“The honeymoon is supposed to be one of the most memorable occasions of anyone’s life, so picking a place that will make a those lasting memories is important,” says Allen Mitchem, a representative with Fifth Avenue Consulting in Hendersonville. For newlyweds who believe in the adage “begin as you mean to continue,” that memorable trip has to include more than endless piña coladas and tan lines. A sense of doing good for the earth, giving back to local communities and putting money into positive causes rather than rampant consumerism are all aspects of the eco-trip, a venture than now attracts not just the college-aged back-packing crowd, but also high-end travelers and the recently married.
“When people planning honeymoons get to us, a lot of them have already done their research,” says Fred Reed, a travel agent with Wilcox Travel in Asheville. But just because soon-to-be spouses aren’t asking travel agents to find an eco-tour package doesn’t mean that green honeymoons are far from their minds.
In fact, the trend is only increasing in popularity, with green getaways cropping up in travel magazines and on tour-based Web sites. Holistic online community Gaiam posted a top-seven list of “Romantic Earth-Friendly Resorts,” naming Maho Bay Camp (www.maho.org) on the Virgin Islands’ Saint John as its number one pick.
The resort has featured its eco-experience (deluxe oceanside tents, trade-wind powered AC and biodegradable bath products) since 1976. Maho Bay also offers wedding and honeymoon services.
Mitchem reports that green honeymoons are “on many people’s minds and the industry is responding.” A clear example is the rise of eco-tourism directories, such as Ecotravel.com, which lists the Lake Lure-based Cottages at Spring House Farm (www.springhousefarm.com) as its N.C. eco-tour destination.
Much like Maho Bay, Spring House Farm prides itself on a harmonious relationship with nature. “When we built the roads to the cottages we only took as few trees as necessary,” explains the destination’s Web site. “The trees we did have to remove went for the construction of the cottages.” But these austere principals don’t mean sacrificing niceties. Guests can enjoy fishing, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and golf—not to mention close encounters with plentiful wildlife.
Spring House Farm is a member of the International Ecotourism Society, an organization promoting “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people.” The Lake Lure resort was also the first U.S. member of eco-tourism network EcoClub. That organization got its start in Athens, Greece, but would-be green travelers don’t have to look as far as Europe to find earth-friendly vacation resources.
The Green Hotels Association (www.greenhotels.com), based in Houston, lists environmentally-friendly properties with water, energy and waste-reducing programs. Nine N.C. inns and hotels are listed among the association’s membership. The Green Mountain Bed and Breakfast (www.greenmountainbb.com) in Candler, Highland Lake Inn (www.hlinn.com) in Flat Rock and the Waverly Inn (www.waverlyinn.com) in Hendersonville are included on the list.
According to the association’s Web site, some innovative ways that hotels are going green include blue floor tile made from recycled automobile windshields, chef’s aprons made from recycled tablecloths, bicycle rentals and low-flow toilets.
“There are some so-called ‘eco’ resorts, but they aren’t really,” Reed warns. “You get there and they aren’t doing anything; they just happened to be located in a wilderness area.” His recommendation? The well-known Sandals resorts (www.sandals.com), especially the Jamaica location. “They recycle their water, recycle whatever food they can into fertilizer and use solar power. All Sandals and Beaches resorts have the ‘Green Globe’ certification—that’s what they strive for,” he says. “If somebody’s really concerned about their environmental footprint, I don’t think you can do much better than Sandals.”
He adds, “In Jamaica, you can go horseback riding and the horses have been rescued from slaughter after finishing racing careers. That’s neat for the tourists and the horses.”
Mitchem’s picks include South Africa “because so many places there have gone green already. The animals are so important there, so South Africans are protecting the environment incredibly.”
While Safaris make for breathtaking photo opps, some honeymooners may prefer to stay closer to home for budget reasons or to reduce their carbon usage through flight miles. In that case, Mitchum suggests naturally beautiful Costa Rica because it’s “not terribly expensive and it’s a non-stop flight from Atlanta,” and Cunard (www.cunard.com) cruise ship the Queen Victoria which has “taken huge steps to go green.”
“A cruise can be a good choice for someone on a budget because the meals and entertainment are included,” Mitchem points out.
There are many ways to be green, from practicing environmental awareness, eat local and organic foods, supporting local economies and reducing fossil fuel usage. One of the best ways to accomplish all of the above is to stay in a local eco-inn such as the Asheville Green Cottage (www.ashevillegreencottage.com). The bed and breakfast is listed among Forbes Traveler’s “10 of America’s Greenest Hotels” and is named an “eco-friendly hotel” with a four out of six green rating (this means the property features 13-16 green attributes) by Allstays.com. The local gem boasts eco-features from organic food and bulk soaps to bamboo fiber sheets and towels and green finishes and furnishings.
With this much earth-love in the air, green honeymoons can’t help but be romantic affairs.