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Where to go with little ones?

kings

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  • Added on: July 25th, 2011
Hello there. We are thinking about going to central america next winter for 3 weeks. Any ideas which country would be best to visit with a family on a budget. We would like to be mostly independent with a vacation rental or similar. Would like to see a mix of jungle and some history as well. Our kids will be 7 and 3. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks

busman7

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  • Added on: July 25th, 2011
Panama, am sure Felix will have specific suggestions.
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Tortuga_traveller

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  • Added on: July 25th, 2011
Guatemala would be cheapest-
They have some jungle, but far better mountains unless you go as far as Tikal.

Panama would be more expensive and more civilised, in terms of arrangements for children with possibly delicate stomachs, not to mention more comfortable transport and housing options.

That being said, Lago Atitlan is a fantastic place for everyone, including children. You cannot top Tikal as a jungle destination.

Honduras has Copan- but not much else besides diving for the average tourist.
Open your heart, and your dreams will follow

kings

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  • Added on: July 26th, 2011
Thanks for the info. We were originally thinking Costa Rica or maybe Panama, but Guatamala looks pretty cool.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: July 27th, 2011
-Tikal, Guatemala. Monkeys and jungle and all kinds of ruins to climb.
-Granada and Ometepe, Nicaragua. Granada's got history and colonial architecture, while Ometepe has wilderness and volcanoes (two of them).
-Panama. If the kids like sailing, I'd take them on a trip through San Blas/Kuna Yala. There's history at Portobelo and at a few places in Panama City (Casco Viejo and Panama Vieja). You could also take them on a tour of the Panama Canal.

Piecar

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  • Added on: July 30th, 2011
Guatemala is your sure bet. Tikal is definitely amazing, but it depends on where you're entering the country. If you arrive in GUA then you'd have the Antigua to get acclimatized for a few days. You can wend your way north through ChiChicastenango and Panajachel on your way to Flores and Tikal. You get a nice cross section. Then you can fly out of BZE in Belize and you won't have to backtrack. It's a nice easy route and you get to see a lot. Have a great time... I wish I was going...but my wings have been clipped for the foreseeable future now.
Good Luck Out There.

kings

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  • Added on: July 31st, 2011
Thanks for all the info. I did some looking and Guatemala looks pretty cool, however I looked on the Foreign Affairs website (Canada) and it seems that they do not recommend travel to the Tikal region unless you need to go there. The warnings for the rest of Guatemala (and CA in general) are the usual pickpockets and muggings, stuff that you generally expect anyway. As we are with kids ,and little ones at that, it makes me hesitant. Any thoughts on this, has anyone been there with little ones recently? Thanks again for all the feedback.

Here's a link to the warning

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/countries_pays/report_rapport-eng.asp?id=112000

Piecar

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  • Added on: July 31st, 2011
Thanks for that bulletin. This must be a very recent development...I'm sorry to hear about that for the folks in the Peten who rely on tourist dollars to get along. Well, I guess it's Honduras and Copan Ruinas for you, then. Jungle and if you want you can take in a few days on Roatan or Utila. You can land in GUA and go to Antigua still, go visit a couple of volcanoes and a few of the other nice towns around Antigua. At the airport, or near, there is a museum of some of the best Stelae from TIkal that you can see, and then from there take a direct bus to the border of Honduras and onward to Copan Ruinas. Very nice ruins, though substantially smaller than Tikal. The town is lovely and there's lots of places to walk and, unless there's ANOTHER bulletin, it's a very mellow town.
Good Luck Out There.

busman7

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  • Added on: July 31st, 2011
I will likely take some flack for this response but as you appear to be new to traveling in Central America plus going with a young family, my former response of Panama still stands.

Sure this is erring on the side of caution, however due to the increase in drug related violence, why take the chance, especially when travel in the area is new to you.

As far as Guatemala is concerned, I love the country but would never travel there or Honduras/Costa Rica with a young family. Guatemala isn't known for it's beaches anyway & even Antigua isn't as safe as it was a couple years ago. Besides Guatemala City & San Jose have to be the cesspools of the world.

Panama has money from the canal to keep things more under control than it's poorer neighbors but still has a couple areas to avoid.
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Piecar

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  • Added on: August 1st, 2011
You take flak for most posts, busman.

There's nothing wrong with Panama, though...

It's just that it doesn't fulfill the requirements. There's no mention of beaches in Kings' post. There is a mention of history. Panama doesn't excel in this regard. The only truly colonial area of the country that I've found is in the Casco Viejo. It's lovely in it's broken down decrepitude, and I don't say that facetiously. The problem is that seeing the Casco would take even the most plodding looker less than a day. The Panama Canal is arguably historical...But to see that takes two hours, max...and at the end of the day. It's a just a couple of locks that you're getting to look at.

