Travel through a Kid's Eye

Environmental Vacations: Adventues in Ecotourism

Environmental vacations teach children how to appreciate the great outdoors, sparking a life-long interest in ecology and conservation. Eco-adventures range from rugged jungle treks to cushy lodge-based holidays. You can also join an ecocruise, which lets you visit a variety of locales. If you opt for the rugged route, make sure the trip is family friendly.

For a world-class eco-adventure to the country that pioneered the concept, consider a trip to the safe and sable Costa Rica. The antion's vast parks and preserves harbor an amazing diversity of ecosystems—and abundant possiblities for adventure. In Costa Rica's rain forest—a giant zoo without bars—kids can see monkeys, sloths, macaws, colorful frogs, and iguanas in the wild. You can also raft or kayak from the highlands to the bkac-sand coast and explore the vast animal habitats, such as the sea turtle rookery in Tortuguero National Park.

While many fine companies offer ecotours in Costa Rica, one of my favorites is Wildland Adventures (Seattle, WA 800.345.4453. www.wildland.com). This firm offers a wide variety of multiactivity adentures led by knowledgeable guides. Groups are small and prices are reasonable, with a 20 percent discount for kids under 12.
The ten-day Caribbean Highlands and Jungles trip visits Arenal Volcano, Monteverde National Park, Poas Volcano, Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge, and Tortuguero park, with a jungle river trip along the way. ($1,600-1,800 for adults, $1,200 for ages 6-16, $600 for kids under 5).

Other good environmental and wildlife trips are sponsored by National Wildlife Federation (Vienna, VA 800.245.5482. www.nwf.org/), whose Conservation Summit and Teen Adventure programs feature wilderness trips in Alaska, Colorado, and elsewhere for four age groups. Fees range from $150 for preschoolers to $400 for adults, excluding lodging.

Nature Expeditions International (NEI) (Plantation, FL 800.869.0639. www.naterexp.com) specializes in small-group ecotourism for all age groups. Tours are led by expert nationalists, biologists, or geologists. NEI's Costa Rica and Galapagos programs are great family trips, but at $2,800 to $3,000 per person they are fairly pricey.

Less expensive Sierra Club Outings (San Francisco, CA. 415.977.5522. www.sierraclub.org/outings) also offer expert-guided family adventures suitable for toddlers to grandparents. Prices for one-week trips average $620 to $790 for adults and $400 to $600 for children. A favorite is the annual Alaskan camping/van trip, which costs about $1,500 for both adults and children.

The popular YMCA of the Rockies (Snow Mountain Ranch, Winter Park, CO 970.887.2152. www.ymcarockies.org) offers economical family wilderness experiences for children ages 3 to 17. Located in Estes Park near Denver, the ranch offers guided nature hikes in beautiful Colorad backcountry with easy access to rock climbing, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities. The ranch is very popular, so book early.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 29 Aug 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Costa Rica

$96
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Volcano Lodge and Springs
$193
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Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose
$408-$434
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The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal
$128-$171
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Pumilio Mountain and Ocean Hotel

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