- The top green summer cities are Long Beach, CA, San Francisco, CA, and Miami, FL.
- Long Beach, CA, is the best eco-friendly destination for hitting the beach, while San Jose, CA, is the best for camping.
- Experience green hospitality: San Francisco earned the highest rank for sustainable hotels.
- Nearly 1 in 6 Americans plan to take green vacations this summer.
Planning vacations with the planet in mind
Looking for a summer vacation destination where you can embrace adventure while being kind to the planet? This season, embark on a memorable getaway to a green vacation city. To help you find your ideal eco-friendly hot spot, we curated a list of the most sustainable destinations among the 50 most populous cities in the U.S.
To create our list, we used data from Yelp, TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders Program, and AirNow to determine air quality and the number of beaches, campgrounds, sustainable hotels, farmer markets, recycling facilities, and thrift stores per 100,000 residents. We also used Google Trends search volume data to explore national interest in eco-friendly summer vacations and surveyed 1,009 Americans planning to travel this summer about the how and the why of sustainable travel.
So, let’s discover some fantastic U.S. destinations where you can make unforgettable memories without harming the Earth.
Unveiling the top eco-friendly U.S. cities
There are many great cities to visit in the U.S., but some make it easier to travel green. Let’s check out the best cities for sustainable summer vacations.
While much of the competition was close, Long Beach, CA, secured the top spot as the best city for green summer vacations by an impressive 25-point margin. With excellent air quality and plenty of Earth-friendly activities, Long Beach offers eco-conscious travelers a fun-filled, sun-soaked summer vacation getaway.
Also in California, San Francisco claimed second place, impressing with its availability of sustainable hotels. Sunny Miami took third, just three points behind San Fran, with a second-place finish for beaches.
Rounding out the top five, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., tied for fourth, each just one point behind the beach haven of Miami.
Best cities for green summer fun
The best vacations perfectly fit your interests, whether you love lying on the sand or hitting the shops. Let’s look closer at the top cities for each of our seven eco-friendly ranking categories.
In addition to earning the top spot overall, Long Beach also nabbed the No. 1 position for nearby beaches, farmers markets, recycling facilities, and thrift stores. Miami joined the top list for beaches and lakes, while Seattle and Minneapolis came in fourth and fifth in the same category.
For those who prefer the forest to the water, the California city of San Jose took the top spot for camping. Washington, D.C., made a surprise appearance at fifth place for nearby campgrounds, while mountainous Denver was close to the bottom at No. 46.
If staying in hotels is more your speed, try San Francisco for your next eco-friendly adventure. This city was a superstar in the sustainable hotel realm, ranking first and setting a remarkable example for sustainable accommodations. Raleigh, NC, landed in second place, followed by Washington, D.C., in third.
Also highly ranked in several categories, Oakland, CA, didn’t make the top five in our overall rankings, but it earned a top five finish for farmers markets, recycling facilities, and thrift stores.
And don’t forget about the air quality champions: Sacramento, CA, officially had the freshest air among all 50 most populous U.S. cities. Long Beach is No. 2, and the biggest surprise of all was Los Angeles coming at No. 3. Despite its smoggy reputation, Los Angeles air quality has dramatically improved in recent years because of the Clean Air Act.
Searching for sustainable adventures
With so many options for stateside green summer vacations, how many Americans are embracing eco-friendly travel? Let’s look at the Google search volume for sustainable travel and discover the cities whose residents lead the way in environmental tourism.
Overall, the Southeast was a hot spot for sustainable travel searches. Georgia had the highest search volume at 8,166 searches per 100,000 residents. The neighboring states of South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee had between 6,000 to 7,014 searches. In addition to the Southeast, South Dakota residents conducted 7,165 searches per 100,000 residents, making it the second most interested state.
As for cities, Georgia’s state capital of Atlanta tops the list of cities most interested in eco-friendly travel. Coming in second, Tampa, FL, residents were also eagerly searching for green summer vacations. Virginia Beach, VA, Charlotte, NC, and Colorado Springs, CO, round out the top 5 cities searching for sustainable travel information.
