Latin America Belize + Costa Rica = Family-Friendly

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Villa Blanca sits on 1,900 acres of farm land and forest, and families enjoy fireplaces in the casitas and welcoming lounge areas in the hotel, choices of trail hikes, cloud forest birding, canopy touring or horseback riding in the area. At Si Como No families have panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean with a shuttle bus connecting the hotel to beautiful beaches and onsite pool and deck areas that include a waterslide and cascades. The resort also has a full-day Santa Juana Local Experience tour—guided wildlife watching, fishing, horseback riding, local pueblo visit with lunch—and around Manuel Antonio, there’s plenty to do, including horseback riding, riding on the Rain Forest Aerial Tram, ziplining, as well as joining a Dolphin Discovery or taking a sunset cruise.

For a more traditional all-inclusive resort vacation with no shortage of Costa Rica-style activities, a good pick is the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa, located just 11 miles from Liberia International Airport. It sprawls across several hillsides rising up from the beach, and is well-known for its excellent children’s program. Among its 202 units are 71 oceanview and oceanfront bungalows with private balconies; most have a king-bed master bedroom connecting to two double beds in the second room—a nice arrangement for family vacations. All accommodations—guestrooms, suite and bungalows—come with Hilton Serenity beds, Crabtree & Evelyn bathroom products, minibar, flat-screen TV, WiFi and MP3 docking station. Every family member can enjoy swimming (sheltered beach or pools), dolphin and turtle watching, hiking, biking, snorkeling and kayaking. Parents can head for the well-equipped health center and Spa Vida, an adults-only swimming pool, dance lessons, fine dining and evening entertainment (baby sitters on call), while kids are welcomed daily (9 to 5) at the Kidz Club, for supervised fun, indoors and outdoors, for the 4- to 12-year-old set. Additionally, the onsite tour desk arranges for offsite tours: from horseback riding and fishing to ziplining and river rafting. Bungalows for two start at $299, with an additional $49 per child per night; connecting room accommodations also available, when booking two rooms.

Or consider recommending a night or two at the deluxe Peace Lodge and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a natural wonderland located an hour away from San Jose International Airport. The award-winning lodge, situated on 70 acres of rainforest, embraces hiking trails, grand gardens, fabulous aviaries (26 hummingbird species here) and live animal habitats. Every room boasts a jacuzzi tub and stone fireplace, along with showers that transform into waterfalls, and views are of the La Paz River Valley below and the Poas Volcano above. Rollaway beds can be added to Deluxe guest rooms (800 sq. ft.), priced from $365 dbl, plus $20 for the additional child (3-12 yrs.) The best bet for a big family group is the Monarch Villa (1,200 sq. ft.) with a master bedroom plus queen and twin bed in loft, two full baths, three fireplaces, dining area and balcony (priced from $465).

here’s a tip…

Meet outside agent Emilia Casserly. She attended the Belize Tourism Expo (Betex) this year—that’s where I met her—and told me that, “It is so important for us to see and do what we are selling. During this trip, I have both visited and even stayed in a few places that are really not for my clients, and I have made several discoveries that I can’t wait to sell.”

Casserly is no newcomer to Belize. “Bound and determined” to learn to scuba dive “before I turned 50,” she got certified in Belizean waters, and now has a dive specialty niche. This year, Casserly took three families (parents in their 50’s, kids 18-21) on an adventure combining three nights at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge (“fabulous tree-house suites and a family-style meal”), with days spent on cave and waterfall expeditions, and four nights on Ambergris Caye at the new Coco Beach Resort (“lots of 2-bedroom villas for families and a huge pool”). All family members took a resort scuba course so they could dive to at least 40 ft., and some went spear fishing, with the catch of the day cooked up for an island-bound lunch.

A casita at The Lodge at Chaa Creek in Belize.

Archived related articles (available on

Latin America: Authentically Yours (July 2012)

contact information

Costa Rica Experts:

Greentique Hotels: (877) 256-8399;

Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa: (800) 445-8667;

Jaguar Reef Lodge: (800) 289-5756;

The Lodge at Chaa Creek: (877) 709-8708;

Peace Lodge: (954) 727-3997;

costa rica in a neat little package

When we asked travel expert Aaron Daker of Costa Rica Experts what his picks for vacationing families in Costa Rica were, we weren’t surprised to find he had a long list.

In Manuel Antonio, he says “Buena Vista Villas is a family favorite, with its 2- and 3-bedroom villas and its own family-friendly beach. [Farther north along the Guanacaste coast], Westin Playa Conchal, JW Marriott and Four Seasons all have excellent kids’ programs and full resort amenities—something to please everyone. For families into nature, Tortuguero is a great destination, one where you can see so much of the rainforest without doing extensive hiking; we find Mawamba Lodge very family-friendly. And The Spring Resort in Arenal, with amazing family suites and villas, plus a great new Club Rio Adventure Center on site, has become one of our most popular resorts for families—some will stay for a week!”

Among the suggested multi-destination programs Costa Rica Experts offers traveling families is its 9-night Eco Safari Splurge, spending one night at San Jose Marriott Hotel, two nights at Manatus Resort (all-inclusive) in Tortuguero, two nights at Lost Iguana Lodge in Arenal, and four nights at Buena Vista Villas. The land package is priced from $2,661 pp dbl, based on a minimum of four persons traveling together in two rooms; included are private charter flights and air strip transfers: Tortuguero/Arenal/Quepos/San Jose.