The sustainable travel movement started a few decades ago, and sadly, in many cases it became synonymous with meaningless “green” certifications or commitments to support local communities that went unfulfilled. Yet traveling sustainably, in a way that enhances global impact rather than harms it, is more of a priority than ever due to our increased worldwide connectedness and continued concern about climate change.
So how can parents feel sure that their next family vacation is truly in line with their values when it comes to environmental and social preservation? A well-informed travel agent is essential in order to sort out what’s actually environmentally friendly from those empty promises. Perhaps most importantly, our Family Travel Advisors know which accommodations are living up to their commitments without sacrificing any of the fun appeal of travel for kids.
7 Top Properties for Sustainable, Family-Friendly Travel
Many of our favorite properties around the world are affiliated with Preferred Hotel & Resorts’ Beyond Green initiative and are rewarding our clients for their commitment to eco-conscious travel by offering exclusive perks. These properties are doing more than just eliminating plastic water bottles or reducing carbon emissions (though they’re doing that, also). They undergo rigorous evaluations over a multi-year period to ensure they are operating in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other eco-friendly tourism standards.
How can we be so confident in our recommendations? We’ve stayed at these properties with our own kids, in addition to the endless cycle of feedback we get from our hundreds of clients. Rest assured, your family will be well cared for, as will the planet.
Whether you’re sticking closer to home for a long weekend getaway, or you’ve decided to vacation stateside, two properties in California are really moving the needle on what is possible in terms of sustainable travel here in the U.S.
Carneros Resort and Spa, Napa. An escape to Napa has long been a favorite way for families to unwind. Given the incredible setting between the Napa River and the Mayacamas Mountains, Carneros Resort practically demands relaxation. Eating well, and sustainably, is a key component of a stay here. The three onsite restaurants use ingredients harvested in the dedicated culinary garden on the property or from other local independent farms. Surplus food is donated to organizations affected by recent wildfires in the area, and all food waste is composted.
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Carneros Resort has charming bungalows that have particular appeal for families, given their spaciousness. But these cottages were also purpose-built to reduce their carbon footprint, including windows that are angled to catch prevailing winds and sheet metal roofs that repel heat. The patios and outdoor space are popular, complete with rocking chairs made from recycled milk cartons. Kids will enjoy splashing around and meeting other families at the family pool, while parents on a romantic getaway will appreciate the adults-only pool.
Cavallo Point, San Francisco. Situated in the shadow of Golden Gate National Park and minutes from bustling San Francisco, Cavallo Point is an unexpected yet convenient property for a family vacation in the Bay Area. The property was constructed with repurposed building materials from the historic Fort Baker, the former Army base on which the resort now sits. It’s famous for its sweeping views of the city; children will love running around the grassy parade grounds while parents take in the gorgeous backdrop.
The two-bedroom suites and lofts are our preferred configuration for families. In addition to all the city sightseeing activities, we suggest families with older children hop on one of the property’s e-bikes, reducing your carbon footprint while still getting exercise and active family fun. For foodie parents, carve out some time for a cooking class at the onsite restaurant, with its focus on sustainability and seasonal ingredients.
Borgo Pignano, Italy. A longtime Ciao Bambino favorite in Italy, Borgo Pignano continues to wow our clients season after season. Perfectly situated within an hour of both Florence and Siena and close to the medieval towns of Volterra and San Gimignano, it is an ideal home base for exploring Tuscany. But no one will fault you if you can’t be bothered to leave the property. The meticulously restored borgo (Italian village) that comprises the estate means families can choose from farmhouses, cottages and individual hotel-style rooms. Because we know this property so well, we can advise as to the right configuration for your stay.
Its 750 acres provide most of the produce that the resort uses in its restaurants, pollinated naturally by its own bee hives. Visiting the Honey Lab is a popular activity for families, where guests can learn all about beekeeping and traditional harvesting techniques for collecting wax and honey. The onsite herbalist teaches families how to pick their own herbs and wildflowers for use in cooking classes, where local recipes are taught. The paths and trails that meander through the grounds encourage hiking, biking and horseback riding over gas-guzzling drives.
