A pioneer in green tourism, Costa Rica has some of the finest eco-accommodation in the world, but the success of its ‘back to nature’ lodges has spread to its neighbours and you can find great eco properties throughout the region. Many are in the jungle, so bring large quantities of insect repellent and swot up on other health issues.
South America proper has also embraced the idea of eco-tourism, and you can find everything from bush camps to luxury eco-hotels there.
A summer-only, safari-style campsite on an uninhabited island, offering snorkelling and beach adventures for only 10 people at a time - great to book out with another family or two.
A low-key, inexpensive little eco-hotel on the Costa Maya, with 10 rooms sleeping up to four, snorkelling and scuba-diving either just off-shore or at the Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, and free kayak use.
This nature reserve combines luxury with sustainability, with accommodation in treetop suites for up to four, villas and thatched cottages, plus a spa, an infinity pool, an organic farm and a carpentry workshop. Kids up to 18 stay free and enjoy child-friendly jungle safaris.
Chan Chich Jungle Lodge and Nature Reserve
Set amongst the unexcavated ruins of a Mayan city and famous for its jaguar sightings, this unique property on a private reserve has accommodation in thatched-roof casitas and cabanas, plus a couple of villas. Activities include night walks in search of tarantulas, tree frogs and other critters plus horse-riding along jungle trails. As well as having sound ecological credentials, the lodge has been very active in encouraging the return of threatened species.
This wonderful ranch is in a pine forest in the foothills of the Mayan Mountains, and a night in a treehouse with the parrots calling to each other from your eaves is an experience not to be missed - although there are also rooms, bungalows and tents. You can go river-tubing, caving or riding, or trekking through the jungle, or just lie in a family-sized hammock listening to the birds. The home-style dinners made from local organic produce are often served under the stars.
These luxurious cabins occupy a cacao farm in the rainforest; some connect for larger families. Activities include jungle night hikes, white-water rafting and boat trips through a manatee reserve. There’s an all-natural spa with cabins on stilts.
Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Resort
These quirkily decorated eco-cabins, perched on hills for a treehouse feel, are part of a working farm where you can collect eggs, milk a cow and groom a horse. Riding is also available, and there is ziplining and white-water rafting nearby. Book early for the Hobbit House - built into the hillside, it includes kids’ bunks and an underground shower.
An award-winning luxury lodge with 17 bungalows in a rainforest reserve, with activities for ages six and up including swimming under a secluded waterfall, hiking on wildlife-rich trails (kid-sized wellies and walking sticks are provided) and kayaking in the mangroves.
On the Caribbean Coast, at Puerto Viejo, this property is built around a Sangrillo tree on the 10-acre oceanfront property of the Iguanaverde foundation, with iguana and adventure tours available. Suites and houses, one on stilts, sleep four to six.
Finca Terra Viva
This is a budget-friendly farmstay where you can milk cows, feed calves and make cheese, as well as ride horses. Six bedrooms in a wooden lodge sleep up to four each, or there are two-bedroom casitas with kitchenettes.
Tico Adventure Lodge
This little green oasis on the Nicoya Peninsula's western shore has treetop apartments sleeping 4–6 plus an outdoor pool and a grill where you can cook your catch of the day. You’re just a couple of minutes’ walk from a beach and a surf school.
Hotel Las Tortugas
This sustainably run beachfront hotel with its turtle-shaped pool and canoe hire doubles as the centre for the Tamarindo National Wildlife Sanctuary and Las Baulas National Marine Park, and park rangers lead tours to view nesting turtles at night. There are also apartments for rent just up the hill, and you’re perfectly located for surfing on Playa Grande.
Rock View Lodge, Rupununi Savannah
Most people take a tiny plane to get to this peaceful, intimate spot on the edge of the jungle near a large Amerindian community, one of whom is the co-owner. Eight rooms include two for families; superb food is serve with the hummingbirds around the pool or in the cool restaurant. There are boat-trips, horse-riding and day-trips galore, including some to the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.
This 10-room hotel also offering private villas oozes French chic in an amazing rainforest location, overlooking a protected sandy bay. Some rooms fit extra beds, and there’s an pool, an organic restaurant and organised activities including schooner cruises to nearby islands.
This award-winning jungle lodge with serious community credentials features family cabins for up to five plus activities including farm tours, cooking classes, chocolate making, gold-panning and visits to a local healer.
These award-winning thatched cabins built on stilts tucked into a bend in the Amazon River are the base for jungle expeditions that include nocturnal hikes, dolphin-watching, fishing, insect tours and rafting; kids must be 8+. You can also spend a night camping in the woods. The cabins are very comfortable, with four-posters and private toilets (you wash in river water, neatly trapped for showers).
This boutique hotel in the extraordinary landscape of the Atacama Desert, with views of the Licancabur volcano, includes duplex family rooms for up to six, with private terraces. There are 4x4 excursions to altiplanic lagoons, salt flats, geysers and hot springs, plus hikes, mountain-biking and horse-riding; evenings are made for gathering round campfires and stargazing.
This extraordinary mountain camp has igloo-type domes sleeping up to four and runs tours including wildlife safaris and puma tracking; kids are welcome from age six and up. There’s also a yoga dome.
This ancient tobacco estate is run by the local mayor, partly to fund a biodiversity program for local communities. You join his large family riding through the plantation and river rafting, and they’ll show you how to make traditional bread in clay ovens and milk the goats for cheese. The charming rooms (some for families) are great value. Food is from the plantation or the organic kitchen garden and gets rave reviews. There’s also a pool and a playground.
This is a conservation-minded eco-hotel on a former cattle ranch, with individually decorated rooms and bungalows without TVs, a pool, a playground, and activities including boating, riding and night safaris. The neighbouring lagoon has friendly alligators.
See also our hand-picked recommendations for quirky places to stay with kids in Latin America in our feature Unusual Places to Stay Outside Europe.