Paradise on a Budget: Eco Retreats that Won’t Break the Bank
Our “Sustainable Travel“ series is sponsored by Global Basecamps. Global Basecamps is specialty travel company that helps independent travelers research and book locally owned boutique hotels, off-the-beaten path lodges and multi-day excursions all over the world. Whether hiking the Inca Trail, experiencing a traditional Japanese Ryokan, or relaxing on the beaches of Thailand, Global Basecamps specializes in designing completely customized itineraries to meet each travelers specific priorities and match their travel style.
Whether lounging on the beach at an exclusive eco lodge or discovering your inner yogi at a luxury retreat, it’s easy to assume that paradise will come with a five-figure price tag attached. Thankfully, there are still options for those traveling on a budget, and all-inclusive resorts can actually be a great way to save on expenses, especially if you’re careful to avoid hidden costs. Look out for resorts in lesser-frequented destinations or countries where you get more value for your money – South East Asia’s spas, for example, are a fraction of the price of their European counterparts, and Central America offers a cheap gateway to the Caribbean. From a detox and yoga retreat in Thailand to Mexican eco-casitas and even a Hawaiian surf camp, here are 8 eco-conscious resorts where you won’t have to max out the credit card.
1. Deep Blue Resort, Honduras
Those hoping to don a wetsuit and discover some underwater wonders will have a hard time finding a setting more idyllic than this beachfront island resort on the Caribbean ocean. A 5-star residence tucked away beneath a coconut grove on a private white-sand beach, Deep Blue Resort is also home to a PADI scuba diving and instruction centre, whisking guests off to the island’s scuba hotspots. Guests can swim and snorkel alongside dolphins and whale sharks, dive along the world’s 2nd largest barrier reef with walls of coral stretching some 1,000m deep, or even join in one of the center’s Whale Shark Research Weeks in support of the endangered animals. With deluxe beachfront rooms, delicious home cooking and 1 week dive packages starting at a mere $1000, what’s not to love?
2. Playa Viva, Mexico
Whether sipping basil margaritas from a sun lounger or getting a massage in an open-air rotunda overlooking the ocean, Playa Viva offers a pretty good approximation of paradise. Thankfully, this tranquil Mexican hideaway is as guilt-free as luxury gets with its solar-powered Eco Casitas constructed entirely from locally sourced materials, biofueled pickup vans, and organic food grown onsite. In fact, whether you’re taking part in the daily beachside yoga, canoeing in secret lagoons, or trekking through local villages, it’s impossible not to feel a connection to the environment – the hotel even supports a voluntary turtle sanctuary, offering guests the chance to get involved and release baby turtles on the beach at sunrise. If you prefer to intersperse a little action in your relaxation, the 160-acre private reserve has plenty of activities on offer – there’s kayaking, horse riding, deep sea fishing, and even soccer and volleyball on the beach. Or you can simply enjoy the deserted stretches of sand, dolphin-filled ocean, and stunning sunsets.
Check out our Mexico adventure trips and read Why You Should Ignore All the Urban Legends and Take the Kids to Mexico
3. Tsara Lomba Ecolodge, Madagascar
Few bucket lists are complete without an African safari, and those hunting for hotel options will be impressed with the vast array of eco-friendly accommodations across the continent, ranging from ‘back to basics’ campsites to lavish eco lodges providing unbeatable luxury without expense to the natural environment. The Tsara Lomba Ecolodge is one such place, tucked away amidst a private botanical garden on Madagascar’s Nosy Lomba island. Solar powering, natural water filtering, and locally grown “slow food” cuisine add to their eco credentials, but it’s the chance to snorkel amongst sea turtles, sail alongside dolphins in a pirogue (dugout canoe), or watch the local women embroider tablecloths in unique local designs that really make the place stand out.
Although a little pricier than some of the other options, your conscience will soon be eased when you learn that your money is funding not only the resort, but the entire island – a micro-loan scheme is in place to support local businesses, all staff are born islanders, and resort-funded healthcare initiatives are available to locals.
Read 12 Less Visited Countries and Why You Should Go There Now and check out our Madagascar Travel Guide
4. The Sanctuary, Thailand
Juice fasts and colonics might not feature on the typical holiday schedule, but this place is all about rejuvenation from the inside out. Hidden away on an island accessible only by boat and fringed with shady palms and rippling water, The Sanctuary provides a sun-drenched backdrop for fasters, yoga bunnies and the spiritually inclined to rebalance their chakras and improve their wellbeing. Don’t be put off if you’re new to the process, though – there are a whole range of detoxes, cleanses, weight loss packages, and yoga retreats on offer for all shapes, sizes, and abilities – and a restaurant bursting with organic, freshly-prepared cuisine for non-fasters. A range of healers are on site too, with treatments ranging from Reiki and acupuncture, to astrology readings or Shiatsu massage, and with all-inclusive packages starting from as little as $500US and dorm rooms available for budget detoxers, this is a great place to sample a holistic lifestyle at a fraction of US prices.
