There are ways to be a friend to the environment and tour to your heart's content through eco-tours and activities. Kayak, canoe, hike, and sightsee the most beautiful places in the world with your student group, friends, or family. But remember the ecotourist's motto: Take only pictures, leave only footprints!
California - The Golden State has made it very well known that they take environmental changes seriously. San Francisco is one of the most eco-friendly cities in the nation and a wonderful place to visit for eco-tourists wanting a little urban charm in their vacation. If you're wanting all nature all the time, you have plenty of places to choose from including the Channel Islands with their sea caves and wildlife observation points, Yosemite National Park, Mount Shasta's lonely volcanic peak in the north, or the several Redwood forests spread from Central California up to the border.
Washington - Seattle is perhaps one of the most eco-friendly in the continental U.S. and it's possible to have a fantastic ecotourism vacation without ever leaving that beautiful city. The San Juan Islands, however, might tempt you away from Seattle's exciting attractions with the stunning touring opportunities. You can kayak or canoe around the islands and see the animals on land and in the water, as the area is frequented by orcas and otters as well. Mount Rainier National Park and Ape Cave National Monument might also draw your attention with incredible views, hiking and touring opportunities, and plenty of chances to see the majesty of Mother Nature without marring the environment.
Puerto Rico - Also known as the Enchanted Island, lush and verdant Puerto Rico is a spectacular destination for eco-tourists on an adventure. There are a number of companies offering guided tours of the rainforests, waters, and even "bioluminescent" night tours of the lagoon which highlight the beautiful fish that swim through the water. In Puerto Rico, you can also enjoy the beach as much as you like, the historic buildings in San Juan, and of course tour El Yunque, a rainforest and mountain peak in the only rainforest belonging to the U.S. Forest Service.
Florida - As much of the state is either covered or surrounded by swamps or beaches, there are more than enough opportunities for water-bound eco-tours on kayaks, canoes, and other paddle boats. Up and down the state you'll find opportunities like in Cocoa Beach, Vero Beach, and several incredible options in Crystal River such as swimming with manatees and paddling through cypress groves. Hiking is more than welcome at a number of trails including those in the Everglades, Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, Alexander Springs, and Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. Some trails and parks even welcome dogs like the scenic Bear Swamp Trail in the Ocala National Forest, among others.
Hawaii - The native culture was very much eco-friendly before the green movement ever came to the island. With a collection of islands as beautiful as Hawaii, it's no wonder they wanted to keep it in perfect condition. There are also too many natural wonders to list off, almost every single one offering eco-tours, including hikes of Diamond Head on Oahu, Waimea Canyon, and Haleakala National Park. Hike to the top of Mauna Kea and watch the clouds roll beneath your feet, or watch a volcano ooze lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is a prime example of what happens when a population destroys an area and then enacts restoration projects, as the area is now good as new and absolutely stunning.
Yellowstone National Park - The entire mission of the National Park Service is to preserve and protect the park's environment which is just what you'll encounter at any national park. We love Yellowstone in particular because of the variety of touring options. The park is home to one of the most active geothermal wonderlands in the entire world, ripe for touring at sites like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring. It's also home to a multitude of animals that aren't shy around humans (just don't try and pet them) including bison, deer, eagles, and even bears. Kayak on the lake, hike around the beautiful sites, or even camp and feel connected to the great outdoors.
Alaska - Obviously the Last Frontier will be among the most eco-friendly in the nation, Eco-lodges, cruises, hiking and camping, kayaking, and more are offered regularly to visitors of all ages. The national parks of Alaska, including Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias has guided tours alongside self-guided excursions into the park and up the mountains if you so choose. As the state has proven to be difficult and treacherous for some people, guided tours and cruises are among the more popular options and are great ways to see wildlife.
New York - Surprisingly, New York state has one of the lowest carbon footprints per capita in the U.S. Aside from green movements and eco-friendly transportation, destinations like the Adirondacks, Catskills, and more bring in ecotourism for the state year-round. The Finger Lakes, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, and plenty of eco-friendly tour companies showcase the beauty and wonder of upstate New York without damaging the environment. Camping, hiking, and rock climbing are among the more popular activities though water-bound activities are also a top choice.
Florida Keys - Though the state of Florida was mentioned earlier, the Keys themselves deserve a little attention. The main Keys, from Key Largo to Key West, offer some of the best diving, fishing, and boating opportunities in the U.S., some say the world. People come from all over the globe to enjoy the magnificently clear turquoise water, dive down to shipwrecks and reefs, and paddle over to smaller islands for a day's hike in the mangrove hammocks.
Texas - The Lone Star State is a huge place with all manner of ecosystems from rocky deserts to lush beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Paddling trails, bird watching, and wildlife watching are among some of the more popular eco-tourism activities along with agritourism, a growing form of tourism in which people visit working farms and see their day to day operations. Check out Galveston, Corpus Christi, and South Padre Island for beachfront delights or more inland toward Big Bend National Park, Enchanted Rock Natural Area, and Natural Bridge Caverns for hiking, camping, and rock climbing.