Interestingly, although California boasts nine cities in the top 50 sustainable destinations list, none of its cities were in the top 20 for eco-friendly travel searches. Perhaps Californians have already tapped into the wealth of sustainable options in their own backyard.
With Google searches for eco-travel increasing 200% in the past year, it doesn’t seem this hot travel trend will cool off anytime soon.
Choosing a greener getaway
As more Americans hop on the eco-travel trend, let’s see what this year’s summer vacationers have planned. How many are traveling green, and why are they choosing a sustainable trip?
Among this year’s summer vacationers, nearly 1 in 6 said they were planning a green summer vacation, and a further 55% were considering it. The majority of travelers chose to go eco to reduce the environmental impact of travel (64%). Another 63% wanted to experience nature and wildlife, and 55% wanted to slow down and reconnect with life.
When planning these reconnecting trips, 74% of eco-conscious travelers said air quality was the most important factor, followed by sustainable restaurants (64%) and hotels (63%). In fact, those planning a green summer vacation were 267% more likely to stay in sustainable hotels and 135% more likely to eat at sustainable restaurants. Moreover, some Americans have no problem putting their money where their values are: 79% of green summer travelers said they would pay extra for eco-friendly travel options.
Aside from choosing green destinations and hotels, eco-travelers had other tips for sustainable travel. Nearly 1 in 2 said they plan to pack reusable items, and 3 in 8 aimed to minimize waste while on vacation. In addition, some Americans were keen to have a more environmentally friendly ride to get around while away from home.
One-third of green travelers said finding a destination with a bike-sharing program is one of the most significant factors when choosing a vacation spot. Gen Zers were 53% more likely than other generations to consider bike-sharing programs important for their eco-friendly summer vacations. E-bikes are an easy way to make your trip even more sustainable, especially when it comes to exploring the great outdoors this summer.
Traveling in sustainable style
Whether you’re planning a weeklong stay or a day trip, many U.S. cities offer the perfect blend of adventure, comfort, and eco-friendly fun. With a growing number of Americans embracing green travel and prioritizing factors like air quality and sustainable accommodations, it’s clear that the future of travel is exciting and environmentally conscious. The next time you plan a vacation, consider making it greener and enjoy a getaway that shows care and gratitude for our beautiful home called Earth.
The metaranking for the best cities for green summer vacations synthesized the following factors per city:
- Air quality
- Number of beaches and lakes per 100,000 residents
- Number of campgrounds per 100,000 residents
- Number of sustainable hotels per 100,000 residents
- Number of farmers markets per 100,000 residents
- Number of recycling facilities per 100,000 residents
- Number of thrift stores per 100,000 residents
We used Yelp data for all variables except sustainable hotels and air quality. Yelp data shown includes locations with a Yelp rating of 3.5 or higher.
For sustainable hotels, we used TripAdvisor and considered hotels that are members of the GreenLeaders Program, which showcases a variety of eco-friendly hotels committed to green practices. The hotels considered were 3 stars and up and had a traveler rating of 4 and up. For air quality, we pulled data from AirNow.
We used 2022-2023 Google Trends data to explore search volume interest in eco-friendly summer vacation-related searches across all 50 states and the 50 most populous U.S. cities. We also surveyed 1,009 Americans who plan to travel this summer. Among them, 50% were men, 49% were women, and 1% were non-binary. Also, 10% were Gen Z, 53% millennials, 27% Gen X, and 10% baby boomers.
Velotric offers eco-friendly and budget-friendly e-bikes. We aim to provide cyclists with a seamless and captivating e-bike journey, ensuring a thrilling and worry-free experience on the open road.
Fair Use Statement
Ready to hit the road for a green summer vacation? We’d love for you to share our findings for any noncommercial purpose, but you must link back to this article so readers can access our full results and methodology.