The Future of Travel Is Eco-Luxury

The Future of Travel Is Eco-Luxury

This company in Central America is revolutionizing the vacation experience by making it sustainable and eco-conscious, without sacrificing a thing.

This company in Central America is revolutionizing the vacation experience by making it sustainable and eco-conscious, without sacrificing a thing.

An economy seat flight from New York City to Managua, Nicaragua creates 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. That’s about 20% of the global average carbon footprint per person. Those with even the flimsiest understanding of Global Warming will know that CO2 traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere — the more CO2, the more heat, the hotter the planet, the melting of the ice caps. This is an unsettling fact for eco-conscious travelers, but also unavoidable. Luckily, there is a hotel management collective leading the charge in sustainable hotels — all without sacrificing an ounce of amenities and world-class service. This is the future of luxury.

Cayuga Collection boasts nine eco-lux properties sprinkled throughout Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua, and a handful of awards—most recently the National Geographic World Legacy Award for Earth Changers, which “recogniz[es] cutting-edge leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology.”

The experiential gem of Cayuga Collection is Jicaro Island Ecolodge on a private island just outside of Granada, Nicaragua. Private houses (casitas) dot the property, which was formed after the nearby volcano, Mombacho, erupted in 1570. Don’t worry, it's dormant, and you can hike it! Each casita is two stories with beautiful lakeside views, king-sized beds with nets, and hammocks, and were built locally using repurposed trees from natural disasters as part of an initiative with the Rainforest Alliance. The design standout of the rooms would have to be the showers (perfect for Instagram) and the porch (perfect for a morning coffee).

Should you want to swim there’s a sea salt pool for lounging and swim-up bar — a vacation necessity. The best spot in the entire hotel though is the floating dock, just off the morning yoga area, which you can call dibs on and paddle board out to. This space is big enough for two people and has sweeping panoramic views of the lake. There is nothing more magical than watching the warm orange and deep purple sunset from here, and sitting in complete calm silence while tracing the smoke plumes turning into clouds from the active Masaya Volcano in the distance. It’s an experience you will never find anywhere else.

During the day, you can arrange trips to neighboring cities like Masaya, and, closer, Granada, which boasts the most beautiful Spanish-influenced colonial architecture. There are many stunning churches, but the Cathedral of Granada is the crown jewel. It sits in the city center, with a robust market in front. For something less conventional, take out a paddle board and row over to the neighboring shore of Jicaro, which houses a colorful cemetery that highlights the country's Christian heritage. The hotel’s island is surrounded by dozens of smaller inhabited islands, formed during the same volcanic explosion. The staff say it’s customary that when someone is being buried that all neighbors from the islands attend the service. Though only 30 minutes from a major city, Jicaro Island feels like a hidden gem of authentic Nicaragua.

Before you leave, climb up to the top of the hotel’s water tower, which supplies the entire property's water supply (after a triple filtration and solar panel heating, of course), for sweeping 360-degree views of the lake.

For those looking for something more contemporary, or the perfect honeymoon destination, Cayuga’s Kura Design Villas is worth every second of the drive from the airport — approximately three hours south through Costa Rican forests. The six junior suites and two new masters (each complete with a private pool) are like Malibu homes dropped on top of a mountain in Costa Rica’s Uvita region. (Fun fact: Uvita is Spanish for little grape, though you won’t find them there). The boutique hotel offers panoramic views of the country’s famed Whale Tail beach, where two opposing currents meet to form a sand bar resembling, yep you guessed it, a whale’s tail.

After soaking in the view from the comfort of your bed or completely glass shower, you can continue staring in awe while eating breakfast in the common area or dipping into the equally Instagram-worthy infinity pool. Just behind the pool sits massive solar panels, which power the hotel. With those tucked discreetly out of view, Kura manages to blend water, earth, and sky in natural serenity.

The pool deck and meal deck are essentially one in the same, and chances are at lunch time that you’ll meet and talk to the hotel’s owners: architect Martin Wells and biologist Alejandra Umaña. Once you know their occupations, the details of the hotel make perfect sense. Every space is designed to bring nature in, blurring the line between your room and the rich surrounding flora.  Martin and Alejandra live on the fringe of the property making the whole experience as intimate as a bed and breakfast, but with the accommodations of a five star hotel.

Though you’ll find few reasons to leave the hotel, the most compelling would be the horse riding on the beach excursion, open to all levels of experience. Starting as a tour of a Costa Rican farm, you’ll see all sorts of animals, and the best part is they’re living freely, not in a zoo. While you’re on the beach, keep an eye out on the sand for little dots that look like air bubbles — those are bubbler crabs and they’re usually accompanied by a thousand of their closest friends.

At both hotels, while talking with the staff, you’ll find that Cayuga’s eco-conscious management extends far beyond best practices and into education. During a guest-free night at Jicaro, the staff had an afternoon assembly to discuss the Paris Climate Accord, including its mission statement, reason for necessity, and ways the staff could further lower their carbon footprint, not just at work, but at home. Also, the service teams at Cayuga hotels are employed locally, which means they’re a wealth of knowledge about the area. Make sure to ask them about the roads less traveled. It might not be on their list of services, but they’ll make sure you have a seamless adventure — and a cocktail for your return.

These are just two of the full portfolio of Cayuga Collection hotels, which means there are several other options for your next vacation. What the company has done is make sustainable living easy, and as seamless as possible. If you don’t have to sacrifice, why would you ever book anything else?

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