It seems that far-flung adventures are starting to lose some of their appeal as more and more of us are becoming increasingly eco-conscious. The state of the planet — and our impact on it — is coming into play during vacation planning more than ever. The Virtuoso network of luxury travel advisors polled clients and found that 82 per cent said the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly in the future, and 70 per cent believe travelling sustainably enhances their vacation experience.
But just because you’re concerned about the planet doesn’t mean you can’t still travel or indulge in a vacation — especially one that’s mostly guilt-free.
If eco-conscious travellers focus on smaller destinations with smaller groups, as Toronto-based advisor Tom Gehrels suggests, it makes for a deeper experience — an even more intimate and exclusive luxury trip that also causes less damage to the planet — because sometimes, less is more.
While we’ve seen some cold destinations where luxury and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive, here’s a hot option for those not ready to say goodbye to their beach getaways — but still want to put the planet first.
About 6,000 kilometres north of Antarctica and several dozen degrees warmer is an extraordinary destination where travellers concerned about their planet can enjoy a beach vacation minus the giant concrete hotels, kitschy souvenir stands, and heavy footprint of mass tourism. UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa is in the tiny fishing village of Trancoso, in the Northeast Brazilian state of Bahia. The outside world largely ignored the area until the 1970s, when hippies and artists (called “biribandos” by the locals) were drawn to the laid-back beachside atmosphere.
UXUA (pronounced you-SHOO-ah) opened in 2009 as a unique concept: rather than plopping a garish hotel in the middle of the village, the owners worked with local craftsmen to restore existing fishermen’s cottages, some of which are 500 years old, adding 21st-century design touches and luxurious amenities while using locally sourced materials to remain faithful to the cultural roots of the area. Instead of being cut off from the community by high walls and security guards, the “casas” are arranged around Trancoso’s historic quadrado (central square). UXUA means “wonderful” in the language of the local Indigenous people, the Pataxó. Word has gotten around about it — CNN anchor Anderson Cooper owns a casa in the village.
Visitors walk out of their casa for the short stroll over to the pristine, remote Espelho Beach, where sofas are reserved for guests and a beverage or meal can be had at the Praia bar. If you feel energetic, the hotel can arrange mountain biking, hiking, and surfing, or you can book a boat to take you to nearby beaches or diving spots.
UXUA’s Quadrado restaurant takes its inspiration from the spicy flavours of Bahian traditional cuisine, a mix of Indigenous, Portuguese, and African influences, with all its ingredients sourced from organic farmers in the area. There’s an ice cream parlour with exotic flavours such as chocolate−pepper, made from cocoa grown in its own garden and peppers from nearby. The spa uses local flowers, fruits, and roots to create treatment ingredients, and there’s a pool lined with 45,000 green aventurine quartz stones that are reputed to have their own healing qualities.
UXUA makes a point of not only blending harmoniously and respectfully into the community but also giving back, with an environmental education program for adolescents and support for the Trancoso Fishermen’s Association, which provides all the seafood for the hotel using traditional, low-impact methods.
UXUA has a credo that should resonate with all travellers who believe in sustainability: authenticity is the greatest luxury.
Learn more about the UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa here.