CLICK HERE to discover how one dad found perfect waves, crazy wildlife, and a kid-friendly vibe on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula.
1) Austin-Lehman Adventures delivers "the best of Costa Rica" in an eight-day best-of-the-country sampler. Visit outdoor markets, museums, a working coffee plantation, and a local school outside San José, Costa Rica's capitalthen head south to stay in a hacienda in the Orosí Valley, where you'll dine on gallo pinto and locally grown produce, ride horseback below Turrialba Volcano, and raft whitewater down Río Pejibaye. Next, enter Tortuguero National Park by boat: A guide will lead you on foot to see nesting sea turtles and by kayak to find howler monkeys and toucans in the inlets. From $2,348 for adults, $1,798 for children 512; 800-575-1540, www.austinlehman.com
2) Backroads knows multisport family fun: six days of biking, hiking, rafting, and kayaking the rainforest and the Pacific coast. You'll mountain-bike 13 miles through the coastal jungle of Quepos, whitewater-raft down the Class III Río Savegre, and kayak the Río Oro into the Pacific. You'll bunk in ocean-view rooms at prime digs like Hotel Punta Islita, where you're likely to catch some live music and pick up a few salsa moves. From $2,698 per person (double occupancy), plus $495 for internal airfare; recommended minimum age is five; 800-462-2848, www.backroads.com
3) On Mountain Travel Sobek's nine-day Jewels of Costa Rica adventure, naturalist guides take you through four of the country's most diverse regions. Explore the many habitats of Corcovado National Park: You'll spot dolphins, howler monkeys, and scarlet macaws on the Osa Peninsula; visit Arenal National Park and cross suspended bridges over the ravines of one of the world's most active volcanoes; boat past sloths and iguanas through a wild river ecosystem at Laguna Caño Negro National Reserve; and hike through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in search of quetzals. Lodging is indulgent. From $2,690 for adults, $2,590 for children 1012, plus $250 for internal airfare; 888-687-6235, www.mtsobek.com
4) Thomson Family Adventures' nine-day sporting tour hits not only the biggest attractions, like Tortuguero National Park, on the Caribbean coast, but also the lesser-known inland Sarapiquí region. You'll hike through the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Tirimbina Biological Reserve with a local naturalist guide, then whitewater-raft the meandering Class II Río Sarapiquí. Next, you'll take off toward the Pacific to kayak through Manuel Antonio National Park to spot coatimundis. From $2,890 for adults, $2,590 for children 611; 800-262-6255, www.familyadventures.com
5) Wildland Adventures' nine-day trip takes your group along the Pacific coast, where you'll snorkel the reefs off Caño Island, plunge through Class IV rapids on the Pacuare, kayak a jungle riverway, boogie-board off Guanacaste, zip-line through a rainforest canopy, and surf the Pacific. You'll soak in hot tubs and ponder the papaya groves at secluded, luxurious beach resorts. From $2,230 for adults, $2,090 for teens 1116; 800-345-4453, www.wildland.com
6) Costa Rica Expeditions takes you and your family on a ten-day tour of three of the country's best natural destinations. You'll play in Tortuguero National Park's 175,000-plus combined acres of land and sea, on the Caribbean coast; the volcanic Arenal National Park; and 26,000-acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, in the central highlands. You'll see spider, howler, and white-faced monkeys; iguanas; poison-dart frogs; toucans; and, if you're lucky, a jaguar. $2,208 per person; 011-506-257-0766, www.costaricaexpeditions.com
7) G.A.P Adventures' 12-day family trip accommodates all agendas, from beach-bumming to river rafting. During your three days in La Fortunanear the base of Arenal Volcanoride horseback or hike lava fields. In Monteverde, tour the cloudforest or visit the butterfly gardens. You can surf, kayak, boogie-board, or sail the Pacific off the town of Quepos. $1,205 per person; 800-465-5600, www.gapadventures.com