Ashford Castle, Ireland. One word that’s never used to describe a stay at Ashford Castle: boring. As if the stunning Connemara landscape and spectacular 13th-century castle setting wasn’t enough, this property has a robust array of on-site activities, from falconry experiences to wooden boat rides across the lough. Kids love checking out the bug hotel, whose residents help keep the onsite gardens full of delicious food used in the restaurants. Families appreciate the variety here: mucking about on the grounds in rain boots in the morning and sitting down to a proper afternoon tea in a gorgeous dining room by afternoon. With a phenomenal staff, the majority of whom are local residents, we’re always confident our clients are well cared for at Ashford.
Single-use plastics have been completely phased out at this property, and electricity is provided by 100 percent carbon neutral and renewable sources. Just a few days and nights spent in Ireland’s gorgeous natural environment, a highlight of a stay at Ashford Castle, will be enough to convince every member of your family to prioritize keeping our planet lush and green.
Costa Rica ranks high on any list of countries that are getting it right when it comes to eco-conscious policies. And there’s plenty of motivation to maintain this reputation, as the main draw of this destination is its unique natural environment and wildlife.
Arenas del Mar, Costa Rica. A common misconception when travelers envision their first trip to Costa Rica is that every resort will be situated right on the beach — but Arenas del Mar really is. Indeed, it represents the best of both worlds. Here you can experience the tropical jungle Manuel Antonio is famous for, complete with their in-house naturalist who is happy to lead your family on a hike through the 11-acre private nature reserve, and then cap your day by enjoying the perk of the beachfront location. It is not uncommon to be relaxing on a hammock on the beach and see howler monkeys wandering around. Our clients rave about the ocean-view rooms and sunsets from the infinity pool.
The purpose-built underground electrical system means nothing disturbs the wildlife, abundant amid the 7,000 trees replanted in a massive reforestation effort on the property. Guests also appreciate Arenas del Mar’s commitment to the community. They have a strong partnership with both the local public school and Manuel Antonio National Park.
Sustainability in Every Corner of the World
When families are ready to get farther off the beaten path from the usual tourist spots, our Advisors know some of the best properties in South America, Asia and Africa. And our full travel planning service includes navigating all the tricky logistical details, including sourcing 24/7 onsite support and quality tour operators.
A couple of favorite properties with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability are profiled here, but we’re always up for brainstorming with our clients about other remote corners of the world.
AndBeyond Vira Vira, Chile. This property is situated at the gateway to Patagonia, at the top of many nature lovers’ bucket lists, where guests stay along the Liucura River and are also near volcanoes, mountains and the famous Lakes District in Chile. Vira Vira has beautifully incorporated the local Mapuche culture into the heart of the resort. You can visit a local dwelling (called a ruka) and eat a home-cooked meal or learn traditional weaving methods and other crafts. Guests appreciate that a stay here helps financially support sustainability projects in the community, including a rainwater harvesting system for the town and an organic greenhouse at a nearby school.
Families find the all-inclusive structure of a stay here to be part of its relaxing appeal. Wake up each morning and decide which hike, bike ride, horseback ride or water activity strikes your fancy. The farm-to-table dining is sophisticated but still approachable for kids, and don’t miss learning how cheese is made onsite! Guests easily feel comfortable settling in for a full week in this Chilean paradise.
AndBeyond Bateleur Camp, Kenya. Travelers typically come to Africa solely for the safari experience, but guests at Bateleur Camp in Kenya often cite the opportunity to experience the Maasai culture as the true highlight of their stay. The WILDChild program offered to families means these moments are geared toward kids specifically, such as learning how to track and build fires. The property supports the local community in tangible ways, also, including financial contributions.
This is a fenced property, so parents find comfort in knowing larger animals won’t be able to access the property grounds. While the exterior of the tent-style accommodations has rustic charm, the inside is exquisitely appointed. And the Maasai guides that lead families on safari are extremely experienced at making the moment engaging for children. Time your trip right, and you may get the thrill of the wildebeest migration.
One of the top reasons parents embark on intrepid travel around the world or even closer to home is to help their children understand the preciousness of Earth. To best achieve this goal, it is important to stay at properties like those featured above, participants in the Beyond Green initiative, who are exceeding expectations in their commitment to environmental sustainability and support of local communities. Reach out to us to secure your travel dates as soon as possible — demand at these hotels and resorts is high.
Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
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