This International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight some of the female-founded companies that have inspired us. The companies on this list go beyond creating a memorable guest experience. They consider their impact on the environment. They support local communities. They design experiences to be immersive and culturally meaningful. Many are making travel more accessible to women and under-represented groups.
While there are certainly many more founders and companies to celebrate, we hoped to include enough variety on this list that everyone might find something that grabs them. We know this only scratches the surface and look forward to sharing more in the future.
As with all travel companies right now, please be aware that some amenities mentioned below may not be available due to COVID-19. For the best information, please click the company names to visit their websites directly.
Happy International Women’s Day, and happy exploring.
Tours & Retreats
The Woman Behind It: Jody Cole
What to Know: Wild Rainbow African Safaris offers planned small-group tours and custom-designed private tours to 10 countries in Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.
Why We Love It: Wild Rainbow African Safaris makes giving back part of its guest experience. In some cases, this means participating directly with a local sustainable organization on safari. In others, the company facilitates direct and in-kind donations to causes like the Bwindi Community Program, Cheetah Conservation Fund and others.
The Women Behind It: Allison Fleece and Danielle Thorton
What to Know: WHOA Travel offers high-energy, guided tours for solo female travelers to adventurous destinations like Machu Picchu, New Zealand, and Everest Base Camp. Whimsical travelers can sign up for a “Wild Card” trip and let WHOA take them on a surprise trip.
Why We Love It: Allison and Danielle (yes, they’re known as “Dallison”) have created an inclusive, joyful community that empowers women to feel less intimidated by adventure travel so they can, quite literally, conquer mountains. We love that.
The Woman Behind It: Kelly Lewis (founder of the popular Women’s Travel Fest and Go! Girl Guides)
What to Know: Damesly offers guided adventures, self-discovery trips, and creative professional workshops for women. Find inspiration in the Grand Canyon, on safari in Namibia, or along the Nile River. Each trip fosters connection between travelers, and growth within oneself.
Why We Love It: Damesly gives women the confidence to pursue their creative and professional passions. They also directly support women in the communities they visit by patronizing women-owned hotels, restaurants, and suppliers whenever possible.
The Woman Behind It: Kelly Bates
What to Know: Travel Souly offers guided trips to bucket-list destinations like Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Sólheimajökull glacier and Arches National Park for solo female travelers.
What We Love: Travel Souly makes travel accessible to more women by creating a comfortable, social environment for solo travelers. Itineraries cover every detail so even the busiest dreamers can explore the world — and actually enjoy it.
The Woman Behind It: Elinor Fish
What to Know: Run Wild Retreats + Wellness hosts mindful trail running retreats for women, with options for all abilities, from gentle beginners’ retreats in the red-rock desert of Moab, to the breathtaking trails of the Dolomites. Each retreat inspires participants to reconnect with the joy of running in an inclusive, playful, and social environment.
Why We Love It: Retreats also highlight the unique culture of the destination, incorporating local cuisine, highlighting local activities, and in many cases, supporting independent lodging providers.
Where Else You’ve Seen It: The Best Mindful Trail Running Retreats of 2021
The Woman Behind It: Justa Lujwangana
What to Know: Curious on Tanzania offers custom and guided tours to Tanzania and neighboring countries. Itineraries focus on cultural immersion with elements of self-care, including restorative yoga, spa days and local cuisine.
Why We Love It: Curious on Tanzania goes beyond safari and surface-level excursions to immerse travelers in places they might not have considered, like the bustling city of Kampala, Uganda.
The Woman Behind it: Maria Kuchan
What to Know: Adriatic Luxury Journeys offers small group tours to the Adriatic Coast, from cosmopolitan Zagreb to the Thethi valley — and every hidden gem in between. The team’s local guides add cultural insights to Instagrammable destinations like Hvar and Lake Bled, while connecting travelers to experiences for which reservations are often impossible.
Why We Love It: Adriatic Luxury Journeys takes its time to show you the real Adriatic Coast. You’ll see families enjoying the sunset at Zadar, kids jumping gleefully off the pier, and sleepy gems like Opatija that commercial itineraries often skip. The company also ardently supports local communities.
The Woman Behind It: Carol Phillips
What to Know: North Shore Surf Girls offers surf and stand-up paddleboard lessons in Oahu, Hawaii. Despite the name, this woman-led school is coed, with equal numbers of male and female students. Choose from private, semi-private or group lessons for beginners as young as 4 years old.
Why We Love It: North Shore Surf Girls makes surfing accessible by taking away the “intimidation factor.” Beyond the team’s work in the water, they tackle tough topics in the company blog like environmental concerns and gender equality in surfing.
The Woman Behind It: Lizzy VanPatten
What to Know: She Moves Mountains highlights female rock-climbing and backpacking guides through retreats, clinics, classes, and a directory that helps women find the right guide for them. Retreats, which take climbers to destinations like Joshua Tree, Moab or Greece, are all woman-led. Most are women-only.
Why We Love It: She Moves Mountains tackles the low diversity in the guiding industry in a positive, impactful way. Through mentorship, partnerships and opportunities to guide through retreats and clinics, the community elevates women in the industry while helping more outdoor-loving women become confident climbers and backpackers.
The Woman Behind It: Tierza Eichner
What to Know: Pura Vida Adventures hosts women-only and coed surf retreats in Costa Rica. Each professionally guided retreat includes surf lessons, daily yoga, beachfront lodging, massage and local excursions, like hiking to Montezuma falls.
