The Best Family-Friendly Destinations For Sea Turtle Lovers, According To Research

Sea turtles are fascinating creatures that can be found in nearly every ocean on the planet. They love warm water, coral reefs, and beaches, which is why you can often find them in tropical destinations. Seeing them in the wild is an amazing experience, especially considering that six of the seven species of sea turtles are classified as endangered. If you have a family member who loves sea turtles, there are several family-friendly destinations where you can see these majestic marine animals in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts to protect them.

Planning a family trip to a place where you can see sea turtles takes some careful consideration. First and foremost, you want to make sure the destination is safe for travelers of all ages. Secondly, you want to ensure that the sea turtles in that location aren't being exploited or put in danger. Conservation is critical to their survival. If you have little ones in tow, you probably also want the destination to have some kid-friendly activities other than just spotting sea turtles. After researching destinations that offer sea turtle encounters, we've chosen vacation spots that tick all the family-friendly boxes, making them ideal for travelers of all ages. You can learn more about or methodology for picking these destinations at the end of the article.

Maui, Hawaii, U.S.

If you love sea turtles and want to travel to a place where you're almost guaranteed to see them in the wild, then Maui should be your next vacation destination. This Hawaiian island is home to several types of sea turtles, including hawksbills, green turtles, leatherbacks, olive ridleys, and loggerheads. You're most likely to spot Hawaiian green turtles swimming in the waters along Maui's west and south coasts. Sometimes they even come onto the beaches to bask in the sun. Some of the top spots to see turtles include Turtle Town at Maluaka Beach and Black Rock at Kaʻanapali Beach. Just be sure to give the turtles plenty of space.

If you have small children who aren't able to snorkel or swim to see turtles, you can visit the Maui Ocean Center to see the Turtle Lagoon Exhibit. The exhibit features up to six turtles on display that you can view from the surface of the water and underwater. There are also educational programs to teach visitors about the turtles and their importance to marine ecosystems. Kids will also love the 3D humpback whale experience, the living reef display, and the open ocean exhibit with live sharks and rays.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to six of the world's seven species of sea turtles. You can take guided tours to see turtles on the reef, including snorkeling excursions, scuba diving trips, and glass-bottom boat tours. Fitzroy Island is a great spot to see turtles in the wild and at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center. Green Island is a family-friendly island where you can often see turtles swimming in the water. The dry season runs from May to October, making this the ideal time to visit the Great Barrier Reef for the best visibility.

One of the best places to base yourself for trips to the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns on Queensland's northeastern coast. The weather in Cairns is warm year-round, making it a popular tropical vacation destination. There are also plenty of activities on offer for kids. Families can go hiking in rainforests to discover waterfalls, visit the Cairns Aquarium, and see wild animals at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. There are also plenty of hotels with pools in Cairns, as well as restaurants that cater to all tastes.

Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, Tortuguero National Park is a prime nesting site for leatherbacks, hawksbills, loggerheads, and green sea turtles. In fact, the area was named after the turtles — Tortuguero means "region of turtles." The protected sanctuary has winding canals, lagoons, and sandy beaches where the turtles nest from May to November. Local guides can take you to see the turtles nesting at night. Depending on when you come, you might be able to see the baby turtles hatching and running towards the sea. Just remember to be very quiet and keep a decent distance between you and the turtles.

Tortuguero National Park is about a three-hour drive from the capital city of San Jose. Because most of the turtle activity takes place at night, you'll probably want to stay in the small town of Tortuguero close to the park. There are several hotels and lodges nearby. Aninga Lodge is a kid-friendly spot with comfortable bungalows, a restaurant, a spa, and a turtle-shaped pool. Pachira Lodge is located on the main lagoon and has room packages that include transportation to and from San Jose, entrance to the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) visitor center, and boat rides along the canals.

Akumal, Mexico

Akumal means "place of the turtles" in the Mayan language. This beautiful beach town on the Riviera Maya in Mexico is known for its abundance of green sea turtles. The area is rich in seagrass, which the turtles love feeding on. The soft, sandy beaches are also the perfect environments for nesting. If you go snorkeling in Akumal Bay, there's a good chance you'll encounter a turtle. You can swim in the green zones along Akumal Beach, but the red zones are protected and can only be entered with a guide.

