Benin is a fun-filled country that has a lot to offer traveling families: stunning beaches, fascinating history, incredible national parks, and more. If you have children and are considering of an affordable, family friendly African country to visit that’s off the beaten track, Benin is the best bet for you.
Is Benin good for kids?
Benin is a culturally rich place with lots of natural attractions, making it a great place to explore with kids. Benin has fantastic tropical weather that can be enjoyed all-year round and the impeccable beaches are beautifully quiet – potentially, you and your family will have the beaches to yourself. You can also take the kids to see wild animals at Pendjari National Park.
Benin is the birthplace of Voodoo, and a visit here can teach children about how people in different parts of the world live and expose them to different customs that are foreign to their own. If you are keen on your kids learning about hidden African history – learn about the West African kingdoms that once ruled the land and the country’s once-strong ties to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Overall, it’s pretty easy to visit Benin with children, especially older kids. If you have smaller children, bring a stroller for them. It is also important to note that when you are traveling in Benin, opt for the upgrade in place of the budget travel approach. Spending a little extra money will ensure that you and your family will be able to enjoy comfortable amenities like toilets and restaurants in safe areas.
Visit Ganvie to learn all about life on the water © Jason Odje / Getty Images
Where are the best destinations to visit with kids?
The best destinations to travel with children are Grand Popo, Ganvie and Pendjari National Park. If you are traveling with teenagers, make sure you check out Ouidah.
Best things to do in Benin with kids
Take a boat ride in Ganvie
The “Venice of Africa,” officially known as Ganvie, is a must-visit destination with kids. It’s the biggest stilt village in Africa, and it’s history traces back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a place where people fled from slavery. Go for a day trip to Ganvie – located only 9km away from Cotonou – and immerse yourself in the local culture. Ganvie has a population of 20,000 people who practice fishing, and kids can join local fisherman to learn how to fish or opt for a bird watching excursion; Lake Nokoue is home to spectacular birds like the African Openbill and White Crested Heron.
Relax on Grand Popo’s beaches
If you want to have a stress-free holiday, make sure you visit Grand Popo for the ultimate relaxation. Grand Popo is best visited during the low season in February to April or September to November, when the weather is just right, there are good prices, and it’s easier to meet locals. But even if you visit during busy periods, you will practically have the beaches to yourself. Take the kids to Bouche du Roy, where the river meets the ocean; if you would like your children to have more of a cultural experience, visit Lac Ahémè, where women collect salt and you can learn about the traditional farming methods of the Beninese.
See wildlife up close and personal at Pendjari National Park © Themanwithsalthair / Getty Images
Book a safari in Pendjari National Park
Pendjari National Park, home to lions, hippos, elephants and buffaloes, is a remote, 2,755 sq km reserve that is the perfect place to take children to see wildlife in Benin. Organize a tour guide in Porto Novo or Cotonou with a travel company or with your hotel – never get a guide at the site – and rent out a 4X4 vehicle to enjoy the spectacular views of large land mammals and reptiles. Remember to carry a hat, wear sunscreen and carry snacks and water on your family excursion.
Best things to do in Benin with teenagers and tweenagers
Ouidah, the birthplace of Voodoo, is definitely out of the ordinary and a fascinating place to take older children so they can learn about Voodoo culture. Take the teens to the Temple of Pythons where tons of pythons slither around in preparation for voodoo rituals, and visit The Musée de la Fondation Zinso to learn more about Benin’s colonial history. The last stop of your Ouidah odyssey should be The Route des Esclaves, which follows an enslaved person’s experience from being sold as a commodity in the slave market to the Door of No Return, is a monument that honors the lost enslaved people of Benin.
Learn about the origins of Voodoo in Oidah © Peeterv / Getty Images
Wander the cities of Porto Novo and Cotonou
These bustling and vibrant cities make up the beating heart of Benin. While it may be a bit overwhelming to sightsee with younger children here, you can easily venture into these cities with teens. Visit the Grand Marché du Dantokpa and the Artisanal Centre in Cotonou for souvenirs, or head to Porto Novo to see the Jardin Place Jean Bayol, colorful extravagant gardens featuring a statue of the first King, Eweka.
Afterwards, head over to Fidjrosse Beach for a walk – you’ll meet a lot of locals and there are many vendors selling food, and it’s a great place to go for a swim and spend quality family time together.
Renting a car is the easiest way to get around with children; similarly, staying at luxury hotels will help you make the most out of your experience with your family. Benin can be visited in a week or a week and a half because of its small geographical size.
Avoid exploring on your own, especially if you don’t speak French – Benin is a French speaking country. It’s vital to have a guide that will show you the best things to do and see.
If museums aren’t your kids’ thing, stick to the beaches, which have a lot of activities for the young ones to enjoy like boat tours, snorkeling, diving and fishing tours.