Before destinations became wonderful places to visit, they were home to people who founded livelihoods, shaped cultural traditions, and appreciated the surrounding topography for occasional outdoor play. For 2020, it’s these attributes that can create memorable family vacation destinations. Here’s our list of best ecotourism destinations for 2020 by season.
Winter Ecotourism Destinations
Costa Rica (December)
Costa Rica is widely recognized as a leading ecotourism destination and for good reason. First, it’s known for its beautiful beaches, volcanoes, and biodiversity. Also, the country is replete with wildlife including a variety of monkeys, exotic birds, and frogs. Go whitewater rafting in the rainforest in the morning and arrive at your hotel in a cloud forest or beach setting by evening.
South Africa (January)
Explore Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Swellendam, Plettenberg Bay and Amakhala to name but a few scenic, off-the-beaten-path destinations. In addition, stay in stylish, eco-conscious hotels while experiencing “jazz safaris”, Big 5 game viewing, township bike tours, wine tastings, whale watching, birding, and horseback riding. Take comfort, as all the while you’ll be supporting local businesses that are helping their communities socially and environmentally each day.
New Zealand (February)
New Zealand’s motto is 100% Pure New Zealand given its many conservation-based nature activities. In fact, at the top of the list for ecotourism for South Island, one can tour Milford Sound, bike through wineries, kayak through Abel Tasman National Park, and go whale watching in Kaikoura. Conversely, North Island has plenty of treasures too including touring the Waitomo Caves, hiking to Cape Reinga, exploring the geothermal wonders of Rotorua, and making your own hot spring splash at Coromandel.
Of course, these islands off the coast of Ecuador are on many travel bucket lists. Likewise, explore these remote islands by small boat or by island-hopping and staying at local eco-lodges – never missing any wildlife with either choice. Either way, observe species not found in other parts of the world and learn how ecotourism is positively impacting local communities.
Spring Ecotourism Destinations
Nicaragua has been on adventure travel bucket lists for a few years. But, it’s been developing its own ecotourism experiences that in some instances, rival its more crowded neighbors, Costa Rica and Panama. For example, Ometepe is one destination that offers kayaking and lots of wildlife observation.
United States (May)
First, not many people realize that the United States is one of the top ecotourism destinations in the world! June is a great month to discover the National Parks or to go on a road trip through the wild spaces of America. It’s not too cold and not too hot, and the most famous places aren’t overcrowded with tourists yet. For a special experience, why not try glamping? It’s a great way to get in touch with nature with all the comforts of a luxury hotel.
Brazilian Amazon Rainforest (June)
I don’t think anyone can get enough of the rainforest. Whether it’s the Peruvian Amazon, Ecuadorian Amazon or Brazilian Amazon, each has its own distinct characteristics, wildlife, and even climate. But, my favorite is the Brazilian Amazon for the fantastic food, safe adventures, and family-friendly vibe. June is a fabulous time to visit as the waters are lower enabling you to see more wildlife.
Summer Ecotourism Destinations
Visiting Iceland during July means taking advantage of the midnight sun. Luckily, with almost 24 hours of daylight, you can truly make the absolutely most of each and every day! In terms of ecotourism options, exploring the country’s various mountains and beaches and villages are the main attractions. Between waterfalls, glaciers, dramatic fjords, volcanoes, cracked lava fields, gushing geysers and geothermal lagoons, Iceland is a country defined by its outdoors, and there is inspiring scenery at every turn.
Scotland is all about family, fun, and adventure. Whether you are an avid biking, hiking or wildlife watching family, there is plenty to keep everyone enchanted as they meander from castle to loch to nature reserve and back again. August is a very special time to visit due to the better weather and the Highland Games, which dates back to before the Olympic Games as clans would compete for (now) bragging rights.
Fall Ecotourism Destinations
In this extraordinarily scenic country, one of the best eco-tourism spots in Vietnam is Mai Chau, a village located 55 miles north of Hanoi. This is an enchanting valley made of paddy fields and lush green hills. While staying at a beautiful eco-lodge, learn how to make soya sauce, bike through the villages and meet the hospitable people of the area. Moreover, September is a great month to visit northern Vietnam; the weather is more comfortable than in the middle of the summer.
Portugal is pleasant at any time of the year due to its almost 300 days of sunshine per year. But, October is one of the best months to visit because the weather is still warm and there are hardly any tourists. Take time to go off-the-beaten-track from Lisbon or Faro toward the many religious sites as well as culinary and nature-based experiences.
Jordan’s varied landscapes from pine forests in its nature reserves to desert landscapes in Wadi Rum provide something for everyone. While Petra, the Dead Sea, and Jordan’s Roman ruins are its popular draws, Jordan features several ecotourism sites including Fenyan Eco-Lodge, which is solar-powered and offers amazing hospitality, star gazing, and hiking. Additionally, Jordan offers programs that benefit the local community and helps to preserve its natural and historical wonders. Visit during November when temperatures are bearable.