By Alex Schechter, CNTraveler.com
What if conscientious travel meant more than just re-using hotel bathroom towels? You could, say, clean up nature trails in St. John, or hike with an orphaned pup in Utah--trips that blend altruism with adventure. The ever-growing "voluntourism" trend has its risks and rewards, but if you're looking for a simple way to give back while on vacation, these five hotels make it easy.
For several years now, Utah's Red Mountain Resort (a CNT Gold List pick) has offered a program called "Pound Puppy Hike" by partnering with a local animal shelter. Guests can pair up with an orphaned pooch and set out on a four-mile hike through the red, dusty trails of Padre Canyon. Adoption is offered for those who fall head over heels, though it isn't a requirement.
PHOTO COURTESY RED MOUNTAIN RESORT
Each morning, a complimentary shuttle whisks guests at The Westin St. John off to nearby 14,737-acre Virgin Islands National Park, which is dotted with old sugar-plantation ruins and wild forest land. Guests spend the day removing litter and ensuring the safety of the trails, and as a thank you, the hotel offers a $100 resort credit toward any spa treatment or meal.
PHOTO COURTESY STJOHN.COM
Banyan Tree's new "Stay For Good" initiative kicks off this week with a tree-planting event, timed to World Environment Day. For the month of June, guests at all Banyan Tree hotels will be able to plant indigenous trees and flowering plants (or, if you like, an underwater coral garden!) in the name of habitat protection and conservation. It's a decent excuse, not that you needed one, to visit again in ten years and check up on your seedling.
PHOTO COURTESY BANYANTREE.COM
At Biras Creek, a 31-suite luxury resort in the British Virgin Islands (accessible only by boat or helicopter), spend time getting to know Fugitive, Sorbeto, Ben, Kid, and Winston--the resort's five adopted Paso Finos. The rescued horses (three of which are former racehorses) arrived in January, and while they aren't available for riding, equiphiles can spend a morning in the stables, honing their non-verbal communication skills in "Natural Horsemanship," "Couples Retreat," and other classes.
PHOTO COURTESY BIRAS CREEK
"Reading Road Trip," an education initiative offered at Sandals Resorts in Saint Lucia, Antigua, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and Jamaica offers guests the chance to mold young minds and engage with local communities. Every Thursday from 9-11am ($20 per adult; children ages 8-12 free), families can visit a nearby school to meet with students, take part in small reading groups, and donate books to the school library.
PHOTO COURTESY SANDALS.COM
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