eco-trip is taken with thought and care, its impact can last far beyond the end of the trip.

Planning an Eco-Trip

Taking an eco-trip requires a different type of planning than a traditional vacation. Ecotourism does not often involve booking a room at a local hotel or hailing a taxi to get you to your destination. A traditional travel guide full of museums and other local attractions will not offer suggestions for the type of experiences you seek. Instead, you must think about your trip and what sort of impact you want to make, putting thought into even small details such as finding acceptable lodging and determining where to find eco-friendly methods of transportation.

  • How to Take an Eco-Friendly Tour – National Geographic provides a basic outline of the decisions you need to make when planning an eco-friendly tour or vacation.
  • Become an Eco-Tourist – The International Ecotourism Society offers tips for planning your first eco-trip, dos and don'ts while traveling and general ways to save energy while you travel.
  • Responsible Travel Handbook – The Responsible Travel Handbook answers questions about getting started with ecotourism and gives advice for how to travel successfully as an eco-tourist.
  • Top 12 Responsible Travel Tips – Intrepid, a company dedicated to provided individuals with eco-friendly experiences and promoting responsible travel, offers basic tips for a successful trip.
  • 13 Tips for the Accidental Ambassador – Learn whether being an ethical traveler is right for you with these tips from the Ethical Traveler which offer things to consider before and during your trip.
  • How Green Are Your Travels? – The “Green" Hotels Association has you consider not only being green on the trip you take, but also making sure your home is green while you're away.
  • The Green Travel Guide – The travel deals website Expedia supports ecotourism by providing resources to help you find green hotels, natural destinations and other tips for being a successful eco-tourist.
  • The Green Passport – From planning your trip to making a difference even after you get back, the United Nations Travel Programme's Green Passport gives eco-tourists all of the information they need for sustainable travel.

Where to Go

Ecotourism takes place all over the world. From international opportunities to options just minutes from your front door, the opportunity to be an eco-tourist is everywhere. Once you have determined if ecotourism is right for you and figured out the type of impact you want to make, you can begin to scope out destinations.

  • Staycation: Environmentally-Friendly Vacation – The Sierra Club gives ways to enjoy an eco-friendly vacation near your own home with suggestions such as seeking out vegan restaurants or exploring public transportation and bike rental options instead of using your car.
  • Discover the Benefits of a Staycation – Find suggestions for an eco-friendly staycation from the Eco Traveller which suggests getting involved in a local project or exploring local nature during your eco-friendly vacation.
  • Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance – Travel to Mesoamerican countries on an eco-trip or browse the trip options to get an idea of how to create an eco-trip near where you live.
  • Earthfoot's Ecotour Posterboard – Find individuals around the world willing to take you on an eco-tour. From birding to learning about different cultures, tours are custom-designed by individuals dedicated to ecotourism and may be the perfect way to find an opportunity right where you are.
  • Global Exchange Reality Tour – Global Exchange's Reality Tours are designed to show tourists the reality of social and economic issues throughout the world and provide them with an opportunity to make a difference.
  • Ecotourism vs. Nature-Based Tourism – Learn what sets eco-tourism apart from traditional nature-based tourism and turn your next trip outdoors into an eco-trip.
  • Stuff Your Rucksack – Stuff Your Rucksack gives individuals the opportunity to turn a trip into a way to help local organizations by taking along much-needed items and donating them when you arrive.