Family wildlife holidays on land & sea

The more habitats you explore, the more wildlife you can hope to see, that’s why some family wildlife holidays deliver a double dose of animal action by taking in both land and sea. Snorkelling takes adventurous kids below the waves to spy manta rays or pirouetting sea lions, boat rides take you in search of whales and dolphins, and exploring the coast reveals those creatures happy on both land and sea – nesting turtles or punky looking marine iguanas, for instance. Children as young as five can enjoy this mix of surf and turf, although activities such as snorkelling will be better suited to older kids who are confident swimmers. Read on to discover the best destinations around the world that combine land-based and marine wildlife.

Costa Rica

This gloriously biodiverse country is hopping with nature and unlike in Africa, where seeing the wildlife typically involves staying within the safety of a vehicle, here, children can really get in amongst it all. On the Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park is only accessible by boat. It’s an unspoiled wilderness of wild shores where sea turtles lay their eggs and myriad waterways wind through pristine rainforest which can be explored by kayak or boat. Howler monkeys call from the treetops, toucans hop between branches, caiman bask and tiny red frogs ping through the grass. Inland, Costa Rica’s rainforest and cloud forest is full of exotic birdlife, butterflies, sloths and monkeys, with canopy walks and ziplines a brilliantly exciting way for young people to explore. Tailor made trips to Costa Rica give you full flexibility, so you can pick the wildlife highlights and blend of coast and countryside that will most excite your children, but two-week, small group trips also run.

Galapagos Islands

An all star cast of birds, reptiles and mammals calls the Galapagos Islands home, and family wildlife trips here see them in their natural environment as they feed, snooze and play. On Isla San Cristobal you can see the world’s second biggest sea lion colony, spot nesting blue footed boobies, and snorkel with turtles, manta rays and the odd harmless Galapagos shark. On Isla Santa Cruz, watch the opportunistic pelicans that hang out around the fish market and meet the giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Seasick children do not a happy holiday make, so most family tours of the Galapagos are land based, often staying on a couple of islands and whizzing between them in speed boats. Staying on the islands directly benefits local hotels and restaurants, too, so you can be reassured that you’re supporting the residents of the Galapagos, while enjoying the unique wildlife. Family holidays to the Galapagos tend to be run as small group trips, with no more than 16 people altogether. Trips of just four days are available, but a week will give you more time to fully explore. Some trips have flexible departure days and durations, giving you a little more freedom.

Our top Family wildlife Holiday

Costa Rica family holiday

Costa Rica family holiday

Discover Costa Rica's famous national parks

From £4599 to £5049 16 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2023: 23 Dec
2024: 30 Mar, 13 Jul, 17 Jul, 20 Jul, 24 Jul, 27 Jul, 31 Jul, 3 Aug, 7 Aug, 10 Aug, 14 Aug, 17 Aug, 21 Aug, 21 Dec
Travel Team
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A sneaky addition to our land and sea page, the Azores are, admittedly, mostly a marine wildlife destination. This archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the mid Atlantic is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins. An astonishing 26 different species have been sighted here, which is a third of all known species. Taking to sea here is the equivalent of a cetacean safari, and even children with short attention spans will be quickly gripped by the sight of bottlenose, spotted, striped, common and Risso’s dolphins scything through the water alongside the boat. During the Easter holidays, you may be lucky enough to spot enormous blue whales, which stop by the islands for a few days each spring to feed. Sperm whales are present here all year round, but they are extremely shy – it’s tricky to spot them, but awesome when you do. In fact, sightings of any whales can’t be guaranteed, but of all the whale watching hotspots in the world, the Azores is the most dependable, and therefore the best option for family travel.

Specialist family holidays combine whale watching with fun learning opportunities. Children can even spend a whole day at sea, learning to be a marine biologist and trying their hand at some of the techniques used in whale research, such as photo IDing and listening to underwater acoustics using a hydrophone. During a week’s holiday there might be three half-day trips to sea, or one full day and a half day (depending on how sea-worthy the children are), with lots of time to explore the islands or just swim in the hotel pool.

Weather and sea conditions dictate whale watching here. It’s possible from April to October, which happily coincides with the majority of school holidays: Easter, May half term, summer and autumn half term. April and May are the best time to see blue, fin and humpback whales migrating past the islands.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Nadezhda1906] [Intro: Andrés Medina] [Costa Rica: eric molina] [Galapagos: iStock] [Azores: FitMum]