Posted by: ecodestination | December 19, 2009

An eco hotel in a nature reserve – sustainable or destructive?

View from the MAYAB Holistic Center and Educational Retreat

MAYAB Holistic Center and Educational Retreat, opening this month, is more than an eco hotel because it educates its guests “about critical environmental issues facing the coastal ecosystems of the Sian Ka’an [Biosphere Reserve] and surrounding area.”

Eco education

This is crucial, and something I wish all eco hotels did. Think about it: what if someone wants to help the environment and so chooses to vacation at an eco hotel, but then wears regular sunscreen while checking out coral reefs? What if a couple celebrates their wedding on the coast of Quintana Roo, where so many severely endangered sea turtles go to nest? Or if people with good intentions visit bird sanctuaries and fail to keep their mouths shut? Noooooooo!


Violating the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

However, Mayab was built just north of Tulum in the Yucatán Peninsula within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, a 1.3 million-acre nature reserve that also hosts Mayan ruins. I know what you’re thinking: this does not sound ecologically auspicious, sustainable and green as Mayab may tout itself to be. I absolutely agree.

Building a hotel – eco or otherwise – within a natural reserve is egregiously intrusive and atrocious.

(I’m not even going to go into the accommodations set up by the Sian Ka’an reserve itself!)

Photo by Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Sure, founder Delainia Haug means well, but placing its premises within a UNESCO World Heritage Site sounds like more of a marketing move than an environmentally magnanimous one.

As the eco hotel’s website says, “Approximately 36,000 tourists entered the reserve in the year 2000, and those numbers are expected to increase significantly each year.” And don’t forget “The increase in tourism and overdevelopment are threatening this fragile habitat.”

Oh, and “In the summer three species of endangered sea turtles come ashore to build their nests here.” I don’t think tourists should be trusted to respect nesting sites, no matter how ostensibly ecologically mindful they may be. Staying at a hotel placed right by these sites – not to mention being responsible for it – is irresponsible, to say the least.

How, then, could building a hotel within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere be ecologically responsible?

The good stuff

Apart from educating its guests, Mayab filters its grey and black water, turning the latter into organic matter. It is also developing a solar generated power system, composts, and recycles.

Also, retreats and programs are held to increase awareness about environmental issues.

What do you think?

Is its presence within a reserve ecologically laudable or destructive?

Leave a comment here and contact Delainia to voice your thoughts!



  1. […] blogged about companies and such that greenwash: so-called eco hotels that, when you look into what they are actually doing to make themselves […]

  2. We have reserved a two night stay in May and are incredibly excited about it! We did this because we are environmentally conscious and are interested in the educational concept of the center. It seems to me that intentions are to help educate society and offer an alternative way to see the beauty of Mexico outside of over-rated resorts that cater to tourists. Hopefully the type of tourists that visits is interested and respectful of these types of surroundings. It is a privilege! Looking forward to seeing you Delainia!

    • Hey Janie!

      Well I’m sure it will be lots of fun. It’d be great to hear your thoughts when you get back.

      Thank you,


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