5. Matava, Fiji
An eco adventure resort located on Fiji’s Kadava Island, Matava offers a perfect mix of jungle-laced mountains, rushing waterfalls, and sleepy fishing villages. With the Great Astrolabe Reef hugging the coastline, scuba diving is a big attraction here, and there are options to gain your PADI certification, but there are plenty of water activities above water too – surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and fishing are all popular. If you prefer your nature on solid ground, the traditional thatched lodges embedded deep in the rainforest will provide plenty of fodder for your inspiration, from trekking and bird watching, to local village visits. There’s even the possibility for couples to marry onsite at the resort’s beachside wedding chapel.
Those concerned about their carbon footprints will find welcome relief here, with the hideaway placing emphasis on eco-friendly and sustainable tourism. Staffed by locals and making innovative use of solar powering and reusable water sources, the resort also supports local environment awareness and even offers guests the chance to visit and contribute supplies to local schools.
6. Ayurveda Paragon, Sri Lanka
Rows of palm trees swaying in the breeze, lush green rice paddies tiered on the horizon, brightly colored birds swooping overhead – there are few places as perfect for a healing vacation than the tropical-paradise-by-numbers that is Sri Lanka. The Ayurveda Paragon offers a lot more than the average hotel, with a full range of holistic ‘Ayurveda’ treatments on offer that are renowned for healing and cleansing both the body and soul. A range of all-inclusive packages are available, including all treatments, daily yoga and meditation sessions, and full board, and with prices starting at less than $2000, it’s affordable too.
Book a flight to Sri Lanka
7. Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge, Tanzania
A nature lover’s nirvana, Tanzania has everything from lush jungle to rocky mountains, as well as being home to one of the world’s most popular peaks. For those not ready to tackle the dizzy heights of Kilimanjaro, there’s still plenty of scope for adventure in this North African country. The Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge, huddled in the hills of Mount Meru, offers views of everything from the colored Kilimanjaro glaciers to the migrating herds of game during the dry season. There’s a spa utilizing natural cosmetics and traditional home-made remedies, horse riding and swimming on offer, and locally-run tours including visits to a local coffee plantation and wildlife safaris (a tailor-made safari starts from as little as $250US). And it’s not just the vegetation that’s green – the lodge draws drinking water from its own springs (which also supply the neighboring schools and villages), runs an organic trout farm, and generates hydro-electricity to power the resort. There’s even an impressive carbon-neutralizing scheme in place, food grown on site, and an all-local staff.
8. Kelea surf camp, Hawaii
One for the girls, this women-only all-inclusive surf and yoga retreat is not only the first of its kind but its great value for money too. Named after the Hawaiian Chief ‘Kelea’ who gave up her position in order to live by the ocean and surf, Kelea offers top notch surf instruction alongside spa treatments, daily yoga classes, and a range of nature-friendly activities – snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and windsurfing are all available – all set to a backdrop of white sand, tanned skin and palm trees.
Shared accommodation options and special all-inclusive deals keep the costs within the realms of reality (the cheapest packages are under $2000USD) and groups are tailored to suit both group and solo travelers. There’s even a sister camp in Costa Rica for those preferring to head a little further afield.
Read more about ecotourism around the world:
- 10 Tips for More Eco-Friendly Travel
- How to Plan an Eco-Friendly RTW Trip: 9 Destinations to Go Green
- 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Ecotourism
- 8 Green Ways to Experience Belize
The travel specialists at Global Basecamps maintain that the words “eco-friendly resort” and “budget” are not mutually exclusive. They have tracked down and partnered with eco lodges and resorts all over the world that offer benefits to their environment while not killing their guests’ wallets. Consider Huaorani Lodge for an Amazon eco tour, Lisu Lodge for a cultural Thailand trip, or Atlas Kasbah for your trip to Morocco! Remember that being eco-friendly does not have to break your budget, and is possible no matter where in the world you travel!
Photo credits: 1. Honduras – scubaben, 2. Mexico – FabulousTerrah, 3. Madagascar – gr0uch0, 4. Thailand – Tomas Barrios, 5.Fiji – airpanther, 6. Sri Lanka – Dhammika Heenpella, 7. Tanzania – puliarf, 8. Hawaii – Kanaka Menehune