Are you planning your next family vacation? Before you buy your tickets, consider taking a different kind of vacation; one that focuses on sustainable tourism, helping the local community, and is sure to have a positive impact on the entire family.
Why not choose a vacation that gives back to planet earth? Ecotourism comes in many shapes and sizes – so here are ten ecotourism destinations that are perfect for families.
What Is Ecotourism?
You might think ecotourism requires you to book with a specific tour company and exchange planting trees or cleaning up litter as part of the price you pay for your trip. That’s one form of responsible travel, but it doesn’t encompass the full picture.
You can turn nearly any journey into an ecotour. It all starts with treading lightly on the planet. Start by seeking out experiences like hiking or bike rides instead of renting an ATV. It might also mean skipping fancy hotels with tiny bottles of toiletries – and all of that plastic – in favor of eco-friendly accommodation.
For example, some glamping locations have guests stay in tricked-out yurts. They’re cozier and more bug-free than a tent but draw much less electricity if any. Many of them rely on renewable energy to generate their power.
Of course, ecotourism can entail acts of service. You might help residents of a village access clean drinking water or help plant trees to revitalize a region felled by the lumber industry.
No matter which of these ecotourism destinations you choose, you are sure to walk away with a great appreciation of conservation efforts and eco-friendly tourism.
Top Ecotourism Destinations for Families
So, where should your family go for your first eco-centric trip? Consider one of these 10 ecotourism destinations for families.
1. Volcan Tenorio Region, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known around the world for its focus on sustainable travel. This Central American country is the superstar of sustainable tourism, as 98% of its electricity comes from renewable resources. It is one of the best places for family travelers to see green travel at work.
Volcan Tenorio remained relatively unknown until 2018, when bridges and improved roads were extended to the park entrance. In recent years the location has become quite popular, so book your reservations early. They now use a quota system to limit visitor traffic and preserve the natural habitat.
Once inside the park, you’ll find ample hiking trails, where you’ll pass the Catarata Rio Celeste waterfall and the pure azure waters beneath. The Tenorio Volcano, still active, is the park’s highlight. It reaches a height of over 6,000 feet, and you’ll pass through multiple habitats as you make your way to the top via the Lago las Dantas Trail.
When you finish your hike, you can unwind in one of the area’s many thermal hot springs. Be careful of the mud baths, though – some remain off-limits due to high temperatures.
2. The Florida Keys, USA
You don’t necessarily need to get your passport stamped to engage in family ecotourism. Some of the most diverse wildlife habitats can be found at home in the Florida Keys.
You’ll find no shortage of sustainable lodging choices. For example, Islander Resort pulls 45% of its electricity from its solar panels. Grassy Flats provides all recycled materials in guest rooms and grows the fruit and herbs for it’s bar on-site.
Take the family on a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s mostly open water and there is no food or fuel available at the destination. Therefore, you need to plan to pack a picnic lunch and pack out everything you bring with you (especially any single-use plastics)!
3. Maine, USA
Another beautiful East Coast destination in the United States is Maine. From Acadia National Park to the many beaches and bays, Maine has a lot to offer environmental travelers.
You can schedule lighthouse visits to see the best views of open, blue waters. Along with lighthouses, Maine is also known for its seafood. Being conscious of your dining choices is an important part of reducing your environmental impact on any trip. While in Maine (or anywhere really), we recommend eating at local restaurants rather than chains.
4. Fort Myers and Sanibel, USA
Here’s another U.S.-based ecotourism destination, no passport required. Your family can spend your days on one of the pristine white-sand beaches, building sand castles and watching dolphins play in the surf.
While there, you can interact with history by witnessing the Mound House, an archeological site upon a 2,000-year-old Calusa Indian shell mound. Explore the on-site museum with a mural of what such an early village must have looked like.
A trip to Tanzania is a must for any family bucket list. A visit to Serengeti National Park lets them witness zebras, giraffes, lions, and elephants in their natural environment. Renowned scientist Jane Goodall completed her chimpanzee studies in the country.
Sign up for the MESO Eco and Cultural tour. It allows you to see wild game while teaching environmental responsibility. You’ll also witness how the native Swahili interact with the natural world, many of them carrying on traditions passed down through generations.
If you are looking for a safari travel advisor, we highly recommend Alluring Africa to create your travel itinerary.
6. The Galapagos Islands
If you want to accelerate your child’s homeschool understanding of Darwin, why not book a trip to the Galápagos Islands, where he drew much of the inspiration for his work?
In 1978, these islands were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, showcasing their outstanding value to humanity. Currently, there are six endangered species that can be found on the islands including the giant tortoise, green sea turtles, and the Galápagos penguins.
Unfortunately, increased traffic has created invasive species crises and even violent altercations among fishers. To stay eco-friendly, book with reputable tour operators.
The government of Ecuador requires these entities to conserve water and energy, recycle and treat waste material, source locally produced products, and hire local employees at a fair wage with lodging.
7. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
If your kiddos love all things Middle Earth, you have to take them to New Zealand. There are endless adventures in New Zealand for families.
A tour of Tongariro National Park isn’t complete without scaling “Mt. Doom” on the North Island. Your littles will feel just like Frodo and Samwise – cosplay costumes optional.
On the South Island, you’ll find a vastly different terrain and climate. Travel past Dunedin to the Otago Peninsula to see the kororā and rare hoiho penguins.
8. Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
Do you and your family want to play a role in changing history? You can. According to the World Wildlife Fund, responsible ecotourism to the Amazon rainforest could reduce deforestation and save one in ten known species on earth. This is a great way to increase natural resources for future generations.
How does the magic work? Ecotourism offers a gentler way of life to locals currently relying on slash-and-burn agriculture to survive. It also helps preserve the culture of local communities.
9. Alaska, USA
Alaska is full of incredible natural sites, making it a must-see U.S. state. There are so many state and national parks to choose from, such as Denali National Park and Preserve.
Because of its wildlife and ecosystems, Alaska prioritizes environmentalism through eco-friendly lodges and tours.
If your family is keen on adventure and wants to experience breathtaking mountains, glaciers and wildlife, Alaska should definitely be on your bucket list.
10. Half Moon Bay, USA
Another stunning United States location is Half Moon Bay in Coastside, California. This region of California includes miles of beaches, redwood forests and natural environments, like Half Moon Bay overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
There are several state parks in Half Moon Bay and the surrounding area. Here your family can enjoy the unique experiences of seaside walks, mountain hikes, and forest explorations all in one place. You will get to experience diverse aquatic life, bright blue oceans and incredible mountaintop views that you’ll surely never forget.
While others might think of Los Angeles or San Francisco when they plan a trip to California, the state has so much more than cities and celebrities. It’s truly a natural treasure.
Ecotourism Destinations for Families
If you’ve already hit major cities, theme parks and tourist attractions on previous vacations, try something different with an environmentally friendly trip. Your family will get to see incredible natural areas and learn about our beautiful planet without leaving a negative carbon footprint.
Whether you book with private tour guides or select sustainable practices while away, you can make a difference on your trip. Consider one of these 10 popular ecotourism destinations for families for your next getaway!
About the author: Cora Gold is the Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist. She has a passion for adventure and living life to the fullest, especially with her family by her side. Follow Cora on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.