While many people visit Akumal on a day trip from Cancún, the town is actually a very pleasant place to stay. It has a laid-back vibe, which is perfect for a relaxed family beach holiday. At the same time, Akumal has everything you could want in a resort town, including all-inclusive resorts, shops, and restaurants. The beaches have white sand, and the turquoise waters are ideal for swimming and snorkeling. When you're not swimming with sea turtles, you can take a trip to a cenote nearby, visit the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary, explore ancient Mayan ruins, or go zip-lining in the jungle.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

The Gili Islands are three small islands off the coast of Lombok that are rimmed with sugary, white sand and surrounded by aquamarine waters. They're wildly popular with both tourists and sea turtles. The most common species people encounter around the Gili Islands is the green turtle, although hawksbills are also spotted on occasion. Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and the best spot to see sea turtles. They usually swim along the northeast side of the island in an area called Turtle Point. You can often see turtles just swimming out from the beach.

Gili Trawangan is a car-free island with accommodations to suit all types, including guesthouses, bungalows, beach resorts, and villas. There are also plenty of restaurants and beach bars. The island does have a reputation as a party island though, so if you're looking for something a bit more chill, you may want to consider staying on Gili Air or Gili Meno. Both have hotels and villas that are suitable for families. Gili Meno also has a turtle sanctuary where you can see baby turtles and join release programs for a small donation.

Boa Vista, Cape Verde

Cape Verde is an archipelago off the coast of West Africa that is the third-largest nesting site for loggerhead turtles in the world. Most of the nesting happens on the island of Boa Vista. Several organizations on the island work tirelessly to protect the turtles and their nesting grounds. Between July and October, you can join guided tours to see turtles nesting on the beach. If you're lucky, you may even see baby turtles hatching and be able to help them on their way to the sea.

There are plenty of places to stay on Boa Vista that are perfect for families. All-inclusive resorts are popular choices because they have amenities like swimming pools, restaurants, and spas. Most also offer a wide range of entertainment options like water sports, games for kids, live music, and shows. There are also a handful of hotels and vacation rentals in Sal-Rei, which is the main town on the island. If you want to eat out, there are several restaurants and beach clubs around the island that serve local and international cuisine.

Saona Island, Dominican Republic

With powdery, white sand beaches and incredibly clear waters, it's no wonder sea turtles love Saona Island. This small island is an important nesting site for hawksbill, leatherback, and green turtles. Hawksbills are the most common turtles on the island, nesting mostly on the southern beaches. You might not see turtles on the main tourist beaches here, but you can visit the Saona Island Turtle Sanctuary in the small village of Mano Juan. At the sanctuary, you can visit the turtle hatchery where eggs are kept safe until the baby turtles hatch, and with advanced notice, you may even be able to join a turtle release.

Saona Island is just 12 miles south of the Dominican Republic's main island, making it easy to get to from Punta Cana or Bayahibe. Most people come here on a day trip, although there is a basic bed and breakfast on the island. Several tour companies will take you to the island on a catamaran or speed boat. Some also include a trip to the Saona Island Turtle Sanctuary. Remember that hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered, so be very careful where you tread on the beaches and keep your distance if you happen to come across one in the wild.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao (which translates to Turtle Island) is one of the most popular diving and snorkeling destinations in Thailand thanks to its clear, calm waters and abundant coral reefs just offshore. Visitors can often spot green and hawksbill turtles while exploring the waters around the island. Many dive centers on the island offer guided tours to turtle hotspots such as Tanote Bay and Buddha Point. You can also see turtles swimming close to shore at spots like Jansom Bay and Sai Daeng Beach.

One of the great things about Koh Tao is that it appeals to so many types of travelers. Families, solo travelers, and partners looking for a relaxing couples beach vacation will find a wide array of hotels, restaurants, and fun activities to do. If you don't know how to scuba dive, Koh Tao is a great place to learn. Kids 10 years and older can take PADI courses through one of the island's many dive centers. Younger kids can enjoy beach days, boat rides, and cultural activities like Thai dance performances. The Koh Tao Leisure Park has attractions for all ages, including an 18-hole mini golf course, a cinema, pool tables, and a kid's play area.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fernando de Noronha is a stunning archipelago off the northeast coast of Brazil. The protected marine park is home to a staggering amount of marine life, including hawksbills and green turtles. The female turtles lay their nests on the beaches between the months of December and June, making this the perfect destination during cold weather months for sea turtle lovers. Families can take guided diving and snorkeling trips to swim with the turtles. You can also visit the Projeto TAMAR open-air sea turtle museum.

It should be noted that Fernando de Noronha is not the easiest or cheapest place to visit. To protect the marine environment, the government limits the number of tourists who can visit the Fernando de Noronha islands every day. Every visitor must pay an environmental preservation fee of R$97.16 (approximately $20) per day. In addition, you'll also have to purchase a ticket to enter the marine park, which costs R$358 (about $72) and is valid for 10 days. While it can be pricey to visit the islands, those who don't mind splashing out will be rewarded with spectacular scenery and the opportunity to spot sea turtles in the wild.

