The 10 Best Ethical Travel Destinations for 2013

Kayakers-palauKayaking in Palau. Photo: Mark Downey

Since 2006, Berkeley-based non-profit Ethical Traveler has compiled an annual list of the 10 best ethical vacation destinations for the coming year, and it just released its 2013 list this week.

"We try to encourage travelers to vote with their wings by going to places where travel and tourism benefits local people, where the government has an eye on the environment and supports human rights," Jeff Greenwald, Ethical Traveler's executive director, told a packed house at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club on Monday evening.

Greenwald's group focuses on developing nations, with an eye toward encouraging travelers to put economic power into these nascent tourism economies. In 2011, international tourism receipts exceeded $1 trillion for the first time, and this year the number of international tourists in the world is expected to hit one billion, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The list is offered in alphabetical order, so they're all equally weighted within the top 10. Each nation is judged based on its social welfare programs, its efforts to protect its environment, and its human rights records. In the list below I've focused mostly on environmental protection and recreation.

Chosen for its proactive environmental programs—including its 2012 Green Economy Scoping study—and its transparency, Barbados also offers some of the best surfing (and rum) in the Caribbean.

This island nation on Africa's east coast boasts a program to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. "We're always wary about commodification of culture," said travel expert Malai Everette at the event on Monday, but she feels Cape Verde has maintained its rich culture without cheapening it.

Filed To: Adventure, Exploration, Travel

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