Best Family Getaways

Two key ingredients for an unforgettable family vacation: a comfortable space you can settle into and call your own and a host of fun activities to choose from, like watching monkeys outside your room in Costa Rica's rain forest or horseback riding through the magical landscapes of South Africa's Western Cape coast. The National Geographic Unique Lodges below make a special effort to engage travelers of all ages, with hands-on activities, meals, and excursions designed especially for families with kids.

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ol Donyo Lodge

CHYULU HILLS, KENYA

Not only are there giraffes and elephants visible from your thatched bungalow at ol Donyo, kids five and older also get introduced to the fascinating culture of the Maasai. Along with game drives and horseback rides, kids can take part in the Young Explorers Program, tracking animals with guides in the Chyulu Hills, bike riding or kite-flying, or getting a course in bush survival skills. They'll also have a chance to meet with local Maasai to learn how to bead jewelry and high jump.

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The Brando

TETIAROA, FRENCH POLYNESIA

An island paradise brimming with vibrant culture and diverse wildlife, The Brando evokes a sense of wonder for any age. This is a fantastic option for families who love the beach but seek something more rewarding than a beach vacation. The whole family can kayak, snorkel, beach-comb, take nature walks, learn Polynesian dances, and much more. Plus, The Brando’s Lagoon School offers child-friendly versions of whale-watching tours, deep-sea fishing excursions, and other experiences tailored to the lodge’s youngest visitors.

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Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

Because of Nimmo Bay’s intimate size, it is perfect for large families who would like to rent the entire resort as well as smaller families looking for a quiet place to connect. Activities such as fishing, rafting, whale watching, kayaking, and helicopter rides are well suited for families and can be uniquely catered to younger children’s needs. With  lively family-style meals and bonfires and music in the evenings, this is the sort of place that makes for indelible summertime memories.

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Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

MACHU PICCHU PUEBLO, PERU

The experience at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is full of hands-on discovery, whether it's meeting Andean spectacled bears at a rehabilitation center, learning to identify hummingbirds, or making tea from the plant to the cup. And that's just on the property: right up the hill is Machu Picchu, the ultimate place to be an explorer. Kids are equipped with a Child’s Explorer Kit complete with all the tools they’ll need for exploring, and treasure hunts can be arranged upon request.

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The Ranch at Rock Creek

WESTERN MONTANA WILDERNESS, UNITED STATES

Your bear cubs will love joining the Little Grizzlies Kids Club, which offers hands-on discovery activities, arts and crafts, and pony rides for kids while parents relax or explore on their own. Accommodations are designed to fit families of all sizes, and trail adventures, winter sports, and ropes courses are great fun for the whole family to try together.

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Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

WESTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA

Children are important guests at Grootbos, where a specially designed children’s program inspires their natural curiosity with guided tours, treasure hunts, marine excursions, pony rides, orienteering, and more. Kids and adults alike love spotting the “marine big five” while staying at Grootbos: southern right whales, seals, penguins, dolphins, and great white sharks.

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Tswalu Kalahari

KALAHARI, SOUTH AFRICA

Tswalu is surrounded by storybook wildlife that would thrill a traveler of any age. It is a hands-down awe-inspiring experience to watch lions, zebras, and giraffes at home in their natural habitats. Nevertheless, kids and adults may experience this wonder differently. Tswalu caters to those differences through a number of kid-focused activities with guides like animal tracking, picnics, children’s bush walks, horseback rides, and more.

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Lapa Rios Lodge

OSA PENINSULA, COSTA RICA

With jungles to explore, frogs and monkeys to watch for, and beaches and waterfalls to swim at and splash, Lapa Rios is a fantastic spot for a family vacation. There are no televisions here, no Internet, and cell service is unreliable; instead the focus is on the outdoors, the wildlife, and the adventure. Through an array of activities geared for kids, the whole family will learn firsthand about the creatures of the rain forest and the tropical waters of the Golfo Dulce—and the importance of protecting them.

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BIG SKY, MONTANA, UNITED STATES

With a wide range of engaging activities geared toward children, Lone Mountain Lodge is a favorite among families. The Outdoor Youth Adventures program was designed in the spirit of a summer camp, offering ranch- and wilderness-based excursions such as pony and horse rides, ropes courses or scavenger hunts, archery or rodeo games for younger kids; and geocaching and overnight backcountry excursions for teenagers. The lodge hosts game nights and cookouts, as well as kids nights that allow parents to enjoy a meal together.

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MAYO, IRELAND

A medieval castle is a natural draw for families, and Ashford is equipped to host travelers of any age. From horseback riding, zip-lining, and falconry to discovering secret passageways and earning a “Wolfhound’s Badge,” kids have plenty to keep them entertained. The Dungeon restaurant offers kid-friendly dishes in an informal atmosphere and there’s even a tea time ritual designed specifically with kids in mind.

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Petit St. Vincent Private Island Resort

PETIT ST. VINCENT, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

Families have been coming to Petit St. Vincent for decades, and the same children who learned to snorkel and sail here are now bringing their own children. The activities for kids are plenty, from beachcombing to boating, and kids are also welcome to join the staff, collecting eggs from the resident chickens, feeding tortoises, or making cookies in the kitchen. Babysitting services are available at the per-child rate, so parents can enjoy a relaxing evening at the restaurant.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

The ranch’s meadows, forests, and waterfalls create a natural playground where kids can interact with wildlife and learn about the environment through hands-on experiences. Learn animal tracking and wildlife survival skills, help care for the horses, and build a fort with the staff at the lodge. Then cool off with a swim or a splash across the lake on a tube. Please note: the lodge is reserved for adults in September.

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SHANGRI-LA, CHINA

Banyan Tree Ringha is situated within an ethnic Tibetan village, and, for kids and adults alike, a fascinating cultural encounter awaits just outside the gates. Take a walk through the village lanes to encounter yaks, horses, and other livestock, and stop in for a visit with a local family. Hike to a Buddhist temple right near the lodge or take an excursion to nearby villages where kids can try their hand at traditional crafts.

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