Costa Rica Winter Break Trip Overview
The deadline to register for this program is November 1st!
Make the most of your school break by joining us in Costa Rica for unforgettable memories and an incredible volunteer experience! We have the unique opportunity to perform up to 20 hours of valuable service work while also exploring the country’s pristine beaches, lush jungles, and famous volcanoes.
In Sámara Beach, we work with a local association that provides supplemental educational, recreational, and career opportunities for youth with limited resources in the surrounding rural communities. We will help run one of their many programs that focus on academic and artistic education, environmental consciousness, health, and socio-cultural development. Projects vary, but our service work typically consists of working with the children on art projects, reading to them, teaching them English, and general upkeep of the school such as painting and light maintenance.
No trip to Costa Rica is complete without a bit of adventure! We will experience the best Costa Rica has to offer while zip-lining, hiking, surfing, sea kayaking, and much more! Every day is full of unique experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime. Pura Vida!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service working with local children
- See a plethora of wildlife in its natural habitat including sea turtles, white-faced monkeys, giant iguanas and of course, sloths!
- Zip-line over the jungle canopy
- Take a surfing lesson at a beach famous for its waves perfect for both beginners and avid surfers
- Swim and sunbathe while staying at a tropical paradise along the coast
- Sea kayak over to a gorgeous island for an incredible snorkeling adventure
- Swim in the pool formed by a 210-foot-high waterfall deep in the jungle
- Hike through beautiful jungle trails and spot exotic wildlife
- Visit a small countryside town and drink rich Costa Rican coffee
- Relax in the natural hot springs at the foot of Arenal Volcano
Busy during your school break? Check out this program in the summer!
DAY 1: DEPART FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 1-4: LA FORTUNA
Our trip begins in La Fortuna, where we stay in a comfortable hotel near the breathtaking Arenal Volcano – the 10th most active volcano in the world (don’t worry, it’s safe and very closely monitored!).
During our time in the jungle, we will zipline over the rainforest and have a thrilling view of the jungle from above. This activity is fun, safe, and just the right amount of adventure! In the evening, we will relax our muscles at the natural hot springs formed by the volcano.
The next day we’ll hike down to La Fortuna waterfall, a 210-foot ribbon of water that gushes into a cool pool in the jungle. We’ll swim in the refreshing pool formed by the waterfall, relax on the rocks, and enjoy the view.
DAYS 5-8: SÁMARA BEACH
Now it’s on to Samara Beach, a small surf town with breathtaking mountain views. Samara is famous for its gentle waves (perfect for surfing) and wild horses that roam the beach.
Here we begin our community service. We will work with a local association that provides supplemental educational, recreational, and career opportunities for youth with limited resources. We will be working directly with the children on various projects. In the past we have done group art projects, helped teach English, worked on environmental tasks and more! It’s a great opportunity for us to connect more closely with the community and interact with the friendly locals.
During our stay in Samara, we’ll enjoy the beach, soak up the sun, swim in the vivid blue waters, and, of course, take a surfing lesson! We will also spend an afternoon kayaking out to Chora Island where we’ll snorkel amidst the bi-color parrotfish and other colorful sea life!
Our trip concludes with some souvenir shopping and a final taste of the local cuisine in town. Time to reflect on all the incredible memories we’ve made and pack our bags for the flight home!
DAY 8: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do. Eat, stay, and travel like a local.
Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we are consistently awarded “Top Youth Travel Organization” year after year.
"We can't tell you enough how much Lucy (and Katie) enjoyed the trip. Lucy came back with such an appreciation for Costa Rica and for you and the other TFT team members. She said you were one of the most amazing persons that she has ever met. We want to thank you whole-heartedly for giving the kids such a wonderful experience! Wishing you all the best!"
"I just wanted to write and let you know how grateful we are for the positive, incredible experience this trip as been for Noah. He said that he has more stories than he could ever tell. It’s been remarkable…And your emails with the updates and the foods eaten, etc, have allowed us to have a glimpse at what is happening every day. These things are life changing for teens and we’re beyond grateful to you and your team."
"Thank you a million times over for leading an incredible trip. Abby has the most amazing time. She said you guys were awesome. She made incredible friends and loved all the adventures. It was a perfect trip. It was hard to find a trip that was only for older teens 11-12th grade and we are so glad that we found you."
Frequently Asked Questions
What is unique about the Costa Rica Winter Break Adventure & Service trip?
We have great contacts in Costa Rica who have worked with us to bring this trip to life while providing a fun, authentic and meaningful experience. Our Costa Rica Winter Break Adventure & Service participants love to experience Costa Rica during the off-season while also having meaningful service projects! The service work is balanced out with fun activities for the ultimate Costa Rican experience. ¡Pura Vida!
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in 9th to 12th grades and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
What do students like most about the Costa Rica Winter Break Adventure & Service trip?
Costa Rica Winter Break Adventure & Service participants love that they are able to explore the country and get a real local experience. This program allows them to discover the rainforest, get out of their comfort zone and enjoy exciting activities like whitewater rafting, surf lessons and zip-lining. Combining these adventures with two meaningful service projects provides for a well rounded experience.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Sámara Beachwe stay in a hotel surrounded by trees where you can see monkeys, iguanas and toucans hanging around the property. In La Fortuna we stay close to the city center where you can souvenir shop.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 13 and 24 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food is an integral aspect of the travel experience, and we make an effort to eat at authentic establishments whenever possible. There is no better way to immerse ourselves in the culture of a place then through sampling the local delicacies. We stray away from westernized restaurants and chains that cater to tourists, because every true traveler knows the best food is found where the locals are eating!
The food in Costa Rica is delicious! Expect to eat seasoned rice, beans, chicken, steak, tropical fruit and veggies, plantains, and many other foods flavored with unique Caribbean spices! Vegetarians will have no issues eating well on the trip. Also, unlike in Europe where a light breakfast of coffee and toast is the norm, ticos (Costa Ricans) eat big, savory breakfasts—and so will we!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
All US citizens that enter Costa Rica are automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!