Try these destinations to better appreciate our beautiful planet:
1. Camp under the stars. Keep your carbon footprint low by setting up your tent somewhere close to home. Teach the kids what it means to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” Bring reusable utensils and containers and leave the campsite better than you found it. Discuss the importance of staying on marked trails to protect fragile ecosystems. Details: www.ncparks.gov; www.southcarolinaparks.com; www.nps.gov.
2. Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif. Introduce your youngsters to the rare ocean sunfish, the secret lives of seahorses, and the magical beauty of stingrays, jellyfish, penguins and sea otters. Housed in a converted cannery, the esteemed aquarium is one of the few places to exhibit both bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Your family will also see one of the few living kelp forests on exhibit where divers hand-feed sharks and other fish. Ask about the organization’s Sea Watch program that helps consumers and businesses make informed choices for healthy oceans. Details: www.montereybayaquarium.org.
3. Discover Belize. This Central America gem offers more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, making ecotourism the lifeblood of its economy. Along with 150 identified species of mammals are rain forests, Mayan temples, the world’s second longest barrier reef and an abundance of ecolodges educating travelers about the fragility of its ecosystem. Details: www.travelbelize.org.
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4. Leaping Lamb Farm, Alsea, Ore. Trade your technology for the chance to help with morning chores on this charming 64-acre farm in Oregon’s Coast Range. Craft a leisurely family breakfast in your own cozy cabin. Later, find your way to the orchard to pick apples, pears or plums or wander off to forage for mushrooms. Lend a hand in the greenhouse and garden or learn about raising lamb and Heritage turkeys. Brush the horses and bottle-feed the baby goat before hiking and biking on neighboring trails. Details: www.leapinglambfarm.com.
5. The Road to Hana, Hawaii. Surf crashing on the rugged coastline, bamboo forests and stunning waterfalls make this roadway a destination in itself. Offering a stark contrast to the resort-filled beaches on other parts of the island, you’ll find an unblemished, lush landscape oozing with remnants of the old Hawaiian culture.
The 52-mile trip over winding roads and through a rain forest; stops along the way for picture taking, hiking, picnicking on the beach and tasting the famous banana or mango bread make it worth the effort. Details: www.gohawaii.com/maui; www.hanamaui.com.