Costa Rica Summer Service Program Overview
What better way to make new friends than by spending the summer ziplining over lush jungle canopies, rafting on rushing rivers and giving back to local communities? On our Costa Rica Adventure and Service program for Older Teens, you’ll be able to do all this and more while enjoying the company of other students your age. During this older teen service trip, we will have the unique opportunity to perform 20 hours of valuable service work in two different communities.
In Sámara we work with a local association that provides supplemental educational, recreational, and career opportunities for youth with limited resources in the rural beach communities of the surrounding area. We will be helping run one of their many programs focusing on academic and artistic education, environmental consciousness, health, and socio-cultural development. Projects vary but our service work typically consists of working on art projects with the children, reading to them, teaching them English, and general upkeep of the school such as painting and light maintenance.
These summer community service programs for high school students are designed to nurture older teens and teach them to be more independent and savvy travelers. Because as you grow, your interests and needs do too. So get ready to perform meaningful service work, explore jungles and volcanoes, and relax on pristine tropical beaches. We will experience the best Costa Rica has to offer while ziplining, hiking, white water rafting, sea kayaking, and much more! ¡Pura Vida!
During this program, you will…
- Volunteer in two different communities to earn up to 20 hours of service hours
- Participate side by side with two local associations on various projects, including working with local children
- Go on an overnight whitewater rafting trip in the lush jungle
- See a plethora of wildlife in its natural habitat including sea turtles, white-faced monkeys, giant iguanas and of course, sloths!
- Zipline over the jungle canopy
- Take a surfing lesson at a beach famous for its perfect waves
- 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 a volcano
Can’t get enough adventure? Most travelers choose to extend their stay in Costa Rica by joining our hugely popular Costa Rica For Older Teens: Ultimate Adventure & Service program.
DAY 1: DEPART FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 1-3: TURRIALBA
Our trip begins in Turrialba, home to many of Costa Rica’s adrenaline-pumping activities and one of the country’s most famous volcanoes! Spend your first night at a mountain lodge overlooking the volcano. The next day we will jump 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 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 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 our muscles 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: SAMARA BEACH
After breakfast, the group will board a private coach 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 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 Samara 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!
DAY 11: 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 11th or 12th grade and approximately 16 to 18 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.
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 students generally like most on this program?
Students 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.
What is unique about this program?
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. We include service projects in two areas where teens will have the opportunity to connect with the locals in each region. The service work is balanced out with fun activities for the ultimate Costa Rican experience!
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 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.
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!
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.
"Thank you for the great photos, I am so excited I could burst. There were so many great photos, and the girls look like they are having a great time. I just wanted to send a quick thank you for all the photos and updates. They were very helpful while the girls were so far away. I looked forward to seeing them everyday. It helped calm the anxiety to see the girls having so much fun. Emily talks highly about both of you, and was very happy to have a lot of her memories captured."
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