Best of Central and South America for families

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids

Which are the best South American countries to visit with kids? And what are the best places to travel with kids in Central America? Our favorite travel bloggers tell you all about their family adventure in this fantastic part of the world. Not surprisingly there are many fantastic places to go with kids in Central and South America. We recently visited Mexico and got our first taste of Latin America. After reading all the contributions for this post we definitely have a few more countries and destinations to add to our bucket list!

Central and South America travel is a dream for many of us. Read about the various countries our fellow travel bloggers have visited with their families. Are you considering South America travel with kids? Or maybe you want to visit Central America with kids? You’ll find lots of inspiration in this post! Which one attracts you the most? Visiting the salt flats in Bolivia, hiking in Torres del Paine NP in Chile, exploring the Galapagos Islands near Ecuador or relaxing at tropical Isla Mucara in Colombia? Central and South America offer some fantastic adventures for both kids and their parents.

Bolivia with kids

Recommended by Thais from World Trip Diaries

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Salt Flats Bolivia with kids

Bolivia is such an amazing country for families! There’s so much to see and do, and there’s something different for every person (well, except for the sea. There’s no sea in Bolivia). It’s one of the most affordable places we’ve been to and it’s beautiful, the food is delicious, and with a rich culture and outstanding landscapes, your family will love it!

Just one tip here, because of the altitude in some places, you should take it really slowly and give a couple of days of rest, at least, in each place to adjust to the altitude.

You can’t miss the amazing ruins of Tiwanaku, from times before the Inka empire – The Gate of the Sun and even the ruins of a pyramid! Remember to bring a compass! Santa Cruz and Sucre are warmer and lively places to visit. La Paz is AMAZING and Calle de las Brujas is a must!

But our favorite place in Bolivia is, without a doubt, the salt flats, in Uyuni. It’s like a dream – you walk on the clouds! Just very, very pointy and spiky clouds. 😀 And the train ride between Oruro and Uyuni is one of the most beautiful in the world! Definitely, do not skip the stunning Salar de Uyuni!

Favorite tours in Bolivia

Riviera Maya – Mexico with kids

Recommended by Celine from Family Can Travel

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Riviera Maya with kids

We rarely return to a destination that we’ve already been to, with the exception of the Mayan Riviera. We had been several times before kids and have already been back a couple of times with our kids. With its stunning white sand beaches, turquoise water and incredible food, it’s the perfect place for a family holiday. Even if sitting on the beach all day isn’t your idea of fun, there are so many other things to do which could include a visit to the impressive Mayan ruins, swimming in cenotes (a natural pit filled with groundwater) or spending the day at one of the many eco- or adventure parks. Some of our favorite experiences during our recent stay with our kids were climbing The Nohoch Mol pyramid found at the Cobá ruins followed by swim in the nearby Choo-ha cenote, a day trip to Isla Mujeres, and visiting the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary.

The options on where to stay may seem endless. We’ve had the opportunity to enjoy staying in both all-inclusive resorts and an Airbnb apartment in Playa del Carmen. An all-inclusive resort is perfect for shorter stays. We chose an Airbnb apartment in Playa del Carmen with a car rental when we were there for a month, which allowed us to explore the area at our own pace. Whichever you choose, your whole family is bound to enjoy your time in the sun!

Favorite tours in Mexico

Honduras with kids

Recommended by Ayngelina from Bacon Is Magic

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Honduras with kids

Many people overlook Honduras in favor of Costa Rica for a family friendly vacation but Honduras can be an excellent choice because it is well developed with solid transportation options but much less expensive.

Family members who scuba dive absolutely must check out Roatan or the budget-friendly island of Utila. There’s enough to do on these islands that non-divers can keep busy with snorkeling, great beaches and exploring the islands.

Food here is kid-friendly with lots of options and kids who like quesadillas will love Honduran food like baleadas which can include meat in the tortilla or can be made vegetarian.

On the cultural side, Copan is a great Mayan ruin to visit. Located close to the border to Guatemala, this site was occupied for over 2000 years and kids will love that they can walk through and climb the different structures while learning about this ancient civilization.