Why We Love It: Pura Vida Adventures makes surfing more accessible to women, including complete beginners. What we love even more is their work off the water. With Tropico Latino, their hotel partner, the team participates in an ecological program that addresses water sanitation, beach cleanup, and environmental education at all four area beaches.
The Woman Behind it: Amanda Brooks
What to Know: An Alaska-based dog mushing co-op, Last Frontier invites pup lovers to take part in mushing expeditions, single-day classes, and even a photography workshop. Multi-night trips include glamping in Alaskan-built Arctic Oven tents with a “backcountry fine-dining” menu.
Why We Love It: Last Frontier works hard to increase representation of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities in the outdoors. Their annual leadership program, Northern Diversity [+], gives Alaskan locals an affordable way to experience mushing with instructors and guest speakers from the BIPOC/LGBTQ+/Women’s community.
The Woman Behind It: Sheila C. Johnson
What to Know: Salamander Hotels & Resorts is a collection of five distinct properties in destinations that promote relaxed outdoor living. Ride horses at the Salamander Resort in Virginia; scuba dive at Half Moon in Montego Bay, or play a round of golf at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. The collection also includes The Henderson in Destin, Florida; and Hotel Bennett in Charleston, South Carolina.
Why We Love It: Salamander Hotels & Resorts is one of the few Black and female-owned luxury hotel collections, and it doesn’t shy from its voice in this position. Founder Sheila Johnson has tackled topics like racism in the hospitality industry on the company site and publications like TravelPulse.
The Woman Behind It: Jennifer Webb
What to Know: The Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort offers hotel rooms, suites and homes on Lake Placid. Amenities include a heated indoor pool, sauna and steam room (now temporarily closed due to COVID-19), and use of kayaks, paddle boats and other “water toys” to enjoy on the lake.
Why We Love It: The Golden Arrow promotes environmental sustainability in each of its departments, from the restaurant to housekeeping. We also love that the resort also takes care of its employees with full-time employment for service staff, even in shoulder seasons.
The Woman Behind It: Alexandra Efstathiadou
What to Know: The Ekies All Senses Resort is an environmentally friendly hotel in Halkidiki, Greece, a region known for its calming forests and sandy beaches. Guests can book nature-inspired wellness treatments, enjoy local fare, and explore nearby islands, untouched by tourism.
Why We Love It: The Ekies All Senses Resort shares a region of Greece that is personal to the founder. While tourists pack the shores of Mykonos and Santorini, Alexandra Efstathiadou has made the northern peninsula region enticing with thoughtful design and an authentic celebration of Greek culture.
The Woman Behind It: Zoie Kingsbery Coe
What to Know: Kid & Coe is a global vacation rental platform that helps parents find stylish, family-friendly accommodations, ranging from New York apartments to beach homes in Anguilla. Search thousands of homes in 52 countries across six continents.
What We Love: Kid & Coe has pioneered vacation rental homes for families, making traditionally hotel-centric destinations accessible to kids in a way that they hadn’t been before. The team itself represents eight cities on two continents.
The Woman Behind It: Ashley Horsley
What to Know: 360 Blue offers vacation home rentals in Florida and Colorado with concierge service that connects guests to local experiences. Destinations range from Panama Beach to Breckenridge. (The company is now part of Natural Retreats but continues to operate under Ashley’s direction.)
Why We Love It: 360 Blue actively looks for ways to improve local and global communities. In 2014 it founded The Sonder Project, a nonprofit that helps to provide clean water, food, housing, and school construction in communities worldwide.
The Woman Behind It: Thea Leanord (Note: TMI is now owned by the vacation community Club Lespri, but we wanted to pay tribute to the culture Thea built as the long-time founder and owner.)
What to Know: Treasure Mountain Inn is an “eco-tique” condo hotel at the top of Park City, Utah’s Main Street. Each studio, 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom suite has a full kitchen and access to on-site amenities, including an over-sized hot tub. Walk to restaurants, shops, galleries, and the summertime open-air market, and take free city bus service to Park City Mountain Resort or Deer Valley Resort for year-round mountain recreation.
Why We Love It: Treasure Mountain Inn throws its soul behind sustainable efforts. In addition to operations designed to minimize waste and energy-use, the team commits to the little things. Recycling, serving locally sourced foods, and encouraging public participation are part of the company culture.
The Woman Behind It: Betty Nguyen
What to Know: NOMOON custom-designs trip itineraries for private and corporate groups to nature-inspired destinations from Tulum to Tromsø. They’ll get you into hard-to-land restaurants, arrange immersive cultural tours, and connect you to the boutique hotels, shops and other local gems that don’t always appear on travel planning sites.
What We Love: NOMOON deeply supports sustainable travel practices and local communities. Every tour is planned with these principles in mind.
The Woman Behind It: Anna Ford
What To Know: Jet-set Offset helps travelers offset the carbon footprint of airfare by allowing flyers to make mileage based donations to 501c3 nonprofits.
Why We Love It: With Jet-Set Offset, travelers can choose environmental organizations that they care about, from national programs like Blue Planet Foundation to local ones, like the Mass Audubon or the Urban Green Council.
The Woman Behind It: Cherae Robinson
What to Know: Tastemakers Africa is a community that helps travelers become better informed about Africa. Small-group tours take travelers to countries normally skipped by commercial agencies, including Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.
Why We Love It: It’s refreshing to see tourism in West Africa and a community for travelers who feel a connection to these countries.
Want to share another woman-led travel company with purpose? Get in touch with us: editor[at]mindfulescapes.co.