8 Awesome National Parks in Central America for Families

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8 Awesome National Parks in Central America for Families
8 Awesome National Parks in Central America for Families | Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro

There are tons of National Parks all over Central America, all of them with something unique to offer families. In this article, our SheBuysTravel writer Marina K. Villatoro provides all the information about eight of the best and fun things to do in each.

Enjoying the views of Maya monuments at Tikal National Park, Guatemala.
Enjoying the views at Tikal National Park, Guatemala. | Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro

8 Awesome National Parks in Central America for Families

Among the many things that Central America is known for are its national parks. There are so many and they’re so well maintained that it is still an authentic nature adventure. The best part is that most of them offer easy to moderate trails that families can visit safely.

My sons, husband and I are big fans of taking to the trails to enjoy the local forest, climate and especially the unique views that each of the parks has to offer.

We always make the effort to book time to visit at least one national park whenever we go exploring in Central America. We have done this ever since my sons were babies. Following is a list of our favorite ones discovered in our adventures.

1. Corcovado, Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park is widely known as one of the ‘most biologically intense places in the world’. The park extends over 41,788 hectares of land that encompasses lagoons, marshlands, mangrove swamps, rivers, wet forest, cloud forest, and beaches. Animals like monkeys, colorful birds, iguanas, and tapirs are common sightings while exploring the park.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: Adults: $15; Kids: $5.

2. Volcan Baru National Park, Panama

This national park is home to the famous Baru Volcano. This is the highest peak in Central America. It presents an amazing day adventure for families with older kids and teens. Although hiking the volcano is a lot of fun, going on the Sendero Los Quetzales trail is a better idea if you want the chance of seeing the gorgeous, endangered and rare resplendent quetzal.

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: $5.

3. Tikal National Park, Guatemala

This is one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites in the world and part of the one-million-hectare Maya Biosphere Reserve. It contains at lease 3,000 ruined structures that were once covered by a dense jungle and have slowly been excavated by archaeologists. It is thought that there are many more. Walking along the structures and having a guide tell you all about them and the Mayan Culture is an amazing learning experience.

I have taken my family to this park several times.

Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: Adults: $20; Kids under 12: FREE; Sunrise tour: $35.

Looking into the crater of an active volcano in Nicaragua. Yes! That's how near cars get to the crater.
Looking into the crater of an active volcano in Nicaragua. Yes! That’s how near cars get to the crater. | Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro

4. Copán National Park, Honduras

You will find this World Heritage Site in the western region of Honduras. It is actually just a short drive from the Guatemalan border. The park might not be enormous like Tikal but it is of major importance among archaeologists due to the many Mayan stelae that were found in it. These are stelae are extremely rare because of how well preserved and detailed they are.

The best part is that you can see them and other reconstructions at their museum. It is a unique chance to see authentic Mayan Art.

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: Ruins: $15; Museum: $8.

5. Pacaya Volcano National Park, Guatemala

This is a large national park that protects the complete volcanic system that formed the still active Pacaya volcano, its 4 other old craters, and lagoon. It is extremely accessible and offers a moderate hike for older kids. Young kids can also enjoy it if you hire one of the many mules being offered by locals at the visitors center.

It is safe and provides a fun day trip if you don’t try to approach the active crater.

Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: $8.

Walking along the dried lava rivers of Pacaya volcano in Guatemala.
Walking along the dried lava rivers of Pacaya volcano in Guatemala. | Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro

6. Masaya Volcano National Park, Nicaragua

This was the first national park to be created by Nicaragua. It is home to twin volcanoes, Masaya Volcano and Nindiri Volcano, but the one that is most interesting is Masaya. What makes it so fun is that you can drive all the way up to the active crater, and if you walk up to the lookout point, you can even see inside.

My sons were absolutely amazed to be able to see that pool of magma within the crater.

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: Day visit; $5; Night visit: $10.

7. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Belize

Ok, this isn’t strictly a national park but it is so awesome that it deserved a mention. It is located in the southern Stann Creek district of Belize. This is a nature reserve that protects around 150 square miles. In it, you will find tons of animal species, intact ecosystem and even ruins of Mayan structures. But what really makes it special is the fact that this is the first place dedicated to protecting the endangered jaguar.

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Entrance fees: $5

8. Arenal National Park, Costa Rica

Arenal is a volcano that is active at really low levels. But the park also protects the nearby lake, Cerro Chato and the surrounding forest. The good thing about it is that you can choose to take easy and scenic trials or an intense hike to a point near the summit depending on your kid’s age and strength.

By the time your hike ends you can all head to the local hot springs to relax your feet and legs.

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Entrance fees: $15

One response


  1. So much I did not know before reading this story. My one visit to Costa Rica did not include the park you mention, and I am . way behind visiting the other Central America nations. This shall jumpstart some planning!

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