Central America is a unique medley of pristine Caribbean beaches, fascinating pre-Columbian history, delectable cuisine, and diverse cultures. Whether you’re navigating the jungles of Costa Rica, sampling a street vendor’s tamales in Guatemala, or crossing a river to reach a Mayan temple in Mexico, you’re bound to have an unforgettable time.
If all the new experiences start feeling like too much for the little ones though, never fear, you will always be within a few hours’ drive of a post-cart perfect beach. Be sure to break up the action-packed days with a few lazier ones stretched out on the sand, and your kids will be happier for it! There's no shortage of family-friendly experiences here, but to help you choose the right destination for you, here's a list of places that are accessible and fun for children of all ages.
Mexico is an incredible medley of fascinating culture, divine cuisine, and endless miles of pristine beaches — in other words, the perfect destination for a family holiday. The Yucatan peninsula is a time-honoured stomping ground for young families, while Isla Mujeres has some of the best beaches for kayaking or snorkelling among the colourful reefs.
The classic Mayan city of Chichen Itza is on top of most tourists' bucket list, but why not explore some less crowded but equally impressive archaeological sites? Both Uxmal and Palenque are less touristy alternatives, giving you and the kids the opportunity to take your time exploring the ruins. If you’re up for a realIndiana Jones style adventure, our local experts recommend the Mayan city of Yaxchilan, located on Usumacinta River in the middle of a thick jungle.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Mexico thanks to its incredible historical sites and surprising abundance of wildlife. Spotting the iconic colonies of pink flamingos at Celestun Biosphere is a highlight that kids of all age will be impressed by, for example.
Need more information or advice? Ask Harriet, our local family specialist in Mexico.
Much of Cuba is still a carefully-preserved portal into the early 20th century, even as the tourists start sweeping in. Take your family to this beautiful island nation before it completely transforms again. Havana is best explored in the back of a vintage Cadillac: drive down the seafront esplanade of Malecon and take in the fading beauty of its colourful art deco buildings. The 18th century La Cabana Fortress is grand and imposing, and your kids will love the traditional cannon-firing ceremony in the evenings.
The Biosphere Reserve of Las Terrazas, just over an hour out of Havana, is a well-kept travel secret. The reserve, with its clear pools and lush greenery, is the perfect place for a day’s rest before heading out to explore the intriguing colonial cities of Cienfuegos (the only French settlement on the island) and Trinidad (a colourful town perfectly frozen in the 1850s).
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Cuba thanks to its utterly unique culture and atmosphere. Its natural features are not to be ignored, either. Why not factor in a day trip to explore Zapata swamp, with its colourful birds (including the smallest hummingbird in the world!), Cuban crocodiles, and flamingos?
Need more information or advice? Ask Ricardo, our local family specialist in Cuba.
3. Costa Rica
When you travel to Costa Rica, natural exploration is front and centre. Don’t get us wrong, there is no dearth of beautiful Caribbean beaches to lounge on, but consider these as rest stops in between all the adventure. There is so much to explore on the ecological front, from towering cloud forests to volcanic hot springs, that you won't want to miss out on!
Hike the slopes of a volcano in Arenal Volcano National Park then relax at the end of the day in thermal baths overlooking forested surroundings. Manuel Antonio National Park,on the other hand,combines the best of the beach and the jungle. Inland, you can spot capuchin monkeys, sloths, agoutis, and colourful butterflies. Afterwards, cool off on the sandy beaches, ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Costa Rica thanks to its biodiversity. The highlight of any trip is likely to be exploringthe cloud forest of Monteverde via its suspension walkways over the jungle canopy.
Need more information or advice? Ask Veronika, our local family specialist in Costa Rica.
Home to the Panama Canal, a structure that changed the course of global trade and travel, a stay in Panama City isn’t complete without seeing the massive ships passing through Miraflores Locks. In the centre of the city is also Parque Metropolitano: a protected rainforest teeming with indigenous creatures like coatimundis, sloths, vine snakes, and slider turtles.
The lush rainforest of Boquete in the highlands of Panama offers a startling contrast to the city with its cooler climate. Take one of the easily accessible hiking trails into the forest to see the winding river and cascading waterfalls. Be sure to also stop at Isla Bastimentos, a marine reserve whose most striking resident is the strawberry poison-dart frog. The park also protects various species of monkeys, sloths, caimans, and crocodiles, providing ample photo opportunities for your kids.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Panama thanks to its paradisaical island scenery and fascinating local culture, combining influences from Spain, Africa, Colombia, North America, the West Indies, Europe, and China. A great day trip idea includes taking a row boat to meet the Guna and Embera tribes, to learn of their cultures past and present.
Need more information or advice? Ask Philippe, our local family specialist in Panama.
Think of Guatemala as Mexico's lesser-known little brother. Just because fewer tourists set their sights here certainly doesn't mean it's not worth considering for your next trip, though. Guatemala is a diverse patchwork of resplendent colonial cities and awe-inspiring Mayan ruins. Tikal, for instance, is one of the grandest and oldest Mayan cities ever found, and it is best seen at sunrise.
Antigua is possibly the most charming colonial town in Central America — with cobblestone streets, colourful 16th century baroque architecture, and airy plazas, all set against the backdrop of the surrounding mountains. Continue your cultural discovery at Lake Atitlan, reckoned by some to be the most beautiful lake in the world. Ringed by volcanoes and with bustling villages on its shores, it's worth spending two days just exploring this area with your kids.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Guatemala thanks to its spectacular lakes and volcanoes, offering a range of adventure activities. Older children are sure to enjoy a hike up the active Pacaya Volcano, with an experienced guide.
Need more information or advice? Ask Lorena, our local family specialist in Guatemala.
Rounding up the trio countries significant for their Mayan history (Mexico and Guatemala being the other two), Belize is a fairly small country, and perfectly representative of everything that makes Central America such an attractive family destination. In the span of a week, you can snorkel over Belize Barrier Reef (the second largest reef in the world!), wander through the many Mayan ruins found in the Cayo District, and get up close with the curious residents of Mayflower Bocawina National Park (howler monkeys, rain frogs, and colourful motmots, to name a few).
If you had to pick one Mayan site to visit, our local agents recommend Cahal Pech. One of the oldest Mayan sites discovered, it’s believed to have been an aristocratic residence, and is complete with ball courts, temples, plazas, altars, and bathhouses.
Take it from our local experts: kids will love a family holiday to Belize thanks to its leading, historic role in chocolate production! At Toledo, you can learn how to make chocolate in the tradition of the ancient Mayans (and of course, round up the lesson with a tasting session).
Need more information or advice? Ask Andrea, our local family specialist in Belize.
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