This post titled “How to See the Rainforest on a Budget” first appeared on Tailwind on March 31, 2016.
Most people hear the word “rainforest” and immediately picture the Brazilian Amazon or the lush jungles of Costa Rica. Not surprisingly, trips to these rainforest destinations are priced accordingly: Everybody knows about them, so trips are in high demand—and that means they can drive high prices.
If “visit a rainforest” is on your bucket list but you’re operating on a small budget, don’t despair. There are plenty of rainforests to see, and many of them reside outside the confines of the most popular (and pricey) tourist destinations. Here are five great options for anyone looking to visit the rainforest on a budget.
While Brazil gets much of the attention for its Amazonian rainforests, the Amazon basin actually extends across several South American countries, many of which offer cheaper (and less crowded) rainforest tours. Bolivia falls into this category, and it offers two different types of tours: the pampas tours, which wind through a wetland savannah on the edge of the Amazon jungle and offer ample wildlife sightseeing opportunities, and jungle tours, which are a bit pricier but take travelers deeper into the rainforest. Whenever you’re ready for a shower, head out of the rainforest and into vibrant Santa Cruz.
US citizens can cut down on travel time and fees by taking a quick trip to our neighbor to the north. Canada’s British Columbia is home to the 25,000-square-mile Great Bear Rainforest, which is renowned for its wildlife (including, not surprisingly, its large population of bears) and stunning outdoor recreation opportunities. The rainforest isn’t too far from popular Vancouver and Whistler, BC, so you can balance urban and rainforest exploration in the course of the same trip.
Peru is gradually building a reputation for itself as an eco-tourism destination, and for good reason: The country is home to the Manu Wilderness, which boasts a larger population of plants and animals than almost anywhere else on the planet. Jaguar, parrot, and giant otter sightings are common, so do not forget the camera. The rainforest isn’t far from Cusco; if you have the time, it’s also worth making the trek to lively and historic Lima.
Travelers from the US can save money on passport application or renewal fees by visiting El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. You’ll also save vacation time: It takes just under four hours and approximately $200 to fly from NYC to San Juan, which is only 30 miles from the rainforest. Once you arrive, walking tours of the tropical rainforest cost just $3 to $5. When you’ve had your fill of the jungle, soak up some rays on any of San Juan’s white sandy beaches.
Don’t feel like paying for an international flight? Then head to Seattle, which serves as a great jumping-off point to Olympic National Park. Spanning nearly a million acres, the park features unparalleled ecological diversity in the form of glacier-capped mountains, Pacific coastline, 3,500 miles of rivers and streams, and old-growth temperate rainforest. These ecosystems provide homes for over 70 species of mammals, 300 bird species, and 1,100 native plant species. The park is also distinguished as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosophere Reserve.