How “eco” are eco-resorts in the Riviera Maya, Mexico? (Part 1 of 2)


White sand beach at Sandos Caracol

The vast majority of our clients choosing the Riviera Maya for a beach vacation opt for all-inclusive packages. During our most recent site visit to the area to develop new itineraries, we decided to stay at two all-inclusive properties touting “eco” in their marketing campaigns (Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort and Spa and Hacienda Tres Rios).

I first learned of Sandos Caracol’s eco-efforts in spring 2010 at a dinner hosted by the Riviera Maya Tourism Board. During the presentation, I asked several questions about resorts in the area and their commitment to conservation and sustainability. For Reefs to Rockies, that’s the true meaning of “eco”. A representative from Sandos happened to be sitting at the same table and gave me his card suggesting we come visit the property when we had the chance.

When you go the resort’s website, the following information comes up. We were intrigued and booked a four-night stay with two friends to see what Sandos was all about.

Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa is more than a hotel, more than a vacation… its an ECO-VACATION !!!

We are committed to being green without compromising comfort strives to be the number one ECO-HOTEL in the Mayan Riviera. Not only by highlighting its natural beauties, such as its many cenotes, mangroves and regional animals. But also through constant innovation and projects, emphasizing the conservation of the environment and the awareness-raising of the public.

Hotel Sandos Caracol Eco-Resort & Spa


Sandos Hotels & Resorts is committed to the environment, as we are reducing and preventing the environmental impact related to our activities by making our workers, guests, suppliers and the community, aware of how we can start an ecological culture, in order to contribute on saving our planet.”

Recycling bins

Sandos Caracol does pass the eco-test. While there, we noticed the implementation of several initiatives including:

  • Reduction in single-use plastics.
    • Five-gallon jugs of drinking water were available at a variety of sites to encourage refilling water bottles.
    • The resort served beverages in reusable tumblers instead of disposable plastic cups.
    • At the gym and spa, they use biodegradable/compostable paper cups.
  • Towel and linen reuse program.
    • The resort allows guests to choose whether or not they want towels washed daily, an effective way to reduce water consumption.
  • Battery recycling.
    • At the front desk, there is a container to drop of used batteries instead of throwing them in the trash. Batteries release toxic chemicals into the ground so recycling is a better option when available.
  • Encouraging the use of biodegradable sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
    • Sandos Caracol encourages their guests to commune with nature by walking along its trails and swimming in the cenote on site.
    • Biodegradable insect repellent is located in dispensers around the resort and biodegradable sunscreen is available for purchase at the gift shop. (It’s much harder to find those products on store shelves here in the US.)
  • Recycling.
    • Bins to separate plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and paper were located at a variety of sites.
    • In addition, I saw staff members separating recyclables from other trash.
  • Bulk dispensers.
    • In the bathrooms, there were bulk soap, lotion, and shampoo dispensers to minimize waste of these products.


One of our favorite aspects of Sandos Caracol’s intiatives was the signs located along sidewalks highlighting native species found in the region as well as eco-tips. This is a great way to educate guests as they meander from place to place.

Sign highlighting native species found in the area.


For 2011, the resort renovated 128 rooms with modern architectural designs and added features that keep to the resort’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions. The accommodations include air-conditioning systems with lower energy consumption, solar panels, furniture made from certified wood, energy-efficient lighting and a new wastewater-recycling program. In keeping with its focus on the environment, the resort also added Magic Planet, an interactive, multimedia teaching tool that helps users better understand their impact on the Earth.

Renovated room near pool.

We applaud Sandos Caracol’s eco-efforts! If you’d like more information on our experience at the resort, feel free to contact us at