Favorite tours in Honduras

Huacachina – Peru with kids

Recommended by Lena from Salut from Paris

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Huacacchine desert Peru with kids

When traveling with our kids to Peru, there was no way NOT to make a little stopover at Huacachina – said to be the only oasis in South America! The little town is built around a natural lagoon in the desert – just a short taxi ride outside of Ica and 4 hours south of Lima.

Being surrounded by nothing else than sand dunes is an amazing experience in itself and we had a lot of fun climbing them, but the family-friendly activities offered in Huacachina made it a truly unforgettable adventure and one of the highlights of our world trip.

We went for the obligatory desert buggy tour and despite being a bit scared at the beginning (it does get VERY bumpy and surprisingly fast!), it turned out to be so much fun. The activity included a few stops for sand boarding and our little 6-year-old one was over the moon when he learned that he as well could take his turns in racing down the dunes! After all these adrenaline kicks, we ended the day by watching the sun setting over the dunes and the mountains at the horizon, a view that we will probably never forget.

Favorite tours in Peru

Torres del Paine / Atacama Desert – Chile with kids

Recommended by Lori from Travlinmad

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Atacama Desert Chile with kids

Chile is the second-longest country in the world, skirting the edge of South America for thousands of miles, through varied landscapes, climates, and time zones. Because it’s so unique there’s so much for a family to enjoy without ever leaving the country. For nature and outdoor-loving families in particular, Chile has more opportunities for hiking and seeing wildlife up close than most places we’ve ever been. Patagonia and the amazing National Parks of Torres del Paine is a great place for families to immerse themselves in the wilderness, but never too far from civilization, watching herds of guanaco and watching for the elusive puma. Glacier Grey in Torres del Paine is an amazing day hike for older families, while younger children will love exploring the glacial lakes and tide pools. You can see the Park on foot, by car, or a combination of both.

Our family also loved exploring the northernmost altiplano region of Chile in the Atacama Desert, a 6-hour flight from Patagonia. It’s the closest landscape I can imagine to being on the Moon — craggy mountains and desert valley floors, stunning sand dunes that glow at sunset (can you say sandboarding?), and thermal geyser fields and soothing hot spring pools you can relax in, it’s one of the most stunning places we’ve ever seen. We rented a car and spent a week slow traveling the lunar landscape — driving in the Atacama Desert is surprisingly easy. At night, the town of San Pedro de Atacama is a quaint desert town which makes a great base to explore the region. If you’ve been looking for a new destination for your family’s next outdoor adventure, head for the northern desert of the Atacama or the southern wilderness of Chilean Patagonia.

Favorite tours in Torres del Paine

Favorite tours in Atacama Desert

Isla Mucura – Colombia with kids

Recommended by Melissa from The Roaming Family

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Isla Mucara Colombia with kids

Approximately two hours by boat from the magical city of Cartagena, Colombia, lies Isla Mucara, a small Caribbean island located in the San Bernardo Island Archipelago. This island is a tropical paradise in every sense of the word. And absolutely perfect for families.

Isla Mucara has one resort – Punta Faro. Which essentially makes Isla Mucara a private island. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by friendly staff with coconut water, served in coconuts, a thrill for any child. A general tour of the island is given after check-in. Swaying palm trees, large open spaces to run and small gazebos with chairs decorate the entire island. Perfect for a family wanting to sit and chat, or play a family game of cards.

Isla Mucara is small and intimate, yet has numerous things to do. Sailing, snorkeling, bicycling and paddle boarding are all favorites. The beach is one of the most spectacular beaches we have ever seen, with fine white sand and clear blue water. A huge trampoline sits offshore, a favorite for kids. Overwater hammocks dot the shoreline. Our favorite activity was the bioluminescent boat tour – available only during a new moon.

Isla Mucura is remote and perfect for families looking to reconnect. With a perfect mixture of activities and spaces to relax, it remains one of our favorite family trips to this day.

