Photograph by Massimo Ripani, SIME
Doing Well: Retaining sense of place, with a few surmountable problems.
Portugal: Southern Atlantic Coast
This enticing mélange of sand, sun, surf, protected ecosystems, and well-preserved historic towns is much less built up than the better-known Algarve.
Malaysia: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
This booming commercial center is expanding rapidly. Thankfully, businesses, conservation groups, and local governments have met some success in their efforts to preserve the rain forests in its vicinity.
Morocco: Essaouira, Atlantic Coast
This "charming historic port town" treats visitors to an old quarter that has "preserved its sprit and character." Petty street crime is the only major drawback.
Read Panelist Comments »
Bermuda: As a Whole
Small, tidy, and colonial in flavor, Bermuda lies 750 miles off the coast of North Carolina, but is a territory of the United Kingdom. While it "has probably reached its limit for cruise ships," "the water is clean, the beaches are well managed," and "the pastel houses are eye candy."
Croatia: Dalmatian Coast
Offering rugged natural beauty and—if you ignore unsightly communist-era development—an "immaculate built heritage," the Dalmatian Coast is "certainly one of the jewels of the Mediterranean." That said, "things are changing as the area becomes more popular." Dubrovnik, for example, has bounced back from the shelling it endured in the '90s, but it now "serves as a mall for cruise-ship passengers."
A "stunning, but fragile" place, Antarctica offers those hardy enough to travel to it a seemingly endless bounty of "super-spectacular scenery and wildlife." Though increasingly visited by cruise ships in the summer, most tour operators seem to understand sustainability principles. Global warming remains an ever-present threat, however.
Costa Rica: Caribbean Coast
With a unique mixture of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean cultures, a more humid climate, and a relative lack of tourism-related infrastructure, Caribbean Costa Rica is worlds away from the country’s more visited Pacific coast. Several community-based tourism initiatives are fighting to preserve the region’s character.
Jamaica: Southwest Coast, Savanna-la-Mar to Old Harbour
Unlike the island's more visited northwest coast, this region has long supported eco-friendly tourism and retains an authentic Jamaican flavor that is accessible to visitors. "The outlook is still good, but recent announcements for major tourism development in St. Elizabeth have generated some concern."
Mozambique: North Coast, Cabo Delgado to Quirimbas
This stretch of Indian Ocean coastline remains relatively pristine. It has enjoyed increased popularity among eco-tourists in recent years. Thankfully, development has thus far been "adequately managed," and local residents appear to benefit economically from the tourism industry.
Puerto Rico: West Coast
A few communities suffer from "yacht overload," but most "offer local flavor" and low-scale tourism.
Samoa: All Coasts
"Pure and unspoiled" Samoa hangs on fiercely to its native culture. Its hospitality industry relies primarily on small, boutique resorts that have not altered the island’s sense of place. All is not perfect, however. Irresponsible fishing jeopardizes the health of offshore reefs, and the country's tourism infrastructure has not yet fully recovered from last year's tsunami.
Brazil: Bahia—Northern Coast
Along much of this coast, small fishing villages that celebrate their rich cultural heritage dot hundreds of miles of unspoiled beaches. While large-scale development has begun to encroach, ecological reserves keep it in check.
Thanks to its relative inaccessibility, "magical" and "fascinating" Palawan has preserved its local culture. Its residents appear to be benefitting economically from its nascent tourism industry. Unfortunately, illegal mining, logging, and fishing have all begun to chip away at the island's ecological integrity.
California: The Peninsula—San Mateo/Santa Cruz Coast
Despite pockets of "messy urban landscapes," much of this rugged coast remains "relatively untouched." Smart planning policies have preserved the environmental quality of the peninsula's beaches. “Small coastal communities retain their charm."
Greece: Crete—South Coast
Towering cliffs made this region relatively inaccessible. More recently, they have deterred overbuilding. The state of development here contrasts with Crete's resort-clad north coast and is "conducive to better environmental quality, cultural integrity and aesthetic appeal."
Florida: Forgotten Coast
Beaches of sugar-like white sand hem this enclave of "small-town flavor and local culture" that is located on the Florida Panhandle between Tallahassee and Panama City, along an otherwise overdeveloped coastline. While this section of the Gulf Coast has not faced immediate damage from the BP oil spill, it may see long-term ecological impacts.
Greenland: Southwestern Coast
Tourism on this "visually stunning" coastline is "cleaner and better managed than around settlements in the Canadian Arctic." However, "the effects of global warming are starting to become more obvious.”
Seychelles: As a Whole
A tropical paradise with "unsurpassed aesthetic appeal," the Seychelles currently enjoys an "appropriate" level of tourism-related development. That said, "vigilance is key as pressure builds to allow for more construction."
Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Beaches
Locals and tourists alike have fun in the sun on Rio de Janeiro's beaches, most of which are remarkably "clean" and "well-maintained" for an urban waterfront. "A day at the beach in Rio offers one of the world's great cultural experiences." While enjoying this "huge party on the sand," however, visitors should keep a close eye on their belongings. Petty crime is a problem.
Cartagena enchants visitors with one of the best-preserved old towns in the Western Hemisphere. Panelists cited the boom in high-rise hotel construction along the city's beach as a cause for concern.
France: Guéthary (Southwest Coast)
Basque culture is thriving, historical buildings are well preserved, and new development either conforms to or complements traditional architectural styles. A small village, it sometimes suffers from peak-season overcrowding.
Read Panelist Comments »
Descriptions written by Jonathan King. Comments edited by Jonathan King, Marilyn Terrell, and Jonathan B. Tourtellot.
Travel Photos From Your Shot
Browse Stunning Images of These Natural Marvels
Shop National Geographic
Special Ad Section
Watch as Nat Geo photographers reveal what drives them to create iconic images.