If your idea of paradise is cashmere soft sands, swaying palm trees and crystal waters, but you’re also concerned about the environment, the world’s best eco-friendly beaches will be high on your vacation list. Countries around the world have “clean” classification systems, such as Europe’s Blue Flag scheme, but cleanliness isn’t a sign of conservation and sustainability. Eco-friendly beaches are pristine sanctuaries to wildlife and travelers alike.
1 Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Now this is my idea of paradise. For a beach to win awards as the “Cleanest Beach in Queensland” is some accolade. And if that crown isn’t enough, Whitehaven Beach has also won national awards for environmental protection and resource recovery/sustainability. Of all the eco-friendly beaches, this is up there with the best. Whitehaven Beach is found on Whitsunday Island in the (no surprise) Whitsunday Islands, a chain of 74 islands lying in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
2 Gerakas Beach, Greece
The world’s eco-friendly beaches aren’t all in tropical destinations; they can be found in Europe and North America too. This one on the Greek island of Zante (Zakynthos) is a real doozy. Gerakas is a beach dreams are made of. It is quiet, unspoiled and protected from development, although in recent years beds and parasols have found their way there. As part of the National Marine Park, the flora and wildlife of and around the beach are protected – particularly the loggerhead turtle. Enjoy a day on the sand and in the water, and then help out with a clean up on a turtle monitoring session.
3 Sabal Beach, Belize
Belize is one of the upcoming eco-friendly beach destinations. Central American neighbor Costa Rica has been a leading light in eco-tourism for a good few decades now and although there’s some catching up to be done, Belize is just as blessed with attractions for the eco-friendly tourist. One charm of a place is Sabal Beach. Two miles north of Punta Negra, the 12 miles of Sabal shorefront is sandwiched between two reserves – the Port of Honduras Marine Reserve on the Oceanside and Payne's Creek National Park on the land-side. It’s the perfect place for lazy days swinging in a hammock or for fishing, snorkeling, diving or bird watching.
4 Short Sands Beach, USA
A gorgeous beach doesn’t have to be fringed with swaying palm trees and that proof exists in the US Pacific North West with Short Sands Beach in Oregon. This gem is tucked away in a cove in Oswald West State Park. Surrounded by mountains and reached via winding trails traversing the park and through a forest of tall mature trees, surfers love this beach, which feels like a secret part of the hidden world.
5 Tangalle, Sri Lanka
This one is quite hard to explain. Tangalle is a wonderful destination on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, but it is not to the resort town, nor its main beach (although that is a prime example of oceanfront real estate) that I want to introduce to you. All along the coast from Tangalle there are some stunning and small beaches. Many of them are privately owned and as such they’re not even named. Often there is a very small eco retreat attached to the beach, sometimes just a cottage built for two. If paradise was lost, this is paradise found. Seriously, the best thing I can do is point you in the direction of reddottours.com for some examples.
6 Sancho Bay, Brazil
You have to get in line if you want to visit the best eco-friendly beaches in Brazil. Fernando de Noronha is a very special little Island. It is a protected marine ecological reserve and the number of tourists allowed on the island is limited. Around the island there are 15 beaches and 3 of them regularly feature in the list of Top 10 Beaches in Brazil. Cited by various sites, authorities and magazines, unspoiled and secluded Sancho Bay is considered the jewel in the crown. It can only be reached by boat or a ladder wedged into a rock crevice or a scary scramble over the rocks from the neighboring beach. This is a place where you can dive up to 40 meters without a wet suit and enjoy a visibility of up to 50 meters.
7 Ponta do Ouro, Mozambique
Africa has eco-friendly beach destinations too. One of the most spectacular is Ponta do Ouro in Maputo Province in southern Mozambique. It is a not a secluded paradise – simply because the word is out and the Mozambique Government is very keen on promoting its green tourism options. But it is stunning and big enough for you to find your own special spot. It is most popular with divers who are blessed by wonderfully populous and pristine reefs. Dolphin lovers are rarely left disappointed either, with an organized swimming experience available. It’s amazing that it gets busy because getting there is far from being a breeze – even with a 4WD, expect a 3-4 hour journey.
I think I’ve shown that there are eco-friendly beaches on all continents. There are probably some closer to home than you realize. If you’re looking for a green vacation, just search the area that appeals to you. Does sustainable tourism matter to you?