If you listen to some media reports (and friends who have been living under a rock for the past decade), it would seem that Colombia would be the absolute worst destination for a family vacation. Don’t listen to them. The whole country is family-friendly. Families can bond over the pristine nature of the Pacific Coast, sample exotic fruits and shop for handicrafts in the markets of Cali, and learn about ancient cultures in San Agustín.
Day 1: Cali
Get your children’s attention right from the start of the trip by going straight to the La Galeria Alameda market for exotic fruits like lulo, pitahaya, guanabana, and granadilla. Swing by the zoo where kids will appreciate native species like the spectacled bear and a butterfly garden with more than 800 different species. After lunch at Hacienda del Bosque, sign up for a salsa dancing lesson. Keep the fun going at night with a visit to Container Park, a gourmet food court with six restaurants serving food out of recycled shipping containers.
Days 2 & 3: San Agustín
Rent a car (or take a bus) and drive south through Puracé National Park, keeping an eye out for orchids and unique wildlife such as mountain tapirs or cougars. Continue until you reach San Agustín, home to South America’s largest collection of monolithic and megalithic sculptures. In the easily accessible main archaeological park, you’ll visit three sites with a total of about 130 statues that date back more than 1,000 years. You can visit other archaeological sites on horseback, but save time to sample cerdo ahumado (smoked pork) at Donde Richard and coffee from area fincas at Macizo cafe. On your way out of the village, pass the Salto del Mortiño, a 200-meter-high waterfall, and stop at Alto de los Idolos, another archaeological site.
Days 4 & 5: Popayán
Spend a few days exploring the city of Popayán. Founded in 1537, it has some of the oldest and best-preserved colonial architecture in all of Colombia. Begin at Parque Caldas, the city’s main plaza, before moving to historic churches like Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia la Ermita. Cross the Roman-style bridge, Puente del Humilladero, and spend an afternoon in the natural history museum, which has a collection of more than 3,000 native species. Keep in mind that Popayán is known for its traditional gastronomy, so make stops for classics like the tiny, fried empanadas de pipian at La Fresa and Salpicón Payanés at Mora Castilla.
Days 6 & 7: Buenaventura
Instead of going straight back to Cali, continue on toward the coast, making a stop at San Cipriano, an Afro-Colombian village deep in the jungle with a crystal-clear river perfect for floating on inner tubes. There are no roads there, so the family will need to hop on a brujita, a rail cart powered by a motorcycle, to zip through the lush green forest. In Buenaventura, check in at the Cosmos hotel, with views of the port and bay. Have a dinner with of fare at Café Pacifico. The next morning, sign up for a whale-watching tour (when in season) or just a lazy beach day at Ladrilleros.
Day 8: Cali
Allow everyone to sleep in before the drive back to Cali. Make any last gift shopping stops, maybe visiting Loma de la Cruz for handicrafts. Transfer to the airport and head home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.