Touring Latin America: Calling All Explorers

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dolphin time in honduras Anthony’s Key Resort on Roatan Island beckons every family member to dive into its water-bound attractions. Parents have time for themselves—to dive, snorkel and deep-sea fish—while children learn about and interact with bottle-nose dolphins or participate in a variety of PADI programs that teach them to swim with and like a fish. PADI programs, such as Bubblemaker, SASY, Jr. Open Water Certification and Jr. Scuba Diver certifications are offered year-round. The Dolphin Scuba Camp, which is available to age groups 5 to 9 and 10 to 14, is open for business in the summer (June through August). Right now, families might think about booking the Caribbean Snorkeling package, a 7-night program that includes two snorkel trips a day, one nighttime snorkel trip, one dolphin beach encounter, a day excursion to Maya Key and an island fiesta night, priced from $769 to $1,189 pp dbl; the 4-night package includes two snorkel trips and one dolphin beach encounter, with costs ranging from $459 to $709 pp dbl. Prices vary with accommodations and all these packages include all meals. The resort can book extensions on the mainland to Copan for families interested in adding a Mayan culture encounter to their time in Honduras.

eco-friendly costa rica Austin Lehman Adventures takes its 8-night Costa Rica Family Adventure from the coastline to the cloud forests. Families spend the first two nights at Casa Turire, a gracious colonial plantation home with the relaxed refinement of a Caribbean hacienda, where you raft the Reventazon River, ride horseback through coffee country and take a nocturnal nature walk. The next stop is two nights at Hotel Villa Blanca, set on 75 acres in the Los Angeles Cloud Forest. Stays are in a private casita, and guests take a guided forest tour and ride a zipline through the canopy. They then spend three nights at Arenal del Mar Resort, exploring Manuel Antonio National Park and surfing. The last night is spent in San Jose at the Beacon Escazu. The cost of the Dec. 20 departure is $3,498 pp dbl, children’s prices are $2,798 to $3,148.

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality Hotels, a group of six unique, upscale and sustainable hotels, resorts and ecolodges, are dotted about Costa Rica (the newest member, Jicaro Island Ecolodge, is in Nicaragua), and they often combine two or more to present perfect family vacations. Member Lapa Rios Ecolodge, on the Osa Peninsula, is a lodge that continues to make the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List for real rainforest adventure and wildlife viewing, and is offering a 4-night Family package that features accommodations in a private deluxe bungalow, three meals daily, all non-alcoholic drinks, roundtrip transfers from Puerto Jimenez airport and a full menu of excursions: a visit to the Carbonera School, family waterfall hike, surfing lessons and an early bird trek. Additionally, families will enjoy going horseback riding, kayaking, surfing, dolphin and whale watching. The package is priced from $1,490 pp dbl and $1,290 triple, and through Dec. 15, booking a 3-night stay gives families a fourth night free.

To offer families a different Costa Rica experience, Lapa Rios combines with a 3-night family package at Arenas del Mar Beach & Nature Resort, where indeed the rainforest meets the beach right at Manuel Antonio National Park. Guests make themselves at home in spacious and comfortable rooms, and there are two pools with ocean views, a choice of two beaches and two restaurants. Effective through Nov. 20, families staying three nights pay for two, and rates range from $280 pp dbl for a rainforest suite to $450 for an ocean-view suite; a child 6 years and over is accommodated for $50 a night, and those under 6 stay for free. Complimentary to guests are two special tours: learn to make Tortillas at Petatillo and the Easy Being Green tour. At the resort, family-friendly activities include whitewater rafting, canopy tours, ocean kayaking, mangrove and dolphin tours, night walks and hikes, and sunset catamaran cruises. Between December and February, and August and September, guests are treated to whale watching excursions.

galapagos islands: on land and sea ROW Adventures was a pioneer in multi-sport adventure in the Galapagos. While most travel to the wondrous Galapagos Islands is cruise-based, ROW’s sea kayak and hiking journey allows small groups a close-up look at sites that are not on the main routes. Its 10-night Galapagos Unbound adventure includes three main islands connected by small aircraft or boat: San Cristobal for sea kayaking, snorkeling, swimming and beach camping for two nights; Isabela for three nights at Casa Marita, and activities including a hike up Sierra Negra to the volcano rim and a boat trip to Tuneles & Tintoreras islands whose stars are sea lions, white-tipped reef sharks and marine iguanas; and Santa Cruz for a 2-night stay in Puerto Ayora, including visits to the tortoise highland reserve and boat trips for wildlife viewing and snorkeling. Three nights in Quito is part of this 10-night tour, priced from $3,690 pp dbl for 10-12 passengers; $3,890 for six-nine passengers; all-inclusive, accompanied by a ROW professional and a naturalist guide; not included is internal Galapagos Island transport ($165). Extensions are available to the highland haciendas and to Amazon rainforest lodges