central america w/ kids-recommendations?

Jan 3rd, 2007, 05:35 PM
  #1  
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central america w/ kids-recommendations?

I'm interested in going to Central America this June w/ kids aged 10, 11, 14. Any suggestions? Belize and Costa Rica sound sort of touristy, so I'm thinking Guatemala. My kids like water, wildlife, sightseeing (in moderation) and "fun" resorts. We usually split our vacation 50% awesome resort 50% experience culture. Eldest is learning Spanish so we want to avoid super-touristy places b/c we'd rather have limited English.
If anyone wants suggestions for traveling in Brazil w/ kids, I know some great spots from last year. Thanks
jubie2jax is offline  
Jan 4th, 2007, 03:28 AM
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Check out Panama. Start in Panama City, great historical and cultural attractions plus the Canal. Move over to Canopy Tower or Gamboa Rainforest resort for a day or two. Then head up the coast to Santa Clara, day trip to El Valle. If you have time go to Boquete, hike the cloud forest, see a coffee plantation. Lots of posts on this site with suggestions of what to do in Panama. Buen viaje.
cmcfong is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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We did Costa Rica with 2 kids last summer (ages 12 + 15). One of the best trips ever. We rented a car and drove around for 2 weeks. White water kayakking near the volcano at Arenal, rainforest hiking and canopy zip lines at Monteverde, coffee plantations, snorkelling, horseback riding, the beautiful beach at Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific. We got places to stay where we could cook and did it all on a pretty small budget. The kids loved it all and so did we! I highly recommend it. Just stay away from San Jose except to fly in and out. You might want to avoid the surfer towns on the west coast too (unless you like Daytona Beach at spring break!) I wouldn't argue against Belize either but Costa Rica was a great family nature, adventure and culture combo!
narcoossee is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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Haven't been to Guatemala, but honestly think Costa Rica would be VERY hard to beat for a lovely vacation with children. It is a virtual paradise! You can certainly avoid the more touristy areas (but some of the best places do draw bigger crowds). Keep in mind that "touristy" in CR is not like "touristy" at DisneyWorld! Never throngs of people.

I'm learning Spanish as well, and speak it all the time when we are there. The people of Costa Rica are very appreciative of that and anxious to converse in their language. They are helpful with it as well.

There are a ton of "awesome resorts"--some of the best being down on the Osa Peninsula. Places like Bosque del Cabo (fabulous). Wildlife like you wouldn't believe--one of the best things about CR!

Arenal is also a fantastic area--for everyone.

Not sure what you mean by "experience culture", but I'm guessing off the beaten path a bit? One of the better, and more culturally intriguing, experiences we have had was last year when we spent a few days at La Carolina about an hour and a half from Arenal. It is a very rustic little lodge on the slopes of Volcan Tenorio. Owned by a fellow named Bill Harwell from South Carolina, it is operated by 6 people (3 men, 3 women) from Nicaragua and CR. No one speaks English. There is no electricity. You go to bed early and get up early. The birding is excellent. The horseback riding even more fun. The river that runs through the property is beautiful and there is a wonderful jacuzzi built at the edge and heated with a wood buring fire and coils. We were quite impressed! Besides horseback riding, relaxing on the property, you can hike Tenorio and the Rio Celeste. Now THAT's a great cultural experience! We dined every evening with people from France, Costa Rica, and Germany. They spoke very limited English and a little Spanish. I had to opportunity to practice a LOT and it was great. It's a cool place for 2 or 3 nights. If you arrive in the early afternoon and don't leave until noon on the 3rd day, then 2 nights gives you plenty of time! Just a thought. . .

If you had about 10 days, I'd spend 4-5 nights on the Osa at Bosque del Cabo, and 5 nights combined between Arenal and La Carolina. . .the 3 together would be a fabulous experience for your children and you! Good luck!
shillmac is offline  
Jan 7th, 2007, 04:48 PM
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The variety of cultures in Belize is fabulous and it's not even in the same league as Costa Rica in terms of "touristy" and number of visitors. I highly recommend it, though it's not a good place to practice Spanish which is why I haven't been back.

I've visited Honduras the last 2 summers which I also highly recommend; if you're interested I can post the links to my trip stories. I'm a diver so Belize and Honduras have that obvious appeal over the other countries in CA and am fascinated by contemporary and historic Maya culture which they both offer. Costa Rica isn't really interesting to me, though it certainly has it's fans and I'm sure it's really beautiful.

Guatemala is my favorite (in spite of limited diving) and I'm heading back this summer. Wherever you go you'll have a blast if you have a fun family - pick a spot and go to another one later. Happy trails!
hopefulist is online now  
Jan 8th, 2007, 06:57 AM
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Narcoossee, We also are traveling with 3 sons, 10-15. We thought about going to Arenal, La Paz, then M.A. I've been hearing so many great things about Osa. Do you think we would have a better time there rather than M.A?
kimmarinelli is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 08:50 AM
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Sorry, I haven't been to Osa.
narcoossee is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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We stayed at the Jaguar Reef Lodge, Hopkins, Stann Creek District. I sure would not call the area touristy -- it is off the beaten path of tourism. They offer a lot of fun adventures.
LvSun is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 09:12 AM
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Sorry, Jaguar Reef Lodge is in Belize.
LvSun is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 09:51 AM
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You've gotten some good comments here, and I gotta nod my head at shillmac's post. Costa Ricas *IS* hard to beat, and there are so many options that it will be VERY hard to make a mistake by heading that way.

I'd cross Belize off the list though. It's as beautiful as the rest of Central America, but they speak English, and if you really do want that exposure to native Spanish, then it makes no sense.

Panama could be very cool. There are some upscale resort areas...Gamboa and Decamaron spring to mind, plus many options for cultural and natural excursions.

These days I'm also thinking that Nicaragua is a good option for the traveler who is comfortable moving off the beaten tourist path --- especially if you are comfortable in Latin America and have some Spanish ability (since there won't be a lot of English language support there). Morgan's Rock might fit your resort area requirement, and if the beaches of San del Sur don't give you enough cultural exposure, you're close enough to the colonial city of Granada for easy day-trip or overnights. It's also fairly easy to get to south Nicaragua from Costa Rica, if you wanted to go that route.

Just some thoughts...

Have fun!
Mark
TioGringo is offline  
Jan 8th, 2007, 10:24 AM
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Guatemala. the wonders of Tikal, great architecture in Antigua and, for kids who enjoy water sports, the Rio Dulce and on down through the gorge to Livingston - the ultimate adventure playground. You have time, cross the Honduras border to Copan on a day trip. Headquarter yourselves at Hacienda Tijax: pool, horses, boats. I love the place and I've ridden right the way down from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. www.simongandolfi.blogspot.com
simongandolfi is offline  
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