As consciousness of our planet’s precarious environmental plight has risen in recent years, sustainability has increasingly become a watchword in various areas of life and commerce. Nowhere more so than in the area of travel and tourism, where it’s become a driver of change in numerous localities, regions and even in some cases on a national level – a development strategy which more aggressively seeks to minimise impacts on the environment as well as distribute the economic benefits more equitably among the people of the area.
Puerto Rico has put itself at the vanguard of the sustainable tourism movement by becoming the first Caribbean destination to institute a green certification programme, covering sustainable urban design and infrastructure; responsible consumption; defense of ecosystems on land and sea; and equality of the sexes, among other worthy goals. And the results are already becoming apparent.
This island has long been a visitor favourite for its tropical allures – beaches, ecotourism, adventure – as well as its culture and history. But if you’re an evironmentally conscious traveller, now more than ever you need to put Puerto Rico on your bucket list.
Sustainable Tourism Facilities
Throughout the island you now have the option of staying in so-called Hoteles Verdes (Green Hotels), which have harmonised their architectural designs with the local climate and natural beauty with the aim of preserving the essence of local history and culture. You’ll find them a few feet from beaches as well as in both jungle and urban settings, but what they all share in common is optimised efficiency in energy and water usage; recyclying of solid wastes; and the involvement of the local community – up to the point where many of these properties are even run by local families. They make great and convenient places to stay on holiday, and seem set to do so for generations to come.
Sustainability in Agrotourism
There’s an ever growing demand in food-oriented tourism, and the island’s climatic and agricultural diversity offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn first hand about the food grown here and the process of production behind it, as well as sample authentic local cuisine.
Agrotourism has led local food producers to reinvent themselves a bit, complementing their traditional activities by offering visitors immersion experiences at places like world-class coffee plantations which engage in age-old practices of selection and conservation; processing plants where for example you can prepare and personalise your own cheeses; cacao farms where you’ll learn about various plant varieties and the production process; and distilleries of pitorro, a kind of high-proof rum on steroids that’s quintessentially Puerto Rican.
Sustainability in Ecotourism
Puerto Rico’s green certification programme guarantees maintenance of standards of natural quality as well as fulfilling the expectations of visitors for authentic local experiences, so the recipients of this certification have a firm dedication to both the environment and local communities, with the income earned staying in those communities and benefiting their residents directly.
The islands natural wealth is so great that despite its small size, it’s home to a number of varied ecosystems: dry forests; coastal plains; cave-riddled karst landscapes; wetlands; mangrove forests; coral reefs, salt flats, and bays including three (one off La Parguera on the south coast; Laguna Grande near Fajardo on the east coast; and Bahía Mosquito on the island of Vieques) which are bioluminescent, filled with micro-organisms that glow at night – truly a miraculous spectacle that will make you feel lucky to witness it.
Beyond drinking in the splendour of nature, many of these incredible places also offer an adventure activities from tranquil to adrenaline-packed, including quiet biking or horseback riding through bucolic scenery; hikes over hanging bridges; thrilling diving in crystalline waters; ziplining through the rain forest; and spelunking in dramatic caves.
Sustainability in Community Tourism
These are tourism models based on the green economy, aimed at lifting local populations even as they enhance offerings for visitors. Examples include deep forests with archaeological remains as well as an enormous diversity of flora and fauna; nature reserves with interpretive walks (such as the wetlands of the Reserva de Punta Tuna on the southeastern coast, which includes the only trail adapted for the blind); and spots where you can engage in various outdoor activities including camping, rowing, birdwatching, and caving.
So yes, Puerto Rico is a destination which has definitely gone all in on sustainable tourism, letting visitors enjoy its magic with the help of local communities, attractions, outfitters, and tour operators dedicated to the sustainable management and development of the island’s resources. For more information on enjoying Puerto Rico’s great outdoors, click here.