Travel Unplugged: 15 Off-the-Grid Eco-Destinations

dominica

(Photo via Port Promotions)

Visiting tourist sites “off-the-grid” usually means trekking to a geographically remote area with your bug spray, anti-malaria meds, and pith helmet in tow.  In these secluded spots, going green is a necessity; there is simply no power supply to plug into.  But even some of tourism’s urban sites are getting into the green game by creating cutting edge constructions or, sometimes, by simply changing the source of their electricity.


Ultimate Eco-Resorts

eco-lodge

(images via Golden Buddha Resort)

Traditional eco-tourist resorts are thriving.  Some of these, like the Golden Buddha Resort on island of Phangnga in southern Thailand, try to put visitors into contact with natural surroundings while not sacrificing too much comfort.

The Phanghga wetlands area, protected by the Ramsar Convention, is often visited, but untouched by development and over-use.  To get from your guesthouse door to the most remote place you’ve ever been takes less than one hour.

Other resorts, like Three Rivers Eco-Resort on the island of Dominica, take it a step further, by going completely off-the-grid, making their own power and growing their own food.

Green and Rustic

hawaii-sustainable

(image via Lova Lava Land)

Hawaii is a vacation hotspot.  But a trip to the Big Island doesn’t mean staying in a large, concrete block that doubles as a hotel.  The yurts and recycled VW vans at Lova Lava Land are only the beginning of the greenness.  The owners offer solar power, composting toilets, wind-up flashlights, and, best of all, reasonable prices.

Sustainable School

ecoversidade

(images via Living Routes)

Brazil’s unique Ecoversidade is a grassroots community that offers intensive classes on sustainable agriculture, the utilization of green technologies and planning sustainable communities.  The program draws students from across the globe and the course’s credits are transferable to most major universities.

But Northern Hemisphere dwellers needn’t cross the equator to learn sustainability.  The Maharashi School of Management in Iowa teaches classes. Though it has no grassroots community, the school’s Sustainable Living Center has earned rave reviews for its green design from the mainstream press.

Hotel Without Wires

The Legacy Hotel

(image via The Legacy Rockville)

The Legacy Hotel in Rockville, Maryland looks like any other hip, boutique hotel.  But there is something quite unique about it.  The Legacy is the first hotel in the country to be powered by 100% wind energy.  Guests won’t even notice the change in power source amidst the cool interior design.

Sustainable City within a City

fusionopolis1

Singapore’s skyline is ever-changing.  Now, it seems that the Lion City, the last place on earth you’d expect, it going green.  Fusionopolis, a research and development complex designed by architect Ken Yeang, acts as a fully contained eco-system with vertical gardens, natural light, and an eco-friendly drainage and watering system.  The “fusion” comes from the idea that the building’s organic and inorganic components can work together to create a complete and independent eco-system.

On the Beach, Off-the-Grid

nature-resort

(images via Hotelito and Chumbe Island)

Baja California is nowhere near Tanzania’s Chumbe Island, but resorts in each region share plenty of off-the-grid/close-to-nature qualities.  Chumbe offers traditional bungalows and has built up practices to ensure the surrounding eco-system is not altered by the presence of tourists.  Hotelito is more plush and less “flashlights-and-camping,” but its environmental practices and rather remote location put it into the same category as Chumbe in terms of treading lightly.

Gaudy but still Green

dubai

(images via Dynamic Architecture)

Leave it to Dubai to champion the building of over-the-top structures.  The glittery city on the Persian Gulf is not exactly the greenest around.  Environmental groups might have a lot to complain about, but a planned rotating tower will be quite green.  The floors will rotate independent of one another.  Sounds like a huge waste of energy, except that the whole thing will reportedly be powered by wind-generated electricity.

Green Science Museum

cal-science

(image via staySF.com)

The California Academy of Science is a San Francisco institution.  Its newest incarnation is one of the finest examples of green architecture in the world.  From the living roof to the plant-infested interior to the fact that 90 percent of the structure was built using materials recycled from the previous museum building, environmentalists will find nothing to complain about at CAS.

Backpackers’ Delight

vangvieng

Much of Laos has that off-the-beaten-path feel.  Even the major cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane feel like small towns.  But backpackers looking to truly drop off the map head to the tiny tourist outpost of Vieng Vang.  The town (if you can call the collection of buildings a town) is surrounded by a river, rocks, and rice paddies.  But you can still find guesthouses and cafes serving that backpacker staple, banana pancakes.

Natural Side

outback

(images via Punta Placer and Ultima Thule Lodge)

Sometimes, getting off the grid means getting close to nature.  The Alaskan wilds sit right outside the front door of the Ultima Thule Lodge in Chitina.  The location is so remote that the family-run guesthouse has to be self-sufficient, making its own electricity and relying on the land for some of its food.

Punta Placer’s beach bungalows are not quite as remote as Alaska, but the Mexican government has passed laws to protect the area’s wildlife, including the famous sea turtles who frequent the beach as often as tourists.

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