The Lazy, Crazy Guide to Sand Land

Best Eco-Lodges

Dec 17, 2002
Outside Magazine
Best Mercado

Oaxaca City, Mexico
Fresh chocolate ground with almonds and vanilla, colorful baskets teeming with seasoned grasshoppers, and cheap rocket-fuel-style mescal are just a few of the local treats to be found in this sprawling outdoor market, where Indian women hawk everything from power tools to turkeys. (

LODGE AT PICO BONITO, HONDURAS: The 8,000-foot peak of Pico Bonito sets the backdrop for this 200-acre nature resort close to the Caribbean coast, where 21 cabins (constructed from hurricane-felled timber) are tucked among a grove of cacao and coffee trees. A poolside bar serves fresh grapefruit juice straight from the orchards on the property, while a restaurant with an outdoor patio offers Meso-American cuisine. Pico Bonito National Park is next door, and the Class II-IV Cangrejal River flows nearby. For a less frothy adventure, paddle a canoe through the mangroves of Cuero y Salado Park, near La Ceiba. Watch for 275 species of birds, including the long-tailed manakin, as well as jaguars, kinkajous, and monkeys (doubles from $155; 888-428-0221,

EXOTICA, DOMINICA: The lodge's eight wooden cottages overlooking the sea on the slopes of 3,683-foot Morne Anglais have a genuine eco-pedigree—they're run by the president of the Caribbean Conservation Society, Athie Martin. The units have tropical-hardwood verandas, pine-paneled living rooms, and fully equipped kitchens with gas stoves and solar-heated water. Guests can prepare their own meals with fresh-picked produce from an adjoining organic farm or dine at the lodge's café. Aside from soaking in the get-back-to-the-land vibe, there are diversions: Wander old hunting trails through forests looking for bananaquit birds, hike an hour up to Middleham Falls near Cochrane, or go play in the sea (doubles from $140; 767-448-8839,

HOTELITO DESCONOCIDO, MEXICO: Here's proof that a stay at an eco-resort doesn't have to be an exercise in austerity. Sixty miles south of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, Desconocido is as plush as environmentally oriented accommodations come: Think Mexican fishing village meets luxury safari camp. Palafitos (wood-floored bungalows with palapa roofs) are set up on stilts around a stunning lagoon and a 100-acre beach reserve where sea turtles nest from June to January. Use the lodge's equipment to windsurf, or take a horseback ride along the beach, then head back to one of the 30 rustic-chic guest rooms, which feature canopied beds, open-air showers, and embroidered linens—but no electricity. Solar energy powers the resort, and countless candles provide soft lighting (doubles from $215; 800-851-1143,

TIAMO RESORTS, SOUTH ANDROS, BAHAMAS: Sea kayaking, sailing, diving, snorkeling, and a quiet beach are all a coconut's throw away from Tiamo's lodge and eight bungalows on stilts with views over South Bight's teal waters. The resort is supremely eco-friendly—it's solar-powered and uses composting toilets; guests are asked to pack out their plastic goods for recycling. Bring your fly rods—bonefish are abundant in the flats right out the front door. Afterward, head to the main lodge for Chef Jared's seared tuna with red-pepper-and-mango sauce (doubles from $205; 800-201-4356,

KANANTIK, BELIZE: Situated on 300 private acres (with an airstrip) in southern Belize, Kanantik Reef and Jungle Resort redefines "isolated": The only neighbors are the jaguars and toucans that haunt the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, four miles south, and the whale sharks that migrate offshore. Ancient Mayan building traditions have been updated to 21st-century cush in the 25 spacious cabañas that line the palm-fringed beach, where you can launch a sea kayak. You can also dive, fish for bill- and bonefish, sail one of the resort's Hobie Cats, or tour the temples at Xunantunich ruins, near the Guatemalan border. Refuel with the restaurant's Creole-Mediterranean fare (doubles from $265; 800-965-9689,