Costa Rica for Middle School: Ultimate Adventure & Service Trip Overview
This ultimate Costa Rican adventure packs in 22 days of pure adrenaline mixed with just the right amount of community service! Combining all the best elements of our most popular Costa Rica programs, experience the natural beauty of Costa Rica while giving back to local communities. Volunteer with a beachside community with a variety of projects including beach cleanups and teaching English. Relax on Costa Rica’s pristine beaches, zipline through the jungle, and go on a thrilling white water rafting adventure. This trip is the perfect balance of exciting activities, Costa Rican culture, and community service. What are you waiting for? A perfect summer in Costa Rica awaits!
This trip is perfect for current 7th and 8th graders excited about safely exploring group travel. Our middle school itineraries are always age-appropriate and the perfect way to catch the travel bug young!
This program is a small group experience where our travelers will remain together as a “pod” minimizing interactions with outside groups. The majority of our time will be spent outdoors where we can easily social distance and ensure the health and safety of our participants.
*Costa Rica’s borders are currently open to US travelers and we plan to run this program for summer 2021.
During this trip, you will:
- Volunteer in three different communities for up to 24 hours of service
- Climb, slide, and jump through natural rock formations and rappel down waterfalls on a canyoning adventure
- Take an exhilarating tubing trip down the Río Negro
- Catch the sunset over the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano
- Hike in Rincón de la Vieja National Park and spot exotic wildlife, including monkeys, toucans and sloths
- Ride gentle horses through the jungle to a gorgeous hidden waterfall for a refreshing swim
- Relax at the natural hot springs and take a mud bath for a fun spa experience
- Sunbathe on pristine beaches and swim in the turquoise Caribbean Sea
- Learn how to surf in one of the most popular spots in Costa Rica
- Sail into the sunset along Flamingo Beach
- Sea kayak through crystal-clear water
- Go on an overnight whitewater rafting trip in the lush jungle
- Take a surfing lesson at a beach famous for its perfect waves
- Swim in the pool formed by a 210-foot-high waterfall deep in the jungle
- Visit a small countryside town and drink rich Costa Rican coffee
This program is the combination of our two hugely popular Hola Costa Rica For Middle School: Adrenaline and Hola Costa Rica for Middle School: Adventure & Service programs.
DAY 1: FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 1-3: TURRIALBA
¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica! Kick-off this adventure-packed trip by jumping straight into a thrilling two-day whitewater rafting adventure on the Pacuare River! This rafting trip is suitable for all skill levels and completely safe. We will spend the night in a lodge tucked in the rainforest on the banks of the river. Everyone always has a blast at our comfortable jungle accommodation! When we aren’t rafting, we’re taking fun hikes to waterfalls and natural pools. The second day of our rafting journey will not disappoint since the Pacuare River is rated one of the top rivers in the world for whitewater rafting! Throughout our rafting adventure, we will have great bonding opportunities with everyone in our group and together we will experience spectacular views of the rainforest and even spot exotic wildlife like monkeys, colorful birds, and sloths.
DAYS 4-5: LA FORTUNA
After our rafting journey it’s on to La Fortuna, where we stay in a comfortable hotel near the iconic Arenal Volcano – the 10th most active volcano in the world (don’t worry, it’s safe and very closely monitored!).
During our time in La Fortuna, 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 at the natural hot springs formed by the volcano.
The next day we will 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, eat lunch and head back to our bus for the next leg of our journey.
DAYS 6-10: SÁMARA BEACH
After breakfast, the group will board a private coach to Samara Beach, a small surf town with breathtaking mountain views. Sámara is famous for its gentle waves (perfect for surfing) and wild horses that roam the beach.
Here, we will continue 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 Sámara we will enjoy the beach, soak up the sun, swim and of course, take a surfing lesson! We will also spend an afternoon taking kayaks out to Chora Island to snorkel and observe bi-color parrotfish and other colorful sea life!
DAYS 11-12: ZARCERO > SARCHÍ
Visit the beautiful, traditional towns of Zarcero and Sarchí. Sarchí is a village known for its local handmade arts and crafts, and is the place where the most elaborate ox-carts in the country are made. In the afternoon, we’ll stop for a visit to the spectacular topiary gardens of Zarcero. Lastly, stroll through the magical Waterfall Gardens of La Paz–this is an amazing place to see the diverse Costa Rican wildlife up close!
DAYS 13-17: TAMARINDO
After a morning relaxing at the hacienda, swinging in hammocks, spotting animals in the surrounding gardens and enjoying a leisurely swim at our pool followed by lunch, we will head to the coast!
