The overseas family holiday. It’s a difficult one to get right. It’s got to be fun, but not too tough. It needs to be interesting and different, but not too heavy on the culture shock. And beaches, or at least a pool, are almost obligatory. What you need is the perfect mix of adventure, discovery, relaxation and escape.
With its wildlife-filled jungle, adventure activities, beaches, ruins and melting pot of cultures, Central America might just be the best place in the world to whisk your tribe away to. Here are some destinations that are hard to beat for that family-friendly combo of thrill and chill:
1. Monteverde, Costa Rica
Home to some of the most biodiverse terrain on the planet, Costa Rica is pretty much a one-stop shop for family adventure. It’s not every day you can go walking in the sky, but thanks to a series of bridges hanging suspended among the trees (they were built that way, don’t worry), you can do just that in the Monteverde cloud forest. If trying not to look down doesn’t give you enough of an adrenaline rush, up the ante with some zip-lining.
2. Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica
Anywhere you can only access by boat or plane is going to feel like a holiday, but this is no ordinary nature escape. This remote jungle is home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered species, along with howler monkeys, spider-monkeys, caimans, manatees, turtles, eagles, and sloths. Fun fact: Tortuguero’s Jesus Christ lizard got its nickname for walking on water.
3. Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Best known as a white-water rafting destination, Sarapiqui is a nature escape with something for everyone. Stroll around old growth forest, hike across a hanging bridge to a cacao plantation for an organic chocolate tasting, watch biological research unfold at La Selva station, scan the waters for crocodiles and otters on a riverboat safari, go horse riding, or partake in some of Costa Rica’s very best birdwatching. This slice of paradise has the whole clan covered.
4. Havana, Cuba
If Havana’s colonial architecture and Cuban revolutionary history doesn’t captivate younger travellers, then the cult of Coppelia ice cream and a trip to the baseball surely will. Cuba’s capital city lives up to the ‘city of contrasts’ tag, full of head-turning scenes. One minute you’re lost in the crazy street art of Fusterlandia, the next riding in a vintage Chevrolet along the Malecon, with the salty sea breeze in your hair. A deeply embedded family culture in Cuba means the locals accommodate families well, and the whole thing is easier to navigate than it looks. A mojito or two doesn’t hurt either.
5. Vinales, Cuba
To the bat cave! Cuba’s most ancient geological zone, the Vinales Valley, is good for smelling the sweet aroma of tobacco fields, great for seeing an old-fashioned and multi-ethnic side of Cuba, and even better for adventures to caves… on boats! Cueva del Indio, a limestone grotto and former local Indian dwelling, makes for a particularly memorable family outing. A Google image search reveals scenes not unlike South East Asia or Australia’s Great Ocean Road, but when you’re there, the bats at the cave entrance make a spectacle all of their own.
6. Tulum, Mexico
For versatile seaside destinations, Mexico is right up there with anything in the Caribbean. Enter Tulum, a white-sand beauty on the Yucatan Peninsula. The beach easily qualifies as one of the best in Mexico, but what sets this particular white-sand beauty apart from the rest is the 13th-century Maya ruin that overlooks it. With the crocs, turtles and flamingos of Sian Ka’an nature reserve just a short trip away, and the chilled-out fishing village of Punta Allen a nice way to turn down the volume, Tulum alone could sustain a 10/10 family getaway in Mexico.
Get the lowdown on our family holidays in the Americas here.
Feature image by Timur Kulgarin, Shutterstock