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Take the kids to... Central America

by Martha Hales

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For families with an adventurous streak, Central America is the perfect place for a memorable and action-packed holiday. You can be sure that the mere mention of the region’s major crowd pleasers - volcanoes, wildlife, jungles and beaches - will fire your  children’s imaginations. If you have any reluctant members of the family, get them involved in the planning stages. There’s nothing like giving kids some ownership to stoke their enthusiasm. If they have any questions about the trip or the country, you will have a direct contact there who can answer them. Our expert partners in Central America know their destinations inside out and will help you put together the perfect itinerary, uniquely tailored to your family’s needs. Here are TravelLocal’s top 5 family friendly destinations in Central America.

RaftingPuerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, Costa Rica

One of many locations in Costa Rica which offers a variety of activities nearby, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí is a great base for some family action. There's rafting on the rapids of the Sarapiquí river, leaf cutter ant colonies to investigate, and cocoa plantations to visit. Here, your children will see first hand how cocoa beans are grown, and the processes they undergo before they are ready to be made into a delicious cup of hot chocolate.

Age range: Although Costa Rica is a great destination for all the family, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí’s adventure activities mean it is best for children aged 7 and over.

OmetepeOmetepe island, Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua hosts many islands, but none are as enticing as the twin volcanic peaks of Ometepe. It's the largest island in the lake, and it's home to around 40,000 people who mainly live in two towns which sit at the foot of the taller volcano, Volcán Concepción. As well as beaches and waterfalls to explore, the island has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, so take your pick from horse riding, swimming and volcano trekking. Many visitors enjoy wildlife walks through the rainforest that covers much of Ometepe, which is teeming with wildlife such as monkeys, colourful birds and lots of creepy crawlies.

Age range: Ometepe itineraries can be adapted to suit all age ranges; head to beaches and swimming holes with little ones or channel your adventurous side with slightly older children.

ChichicastenangoChichicastenango, Guatemala

Lose yourself in the Mayan cultural heartlands in Guatemala’s highlands, an area of jaw dropping scenery and colourful local life. Chichicastenango is home to Central America’s biggest and busiest market, an amazing place to while away a few hours hunting for souvenirs, enjoying the fiesta atmosphere and marvelling at the weaving skills of the highland people. Tradesmen flock here from miles around to sell their wares, and among the tourist trappings there are some brilliant and unique handicrafts on offer. Remember to leave space in your luggage for your purchases and don’t forget to haggle.

Age range: Markets with toddlers can be hugely stressful so this experience is more suitable for slightly older children. Let them feast their eyes on the colours and textures of the artisanal market before sampling some of the best street food in the country.

Indigenous encounters, Panama

Spend a day meeting the Emberá in their village to experience an existence relatively unchanged for centuries. The village is deep in the rainforest of Chagres National Park, and can be reached by an exciting boat trip along the Chagres river. Learn how the Emberá live in harmony with nature, and how they live, work, and relax. It's a great, hands on way to discover the traditional way of life and understand more about indigenous culture in Central America in general. Part of the day will involve dancing and music, and their will be a chance to support this community by purchasing some of their handicrafts.

Age range: This trip is ideal for all age ranges, little ones are sure to enjoy the music and the boat ride and older children can take part in some of the village’s daily activities.

ZipliningCanopy adventures, Costa Rica

A shot of undiluted fun is something most families will have on their holiday wish list. As well as offering seaside action and and wildlife encounters, Costa Rica has a thriving adventure sports scene, and one of the most popular activities is ziplining. There are various locations where you can get into the treetops for some seriously speedy adventures, clipping on and getting a bird's eye view of the forest as you whizz through the trees. Coupled with some time at ground level on the lookout for some of the incredible flora and fauna Costa Rica is known for, the thrill of the zipline is the icing on your rainforest cake.

Age range: Open to ages 5 and up, Costa Rica’s ziplines are great fun for the whole family. If you’re travelling with toddlers, a canopy bridge tour offers the same incredible views and close wildlife encounters.

Make it happen

Our travel experts in Costa Rica have designed a family friendly itinerary which you can adapt and tweak to fit your preferences. Guatemala and Panama are equally family friendly destinations - get in touch with our local experts to find out more about the kind of activities they can arrange for your family.

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