May 21, 2008 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Give us your best travel deals for a fabulous trip this summer for 2 adults, two kids (one a 2 year old, one 11). We'd like to go for about 2 weeks in either July or August (restricted by school schedule). Our goal is to take our children out of the United States for their first time. Husband would love to get some surfing in. I'd like a fun place for the kids where I can also relax. Have thought of Nicaragua, Panama...

More parameters: We'll have some money to spend but probably can't afford Europe this year, damn the American dollar. Bonus points for trips in Mexico and Central America, as our frequent flier miles will buy more on airfare. While we obviously want to be safe, someplace off the beaten track is most interesting. Swimming is good. Warm weather, also good, but don't want misery (which is why I've hesitated about that time of year in Central America". So, where would you take your children? Any experience that time of year in Central America?
posted by purenitrous to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how the cost would be, but have you considered Australia? Northern Queensland is probably great for surfing (and July is outside of the jellyfish season, so the waters are safe), the beaches are fabulous, and you can easily go off the beaten track.

My best vacation ever was up there. We got a last minute package deal from a travel agent, flew into Cairns, rented a car and drove north along the coastal highway to Port Douglas. There's lots of pretty beach towns along the way, Port Douglas is more of a resort town. You can go on boat trips out to the reef for snorkeling, or stay on the (awesome) beach and swim in the (bath-temperature) seawater. You can take the railroad or cable car through the rainforest to Kuranda and back. You can visit some of the national parks in that area (Mossman Gorge IIRC?). You can drive about an hour north of Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation where rainforest meets completely deserted beaches, or continue north on the 4WD-only dirt track to Cooktown, if you really want off the beaten track. Oh, you will also eat some really great food!

I haven't been to Brisbane, but that's a really big surfing spot AFAIK, so check that out too.
posted by Joh at 4:31 PM on May 21, 2008

I would highly recommend Costa Rica. I've been there a number of times to surf with my Dad, and have seen an increasing amount of families take vacations down there. For surfing and a place that's "off the beaten path," I would look at Playa Hermosa and the near-by town of Jaco. Of course, I'm slightly biased due to the GREAT surf at these beaches. However, there are things to do, such as canopy tours or surf lessons. Costa Rica in general is a great place, that is safe and the locals are extremely friendly. Good luck in your search for a great vacation spot!
posted by pwnzj00 at 4:39 PM on May 21, 2008

2nding Costa Rica. Great surfing, relatively cheap living, beautiful.
posted by rooftop secrets at 5:12 PM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, folks. Australia would be fabulous; in fact, Mr. Purenitrous and I have both lived there for various periods of our lives and love it dearly. Airfare is the killer there, and I'm not quite sure I'm up for a 14 hour flight with a 2 year old. On the other hand, if we could get a killer deal on airfare, we'd probably go for it.

My Costa Rican friend doesn't recommend going there in July because of the rain, but other than that, I here nothing but wonderful things about the country (especially from our surfer friends). I think it's significantly more expensive than Panama or Nicaragua; anyone have experience?
posted by purenitrous at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2008

Best answer: I lived in Nicaragua for two years and also spent time in Honduras and Costa Rica. If you go to Central America in June or early July, you'll be at the start of the rainy season so you'll get some sunny days and the greenery. Those three countries have similar weather patterns, but in general, the Carribean coast is wetter than the Pacific during the rainy season.

I absolutely love Nicaragua, and yes, it's cheap, but I wouldn't recommend it for a family vacation. The infrastructure just isn't there- it's often cited as the second poorest nation in the hemisphere (the first being Haiti) for a reason. Costa Rica has essentially the same landscape but is much easier for tourists, especially those traveling with children. People speak English, and you can easily rent a car or book a hotel online, and you won't stick out as much. I think the happy medium or you might be Honduras- I spend a week on Utila in the Bay Islands (Carribean) and loved it. Cheap, off the beaten path, but not really any in-your-face shocking poverty. No surfing on the Bay Islands, but the scuba and snorkeling are amazing.

I would vote Costa Rica as a sure bet for a great vacation, and Honduras if you're feeling a tad more adventurous. If you have more specific questions, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by emd3737 at 7:07 PM on May 21, 2008

I think it's cooler on the Caribbean side. I deduced this unscientifically by noting that the ocean was surprisingly cool in Caracas in June, whereas it was unbearably hot during our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta in July (many years ago).
posted by lukemeister at 7:46 PM on May 21, 2008

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