If you’re the type of person who considers herself environmentally conscious, perhaps you should think about the benefits of taking your next vacation to a place that’s focused on nature rather than more commercial tourist attractions. The world offers a vast array of landscapes, ecosystems, and natural life that’s ready for you to explore. Consider some of these top eco-tourism spots that will help you reconnect with the natural environment and will reaffirm for you the value of the natural world.

Costa Rica

Even before eco-tourism was a popular concept, Costa Rica was leading the way in welcoming visitors who wanted to experience the natural beauty it has to offer. This country in Central America has some of the most lush landscapes and coastlines you will ever find, with 20 national parks scattered throughout the country. Inland, you’ll encounter tropical rainforests complete with monkeys and poison dart frogs.

Although you can get along on your own in Costa Rica, you may find it helpful to connect with one of the many guide services that plans and leads you on adventures on your vacation. You can go river rafting, take a zip line ride through the rainforest, learn to surf one one of the two coasts, or take a visit to the thermal hot springs. It’s also easy to find eco-friendly lodges to house you during your vacation.

Alaska

Given its distance from the rest of the United States, Alaska is like a completely different world, covered in snow and ice for much of the year. It is also one of the most beautiful natural environments, and it will open your eyes to the wide range of forms that natural beauty can take. People who enjoy seeing exotic animals will appreciate a trip to Alaska, where you can see bald eagles, humpback whales, grizzly bears, and other majestic creatures.

Although the climate there is cold, there are many ways to enjoy the natural beauty in comfort, if that’s your preferred method of travel. One idea is to take an Alaska cruise that explores the coastline, islands and glaciers, and even takes you on whale watching trips, all from the comfort of your cruise ship. Glacier Bay National Park is a popular destination, and it will remind you exactly how global warming has the potential to affect the world.

Oregon

When you don’t want to travel far but still want to experience natural beauty, Oregon is a great choice for eco-tourism. This state gets rain during a large portion of the year, making it a lush temperate rainforest. Within the state, you can find all sorts of interesting environments, including the coastline, sand dunes, Mt. Hood, and dozens of state parks. You could spend weeks exploring the state, and you may find that you have trouble narrowing down your itinerary.

If you’re looking for a more urban nature vacation, just head to Portland. This gorgeous city is very bike-friendly and features lots of beautiful parks within the city that you can visit and explore. There’s also tons of great restaurants that feature local, sustainable food choices that help you remember what clean, fresh food tastes like.

Belize

Over one-third of the land in Belize is set aside as nature reserves, making this Central American country a great place to visit when you want to connect with the environment. Inland, you can explore Mayan ruins and hike through the jungle rainforests, which have all of the lush colours and wildlife you would expect to see there.

The most significant natural environments you will find in Belize are on the coast, particularly in the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest in the world. There are also over 1,000 islands dotting the shore of Belize, and it’s easy to rent a boat or kayak to head out and explore. And of course, the snorkelling and scuba diving in Belize is spectacular.

Botswana

If you’d prefer to get out of the Americas, Botswana is one of the top destinations for eco-tourism in Africa. Located just north of South Africa, this country features lush environments and plenty of exotic wildlife. If you’ve ever dreamed of taking a safari to see elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, and other large animals in their natural environments, Botswana is one of the top places to do this.

Because the country includes so many different natural environments, including forests, lakes, deserts, plains, and deltas, you will be exposed to the vast array of forms nature can take, all within one country that’s about the size of Texas. In recent years, the Botswana Tourism Organization has been taking strides to offer eco-friendly vacation options. You’ll find plenty of places to stay and guides to hire for your adventures.

Regardless of where in the world you want to go, you’re sure to be able to find somewhere that showcases natural beauty and makes an effort to preserve it. Choosing an eco-friendly vacation will probably make you come home ready to seek out beautiful environments here, too. And of course, don’t forget to take lots of pictures to share with friends as you tell stories about the amazing experiences you had on your nature vacation and maybe share those pics with others on Facebook to show others how to enjoy a vacation that is fun and eco-friendly.

Edie Oppenhoer – Mother of two awesome kids, Edie uses her experience as a mom of a 2-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy to inspire her in creating fun arts and crafts ideas that all kids can enjoy!

image: waterfall in Costa Rica via Shutterstock