Carlisle Bay, Barbados

Barbados is home to three types of sea turtles: hawksbills, leatherbacks, and green turtles. While the turtles can be found on nearly every coast of the island, Carlisle Bay is one of the top spots to see them gliding gracefully through the water. You can often see the turtles while swimming and snorkeling in the clear waters of the bay. If you prefer guided tours, there are several tour companies that offer diving and snorkeling excursions, catamaran trips, and glass-bottom kayak tours.

It's easy to see why so many families flock to Barbados. The island has beautiful white sand beaches, all-inclusive resorts with attractive amenities, and interesting attractions. Bridgetown is a good place to base yourself if you want to be close to turtles, as that's where you'll find Carlisle Bay. The capital city is also home to historic buildings, inviting shops, and tons of restaurants. Suppose you want to get out of the city and explore the island. In that case, kids will love watching monkeys at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, exploring underground caverns in Harrison's Cave, and strolling through tropical gardens at the Flower Forest.

Melbourne Beach, Florida, U.S.

Every year between March and October, thousands of sea turtles make their way to Florida's Space Coast to lay their eggs on the soft, sandy beaches. Melbourne Beach is one of their preferred nesting spots. During this time, you can spot loggerhead, leatherback, and green turtles. You may even get to see hatchlings tumbling down the dunes to the ocean. The best way to spot the turtles is on a guided turtle walk with the Sea Turtle Conservancy or Sea Turtle Preservation Society. The walks can be fun and enlightening experiences for turtle lovers of all ages.

Melbourne tends to be less touristy than other places along the Space Coast, but there are still plenty of things to see and do for all ages. Animal lovers can visit the Brevard Zoo or go hiking in the Turkey Creek Sanctuary to see manatees and otters. If the weather takes a turn, you can spend the day at Route 7 for some go-karting, laser tag, or mini-bowling. The Kennedy Space Center is about an hour's drive from Melbourne and a must for future astronauts. Visitors can learn about space exploration, see a real-life space shuttle, and even witness rocket launches at various times throughout the year.

Lhaviyani Atoll, The Maldives

The Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean that consists of nearly 1,200 tropical islands clustered in atolls. With that in mind, choosing the right Maldives island for your vacation style can be tricky. If seeing sea turtles is a top priority for you, then Lhaviyani Atoll is a good bet. Green sea turtles gather on the coral reefs around the islands in the atoll. They particularly like to congregate around Kuredu Island, making this an excellent spot to swim with turtles on a diving or snorkeling trip. Families can also visit the Oliver Ridley Project Marine Center to learn about Kuredu's green turtles.

Kuredu Island Resort & Spa is the only hotel on the tiny island of Kuredu, and it's perfectly primed for families. You can opt for a private pool villa, a water villa on wooden stilts over the ocean, or a beach bungalow right on the sand. Kids will love cooling off in the resort's pools, playing games in the kid's club, and dining at the underwater restaurant while fish swim overhead. The resort also has a golf course, gym, spa, as well as tennis and padel courts.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres is located just off the coast of Cancún, and it's a beautiful spot to stay or visit on a day trip if you love sea turtles. The clear waters and white sand beaches attract loggerhead, hawksbill, and green turtles, particularly between the mating and nesting seasons from May to September. If you go snorkeling in the waters around the island, you can often see turtles swimming. To see turtles on land, you can visit Tortugranja (The Turtle Farm) to see hatchlings and feed rescued turtles.

If you're looking for a more laid-back Mexican beach vacation, Isla Mujeres is lesser known than nearby Cancún, so it doesn't get the same crowds that its mega-resort neighbor does. The central area of the island is just four blocks by six blocks, making it very walkable. Stroll the streets and you'll find colorful murals, shops, and restaurants. Accommodations range from boutique hotels to all-inclusive beach resorts. There are also tons of kid-friendly activities on offer, including snorkeling tours, zip lining, and a Mayan temple. MUSA is a fascinating underwater museum with hundreds of sculptures by local artists. You can dive and snorkel here or see the sculptures on a glass-bottom boat trip.


With so many locations around the world where sea turtles gather, narrowing down the best family-friendly spots was no easy task. Our research led us to these destinations because first and foremost, they are safe to travel to. Crime rates are low and there are no high travel alerts for any of these destinations. In addition, these spots have plenty of amenities that appeal to all ages. 

Families can stay at resorts with pools and kid's clubs, go on tours, take part in activities suitable for little ones, and find restaurants serving a wide variety of food to appeal to picky palates. In addition, these spots have conservation initiatives in place to protect the turtles. Children can learn about why turtles are so important for ecosystems and how to safely interact with turtles in the wild. Happy turtle spotting!