Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to some of the Caribbean’s best and most beloved resort destinations, including Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya and beyond. The range of choices for lodging can, in fact, be downright bewildering. And when it’s an eco-friendly resort, hotel or inn you’re seeking—as we fervently hope you are—the search gets even more challenging.
Looking for green on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the 80+ miles edging the Caribbean coast southward from Cancun? Here’s our advice: Go right on past Playa del Carmen, which can be fun and has decent restaurants but hasn’t seemed to have heard that the party will soon be over if they don’t mend their wicked, wasteful ways.
Just four hours’ drive south of Cancun, it’s a world apart. Quiet, with the tourist infrastructure still minimal (this won’t last). But the weather is just as warm, the sand as silky, and the tropical vistas glorious. The clear waters are calm and shallow, protected by the Banco Chinchorro—the same reef system divers flock to in Belize.
Whether you favor the notion that the Island of Women got its name from images of Mayan goddesses discovered by 16th-century Spaniards or the legend that this is where pirates of the Caribbean secreted their their special ladies, the place has a feminine vibe. You can also go green on this offshore outpost of Quintana Roo in mellow, easy style.
Stay at the world’s first hotel to use an eco-efficient microturbine to simultaneously power its hot water needs, electricity, pool and spa heaters, laundry support and air conditioning, thereby reducing the hotel’s energy consumption by almost half.
‘Tis always the season to hit the beach, where the sun is warm and the drinks are cold. Cancun is such a place, and now at last you can stay green. This resort has launched several new eco-programs, from stepped-up recycling to a reverse osmosis water treatment plant that turns waste water into clean drinking water.
It’s the first time Rainforest Alliance has honored a tourism development for achievements in sustainable tourism; in this case three separate, independently owned resorts—Fairmont Mayakoba, Rosewood Mayakoba and Banyan Tree Mayakoba.
For green travelers, the scary Mexican problema is not the much-maligned Moctezuma’s revenge. La problema to which we refer is eating organic in Mexico. Some tips on how to find the healthiest food around Puerto Vallarta.
Sayulita is a fun little surfer town with un poquito green, but just a few miles north we discover San Francisco. Around here everyone calls it San Pancho. And quickly we see that, when it comes to catching the green wave, Sayulita is sooooo yesterday.
The first-ever Los Cabos Greenfest seeks to raise awareness about saving the planet through music, fitness and wellness. The event, a first in Mexico, features concerts, beach activities, water sports and pool parties, with all power generated entirely by attendees using bicycles.
Close by bustling Oaxaca city, Hotel Hacienda Los Laureles is an eco-friendly oasis steeped in Mexican hospitality and history. A hacienda dating to the early 1800s blends effortlessly with the upmarket standards of a luxury hotel.
Now we know why Oaxaca City, capital of Oaxaca state, is known far and wide as the food mecca of Mexico. But as a result of our visit we have even more good news: the best Oaxacan cooks insist that their raw ingredients be criollo—clean, of high quality, and, increasingly, organic.
Giving back is totally, totally green. As a responsible green traveler, contributing to a more healthy future for local—especially indigenous—communities is as important as finding that great green hotel or restaurant. Here is the most worthy touring concept we have met in a long time.
The eco-best in central Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende, including their green boutique hotel Casa Angelitos, comes from Rosana Alvarez and Roger D. Jones.
It quickly dawns on us that, arguably, San Miguel de Allende could be the greenest city in all Mexico. On a per capita basis, this achingly lovely, authentically historic place (population 130 thousand) eclipses even the cosmopolitan capitol of Mexico City.
Within the city limits is a serene and beautiful, 220-acre nature preserve called El Charco del Ingenio. Even in colonial Mexican cities that ooze charm, sometimes. you … just … want … your … nature.
Chiapas is Mexico’s southernmost state, its poorest, with a troubled recent history (remember the Zapatista rebellion?). But it is also one of the most beautiful. And of all the grand colonial-era cities in this region of Mexico, we find San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the highlands of central Chiapas, to be the most green-spirited.
The capital city of Mexico’s Yucatan state is many things to many people. Large—nearly 800 thousand. Commercial—busy, busy, busy. Cultural—the best museums and cultural vitality on the peninsula. Historic—graced with many fine plazas and impressive colonial homes. One thing Mérida is not, especially for such a major city—green.
The lake is drama itself. Once part of a vast inland sea, it sits mostly in the state of Jalisco, in a semitropical rift at just over 5 thousand feet above sea level, all but surrounded by gentle folds of mountains and volcanic peaks. And the many gringo imports who have chosen to come here and live lakeside are not alone in thinking green.
The air in early June is brittle, hot and dusty, but the shrill serenade of the rainbirds heralds the change that’s to come. Here, in the high country of Jalisco, the clear and vivid blue skies will soon give way to towering piles of thunderheads and violent slashes of lightning. The surrounding mountains will turn from dull to greens to rival the rainbirds’.
Tequila? There’s an actual place called that? Si, claro. It’s 40 miles northwest of Guadalajara. A pretty colonial town (founded by Franciscan monks in 1530) and, surrounding it, the sprawling fields of red volcanic soil planted in row after row of agave. You can tour an organic distillery, but be forewarned: they’re … elusive. We offer recommendations.
We are in Atotonilquillo, where only days ago, during a downpour in the middle of the night, an arroyo overflowed its banks and sent residents fleeing from their beds. But today everyone is smiling. This is the celebration of the yearly bounty of a fruit little understood in the U.S. but much beloved here. El membrillo. The quince.