The final third of our trip will be spent exploring Tamarindo Beach, one of the most beautiful places along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. On the first day we will explore the town and enjoy its many shops and friendly atmosphere before heading to the stunning Conchal Beach. The sand at Conchal is famous for being made of millions of tiny crushed shells and it is one of the only Pacific Coast beaches with crystal clear water. It’s the perfect scenic spot to spend an afternoon!
Tamarindo is also famous for being one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica, with waves for all levels, from beginners to pro surfers. We will take advantage of this and spend a day taking surf lessons. After a day of lessons with our expert instructors, you’ll be catching waves in no time!
The next day, we’ll head to the famous Bahía de los Piratas–a “Pirate Bay” where you can swim, try stand-up paddle, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and more.
On our final day in Tamarindo, we will spend the morning at the beach. We’ll swim, snorkel, play beach games and enjoy one last day in the sun with our new friends. In the afternoon we will finish the day off right with a fantastic sailboat ride. During our sailing trip, we will cruise along the coast, stopping to snorkel among vibrant coral reefs and discover colorful marine life. You’ll also have the opportunity to go sea kayaking. The sailing trip goes until sunset, and we will relax with our friends as we coast back to shore watching the sunset on the horizon.
DAYS 18-21: RINCÓN DE LA VIEJA
Our next stop is a cozy hacienda in the middle of a national park, our home for the next few nights. This ecotourism lodge is surrounded by lush gardens, complete with exotic flowers and colorful birds. There is a large refreshing swimming pool filled with natural mineral spring water that comes from the nearby volcano. A lookout point on the property reveals to us the natural beauty of the surrounding area and provides an incredible 360-degree view of the Rincón de la Vieja volcano, the Guanacaste plains, and the Pacific coastline. Sunsets here are spectacular!
We will take a hike to Las Pailas in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, where you can see volcanic steam and sulfur pour out of the ground at natural fumaroles. Then, we’ll head out from the hacienda by horseback to the foot of the Victoria Waterfall, where our tubing adventure begins. We will float down the Río Negro on inner tubes, enjoying the refreshing water and fun rapids, spotting plenty of exotic wildlife in the surrounding jungle along the way.
The next morning get back to the action with an exhilarating canyon canopy tour! On this exciting adventure, nature becomes our playground. We will venture through the lush jungle to a steep canyon with a river cutting through it. While here we will spend time amongst the jungle canopy while ziplining, riding “Tarzan swings” and crossing hanging bridges. After exploring everything from high above the trees we will head down into the canyon while rappelling and rock climbing.
After a morning filled with adventure, we will spend our afternoon riding horses through a scenic forest trail to an enormous rock with a beautiful view of a rushing waterfall. There will be time for a swim at the foot of the falls before we return by horseback.
On the last day at the hacienda we will go on a waterfalls canyoning tour. Canyoning through the jungle waterfalls is an experience you’ll never forget! We will climb, slip and slide our way along natural rock formations and rappel down Victoria Falls. Once we reach the pool at the bottom we will do a guided climb back up the wall of the cascade. Canyoning is a must for any true adrenaline junkie!
In the afternoon we will visit the Río Negro hot springs with six pools heated naturally by the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano. This is the perfect opportunity to soothe our sore muscles after so many days filled with fun activities! We will even treat ourselves to a volcanic mud bath and wash it off with a cool river water shower.
DAY 22: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Frequently Asked Questions
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 7th or 8th grade and approximately 12 to 14 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
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 Turrialba, we begin our stay in a beautiful family-run hotel from which you can see the amazing Turrialba volcano. Next, we stay in an eco-lodge tucked in the rainforest on the banks of the river. In La Fortuna, we stay close to the city center where you can souvenir shop. In Sámara we stay in a hotel surrounded by trees where you can see monkeys, iguanas, and toucans hanging around the property. In Rincón de la Vieja, we stay at a beautiful hacienda near to the famous Rincón de la Vieja volcano. The Hacienda has great facilities including a pool with natural mineral water from the nearby volcano, gardens and exotic birds, hammocks and incredible views of the volcanoes and valleys in the surrounding area. In Tamarindo, our hotel also has a great pool and we stay close to the city center with easy access to anything you need.
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 do participants generally like most on this program?
Participants love that they are able to explore the country and get a real local experience. They love that it covers everything you would want to see while in Costa Rica, including waterfalls, volcanoes, jungles, and beaches!
What is unique about this program?
From spending a night in the heart of the jungle behind a waterfall to a whitewater rafting adventure at one of the best rivers in the world, TFT’s expertise in leading trips through Costa Rica provides unique insider access for our special Ultimate Middle School Adventure trip.
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 14 and 21 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.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
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 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.
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.
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!