Ecotourism: Four Handpicked Destinations for Safe & Sustainable Travel

By KÜHL Editor on October 20, 2023
9 min read

If you're anything like us, you live for the thrill of exploration and authentic beauty only nature can provide. Now more than ever, it's important to take care of the planet we call home. Spending time outside safely and sustainably should be a top priority for everyone who loves the great outdoors.

Fortunately, ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular. This movement helps tourists experience nature responsibly and respectfully to conserve the environment and local way of life. With a 2018 study indicating that as much as 87% of global travelers wants to travel sustainably, ecotourism is yet to bloom.

While the definition of sustainable travel may vary, one thing is certain - traveling safely and sustainably is fun for you and great for the planet. Keep reading to learn more about traveling sustainably throughout the United States. We picked four ecotourism destinations so you can enjoy nature while minimizing your impact on the environment.


If you want to get outside and experience sustainable travel in the U.S., Alaska is the best place to start. Visitors looking for a rugged, off-the-grid experience in Alaska will adore the Gates of the Arctic as one of the most remote and least-visited national parks in the country.

Hiking and backpacking in Gates of the Arctic offers a rustic and environmentally-friendly travel option. To minimize visitors' impact on the environment, group size is restricted to 10 or less. The undeveloped landscape features no trails or markings. Hikers are encouraged to follow game trails or walk in a fan formation to avoid affecting the environment or creating social trails. Spending time in Gates of the Arctic is a sustainable, eco-friendly way to get in touch with nature while enjoying the unforgettable scenery provided by the Alaskan backcountry.

two people walking in front of mountains
Gates of the Arctic National Park, Brooks Range Mountains, Alaska. Photo by Paxson WoelberExpedition Arguk.

If you're looking to explore more of Alaska's wilderness, plenty of companies offer eco-tours. These tours include guided wildlife tours, information about local indigenous peoples and their culture, and sustainably grown food.

Alaska's Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge offers sleeping accommodations and tours that introduce visitors to puffins, seals, and bears, in addition to highlighting local artists' work. Ecotour companies such as Gondwana Ecotours know the best spots for tourists to experience the Northern Lights. They've also made a commitment to sustainability by offsetting carbon emissions from visitors' flights, hiring local guides, and visiting sustainable homesteads.

No matter what type of ecotourism experience you're looking for, you can find it in Alaska.

Northern California

The rich, varied ecosystems of Northern California can be experienced sustainably. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who's spent time in one of America's greenest states. When it comes to ecotourism in Northern California, the possibilities are practically endless.

If you're heading into the Sierras, make a detour to Mono Lake. This spectacular saline lake features a fragile and fascinating ecosystem full of rare, intricate limestone formations. The visitor's center provides opportunities to learn more about the region's native Kutzadika'a Tribe. You can also donate to Mono Lake's preservation efforts. Deeply important to the region, Mono Lake is a unique site, treasured by adventurers and ecology and geology enthusiasts.

rocky formations on body of water
A surreal scenery of Mono lake known for its high levels of salts. Photo by Stephen Leonardi.

There's no shortage of other opportunities for ecotourism in Northern California. Enjoy the famous wineries of Napa and Sonoma by cycling instead of driving! You'll reduce your environmental impact and get to try the sustainably produced wine. You can also take public transportation to limit your carbon emissions while you visit the famous granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park.

If you're looking for something extra-special to do at night, Blue Waters Kayaking is the place to go. They offer camping and guided kayaking tours of the stunning bioluminescence in Tomales Bay. This spot is located just off the coast of Point Reyes National Seashore. Spend a unique evening paddling among glowing blue marine life under the light of a full moon. Plus, you'll get to learn more about the special ecosystem of Tomales Bay.

Overall, Northern California has plenty to offer to anyone who is looking for an unforgettable eco-tourism experience.

Montana and Wyoming

You already know that Montana and Wyoming fall squarely within Big Sky country, but did you know that they're also hot spots for sustainable travel?

The most popular site in this region is undeniably Yellowstone National Park, which is strongly committed to sustainability. Visitors can help the park achieve its eco-friendly goals by opting to spend time camping in Yellowstone National Park's vast backcountry. You can also ride a bicycle throughout the park, instead of driving. Yellowstone's extensive ranger program allows visitors to enjoy talks and tours that dive deep into the wildlife and natural history of the area, as well as the cultural history of the region. It's the perfect way to experience all that Yellowstone has to offer safely and sustainably.

However, there's more to the Wild West than just Yellowstone. Teton Science Schools allow visitors to learn about the flora and fauna of Grand Teton and other areas in Montana and Wyoming. Their guided tours are a great way to engage with nature and serve as perfect palate cleansers before or after a ski trip.

green trees covered mountain with body of water in front
Waterfalls flowing into Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. Photo by Everett McIntire.

Glacier National Park features over 1,000 campsites and can be traversed by eco-friendly e-bikes. Numerous nearby ecolodges and restaurants offer dishes that highlight sustainably caught fish or sustainably raised meat.

