Ecotourism in Latin America is exciting and progressive, as well as locally focused and sustainable minded. There's so much for the ecotourist to see and do that it can be tough to know where to start, so we've decided to make it easier and run through the top 10 ecotourism experiences in Central and South America.
10. Conscious ecotourism in Belize
The popularity of ecotourism in Belize combined with a lack of industry-wide regulation created a bit of a problem with environmental degradation in the country. However, many industry leaders have stepped up and are taking things seriously, committing to sustainable operations and environmental conservation.
9. Fair Trade Coffee Trail in Nicaragua
A growing component of ecotourism in Nicaragua is the fair trade coffee trail, an excellent example of rural community-based sustainable tourism development. The Fair Trade Coffee industry in Nicaragua is instrumental in providing economic development opportunities for locals, and through integration with tourist initiatives, has become a draw for ecotourists looking to get involved with local communities, and hike the coffee trail.
8. Ecotourism with Locals in Bolivia
Bolivia's patch of the Amazon rainforest is a natural spot for ecotourism in Bolivia, especially if you manage to snag a tour experience with a local. Base yourself out of Rurrenabaque, the gateway to the Bolivian Amazon, and head out into the jungle with a local guide, who will show you how to swing on vines, fish like locals, and even drink fresh water from a tree.
The Bocas del Toro is a popular spot for ecotourism in Panama, and rightfully so, since it is home to the magnificent Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. Ecotourists continue to venture to the archipelago, drawn by the mangroves, coral reefs, and sea turtles, to name just a few.
6. Canaima National Park, Venezuela
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canaima is the sixth largest national park in the world, and a cornerstone of ecotourism in Venezuela. This exciting and pristine landscape is sure to impress, considering almost two-thirds of the park is occupied by massive rock plateaus, creating dramatic vistas and imposing waterfalls, including Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world.
5. Brazil - Iguassu Falls and the Amazon Rainforest
Of course, when you think of ecotourism in Brazil, the two most dominant natural features of the country, Iguassu Falls and the Amazon come to mind. True, these natural wonders are a treat to many travellers, but don't forget about the other exciting activities Brazil has to offer, including caving, climbing, windsurfing, and sailing.
4. Ecotourism in Costa Rica
Long touted as the ecotourism capital of Latin America (if not the world), Costa Rica has been a haven for ecotourists for years. Through the development of the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, tourism businesses in the country are engaged on an economic level, promoting not only environmental and socio-cultural sustainability, but economic sustainability as well. This is most evident in the accommodation sector, which leads the way in providing ecotourism opportunities in Costa Rica.
3. Chile's Easter Island
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rapa Nui National Park is one of the most popular sites of ecotourism in Chile, and is Easter Island's primary tourist attractions. As such, significant efforts are in place to preserve the island's fragile ecosystem, and visiting is a great opportunity to learn more about being a responsible traveller.
2. Incan Ruins, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, Peru
Ecotourism in Peru is hitting all sorts of high notes. Between community-based tourism in the Sacred Valley, and adventure activities like bicycle riding through the Incan ruins of Moray, Peru is an exciting place for ecotourists to explore. Machu Picchu may be the star attraction, but when planning a visit to the lost city, make sure you take the time to explore the rest of ecotourism Peru has to offer.
1. Ecuador's Amazon and Galapagos
Ecuador is blessed with incredible resources, and fortunately the ecotourism industry in Ecuador is well aware of it. The government is influential in promoting ecotourism in the country, from its support of local conservation programs to its commitment to sustainable tourism. The Galapagos Islands reap the benefit of this, and as such are one of the most regulated National Parks in existence. Industry leaders, such as Yachana, are committed to local involvement and empowerment through education, demonstrating Ecuador's growing role in the progression of ecotourism.