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Green Hotels in Puerto Rico

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Did you know that the Puerto Rico launched the first government-sponsored green hotels program developed in and for the Caribbean? (It's another in a long list of firsts for the island.) The Puerto Rican Tourism Company launched its Green Lodging Program in October 2011, a dedicated effort to recognize and reward hotels that incorporate eco-friendly guidelines and best practices. The program has been structured and implemented with the support of the Environmental Protection Agency, and implies no cost for endorsed hotels. All they need are a commitment to sustainable tourism.

It's a wonderful step for the island to take, and the program measures everything from service quality, infrastructure, hygiene and public security. In return, those hotels get free promotion from the tourism company's marketing efforts. (I don't mind lending a hand either.)

So for those of you who seek lodgings with environmentally responsible policies, here are three hotels that fall under Puerto Rico's terrific Green Lodging Program.

1. The Hix Island House

Photo © Zain Deane

Not surprisingly, the first hotel to be awarded Green Certification under the program is one of my favorite digs in all of Puerto Rico: the incomparable Hix Island House, easily one of the top five hotels in Vieques.

The hotel's Casa Solaris was awarded the distinction on Earth Day, April 22nd, in 2012. Casa Solaris is completely off the grid. Its 16 guest rooms get their electricity from solar panels, which not only power the LED lights but also the refrigerator, ventilators, and phone and computer charging outlets. And that's just one of the eco-perks at Hix House.

2. Turtle Bay Inn

The 12-room Turtle Bay Inn is located in Lajas, within a short boat ride of the famous La Parguera Wall, one of the best dive sites in Puerto Rico. It's also a member of the Green Lodging Program thanks to its commitment to clean, renewable energy.

The hotel worked with Green Solar PR to bring clean, renewable energy to the inn using photovoltaic technology. In addition to solar and electrical water heaters, guests can get a complimentary continental breakfast, swimming pool, free internet access and access to a full range of water sports... including a trip to a bioluminescent bay.

3. Villas del Mar Hau

The 42-room Villas del Mar Hau in Isabela is the first parador, or country inn, to be included in the program. Villas del Mar Hau offers pleasant, colorful wooden cottages located steps from beach. Proving again that being green doesn't mean having to sacrifice service or comfort, the hotel's many offerings include tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, kayaking, swimming pool, small gym and horseback riding.

4. Criteria for Inclusion

For any hotels (or travelers) interested in learning what it takes to be included in the Green Lodging Program, here are the evaluation criteria according to which each hotel is measured.
  • Energy efficiency
  • Water conservation
  • Appropiate disposal of waste products
  • Green fleet
  • Indoor air quality
  • Landscaping and greenhouse practices
  • Recycling program
  • Establishment of an environmental policy at the property as well as a Green Team
  • Involvement and benefit of local community
  • Reduction of toxic and hazardous waste
  • Education and outreach
Like I said, it's a pretty comprehensive program, and I applaud the government for taking a huge green leap forward. The program is currently evaluating numerous other properties for inclusion, and I'll be happy to expand this list as more and more hotels in Puerto Rico go green.

Considering the other green initiatives on the island (a relatively new fleet of green buses, numerous eco-friendly tour operators around the island who champion ecotourism, and conservation efforts on the mainland as well as on Culebra and Vieques Islands), it's safe to say that Puerto Rico has made a major investment in sustainable tourism. And that is definitely one way Puerto Rico Does It Better.

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