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Why Ecotourism in the Caribbean Is Growing & Tips for Eco-Conscious Travel

May 29, 2023 | The Aerial, BVI

The beauty of the Caribbean Islands is unparalleled; from pristine beaches and vibrant coral reefs to rich cultural heritage and crystal clear waters that shimmer blue, it’s no wonder that the Caribbean is one of the world’s most popular destinations for eco-conscious vacation goers. 

As a matter of fact, statistics from the Caribbean Tourism Organization show that the Caribbean islands region welcomed about 32 million overnight visitors in 2019. And by staying at any of the growing number of eco-friendly hotels and resorts in the region—and following a few eco-conscious travel tips—you can turn your Caribbean vacation into a powerful force for good.

How Ecotourism in the Caribbean Differs from Regular Tourism

According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” 

In the case of the Caribbean, participating in activities such as local craft markets, sandcastle-building contests, and educational workshops does no harm to the environment and helps to strengthen the local culture and community.

“Active” Ecotourism

Active ecotourism, a specific kind of ecotourism, focuses on sustainable activities that promote and support local conservation efforts. For example, when you go hiking in a rainforest or scuba diving in a pristine marine environment around any of the best Caribbean islands, you’re not damaging these natural ecosystems. Moreover, your entry fees help (and motivate) the local authorities to preserve these habitats for future generations.

Ecotourism in the Caribbean

In the Caribbean, you can:

  • Learn about local culture and customs by visiting nature island museums and historical landmarks
  • Participate in eco-tours that involve kayaking, snorkeling, or fishing to learn about coastal ecology
  • Explore nearby parks and hiking trails to learn about the exotic fauna and flora that are native to the Caribbean
  • Volunteer with a local coral reef conservationnonprofit to learn about and help with coral reef restoration
  • Follow a sustainable diet, eating island-to-table dishes and drinking ethically sourced coffee and local fresh juices

Ultimately, the best Caribbean destinations support local communities and biodiversity conservation while providing a distinct and educational experience for tourists. By paying for ecotourism activities, you’re also helping to fund the conservation projects you visit and are showing the local tourism authorities that the environment is worth preserving (from an economic point of view).

Tips for Planning an Eco-Friendly Vacation in the Caribbean

When you come to the Caribbean, there are four things you can do to ensure that your visit results in a stronger and healthier environment that benefits the local community.

1. Find an Eco-Friendly Hotel or Resort

When it comes to booking accommodations in the Caribbean, look for an eco-resort or eco-friendly hotel that really walks the talk. You want to choose an accommodation provider that clearly lays out its eco-friendly philosophy on their website and gives concrete examples of ways in which it serves and gives back to the local community. 

Examples of Green Amenities

An authentically sustainable accommodation provider:

  • Provides continuity with the natural environment by using locally sourced materials and products
  • Features a nature-integrated design and architecture that blends in and protects the surrounding habitat
  • Utilizes renewable energy sources and self-sustaining energy such as solar power
  • Addresses waste reduction and participates in water conservation initiatives
  • Hosts a menu of organic and island-to-table dishes that nourish and satisfy
  • Promotes local conservation and restoration projects (such as coral reef clean-ups) to preserve the beauty of the Caribbean

When comparing eco-friendly hotels, look for these specific conservation and preservation practices on their website. Additionally, consider choosing a destination that has good walkability or that provides environmentally sound transportation such as electric cars or bike rentals. At The Aerial, BVI in the British Virgin Islands, for example, you can explore all 43 acres of our tiny island paradise on foot via the hiking trails or in one of our electric mokes.

electric cars parked at ecoconscious resort in Caribbean

2. Put Sustainable Activities on Your Itinerary

Generally, an eco-conscious hotel or resort will offer plenty of “green” activities that support ecotourism in the Caribbean. From snorkeling and sailing to glow-in-the-dark LED-powered paddle boarding at night, there is no shortage of ways in which a traveler can experience the marvelous biodiversity of the Caribbean islands.

During your stay, you can:

  • Enjoy some of the finest snorkeling experiences and discover the colorful communities of fish and coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean (for destinations in the Eastern Caribbean).
  • Observe or learn about rare and endangered species that are native to the Caribbean region.
  • Go island hopping and visit top Caribbean ecotourism destinations including mangrove forests, rainforests, and national parks.
  • Visit therapeutic thermal spas and secluded beaches, and explore miles of luscious green hiking trails on foot.
  • Discover each island’s culinary traditions and eco-friendly travel locales.
  • Volunteer with projects that support local ecosystems, such as beach or reef cleanups.
tourists snorkeling in Caribbean

3. Eat Local

While enjoying the wide range of sustainable activities your destination has to offer, prioritize sustainability while on vacation by eating local dishes that are sourced from native ingredients. Island-to-table and locally-sourced dishes are not only extremely tasty (and good for you), but they also provide a livelihood for local farming and fishing families and come with a minimal carbon footprint.

local food sourced at ecofriendly Caribbean luxury resort

4. Respect the Environment Throughout Your Stay

One of the best tips to keep in mind when enjoying an eco-friendly vacation is to respect the environment while you’re there. While it may seem easy enough to choose a hotel or resort for nature lovers that uses eco-friendly practices, it’s equally as important to hold yourself accountable for your personal impact.

For example, if you plan on hiking, you will want to make sure that you stay on designated trails. In addition, it’s never okay to litter or purposely disturb local wildlife. It’s also important to be mindful of personal waste and use washable containers rather than purchasing single-use food and drink containers or utensils.

Jet Set for an Eco-Friendly Vacation in the Caribbean 

Ecotourism in the Caribbean offers travelers the opportunity to have a positive impact on local economies and ecosystems while relaxing and having fun. And whether you are primarily seeking adventure, relaxation, or the opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings and Caribbean island life, there are myriad opportunities for an eco-friendly vacation that benefits the ecosystems and communities you’ve gone to enjoy.

When booking your next green retreat in the Caribbean, do a little research beforehand and select accommodation providers and activities that have a strong environmental philosophy and that actively give back to the local community. Then, while you’re there, remain mindful of your individual impact and use the same sustainable practices you’d usually use at home. If you plan it right, an authentic ecotourism experience in the Caribbean could change your life!

woman standing on the beach in Caribbean