Since 1980, ecotourism been transforming the way the world viewed travel through a lens of sustainable and global ecological practices. Today, more and more hotels are taking steps to offer eco-friendly options or have chosen to become completely free of non-natural elements. Over the years, critics have come to question the benefit of ecotourism, even suggesting the term itself is an oxymoron. While the debate remains on whether it helps the environment, we’re happy to see the hotel industry looking for more ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
One such property is Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge in Barahona, Dominican Republic. Built around sustainable living, preserving the unspoiled region of the country has always been at the heart of the hotel’s operations. Tucked away among the country’s lush trees, vegetation, and on the edge of the only biosphere reserve in the D.R., the lodge was built using all local materials such as palm wood, thatched roofs, coral stone and wood from native higüero trees.
The use of local materials also allowed for less transportation needs, therefore reducing the dispensing of emissions into the air. Continuing their eco-conscious efforts, a portion of the lodge’s energy is produced by a hydroelectric generator.
Casa Bonita’s guestrooms still maintain some of the comforts and amenities that guests expect when booking a luxury hotel. The 12 accommodations are simple yet chic, featuring white linens, palm-wood walls and wicker furnishings. Designed by architect Rafael Selman, the rooms were all built to view out onto the Caribbean Sea and the Sierra Barahuco Mountains. Accenting the walls is graphic art by the acclaimed conservation photographer Eladio Fernandez.
There is only one suite on property that is situated in a more secluded area of the lodge. The around 380-foot Ocean View suite views out onto the Caribbean Sea and can fit two adults and two children. Upon arrival, guests will be met with a complimentary bottle of wine and a local fruit platter. Further amenities include: a flat screen TV, outdoor solarium terrace with 107-degree ocean view, an infinity pool, dining area and kitchenette.
When considering a concept for dining options, Casa Bonita made sure to keep it homegrown and use produce from the community and dress dishes with ingredients from the its own Pat’s Organic Garden. Named after its designer, American horticulturist Pat Kennedy, the restaurant is based on all-organic methods with farm-to-table dining experience. Those who really want to dig in can also take part in the harvesting of organic vegetables, fruits & herbs.
Travelers looking to find relaxation will find it among the woods at Tanama Eco Spa. Set amidst trees whose leaves gently sway to the rhythm of the river’s waters, the outdoor spa offers a tranquil natural setting perfect for de-stressing. Using elements such as coffee, chocolate, coconut, basil, bamboo, noni, mango, and pineapple—the therapeutic treatments source 99 percent of their ingredients. During the evening hours, guests can also rest in the candlelit Jacuzzi and enjoy a glass of wine while watching lightening bugs dance among the trees.
Really setting in their sustainable aspect, 99 percent of Casa Bonita’s staff comes from the community which enables them to be an important contributor to economic and social development in the area. The family-owned property is a great option for those looking to participate in ecotourism. Regular season rates (January 1–December 22) start at around USD $220 per night, while holiday season (April 12–April 20, December 24–31) start at around $315. Minimum stays are required during the holidays.