Environmental Education (EE) is a key component in any marine protected area management. However, its visibility and action plans are still poorly developed and structured as a clear element in management procedures. The objective of this study is to contribute with a methodological route that integrates EE to the existing model of management planning and strategies, taking the Colombian National Natural Parks System as a case study. The creation of the route is proposed as a participatory research with different stakeholders in order to respond to the specific conservation needs and goals for the National Parks System. The EE national diagnosis has shown that its integration within the parks management structure is a first priority need, being a converging result on the two case studies on National Parks from the Pacific Coast of Colombia. The diagnosis also demonstrates that communication, participation, training and evaluation have to be reinforced, linking the community and stakeholders involved in the park management to the whole EE process. The proposed methodology route has been agreed upon by the National Parks staff and incorporates advice and recommendations from different stakeholders, in order to better include the park users. This step will help us to advance toward sustainable management in marine and coastal protected areas elsewhere, taking into account not only the biological but also the social-cultural prism. The main challenges in the management and conservation of coastal and marine ecosystems today are discussed. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.