When you think about Zona Cafetera, you don’t necessarily see a vacation with kids there. Still, we had a great time exploring the Coffee Triangle with a toddler. There are plenty activities for kids or that can be adapted to be enjoyed by the whole family.
Here is what we recommend, after road-tripping for more than one week through the Coffee Triangle with a toddler:
1. Quindio Botanical Garden
We decided to visit the Botanical Garden from Quindio after seeing pictures with their butterfly garden. The price seemed a bit high just for some butterflies, but we thought to give it a try anyway. And good that we did!
The butterfly garden is just the final part of the tour through a huge tropical garden. You will see here countless plant species, a bird observatory and some small museums. The botanical garden can be visited just with a guide and takes 2-3 hours, depending how much time you spend in each location. Make sure you check in advance the timing for the tours, so you don’t have to wait too much at the entrance. We had a great guide who explained us lots of things about the vegetation and ecosystem, in a great English.
The tour ends at the butterfly area, which is even more impressive than in pictures. Around 500 butterflies are flying around, sometimes landing on your hands or clothes. Eric was fascinated, even though a bit scared to have a fragile butterfly on his finger. But he mentioned visiting the butterflies many days after we took the tour, it was one of the things that impressed him the most.
Cost: 30,000 COP/person (including the guide)
Time: 2-3 hours
2. Parque Bosque Popular El Prado in Manizales
This was just a day to relax after the road trip from Medellin. We wanted to let Eric be a regular kid playing with no travel schedule for a whole day. The host from our guesthouse recommended to visit this park nearby Manizales. What we found was a huge playground that we rarely saw in any other country we visited. Perfectly arranged grass, a large sand pit and countless wooden climbers, slides and tunnels, everything that a young kid may desire. It has special sport grounds, bike trails and even a dog play area. We visited on a Saturday morning and there were lots of families around, playing with kids or just relaxing in the shades of the trees.
Time: 1-2 hours
3. Take a private tour at a small coffee farm
To be honest, we were a bit reluctant to take a coffee tour with 2.5 year old Eric. It typically takes 2-3 hours to visit a coffee farm and understand the whole process. If you have kids you know this means a lot of time for them. But we couldn’t visit Zona Cafetera without taking a coffee farm tour!
Luckily, we found just the perfect option for us. We avoided the large farms, advertised by most hotels and travel agencies. Instead, we searched for smaller farms, off the beaten path. We took a full tour at a mid-size farm near Armenia, just the three of us. Family business for 4 generations, we found here the true image of a traditional Colombian coffee farm.
Eric enjoyed walking through the property or being carried in the Isara baby carrier on the very steep slopes. I’m sure he didn’t understood much, but it was beneficial for all his senses. He was interested to feel the trees and the coffee cherries, to touch the half-dried washed coffee or to smell a fresh roast. We finalised the visit in the garden that surrounds the coffee plantation, where he could see lots of species of tropical flowers and taste fresh delicious fruits we never tried before.
Cost: 50,000-80,000 COP, depending on the tour and location
Time: 2-3 hours
4. Explore Cocora Valley on a horse
Just 15 km away from Salento, Cocora Valley is the main attraction here, besides coffee of course. A green lush valley as you enter Los Nevados mountains, Cocora is the home of the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree. This is also the tallest palm species. For us, Europeans, the typical image of palm trees is on sandy beaches. Seeing incredible tall ones in an area similar with our mountains back home was even more charming.
There are several trails through Cocora Valley, exploring the mountains, the small river and some waterfalls. For us, the best option was a horse ride, which is very popular in the area. It was a first for me, but I absolutely loved it (except the muscle soreness I felt the next day). Eric enjoyed it too and I saw lots of older kids riding their own horse. I understood the fear from animals is something that we, adults, are creating in the minds of our kids. I hope to be able to avoid this for Eric as he grows older!
Cost: 20,000-60,000 COP/person, depending on the route
Time: 1-6 hours, depending on the route
5. BioParque Ukumari in Pereira
Not particular fans of Zoo parks, we decided to visit Ukumari to find out more about South American fauna. The BioParque is organised in two sections, the Andes and the African. Between the two there is a large plaza with several food options. It is advisable to take a break here at least to refuel with some fresh fruits, or you won’t be able to absorb so much information.
We enjoyed a lot the first part, as it featured lots of animals we’ve never seen before. It was a learning experience for us too, not just for Eric! The space for the animals is as close as possible to their natural habitat and, wherever applicable, several species share a large area. Eric enjoyed the most the birds section, with lots of colourful parrots.
Cost: 28,000 COP/person (20,000 COP for kids)
Time: 2-4 hours
Of course these are not the only options if you travel to the Coffee Triangle with kids. The whole area is like a huge natural park, with lots of bio reservations to be explored. Plus some more theme parks which should be great for kids that are a bit older than Eric.
You can find here more tips on what to do in Colombia with kids.
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