Sustainable Coastal Escapes for Summer
Guilt-free getaways 😇
July 30, 2022
📸: Playa Viva/Kevin Steele
The words “beach vacation” can conjure up very different kinds of vacations for different travelers—remote, jungle-fringed shores with waves for surfing, or golden sands lined with daybeds and sceney beach bars.
Here are six beach getaways with one thing in common: a commitment to sustainable initiatives that protect our oceans and support communities.
Off-the-grid escape: Mexico 🌴
Live out your Swiss Family Robinson fantasies in one of the six new beachfront treehouses at Playa Viva. This solar-powered retreat on the central Pacific coast, just 30 minutes by car from Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo International Airport, is the decade-plus vision of David Leventhal, co-founder of Regenerative Travel, a collection of independently owned hotels dedicated to social and environmental impact. His goal with Playa Viva: to create a hotel that both improves the land and benefits the community. Constructed from the property’s own harvest of bamboo, the treehouses were designed to resemble the mobula rays that swim in front of the resort and are perched in palms transplanted from an on-site coconut grove. Landscaping comes from a women-run nursery nearby, and surplus ingredients from the resort’s organic farm are sold to area restaurants. Guests can volunteer at a turtle sanctuary just down the beach or take a four by four into the mountains to meet cacao and coffee growers. And villagers from nearby Juluchuca have access to exclusive activities, like cooking and art classes, free of charge.
Rooms from $272 and treehouses from $328, all-inclusive
City and surf: Oahu 🏄♀️
After decades of selling a kitschy Hollywood version of Hawaiian culture (hula girls and tiki drinks), the hotels along legendary Waikiki are recasting the script with design, food, and programming rooted in authenticity and contemporary talent. Leading the way is Kaimana Beach Hotel. The 1960s resort was recently re-imagined and rebranded as a hip 122-room stay decorated with local art and a mix of new and salvaged furnishings. Instant-hit restaurant, Hau Tree, elevates local ingredients in gorgeous dishes like ginger scallion steamed mahi-mahi, proving that Oahu’s restaurants can hold their own against the mainland’s best. Area athletes like acclaimed waterman and former longboard world champion Kai Sallas lead the resort’s ocean activities, teaching guests athletic skills (paddle technique) as well as cultural heritage (native wayfinding tactics).
Tropical wonderland: Costa Rica 🥥
Sloths outnumber guests at Kasiiya, composed of just nine canvas-style tents on 123 tropical acres of Costa Rica’s Papagayo Peninsula. The roar of howler monkeys serves as your alarm clock, and between July and September, you can watch breaching whales from bed. Not a single tree was felled during the property’s construction, and a forest corridor for endangered species is in the works. The surrounding jungle spills down onto three secluded beaches. Explore on your own or have one of the resident nature guides join you on a kayak and snorkel excursion—they’re experts at spotting turtles and rays. Guests can feel good knowing 20% of all profits are reinvested in social and environmental initiatives, including a new coral reef restoration program.
From $1,450, all-inclusive
Untrodden European coast: Crete ⛱️
In an age of overtourism, Crete is an off-the-beaten-path alternative to Greece’s summer hotspots, Mykonos and Santorini. On the island’s north coast, Greek-owned Cretan Malia Park fronts a 600-foot stretch of private sand anchored by a new Beach Shack featuring the libations of award-winning mixologist Aristotelis Papadopoulos. The 204-room hotel exudes Boho-chic vibes, but experiences go deeper than guest DJs. Cooking classes, olive oil tastings, and tours of the expansive garden that supplies the resort’s three restaurants shed light on the island’s agricultural heritage. Many staff work as farmers during the low season, and to support them, the resort offers trainings in organic farming. In addition to being kinder to the land, the organic farming education helps the farmers increase their annual income while contributing to region’s wider economy.
Wilderness adventure: Vancouver Island 🌲
If you prefer exploring wild shores to lounging on powder fine beaches, Vancouver Island is your paradise. The sustainable, wilderness adventure company Outer Shores Expeditions has opened an eponymous lodge on five ocean-facing acres at the edge of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. A resident team of naturalists and scientists—many from Canada’s renowned marine biological research institution, Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, located directly across the harbor—takes guests on interpretive walks and boat excursions, highlighting everything from kelp forest ecology to eelgrass meadow habitats. Guests will almost certainly spot sea lions, eagles, and otters, but they’ll also be introduced to tiny marine invertebrates that live in rocky intertidal zones.
From $440, all-inclusive
Urban culture: Miami 🍸
For years, Los Angeles has been the go-to getaway for sun-deprived Seattleites in search of white sand beaches, trendy restaurants and world-class art. But that’s starting to change now that Alaska Airlines launched daily nonstop flights from Seattle to Miami this summer. Newly opened Life House, South of Fifth on oceanside Collins Ave is surrounded by art deco icons and located steps from the golden sands of South Beach, where even pastel-hued lifeguard towers, some designed by celebrated architect William Lane, could be mistaken for art installations. The 27-room property’s vintage beach bungalow style—whitewashed wood walls, vintage furnishings, re-salvaged stained glass—stands out in a neighborhood known for sleek, flashy hotels. Plant-forward restaurant Pretty Swell is entirely plastic-free and ups the ante on upcycled beer cans by cutting off the tops and reusing them as cocktail cups. And Life House guests can participate in monthly beach cleanups and donation-based paddleboard adventures that benefit Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting the world’s coastlines.
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Jen Murphy pens two fitness columns for the Wall Street Journal and covers wellness and adventure travel for publications including Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Bloomberg.