Other towns in the country do contain a colonial church or two...but those are the only Colonial buildings left, really.

PTY is just a poor version of a North American city. It's a wash. And the country is just as broken down and shifty as either Honduras or southern Guat. Honduras does have several colonial towns. It has a good set of ruins....and I think I may have seen a child or two in the country, meaning that at least some survive there. Both Guat and Honduras, especially the areas I suggest, are well appointed to handle families of every stripe and have a good tourism infrastructure. Copan Ruinas is a picturesque colonial town and is, in my opinion after a dozen visits, safe as houses. And you can take a nice walk to the ruins themselves, seeing the Stelae that are not contained by the park.

You're unusually alarmist this time, busman, considering you are a banner bearer for a fairly crummy cesspool town. Sometimes I feel you might be engaging in disinformation for some reason or another.

That said, I don't deny that Guat City is a pretty cruddy city. Teguz is better, but you have no reason to go there. If you land in GUA, Kings, you are nowhere near a dangerous area. You can be on a bus towards nice tourist-friendly Antigua ten minutes after you pick up your luggage.
Good Luck Out There.

rhythm_blues

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  • Added on: August 1st, 2011
The only Central American country we've visited so far was Belize, and we had a great time. Our son was 5 at the time. Granted, Belize is more expensive than its neighbors, but it is safe (except maybe Belize City), politically stable, and has a good tourist infrastructure. It's an English-speaking country, which makes it easy to travel there.

We stayed in Ambergris Caye. The north part of the island is better for families; the south part is more party-oriented. We were able to get a good deal on a "villa" in a small complex that had just opened, Belizean Shores. At the time we were there, there were 12 units and they cost under $100/night; now there are 48 and they rent for $105 to $259/night depending on the time of year. There are probably good deals around the island if you hunt for them. We ate some meals out and prepared others in our unit. The snorkeling was great!

We also flew to Lamanai, and then took a boat into the jungle to see some temple ruins. It was terrific. There were only 2 other visitors and the tour guide with us, so we got to go at our own pace.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: August 1st, 2011
I'm with busman, for maybe the first time.

Kids aged 7 and 3 are not going to appreciate Antigua. They certainly aren't going to appreciate long and frequent bus trips.

And I have to disagree that Panama has no history. There's the aforementioned Casco Viejo, there's Panama Viejo, there's Portobelo. Most importantly, there's the canal, which was probably the most important development of the past two centuries of Central American history. Panama is also much more developed than anywhere in CA. Panama City is a bustling modern city in most parts. I'd feel much more comfortable bringing young children to Panama than trying to herd them from one chicken bus terminal to another in the maelstrom of Guatemala City.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but my other recommendation with young kids would be Costa Rica. They are set up for it.

Piecar

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  • Added on: August 1st, 2011
Well, if the kids aged 7 and three won't appreciate Antigua and the volcanoes and the other stuff, they sure ain't gonna appreciate a boat going uuuuupppppp......and a boat going doooowwwwnnnn.

You are correct about Portobello...I'd forgotten about that. Panama Viejo lives and dies by the one bell tower, though...Still, you're right...It's history. I'm not anti Panama...just its city.

There are chicken buses everywhere in the region...Just don't travel on them and take another one. Antigua can get you on a nice bus loaded with other tourist familes for...and I refer to the pamphlet that I found from Antigua last year.....for 15 bucks a head. It takes time, but they all take time.

Panama City, as I've said before, is filled with American restaurants and American service. If you go to that section, you're in America. Is that what their trip is about, do you think? You can stay in two nice towns surrounded by jungle and giving a flavour of another kind of life if you stay out of the cities...


Anyway...There's a couple of good suggestions. Let us know what you decide for curiousity's sake. Have a good trip.
Good Luck Out There.

zoomcharlieb

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  • Added on: August 1st, 2011
i was up in the little town where the massacr took place (actually on a farm in the area) north of flores about the time the big massacre was taking place and I then went on a junglee trip down a river north of there for 3 days, i took basic collectivo/rural peasant forms of transport and nothing happened to me. At one village after my trip in the jungle i noticed the village dogs seemed a little more well fed, but other than that, nothing unusual. I'd say the warning is like the sign you would see on a mudslide, careful unstable soil around here. Well duh

tikal is too cool to miss, flores is a gem and is on a very safe island, and now with the soldiers around I don't think you would have any trouble.

Felix the Hat

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  • Added on: August 2nd, 2011
Piecar, the biggest way Panama City is more Americanized than other Central American capitals is in degree of relative affluence. San Salvador is either dangerous barrio or shopping mall and fast food joints. So is Guatemala City. The difference is that Panama City is cleaner and less dangerous, and it's the only one of the three where I'd feel safe with young children.

OP, I seriously think Granada and Ometepe, Nicaragua would be a good fit too.


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