My kids love animals, and so I especially enjoy planning vacations where the kids get the opportunity to have wildlife encounters. Whether it’s sea turtles or dolphins, they love learning about animals and getting the chance to potentially interact with them. Here are some great wildlife encounters for kids on vacation – if I’ve missed your favorite, leave us a comment.
We experienced some of these resorts and activities during media trips or hosted stays/media rates. Affiliate links are included – if you click/purchase through an affiliate link, we may make a small commission.
Wildlife Encounters for Kids on Vacation
I have a turtle-obsessed son, and so a sea turtle experience is definitely on our travel bucket list. There are lots of different locations that offer the opportunity to see and experience turtle release programs, including Los Cabos. There, you can see five species of sea turtles: Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green Turtle and Olive Ridley. Spend a day helping with turtle conservation with the Cabo Outfitters Sunset Turtle Release program.
If you are headed elsewhere on vacation, we also have a list of turtle experiences here.
Birding and Elk Feeding at Suncadia
At Suncadia in Cle Elum, WA, guests can opt to take a two-hour guided trek into the local trails to see local Pacific Northwest birds. For even more wildlife interactions, visit Suncadia’s Nelson Dairy Farm to see a large herd of Elk on property.
Dolphin Explorer in Marco Island
Marco Island, Florida, is a beautiful place for a relaxing family vacation, but I definitely recommend taking a morning or afternoon off from your beach going to experience the Dolphin Explorer. This 30-foot catamaran will take you out on the Gulf to see and survey the local dolphins. It goes beyond a sightseeing tour, however, because the captain of the ship is also a Master Naturalist. During our trip a few years ago, my kids really enjoyed talking to the naturalist about the various dolphins – it was really a great time! We wrote a full review of the Dolphin Experience here.
Spider Monkeys at the Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel in Guatemala
At the Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel in the Jungle of Petén, Guatemala, you can take a private boat tour to Monkey Island where you’ll see spider monkeys. There’s even one monkey who is friendly enough to greet guests and pose for photos.
See reviews of the 19-suite boutique hotel here.
Paddleboard with Dolphins, Manatees and Sea Turtles in Jupiter, Florida
At the Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa, you can take an eco-tour with Blueline Surf & Paddle Co. This 90-minute paddleboard or kayak tour allows guests to spot manatees, dolphins, stingrays, and sea turtle while traveling through Jupiter’s Intracoastal Waterways.
During your Grand Cayman family vacation, you can take an excursion to the famous Stingray City to actually swim with stingrays. Experts on your boat will get into the water first, and bring the friendly stingrays right over to you. The water is waist-deep, and on most excursions, you can also purchase photos. Be sure to kiss one of the stingrays for seven years of good luck.
Disney World Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom features lots of great animal experiences, but for something special, book the optional Wild Animal Trek. During the trek, you’ll be harnessed above the hippos, cross several rope bridges, and ride in a safari vehicle. At the end, you’ll be treated to a delicious snack while sitting by one of the savannas.
Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico
During our Puerto Rico vacation last year, we unfortunately missed a trip to the famous Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo. Travelers can kayak through the Laguna Grande to the bay, which is filled with prehistoric organisms that glow in the nighttime. Stay at the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, and you can also see Coquis frogs and a rare breed of Leatherback Sea Turtles.
See reviews of the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino here.
Alpacas and Llamas in Cusco, Peru
Visit Cusco, Peru for both a cultural and a wildlife experience. During your stay, visit Awana Kancha, which is a llama, alpaca and vicuña farm. Families can feed grass to the animals, and check out textile weaving demonstrations. Stay at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, where you can also see alpacas and llamas.
See reviews of the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco here.
Hammerhead Sharks in Bimini, The Bahamas
Head to North Bimini, a Bahamian Island located only 50 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, to take guided dive with hammerheads. This excursion is offered at the brand-new Hilton at Resorts World Bimini, through Bimini Undersea, their on-site tour operator. You can also choose to cage dive with bull sharks, or take an excursion to South Bimini to the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation (known as the Sharklab).
See reviews of the Hilton at Resorts World Bimini.
Ride Ostriches in Curacao
At the Ostrich Farm in Curacao, you can interact, feed, and ride ostriches. They also offer a safari ride and a restaurant that families will enjoy.
Whale Watching in Los Cabos
From December to mid-April, you can book the Cabo Adventures’ Whale Watching Photo Safari to spend a morning or afternoon watching whales dive in and out of the Pacific Ocean. This photo safari is staffed with professional guides who can help you learn more about the whales.
See Ducks Walking on Fish in Pennsylvania
At the “Spillway” at Pymatuning State Park in Linesville, Pennsylvania, you can see ducks walk on fish. Large schools of carp gather in groups to eat food that the visitors toss to them – so many of them, that the ducks walk on top of them. This park is also the only place in PA where bald eagles have continuously nested.
Swim with manatees at Crystal River in Florida – the only place in the United States where you can legally swim with them. Crystal River is home to over 1,000 of the 6,063 recently-surveyed manatees in Florida. During this excursion trained guides will take you into the water, where you can get up close to them.