Kid-friendly travel is easy to find in Central America

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From gliding into a watery cave to watching turtle hatchlings waddle into the sea, Central America abounds with unique travel experiences that children will remember for years to come.

For starters, Central America’s deeply rooted, family-oriented culture makes you and your kids feel welcome. Then just factor in the amazing range of places to see, such as tropical islands and beaches, volcano-ringed lakes and colonial cities, unspoiled jungles, and soaring Mayan temples.

Activities can be any mix of passive or active, based on your children’s ages, interests, and abilities.

Zip-lines & forest wildlife

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You may think of zip-lining over forest canopies as a grown-up adventure, but kids of most ages (6 and older, generally ?) can safely enjoy the thrill, too. You’re never too far from an eco-park where you can take an exhilarating treetops tour.

Forest exploits can also bring your family face to face with some of nature’s wonderful creatures, including brilliantly plumed macaws, slithering snakes, noisy howler monkeys, and many other creatures.

Though no sightings are ever certain in the wild, the kids will see plenty of birds at the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve in Honduras. The park has rescued and rehabilitated many of Central America’s most incredible tropical birds (keel-billed toucans, scarlet macaws, emerald tucanets, red-throated parakeets).

In Costa Rica, your family will enjoy cascading waterfalls, colourful birds, and curious monkeys at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. Spend some time in its aviary with numerous species of birds, a hummingbird garden that’s always abuzz, and exhibits featuring butterflies, frogs, insects, and tropical plants. Several species of big cats (jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margays) also find care and respite at the eco-park.

Active families need active adventures, and Honduras untamed national park, Pico Bonito, rises to the challenge. The sprawling park offers zip-lining tours, a scenic hanging bridge, nature walks with cascading waterfalls, and white-water rafting.

Hit the beach! But where?

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If the gang wants a beach getaway, good luck narrowing down the possibilities! For example, do they want to try surf lessons at a laid-back beach in Costa Rica? If so, schedule your trip for the spectacle of turtles coming ashore to nest or to witness the spectacle of turtle hatchlings scampering from sand and into the sea.

Maybe you have gentle sea breezes and snorkeling in mind. In that case, charter your own boat (crew included) and go island hopping in Belize with stops for snorkeling in the incredible Belize Barrier Reef. Or just settle in for a few days at Ambergris, the largest of the Belizean cayes, for beachfront fun and snorkeling expeditions.

Belize’s long and slender mainland peninsula of Placencia offers two delightfully distinct waterfronts for the kids to enjoy: a pristine lagoon fringed with mangroves on the west side, whilst the turquoise Caribbean Sea sparkles on the east coast. The combination gives you endless options for adventure and relaxation.

Help the kids into a canoe and explore mangroves and deserted islands (cayes), keeping an eye out for wading birds and other species. When it’s time to relax, the family can stretch out on the silky sands of the most spectacular beaches on the Belize mainland.

Volcanic scenery

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For a watery adventure inland, head to Guatemala’s magnificent Lake Atitlán, which spans 130 square kilometres (50 square miles) of blue-green waters in the shadows of three towering volcanoes. Climb aboard a rustic motorboat to visit towns overlooking the lake; each has its own specialty, whether it’s ceramics, textiles, yoga, or folk art.

Be sure to bring the family to the colonial town of Antigua, also surrounded by three amazing volcanoes. Active families love pedaling on Antigua’s cobblestones, rolling past church ruins and pastel-hued buildings, or biking along the mountain trails of a coffee farm. You can also learn all about chocolate, then tie on an apron and whip up your own chocolate delights to take with you.

Volcanic beauty also beckons in Costa Rica, where the family can view the country’s most iconic volcano, Arenal, which towers 1,657 metres (5,436 feet) above sea level. The surrounding Arenal Volcano National Park offers a world of family adventures, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, zip-lining, or even whitewater rafting.

Visit ancient Mayan ruins

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Once part of the Mayan kingdom, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala offer stunning archaeological ruins, an eye-popping sight for all ages. For an experience like no other, bring the clan to Guatemala’s remote and rain-forested Petén Department to climb a majestic temple at Tikal.

Continue the immersion into Maya mystique afterward with an incredible overnight by camping out in the ruins of Uaxactún, just 23 kilometres (14 miles) north of Tikal. Tour the ruins the next morning and visit the surrounding town of Uaxactún, where you can enjoy lunch with an indigenous family. The kids will get a kick out making tortillas by hand.

For another adventure with a Mayan theme, explore dark and mysterious caves, which the Maya regarded as sacred places that served as gateways to the underworld.

Several intriguing cave systems unfold in Belize; one of the most inviting for families is along the pristine Caves Branch River in the Cayo District. Everyone will all enjoy easing into inner tubes at the cave’s gaping entrance and floating leisurely through chambers decorated with stalactites and stalagmites.

Wherever your Central American travels lead you, your kids will go back to school with tales about how they watched sea turtles hatch, climbed ancient temples, and ventured into spooky caves. And you won’t even have to tell them how much they learned about nature, history, and geography while having the time of their lives in Central America.

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