I'm in the midst of planning a trip to Cabo San Lucas, and while perusing through my guidebooks I came across Green Tortoise, a San Francisco-based company that runs two hostels and operates a series of tours which wind along the Pacific coast, criss-cross the country, and crawl down into Central America. While their two hostels are safely grounded in San Francisco and Seattle, what piqued my interest was that their tours aren't just a series of stops and activities, but actual hostels-on-wheels.
In essence, when you climb into the 36-passenger bus to get to Alaska, Baja, the Yucatán Peninsula, or Yosemite, it turns out that the bus is also your lodging once you get there. Green Tortoise has retrofitted typical tour buses so that their tables and chairs tuck away, allowing a wide swath of mattresses to be spread throughout the cabin, in something akin to kindergarteners putting out their nap-mats (can you imagine if this same idea worked on planes?).
But aside from the comfort you’ll get from snuggling up to your fellow passengers, you’ll be at ease knowing that the company, avowedly committed to green travel, also operates many of its buses using biodiesel fuels, and offers travelers the option of offsetting their carbon count (at $5 per 5,000 miles, it’s a steal).
As an added bonus, a selection of mostly vegetarian meals, most of which are included in the tour packages, are served up bus-side (or hostel-side, depending on the time of day, I guess) and sourced from locally grown produce.
Tours range in length from a long-weekend to a 27-day trek, and cutting out the cost of hotel stays makes them quite affordable. Plus, while activities like planned hikes, snorkeling trips, or horseback riding are included in the itinerary, there's a lot of room for you to wander about exploring. Some buses even operate on a hop-on, hop-off schedule, which allows you to take a slow approach to travel. Given their name, this makes quite a bit of sense.
Photo: Green Tortoise