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Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

Denver, Colorado
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43 posts
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Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

My husband and I are in the early stages of planning a trip to Central America over Thanksgiving for 10 days with our 2 kids (11 and 8). We are considering Costa Rica and Panama.

We were in Costa Rica in '97 (pre-kids) and drove everywhere and had a great time. This was before Costa Rica was THE place to go for Americans. Thus, the consideration for Panama.

We are looking for wildlife+beach+rating/adventure activities like surfing/ziplining. I've looked into Bocas del Toro, and this sounds intriguing. My concern about Costa Rica is that it has become too touristy, my concern about Panama is that it's questionable on safety , and there's not the infrastructure for traveling with kids there. It doesn't sound like driving around there is too safe? So we'd need to fly by plane?

If anyone has any thoughts on Costa Rica vs. Panama with kids that would be great. We tend to take our kids to off the beaten path places (for kids anyway-some of my kids faves were trips to the Samana Peninsula in the DR last spring break, and staying in a villa in Tuscany last summer). We would probably only plan to go to 2 places in either Costa Rica or Panama given that we're traveling with the kids.

Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
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97 reviews
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1. Re: Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

Panama is much safer to drive than CR, roads are much better, driving from PC to Bocas is a hike, then you will have to leave the car somewhere , Bocas is touristy also, if you have not been to panama yourself I would choose it

The kids would like the canal, fort San Lorenzo, and other areas of panama

Not sure if I would spend all vacation with them in Bocas - if it is raing not much for kids to do

Maryland
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287 posts
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2. Re: Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

Hi,

Have you considered Nicaragua or Honduras? Two years ago, we took our kids (then ages 4, 7 & 9) to Copan and Roatan, Honduras. Copan was a lovely, friendly little town, and not nearly as touristed as similar places in Mexico & Guatemala. Our kids loved it, and the ruins are amazing (though, I must admit, our kids were hot and kind of bored). There's a wonderful bird sanctuary just outside of town, where they draped us in rescued birds, and you can swim in a gorgeous swimming hole.

After that, we spent a week in Roatan, where we were able to snorkel from the beach. We stayed on the touristy beach, but there are plenty of other great, less-touristy spots.

This year, we decided on Nicaragua. It seems a like a great, off-the-beaten path destination. Some have described it as "Costa Rica 30 years ago." We plan these trips based on what we think that both the kids and the adults will enjoy. Nicaragua seems to have everything we're looking for.

FWIW, I stumbled on this post because I'm already thinking about next year's trip, and Panama looks pretty good...

Good Luck!

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
Level Contributor
3,772 posts
97 reviews
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3. Re: Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

Depends where you go in Nicaragua - if you hang at the touristy spots - not that much differrent from CR - biggest difference - Nicaragua is very poor -

If you really want to get away to a less touristy country you need to visit here - Colombia - up here in Medellin - the kids won't get hot - although not much in the way of beaches - the closest is 12 hour bus ride.

Panama falls in between CR and Nica - not as touristy as CR but much better infrastructure than Nica - and Panama City is so much much better than Managua or San Jose.

4. Re: Panama vs. Costa Rica with kids

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