Ecotourism for the Whole Family

Our “Sustainable Travel“ series is sponsored by Global Basecamps.  Global Basecamps is specialty travel company that helps independent travelers research and book locally owned boutique hotels, off-the-beaten path lodges and multi-day excursions all over the world. Whether hiking the Inca Trail, experiencing a traditional Japanese Ryokan, or relaxing on the beaches of Thailand, Global Basecamps specializes in designing completely customized itineraries to meet each travelers specific priorities and match their travel style.

Some might consider it more common for a young, idealistic fresh-out-of-college group of friends or an established couple to be interested in environmentally-friendly travel. But there’s a growing  group of travelers that are looking to explore amazing new landscapes while protecting the environment that makes them so incredible to visit: families.

Whether this means parents with young kids who want them to start traveling early while still being aware of the impacts of travel, or families with older children who are interested in experiencing the world in a more responsible manner, ecotourism can provide options that are engaging and fun for kids, adults, and the elderly.

Here are five spots that are particularly eco-friendly for the entire family:



If you want your kids to experience some of the most diverse wildlife in the entire world, Tanzania is THE place to visit. Don’t forget the incredible beaches of Zanzibar, offering sustainable experiences such as the Chumbe Island Coral Park. At this park, solar power, rain water harvesting, and composting toilets minimize usage of resources while providing fair wages to local workers.


There’s also the Jane Goodall Institute that is part of Gombe National Park, which works to protect chimpanzees and conserve biodiversity and is very family friendly (what kid doesn’t like chimpanzees?). Global Basecamps can help you set up an itinerary for trips to these spots, along with more adventurous options such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, if you are traveling with strong and sturdy teenagers.

What are some of the issues to consider if you take a family trip to Tanzania? Malaria is found in much of the country, and malaria medication may not be suitable for children. Be sure the whole family uses insect repellent throughout your trip, along with long pants and long sleeves as much as possible. Also make sure to bring along enough games to keep kids occupied during stretches of safaris where no animals show up, or during long transit times.

Read Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro: Two Trips You Can’t Do Yourself



Japan is known for its strong survival spirit, its shrines and temples, sushi and anime, but it also offers a family wonderful options for fun and eco-friendly travel. Take the whole family rafting on rivers like the Tone, or watch whales and dolphins off Tsuji Island. Another island off of Kyushu, Yakushima, is a UNESCO World Heritage site where you are able to go forest walking, canyoning, and snorkeling, among other breathtaking options.

Don’t forget the giant sea turtles that inhabit the surrounding ocean, which are a delight for younger children to see. If you want to get really close to nature and use few resources, there’s the option of staying in a tree house village. Even the transportation around Japan is eco-friendly, as high-speed trains serve most of the country.

Discuss cultural expectations with children before arriving in Japan, with the understanding that quiet and outward signs of respect are very important to the people of the country. Part of your trip can also help to rebuild Tohoku post-earthquake and tsunami when you book through Global Basecamps.

Check out our Tokyo Indie Travel Guide and read 10 Reasons the World Would be Better if Japan Ruled the Earth 



Breathtaking Himalayas. Easy to moderate hiking. Exotic wildlife, waterfalls, and temples. Experiencing the people and culture of isolated villages. Nepal is a lesson that will have a greater impact on a kid’s life than any social studies class they take in school.

On longer hikes, porters or pack animals carry food and equipment, and family-friendly tours offer many stops along with experienced guides who know how to work with children. Plus, you can easily experience Hindu and Buddhist shrines, tea shops, and stay in beautiful small guest houses that are often delightful to kids. Look for organized tours that give back to community and conservation projects.

It’s worth teaching your kids basic Nepali beyond a simple bow so that they can get closer to the people of the region. There’s also opportunities to volunteer as a family in various orphanages and schools in Nepal.

Read Halong Bay and Everest Base Camp: Two Trips You Can’t Do Yourself



Beyond chocolate and beer, Belgium is known for its lush countryside, which can be experienced by the whole family in places like Viroinval Nature Park, a European Destination of Excellence. Enjoy viewing plant and wildlife like sheep through its 20-kilometre stretch of meadows and hillsides, with no other noise besides farming. Then stroll through historic villages where the kids can sample cheese and the parents can partake in traditional Trappist beer.

Mountain biking through the region is also an option. Before you book, check out the park’s calendar to see what special event or festival is taking place, as many occur throughout the year.

Find eco-minded lodging ranging from hotels to campgrounds at the Belgian Tourist Office’s website. Also available are theme tours such as “Brussels for Kids” that add to the family experience in the city, or the whole clan can take a Comic Strip Walk to learn about the origins of the Smurfs and Tintin, among other characters. Don’t forget to look for deeply discounted tickets for events, museums, and transportation for kids under 12, and reduced rates under age 26.

Read Pedaling for Pints: Three Great Places for Mixing Bikes and Beer

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is already known for its lush mountains, unsurpassed rain forests, and incredible beaches. But beyond an adventurous or romantic trip, Costa Rica provides a great ecotourist destination for the entire family. There’s plenty of whitewater rafting, horseback riding, snorkeling, and zip lining through the forests.

If less-than-adventurous grandparents come along, there’s bird and turtle watching, wildlife floats, and serpentariums, where you can see and experience snakes from a safe distance.

Have teens that are more adventurous? They can go canyoning, walk across suspension bridges, take a surf lesson, or go mountain biking. Don’t forget exploring caves and volcanos.

Why is Costa Rica so eco-friendly? A long history of peace and environmental awareness led to the declaration in 2007 that the country plans to be carbon neutral by 2021. 23% of the country is protected land, and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute provides a Certification in Sustainable Tourism, making it easy for the traveler to choose businesses that are the most environmentally aware.

Check out the Central America Indie Travel Guide and read The Happiest Places on the Planet

What other countries are great ecotourist destinations for the whole family?

Global Basecamps is a sustainable travel company specializing in making eco tourism as user-friendly as possible. We have already done all the research for you, and found the best off the beaten path eco lodges, local guides, and exclusive tours to match your budget and travel goals! Whether you want a cultural Japanese tour, a Tanzania eco safari, or a sustainable Galapagos Island cruise, Global Basecamps is ready to create the custom trip of your dreams.

Photo credits: Chris73, trendscout, Wolfgang Beyer, medialoog, DirkvdM