Visitors looking for a taste of eco-friendly luxury can stay at the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole. This was the first LEED-certified hotel in Wyoming. It's a very comfortable place to rest in between trips down the slopes.

That's why the wild beauty of Montana and Wyoming is perfect for exploring on an eco-friendly trip.


Perhaps the most popular site for sustainable tourism in the United States is Hawai'i. This is the perfect destination for anyone looking to experience incredible natural beauty in an eco-friendly way.

Most outdoor enthusiasts will want to pay a visit to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. There, you can observe real volcanoes - including Kīlauea - in action! You'll also find out how native Hawaiians have interacted with the land and its powerful geological forces over time.

red lava and gray rock formations
You can take a 4 am hike under full moonlight in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the lava is flowing. Photo by Jack Ebnet.

If you want to branch out, feel free to explore the other Hawaiian islands. Travel via ferries, not planes, to reduce your carbon footprint. Enjoy sustainable activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, and more. Many ecotourism companies offer excursions that include educational components while also allowing thrill-seekers to experience underwater ecosystems without damaging them.

If you're excited to learn more about Hawai'i's rich history as well as its ecosystems, take a stroll through the coffee plantation at Kauai Coffee. They use sustainable methods to grow coffee beans. You can also take a tour of the taro fields of the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. before sampling some of their farm-to-table poi, hummus, and other products. Learning about the foods native to Hawai'i and how they have been sustainably produced for generations is an easy and delicious way to better understand the special relationships that native Hawaiians have with their land.

Due to its incredible biodiversity and a wide variety of ecosystems, Hawai'i is a place that is best experienced safely and sustainably. It's not challenging to plan a trip to Hawai'i that leaves the islands looking just as beautiful as you found them.

What To Pack For Eco-Friendly Travel?

Packing light is crucial when planning an eco-friendly trip. Having fewer belongings will keep you from feeling weighed down on your trip. Also, lighter packs use less jet fuel on airplanes, which can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Nevertheless, there are a few tried-and-true staples that any eco-conscious tourist should bring along with them.

Reusable water bottle

If saving the environment is important to you, reducing your consumption of single-use plastics should be a high priority. A reusable water bottle can help keep you hydrated on your adventures while limiting your impact on the environment.

Pair of versatile pants

Investing in a pair of long-lasting, high-quality pants is better for both the environment and your wallet. Loading up on multiple pairs of flimsy pants that will inevitably fall apart after mile one of a ten-mile hike is not a really good idea.

A pair of pants like the Renegade™ Cargo Convertible is made of durable high-quality fabrics that let your body move and breathe. The zip-off legs make them versatile, so no need to bring along an additional pair of shorts. Wherever your eco-conscious travels take you, these pants are a perfect match.

High-quality base layer shirt

Ecotourism is just as popular in Alaska as it is in Hawai'i, which means you'll need a base layer to serve you well in a wide variety of weather conditions.

The Akkomplice™ Krew uses KoreKontrol™ fabric to achieve highly breathable insulation, making it perfect for exploring Gates of the Arctic.

man in black clothes inside tent
The warm and soft base layer you can sleep in will keep you dry and comfortable on any outdoor adventure. Product shown: M's Akkomplice™ Krew, M's Akkomplice™ Bottom.

Consider the ultralight Valiant™ SS to keep you cool and dry as you approach Volcanoes National Park. This base layer is made from INVIZIWÜL™, a Merino wool - polyester blend, so you get the best of the two.

Outdoor clothing made of recycled materials

For sun protection, choose soft and stretchy Juniper LS™ made from 95% recycled materials that features a sun protection factor 40. M's Revolt™ Hybrid Hoody and W's Revolt™ Hybrid Jacket have 55% of the insulation made from post-consumer recycled content. Yet they provide excellent protection from the elements all winter long, and low bulk due to strategically placed insulation.

High-quality hiking shoes or boots

Your environmentally friendly travels will undoubtedly take you across some rocky terrain. Invest in a long-lasting pair of snug, comfortable hiking boots or shoes, and enjoy knowing that all you'll be leaving behind is your footprints.

Head Into The Great Outdoors With KÜHL

At KÜHL, we're committed to creating products that can help serve you well on your quest for environmentally conscious adventure. It's why we prize sustainability so highly in our own operations. We believe that it's important to experience the beauty of the great outdoors, while also ensuring that it will still be around for our kids and grandchildren to enjoy.

As part of our commitment to environmentally friendly practices, we work hard to source eco-friendly materials and manufacture our products safely and sustainably. We also endeavor to remove environmentally unfriendly materials, processes, and labor practices wherever they might arise in our supply chain. Additionally, we've made a point to invest in our community, and we pride ourselves on using our platform to help make a difference.

If you're interested in learning more about our commitment to sustainability or the top-notch apparel for your next eco-friendly adventure, pay us a visit online or give us a call.

Then, take some time to start planning a trip to your next favorite eco-tourism destination! Adventure is waiting for you — make sure you respect the outdoors and Leave No Trace.

KÜHL Editor
KÜHL Editor


Get all the news right in your mail