We all know that family travel is a booming segment of the leisure marketplace, and Latin America has some of the hottest spots of all. But interestingly, what hasn’t changed greatly in recent years are Central and South America’s leading destinations attracting family travelers—Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru. This trio continues to drive tour operators to design extra-specially-appealing-and-involving family adventures. Just a small sampling follows:
Tauck Bridges’ family travel adventures take clients to Mystical Peru, highlighting Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu. “Peru has something to please everyone,” says Tauck’s CEO Dan Mahar, “from incredible history and culture to outdoor activities that are educational and fun.” Priced from $3,808 pp dbl and with departures scheduled for June, July and August, the 8-day journey features accommodations for two nights each at the JW Marriott hotels in Lima and Cusco, two nights at the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel in Urubamba, and an overnight at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu
Reflecting Tauck’s philosophy of “shared enrichment” for family members of all generations, travel highlights include learning about the influences of the Incas and Spanish conquistadors when exploring Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu; visiting a weaving center and a pottery studio; bracelet-making with school children; a Peruvian pan flute lesson; and chocolate-making at the Choco Museum. Outdoor activities include swimming with the sea lions along the coast, horseback riding and rafting in the Sacred Valley.
Adventures by Disney puts the accent solidly on the great outdoors—from the Caribbean to the Pacific coasts—in its 7-day Costa Rica family vacation. The highlights are many: exploring the rainforests of Tortuguero National Park by boat, in search of exotic animals; touring a pineapple plantation and meeting those who farm a true working plantation; ziplining through the treetops of Arenal Volcano National Park—a thrill of a lifetime; white-water rafting on the Tenorio River (Class II and III)—or choosing the alternative of a river float; cruising the Guanacaste coastline by private catamaran; dropping anchor for frolicking on the white-sand beaches; or plunging into idyllic snorkeling locations.
The itinerary is full of special happenings, from night tours of the jungle to chilling out in hot springs, not to mention learning to make mojitos. Accommodations featured are the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel in San Jose and El Mangroove Beach Resort on the Guanacaste Peninsula; both hotels can offer family connecting rooms. Adventurers stay in Laguna Lodge (no TV or AC, but private baths and ceiling fans) in Tortuguero and in Arenal Manoa Hotel, occupying a working farm and with full views of the Arenal Volcano. Departures are scheduled May through August, and again in December; the tour cost covering most meals and an extensive menu of guided adventures starts at $3,599 pp dbl for adults, $3,425 for kids ages 5-11.
No less adventurous but covering different corners of Costa Rica is G Adventures’ 9-day Costa Rica Family Experience. It’s a trip the company says, “gives kids an education in biology and ecology that can never be found in textbooks.” Families travel with other families with children on an itinerary that starts in San Jose and travels to La Fortuna/Arenal, the cloud forests of Monteverde National Park and Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific Ocean. Special experiences include a tortilla-making lesson along with a typical Tico lunch on the way to La Fortuna, and lessons in kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Arenal; a butterfly farm visit, a nature hike, horseback riding and ziplining in Monteverde; and a guided hike plus free time for beach activities in Manuel Antonio.
Departures are scheduled May through August, plus around Christmas for this tour, priced at $1,299 per adult sharing and $1,159 per child. Prices include all breakfasts, one lunch, specified activities, and the services of an Experience Officer throughout; G Adventures notes that guests should allow $345-$450 pp for meals not included. Hotels featured on this tour are the Park Inn by Radisson in San Jose, Magic Mountain Hotel Spa & Conference Center at Arenal, El Establo in Monteverde and Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge at Manuel Antonio National Park.
“We drove [from Quito] to Hacienda Zuleta. We had a really good lunch in the dining hall, but it was a boring day except my grandma’s friend [general manager Fernando Polanco Plaza] took us for an amazing ride up in the Andes. He took us to the campsite places he was going to build up there. It was one of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever witnessed and a double rainbow topped it off.”
The above is taken from the vacation journal of my granddaughter Morgan Hunt (age 11) who, with family friends and me, spent two weeks in Ecuador at a highlands hacienda.
Ecuador’s highland haciendas—lovely historic homes in spectacular settings with appetites for hospitality—offer working-farm stays that come with no real work for visiting guests but a full menu of down-on-the farm and out-on-the-range experiences. At Zuleta, you get involved preparing local food specialties, riding among the archaeological remains of the Caranqui civilization, mountain-biking on Andean trails, and visiting community homes. Zuleta offers family-style hospitality, with aunts and uncles joining guests for meals and fireside chats. Estate manager Fernando himself fuels the hacienda’s “good energy.”
Some of Morgan’s other journal entries from the highlands trip include: “Today was way more exciting than yesterday. We went on an amazing trail ride. The guys at the stable know which horse is best for all of us without knowing us. We trotted a lot on the way to the condor reserve where hurt birds are rescued and fixed up before flying off back to their own home nests.
“We had a beautiful room. When we came back from dinner, the fire was lighted and the beds were warmed with a hot water bottle in a pretty embroidered case. I had an amazing bath in the biggest tub I have ever seen.” zuleta.com