The eight countries of Central America give visitors amazing choices when it comes to travel. Each one has a ton of amazing natural destinations to explore. Need help figuring out which is best? Read on to learn of the best places to visit in Central America with kids.
Central American countries are filled with natural beauties as well as some beautiful towns, Mayan sites and cities. After traveling through them and exploring for a little over a decade, I feel I know the area well.
This has also given me enough time to narrow down the best family-friendly destinations from each country. But there are some that deserve to appear twice on this list. Also, remember that, like any list, this list is very subjective to what my family has enjoyed the most. Your mileage may vary.
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Read on to discover our top 10.
Best Places to Visit in Central America with Kids
In Costa Rica, you will find the ever-active Arenal Volcano, the huge Arenal Lake and the beautiful town of La Fortuna. These ensure you will find tons of tours and activities for adventure lovers.
Some offer canopy tours, hiking, naturally heated thermal springs, canyoneering, caving and plenty of wildlife spotting. Aside from that, Arenal and La Fortuna are packed with wonderful restaurants, and hotels where kids are not only welcome but pampered.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest area is the only place in Costa Rica where all the parks are privately endorsed and protected. Here you will be able to experience and explore the cloud forest and enjoy the excitement of canopy tours. This area is also a great place to get some spectacular views of the Gulf of Nicoya.
The cool climate and amazing views make Monteverde the perfect place for enjoying a hot chocolate around a bonfire with your kids.
3. Manuel Antonio
Yes, another one for Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio National Park is known for its luxury hotels and lush rain forest. It is located on the Pacific coast and is perfect for wildlife and beach lovers. Here you will find tons of tour options, sun, crystal clear waters, zip-lining, restaurants, luxury hotels and spas, and relaxation.
This area is most popular for sport fishing, horseback riding along the beach, touring the town on a bicycle or exploring the nearby national park.
There are a few cities along Central America that claim to be colonial towns, but to me, Antigua is the true colonial city of the region. It is sitting beautifully between three volcanoes: Acatenango, Fuego and Agua in central Guatemala. Plus, people looking to learn Spanish will have a great experience at one of its many language schools.
Locals have worked hard for years to do as much as they can to preserve the same majesty it had when it was the epicenter of Central America‘s power during the 17th and 18th century. That includes the colonial architecture and its cobblestone streets.
In Antigua, you will find restaurants and hotels for every budget.
5. Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was formed thousands of years ago by the explosion of a massive volcano. It used to be a valley filled with Mayan villages. Now it has incredible views of quaint, modern Guatemalan Mayan towns, huge volcanoes, and steep hillsides.
The hot spot of the area is Panajachel with its funky cafes, delicious restaurants and fun markets. But San Pedo and San Marcos towns are also cool to visit. Popular things to do for families include hiking, kayaking and swimming on the lake.
6. Playa Tunco
Playa Tunco is a beautiful black sanded beach located in La Libertad Department of El Salvador. You won’t find white sand beaches here. But what you will find are great surf breaks. Visitors rave about the Pacific coast of Central America and its amazing waves. This means the beach is lined with shops offering equipment for rent and surf lessons.
The area is famous for its lively night-life, restaurants, hotels and even camping sites.
Suchitoto is a historic lakeside town of El Salvador styled with a colonial flair. This is a place rich in cultural tradition and offers panoramic views of Lake Suchitlán. Many of the people here love to dress in cowboy styles.
In this tranquil town, you will find museums, art galleries, lake tours, hotels, and nightlife. It might be small but Suchitoto is great for a relaxed weekend.
Roatán is the largest of Honduras’ Bay Islands and is located near the enormous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This 60 km island offers some great hotels, restaurants and amazing views. But most importantly, it is heaven for those looking to enjoy the beauties of the Caribbean without the crowds.
Because of that, this beautiful island became famous among travelers for its cruising, fishing, and scuba diving tours among the coral reef. It is also one of the best places in the area to experience traditional Caribbean dishes.
9. Caye Caulker
It is a small limestone coral island off the Caribbean coast of Belize. It is really small, measuring only 5 miles from north to south. There is a small town located on this island that has become a popular destination for backpackers and other tourists.
In such a small place you will find more than 30 tiny hotels, lots of restaurants, a few bars and tours that will take you to search for marine life. You can also go cruising to the great blue hole.
10. Pacaya Volcano
Pacaya is an active volcano in Guatemala that is now a national park. It offers some options for adventurers who want to go up and see lava flows up close. This tourist attraction lies 30 kilometers southwest of Guatemala City and near Antigua.
There are half day tours that will take you up to the lava rivers.
Bonus: Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side of Panama can also be a fun place to visit with kids if you are looking for some fun Central American beach time. The Panama Canal is also a good option.
I know that a lot of people will also mention Copan in Honduras, Granada in Nicaragua Tikal Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Panama City. These other places in Central America are also amazing! The only reason why they didn’t make it to this list of best places to visit in Central America with kids, is because they weren’t as high on our favorites lists to make it to the top 10. But we really enjoyed them too.
Like every trip, every list will be different. What are your top ten places to visit in Central America with kids?