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9 of the most beautiful sustainable destinations around the world

Aug. 15, 2020
8 min read
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

When daydreaming about or planning your next dream trip, the options are endless. The world is filled with so many beautiful destinations that it may be difficult to decide where to start -- especially after a few months at home.

But some of the most world's most pristine destinations have stayed that way because they've introduced sustainable measures -- things like banning reef-toxic sunscreens, using renewable energy or limiting tourism. So consider adding one of these stunning eco-friendly spots to your bucket list -- and for now -- enjoy some travel inspiration from the comfort of home.

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1. El Hierro, Canary Islands, Spain

Charco Manso on El Hierro. (Photo by Flavio Vallenari/Getty Images)
Charco Manso on El Hierro. (Photo by Flavio Vallenari/Getty Images)

It doesn't take much to convince us to take a vacation in the Canary Islands. But El Hierro, the archipelago's smallest island, is often overlooked in lieu of Tenerife's party atmosphere or Gran Canaria's all-inclusive hotels. The island, scattered with volcanoes, hiking trails and black sand beaches is almost entirely run using renewable energy (wind and hydro). Regulations limit construction to two floors, ensuring nothing will block that perfect sea view from your hotel, and both the land and waters of the island are classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Related: 15 of the best beaches in Spain

2. Hawaii

Kauai. (Photo by Matthew Micah Wright/Getty Images)
Kauai. (Photo by Matthew Micah Wright/Getty Images)

With an uptick in sustainable tourism agencies creating responsible itineraries that include things like kayak trips with beach cleanups, plus a state goal of moving to 70% clean energy by 2030, Hawaii is a destination on the forefront of sustainability. In order to protect its waters and reefs, a bill was signed in 2018 to ban reef-toxic sunscreen (containing oxybenzone and octinoxate) taking effect January 1, 2021.

3. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Fernando de Noronha at Pernambuco. (Photo by Natalia Valle/Getty Images)
Fernando de Noronha at Pernambuco. (Photo by Natalia Valle/Getty Images)

This tropical paradise charges tourists a preservation fee to enter and limits the number of visitors that can enter per day, ensuring the island maintains its rugged, wild beauty. The preservation fees benefit projects like promoting the island's solar energy and providing information on mandatory recycling programs, electric car rentals and more. Similar to Hawaii, Fernando de Noronha has a plan to reduce emissions by 2030 and has banned single-use plastics.

Related: The best times to visit Brazil

4. Lisbon, Portugal

The old tram in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)
The old tram in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

This Portuguese city is the winner of the 2020 Green Capital of Europe. With one of the world's largest electric vehicle charging networks, a widespread electric bike-sharing system (a must for conquering the city's hilly streets), ample public transport options and plenty of trees and various green spaces, Lisbon is one of Europe's most eco-friendly capitals for both visitors and locals alike. And, the city has made significant strides in reducing C02 emissions, energy and water consumption in the past several years.

5. The Maldives

(Photo by Ryan Patterson)
(Photo by Ryan Patterson for The Points Guy)

Tourists will pay a green tax, which is charged per night and per person at most resorts in the Maldives. Proceeds go to things like renewable energy and reef conservation. Many resorts take their in-house reefs seriously (such as the W Maldives) with marine biologists on-site to advise how the local reefs can be enjoyed but still protected. Other resorts also have their own recycling plants or have banned single-use plastics such as the Conrad Maldives. Some Maldivian islands are home to rescue centers for marine animals like turtles.

6. Costa Rica

Poas volcano in Costa Rica. (Photo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images)
Poas volcano in Costa Rica. (Photo by Matteo Colombo/Getty Images)

Costa Rica's emphasis on protecting its incredible natural landscapes and wildlife is recognized worldwide. Much of the country already uses renewable energy sources, and Costa Rica is hoping to eventually be carbon neutral. But the country's dedication to renewable resources and protecting wildlife isn't just at a national level. In even the smallest hotels and family-run restaurants, you'll encounter sustainable practices like bamboo straws, compost heaps, single-use plastic bans, solar panels or recycling initiatives.

7. Vancouver, Canada

Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver. (Photo by Alexandre Deslongchamps/Getty Images)
Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver. (Photo by Alexandre Deslongchamps/Getty Images)

Known as the most sustainable city in North America, Vancouver has one of the greenest building codes and some of the lowest levels of air pollution in Canada. With 93% of its energy coming from renewable sources, this urban hub has a "Greenest City" action plan which includes efforts to prioritize walking, cycling and public transport and eventually become carbon neutral.

Related: Here's how to become a better traveler

8. Palau

Palau and the Rock island Arch. (Photo by Global_Pics/Getty Images)
Palau and the Rock island arch. (Photo by Global_Pics/Getty Images)

Palau is the first nation (made up of about 200 islands) where tourists must sign a pledge of eco-responsibility to enter the country. Drafted by the local children, the Palau Pledge includes a checklist of things that you, as a visitor, promise to either not to do, like collect marine souvenirs, feed marine life or litter or to do, like support small businesses and learn about local culture. Some locals, such as politicians, public figures and teachers have even signed the pledge in order to set a good example.

9. Bhutan

Tiger Nest Monastery in the Kingdom of Bhutan. (Photo by David Lazar/Getty Images)
Tiger Nest Monastery in the Kingdom of Bhutan. (Photo by David Lazar/Getty Images)

Bhutan's tourism has been tightly controlled since it opened its borders back in 1974. The country's motto is high-value, low-volume when it comes to tourism, charging visitors a high tourism tax each day they're in the country. The government measures the success of the country by its inhabitants' happiness, working on cultural and environmental preservation as well as social development. Those who visit can relax in knowing Bhutan is not only one of the happiest countries but also the world's only carbon-negative country.

Related: The best bucket-list points trips to far-flung destinations

Bottom line

Even if you can't visit these destinations just yet, you can admire them from home and add them to your bucket list for future travel. Remember, if you decide to eventually visit these spots, do so the most responsible way possible in order to keep these destinations idyllic.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
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3 / 5
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Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

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  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees