5 Getaways That Reinvent Eco-Tourism

Hotels and glamping sites touting sustainability practices and nature-based activities have proliferated throughout the United States in the last decade, finding financial success by offering guests a let-nature-nurture-you wellness experience.

But many of these destinations have targeted only luxury travelers, and focused on an ethos of self-improvement. Now a growing number of hospitality entrepreneurs are working with or employing naturalists and scientists to reinvent eco-tourism by championing an outward, altruistic kind of outdoor therapy — regenerative tourism initiatives such as trail building and oyster reef restoration opportunities — as well as climate-change education.

“Having sustainability or ‘eco’ experiences perceived as ‘cool’ may help shift cultural perspectives in the long run,” said Leah Thomas, a climate justice activist and the author of “The Intersectional Environmentalist.” Ms. Thomas says engaging travelers just one time in habitat restoration work or an environmental class can teach them to care about the planet.

Here are five affordable retreats that aim to inspire community activism and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Thatcher, Idaho

Maple Grove Hot Springs & Retreat Center

At the Maple Grove Hot Springs & Retreat Center, in southeast Idaho, guests can enjoy a soak in one of six thermal pools, but many also sign up for invasive plant removal, trail development or tree planting.

“We want guests from all walks of life to strike that perfect balance of rest, work, learning, thinking, sharing, laughing and exploring. The marriage of those creates a very transformative experience,” said Jordan Menzel, the founder of Maple Grove.

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