The idea of planning a family adventure to Latin America can be daunting when considering the incredible variety of sights and activities the beautiful continent has to offer.
Not to worry, whether it’s experiencing wildlife and nature preserves first hand, traveling back in time to revisit ancient history or partaking in excursions that you want, there is something for every family in Latin America.
From trekking on Argentina’s glaciers to zip-lining through Costa Rica‘s rainforest, we’ve chosen our favorite family-friendly destinations in Latin America to get you started on your way.
♦ Walk along Patagonia’s awe-inspiring glaciers
The Patagonian glaciers in the South of Argentina are some of nature’s most impressive achievements, and for families seeking a hands-on adventure, a trip to the Los Glaciares National Park is not to be missed. A mini-trekking tour of the Perito Moreno Glacier gives visitors the chance to see the massive ice formation from afar during a walk along the Magallanes Peninsula before they strap on crampons and follow a professional guide on a tour of the icy surface itself. Due to the rigorous nature of the mini-trekking experience, we recommend family members be between the ages of 10 and 65
The sail back to land across Lake Rico finishes the day with the incredible sights and sounds of glacier pieces crashing into the water (an experience you’ll surely want a camera for).
If traversing ice isn’t for you, an equally amazing alternative is a visit to Estancia Cristina where a cruise along Lake Argentino will get you an unforgettable seat in front of icebergs and one of Patagonia’s largest and most treasured glaciers, Upsala. The estancia, wrapped in the typical Patagonian landscape, is a peek at what it’s like to live amidst the glaciers in the majestic Los Glaciares National Park. Though the park is a white wonderland year-round, the coolest temperatures set in from June to September before warming up again for the longer summer days of December to February.
♦ Go back in time to Guatemala‘s “Lost City”
For families excited at the idea of traveling in space and time, a visit to Guatemala’s mystical Tikal National Park transports guests through a thick green jungle to the heart of ancient Mayan culture.
The park, which is also a UNESCO site of Human Patrimony, is the largest existing Mayan city where archaeologists believe the Maya settled around 900 BCE.
A walking tour through the five main temples of Tikal provide visitors with the daunting beauty of the surrounding jungle and an in depth explanation of how the very palaces and temples they stand before became the Mayan center for commerce, culture, and ceremony. Don’t worry about the weather, Guatemala’s mild climate makes it easy to visit all year long, and though the winter months are rainier than others, downpours end quickly and should not interrupt your stay. If you have more time and are eager to dig deeper into Mayan history we recommend exploring the rest of Guatemala’s Peten region with visits to the Ruins of Yaxha, Flores Island, or simply hiking in the jungle to see the ruins from stunning viewpoints. No matter what you choose, including Guatemala in your trip is an unbelievable way to experience Mayan culture like no other place in the world.
♦ Play with the world famous wildlife on the Galápagos Islands
Natural scientist Charles Darwin was so impressed with the variations in endemic species he found in the Galápagos Islands that he used them to develop his theories on natural selection and evolution.
For wildlife enthusiasts and explorers alike, a trip to these islands is an opportunity to see and be a part of one of the world’s most valued ecological reserves (not to mention the chance to interact with the incredible variety of species unique to these islands!).
The natural archipelago was formed between 3 and 10 million years ago when volcanic activity split the earth’s surface open and now the islands rest peacefully off the western coast of Ecuador as a national park, biological marine reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dry season is from June to December and wet is from January to May but because of the archipelago’s position along the equator, visitors are welcomed by warm weather all year. Instead of planning your trip around wet vs. dry, we suggest checking out this guide to see when your favorite wildlife will be out and active. Whether watching green turtles lay their eggs in January or playing with sea lion pups while snorkeling in November, there’s no doubt that a trip to the Galápagos will fascinate families with its beauty and bustling wildlife.
♦ Pioneer a new travel experience in enchanting Cartagena
Cartagena is a colonial port city nestled into Colombia’s Caribbean coast filled with colorful cobblestone streets, 16th century history plazas, and flavorful seafood, making it an ideal destination for families hoping for a leisurely tropical vacation. As if the enchanting atmosphere isn’t alluring enough, visiting Cartagena offers guests a rare chance to encounter what feels like a relatively “unexplored land” because, despite it being well connected to international and domestic airports, the town charmingly lacks an international tourist presence.
Cartagena’s consistently warm and humid climate make it a great place to visit all year, though it can get hot during the middle of the day for which we recommend packing lightly and taking afternoon swims.
Time can be passed easily by exploring the cathedral or iconic clock tower in the city center (which also happens to be UNESCO World Heritage Site) or taking a day trip to the Rosario Islands which, just off the coast of Cartagena’s white beaches, give everyone from beginners to experts the good fortune to snorkel in the dazzling reef. The flower-packed balconies, lunches of freshly caught fish, plantains and coconut rice, and unforgettably azure water are sure to sweep every adventure seeking and lounge loving member of the family off their feet.
♦ Zip-line above Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano
Few places offer thrill seekers the opportunity to explore the rainforest like the northern lowlands of Costa Rica do. Home to some of the world’s most magnificent cloud forests, pastures, and wetlands, a visit to the Arenal Volcano National Park and nearby town of La Fortuna is an impeccable choice for families who want walk alongside monkeys one day and swing through the greenery like them the next.
After parents enjoy a smooth cup of Costa Rican coffee in the morning the whole family can get an exclusive bird’s-eye view of the park’s dormant volcano while zip-lining through the treetops or exploring the diverse ecosystem of the Hanging Gardens by foot.
Those who can’t get enough of the adventure might want to challenge themselves with a hike down to the Cataratas de La Fortuna’s cascading waterfalls or an encounter with ‘Sabanero’ (Costa Rican Cowboy) culture on a horse ride along the Don Tobias trail. Perhaps after all of your adventure heavy activities, we recommend sitting back and enjoying the lush scenery with a dip into La Fortuna’s natural hot springs. Weather patterns for the Northern Plains can be tricky and guests will have luck with unrestricted views of Arenal’s volcano from February to April, which are the hottest, driest and busiest months of the year. Like with many other family friendly destinations, you shouldn’t count out the rainier season from June to mid-November as the rain brings the forest alive to its fullest color. The shoulder months to the dry and wet seasons from May to June are also great times to visit, with small chances of precipitation that provide fresh, clear air.