Destinations: Costa Rica, Galápagos, Panama

Activities: Bird Watching, Camping, Canoeing, Cycling, Eat, Hiking, Kayaking, Rafting, Safaris, Scuba Diving, Sleep, Snorkeling, Whale Watching

More than just a nature vacation, ecotourism is an approach to vacationing that, while often misunderstood, is beneficial to both society and the environment when practiced correctly. The Ecotourism Society defines it as “responsible travel to natural areas [that] conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people.”

Ecotourism has grown rapidly since the 1980s as awareness of humans’ impact on the environment has grown. For many destinations, such as Costa Rica, Nepal, Kenya and Antarctica, ecotourism is not merely a socially conscious fad, but a major industry driving local economies.

In South America, a myriad of options for ecotourism exist in the Andes, the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands. Watching gorillas in Uganda or birds in Kenya, exploring the snow leopard’s environment in India or swimming with humpback whales in Tonga are all intriguing ecotourism choices. Just be sure to find a responsible tour operator or guide.

Articles About Ecotourism

Best Glaciers to See in Alaska

With more than 100,000 of these ice masses, many in retreat, Alaska’s glacial wonders are hard to miss—for now.

Jungle Lodges Along Belize’s Maya Trail

Experience rural Belize and explore ancient Mayan ruins when you stay at these top jungle lodges.

Exotic Costa Rican Adventures for the Entire Family

Costa Rica offers an exciting yet safe entrée into exotic ecotourism and soft adventure vacations, from coast to coast.

Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Adventure

Walk in the clouds and volunteer at a nature school in Costa Rica’s tropical rainforests.

Costa Rica’s Tortuguero Is Turtle Heaven

Tortuguero, on the Atlantic side of Costa Rica, provides a wealth of opportunities to see a variety of sea turtles and other jungle life.

Into the Wild in Costa Rica

From scarlet macaws to leatherback turtles, Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity is a world all its own.

Certifiably Green: Hotels That Love the Earth

Find the greenest lodging with this round-up of eco-certified U.S. hotels that care about your well being and the planet.

The Return of Big Blue

After decades of exile, blue whales, the largest animals on earth, return to the coast of California.

Carbon Offsets Made Simple

Learn what a carbon footprint is and how to offset your carbon use when you travel.

Leatherback Turtle Ecotourism Adventure in Costa Rica

Volunteer to help leatherback turtles on your next Costa Rican vacation with EcoTeach.

Eco Vacation Trend: Farm Stay Vacations

Farm stays are a growing trend: feed chickens, milk cows and get back to the quiet life on your next family vacation.

9 Holiday Gifts That Give Back

Ideas for great eco-conscious gifts this season that support elephants in Kenya, provide microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries, adopt olive trees in Italy and more.

How Green Are You?

There is more to eco-travel than visiting a pristine location. Here’s a guide to make the going greener.

Hybrid Car Rentals Go on Vacation

Want to color your travels green? Save gas money and possibly the planet by renting a hybrid car for your next vacation.

It’s Easy Being Green on Your San Francisco Vacation

The city teems with eco-friendly hotels, restaurants, spas and shops. Find out where right here.

Voluntourism: A Holiday for the Heart

With opportunities from Montana to Malawi, there is a volunteer vacation to suit every family. Here are 5 organizations to consider when looking to plan your next family voluntourism trip.

Dolphin Delights in the Florida Keys

Close encounters with these sociable mammals are educational and fun.

10 Top Spring Break Spots

Best destinations for students or families for a memorable Spring Break getaway.

Carless Vacations: Four Places to Leave the Wheels Behind

Travel without a car and reduce your carbon footprint by walking, bicycling, kayaking or taking a train on your next vacation.

An Earth Day Party Guide

Celebrate Mother Nature at top Earth Day fetes and spring festivals around the world.

Family Voluntourism Strengthens Bonds and Local Communities

Give back to local communities by participating in voluntouring projects on your next family vacation.

Copán: Easy Indiana Jones Adventure

Family-friendly exploration is easy and affordable in Copán, Honduras, from gazing at Mayan ruins to getting up close with tropical birds.

Peru’s Magical Manu

Travel from cloud forest to rain forest in the Manu Biosphere Reserve to view the highest concentration of bird species in the world.

Treetop Dreams: 10 Places to Sleep Among the Trees

Sleep in one of these tree house accommodations—from rustic thatched huts to luxurious tree mansions—to reconnect with your childhood, and nature.

Eco-friendly Bocas del Toro

Explore the natural and scientific attractions of this laid-back Panamanian archipelago oasis.

Stay Green in One of Portland’s Many Eco Hotels

Reduce your carbon footprint during your Portland vacation by staying at one these eco-friendly properties.

Urban Oases: Portland’s Great Green Spaces

Portland, Oregon has plenty of parks to turn your urban vacation into a green space oasis. Here are some of the city’s best places to feel blades of grass between your toes.

Portland, Oregon: Pints, Pedals and Parks

The City of Roses has something for everyone: microbreweries, biking trails, and plenty of green spaces and places.

Off Track Adventures in the Riviera Maya

Alltournative’s tours are geared for the entire family. Our writer’s day-long adventure with her son featured kayaking, swimming in cenotes, a traditional Mayan meal and four-wheel fun.

Riviera Maya: Playtime at the Playa

Pristine beaches, ancient ruins and eco theme parks—there is something for everyone at this jewel on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Treasures of Tulum

After visiting this Mayan site rich in history, check out the nearby theme park Xel-Há.

Outdoor Family Fun Near San Diego

San Diego isn’t just about surfing and Legoland. There are plenty of other outdoor adventures sure to excite the entire family—and they’re all less than an hour from the city.

Teen Take on Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Our young writer shares his excitement and avian finds while bird watching on a family vacation to Costa Rica.

Save Gas: Find Your Ideal Walking Destination

New service Walk Score helps people find the most walkable cities in the United States, saving them the cost of rental cars and high gas prices.

Become a Marine Research Volunteer on St. John

Learn about marine life and help conduct sea studies through a volunteer program at VIERS, a research facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Upscale Camping—Be Green in Comfort

Enjoy the Caribbean paradise of the U.S. Virgin Islands—and help preserve it—with a stay at one of these luxury eco-camps.

Blue Planet Run, a Look at the World’s Water Crisis

Books that inspire travel aren’t necessarily intended as travel publications. Blue Planet Run is just such a product.

A Travel Guide With a Conscience

This guide, written by former Peace Corps members, will show you how you what you need to know to plan a volunteer vacation.

Chilling Out in Costa Rica

I came face-to-face with a poisonous snake during my visit to Costa Rica and was nearly attacked by a monkey, but I'd return in a heartbeat.

Travel Chargers for Techie Adventurers

Greener, leaner power chargers let you tote your gadgets with eco-chic ease.