Click here to read more about Punta Faro Resort on Isla Mucura on >>

Argentina with kids

Recommended by Sinead from Map Made Memories

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Iguazu Falls Argentina with kids

Argentina is a huge diverse country with many family-friendly sights and attractions. We enjoyed exploring sprawling Buenos Aires – our children loved browsing the San Telmo markets and cite their favorite Buenos Aires attraction as the Recoleta cemetery! In contrast, we loved wildlife spotting on the empty, windswept landscapes of the Valdes Peninsula. Our daughter was thrilled to see Southern Right whales.

A family highlight was walking amongst the thousands of penguins at Punta Tombo. We were fortunate to visit during egg season and were privileged to witness a chick hatching just inches away from us.

We were all awed by Iguazu falls. We debated for a long time whether to make the time consuming and budget-busting detour to visit the Falls but it was worth it! The Falls are breathtaking and in addition, the tropical location enabled us to see lots of wildlife including toucans, coatis, monkeys and swarms of inquisitive, colorful butterflies.

However, our family’s favorite place in Argentina is rural El Chaltén in Patagonia. Three hours north of the more visited El Calafate and the magnificent Moreno Glacier, El Chaltén is a small town in Los Glaciares National Park. Whichever direction you walk from your doorstep you embark on incredible, scenic hikes. The walks are long but not technically difficult so can easily be partially or fully walked with children. El Chaltén is a very special place and should not be missed on any family trip to Argentina.

Favorite tours in Argentina

Costa Rica with kids

Recommended by Hilarye from Dotting The Map

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Costa Rica with kids

Traveling in Costa Rica with kids is ideal because the culture loves and welcomes children. It is fairly easy to get around Costa Rica either by car rental or hired driver. Getting outside of San Jose many families enjoy visiting the Arenal area due to the lush rainforest, hot springs, and volcanic views.

Many families heading to Costa Rica with kids land at the airport in San Jose, get in their rented car or a tour bus and promptly leave the city. Costa Rica is an amazingly diverse country and more often than not, people visiting are excited to see the rainforest or travel to the many volcanos Costa Rica is home to. We were lucky enough to spend some time in Costa Rica’s capital city and found that San Jose is very family-friendly.

We especially enjoyed walking through downtown and visiting the central market, historic theater, and National Jade Museum. If you’re looking for Costa Rican wildlife look no further than Rescate Animal Zooave, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center that has is full of sloths, jungle birds, iguanas, and more. We also loved visiting Corso Lecheria, a natural dairy farm and getting a personal tour of how a farm operates. San Jose is a great stopping point for families on their Costa Rican holiday to enjoy some fun everyone in the family will enjoy.

Favorite tours in Costa Rica

Galapagos Islands – Ecuador with kids

Recommended by Bret and Mary of Green Global Travel

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Galapagos Ecuador with kids

Most kids learn about the natural sciences– including conservation, different types of ecosystems, and evolution– from textbooks in a classroom setting. Though good teachers can make these concepts endlessly fascinating, nothing can beat seeing how they work firsthand. Exploring the Galapagos Islands, the world’s first protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an extraordinary family-friendly adventure that really brings Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to life.

Located 563 miles off the coast of Ecuador (right along the Equator), the world-renowned archipelago includes 18 major Pacific islands and three minor ones. During Darwin’s famed “Voyage of the Beagle,” he noticed how the similar species of Finches and Tortoises found on the various islands had genetically adapted over time to the food options available in the local environment.

Because the islands are fairly far apart, the best way to explore the Galapagos is via small ship cruises. We’ve done two– with local tour operator Ecoventura and International Expeditions– and their expert naturalists really helped us understand what makes the region so unique and important.

The islands’ landscapes are remarkably diverse, from the lush green forests you’ll find in the Santa Cruz highlands (where the Galapagos Tortoise roams wild) to the harsh, alien lava fields on Bartolomé, which looks a bit like the surface of Mars. Galapagos Islands animals are some of the most extraordinary endemic species we’ve seen during our travels, from vividly colored Land Iguanas and bizarre Flightless Cormorants to tiny Galapagos Penguins.

In our eyes, the Galapagos Islands are the perfect family travel destination, creating incredible memories we’ll share forever. Kids will never forget the time they swam with Galapagos Sea Lions, watched a Blue-footed Booby mating dance, walked alongside a massive Galapagos Tortoise, or had a Marine Iguana sneeze on their leg. As a parent, seeing my teenage daughter discover Darwin’s pristine paradise was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure we will always treasure.

Favorite tours in Galapagos

Antigua – Guatemala with kids

Recommended by Kyla from Where Is The World

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Antigua Guatemala with kids

Guatemala is an incredibly diverse country and a great place to travel with kids. The highlight of this amazing country is Antigua.

Antigua is a charming colonial town set amongst the mountains and volcanoes in Southern Guatemala. The city is a tourist hot spot and home to many expats, making it a relatively easy city for travelers. Accommodation options are seemingly endless, there’s a wide variety of food, and it’s full of things to do with kids.

Our family spent a week in Antigua and we could’ve easily spent more. We loved wandering the cobblestone streets (take note, it’s NOT stroller friendly!), visiting Caoba farms, chasing pigeons in the central square, and hiking in the surrounding countryside.

Antigua is a great place for families to visit because it provides the opportunity to experience a beautiful culture in the comfort of a tourist-friendly city. Central America can be more difficult to travel in compared to North America, but Antigua isn’t. English is widely spoken, there are Western-style coffee shops and restaurants, and even a McDonalds if you’re struggling getting the kids to eat (this can be seen as a pro or a con!).

If you’re looking to experience the culture, architectural beauty, good food, and amazing countryside, Antigua is the perfect place for you!

Favorite tours in Guatemala

Panama with kids

Recommended by Melissa from The Family Voyage

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Panama with kids

Panama is a great introduction to Central and South America for families! In one small country, you can experience a major cosmopolitan city, one of the world’s most impressive engineering projects, rainforest, cloud forest, stunning beaches and more. The diversity of landscapes is incredible and easily accessible.

Likewise, kids will love the opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal. One of our favorite experience in Panama City was a day trip to the Monkey Islands with a company that’s focused on conservation and animal welfare. During our time in Panama we also saw sloths lazing in the trees, beautiful birds in the cloud forests and enormous crabs and frogs where the jungles meet the sea.

We also loved the opportunity to practice our Spanish with people from all across Latin America. Panama is a hub for international business and regional vacationers. We got to know local indigenous Panamanians, travelers from Colombia, a transplant from Venezuela and other warm, welcoming people. There’s also a sizable North American expat community in places like Boquete, so the comforts of home are never far away if you want them!

Favorite tours in Panama

Belize with kids

Recommended by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports

FlipFlopGlobetrotters - Best of Central and South America with kids - Belize with kids

Belize is a great first country to visit in Central and South America, particularly if you are traveling with children. Unlike other countries in the region where Spanish is widely spoken, English is the official language in Belize. So for English speakers, there will be no language barrier to add to the stress of your trip with kids. Depending on your interests, you will find plenty of exciting or relaxing activities to keep you and the family entertained. From the beaches in the Belizean islands like Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, to the caves, ruins, and rainforests deeper into the mainland portion of the country, families looking for an adventure will find it.

We visited Belize with a toddler, and found caves, hikes, and various activities that were suitable for and easily done with young children. If you are seeking a relaxing beach vacation, Ambergris Caye boasts numerous family-friendly beachfront resorts. The ocean water around the cayes is shallow and calm, making it perfect for those traveling with kids. Inland, a visit to the town of San Ignacio offers you a true look at the culture and local life in Belize. In the jungle surrounding the town, you’ll find beautiful eco-lodges that cater to families and provide on-site activities like canoeing, tubing, swimming, and hiking that kids of all ages will love.

Favorite tours in Belize

Conclusion: Central and South America for kids

Ok, so if you’re not totally on board after reading these wonderful travel stories there’s really nothing more I can do to convince you. Even though South East Asia is our first ‘travel love’, we’ve added A LOT of Central and South America on our bucket list. So many wonderful places to discover! And as these family adventure stories tell you, it’s very doable with kids of all ages. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for affordable plane tickets!

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