This program is a dynamic combination of interactive Spanish lessons and practicing your language skills while performing valuable service work and helping out the community! You will take lessons in gorgeous open-air classrooms surrounded by nature in both the mountainous jungle town of Turrialba and the beachside community in the Caribbean town Puerto Viejo, as well as the Pacific towns of Manuel Antonio and Tamarindo. You will take lessons every morning with local teachers while incorporating fun activities like playing games, singing songs, learning traditional dances and taking cooking lessons. By keeping the lessons fun and interactive you will have the opportunity to enhance your speaking skills and better understand the language.
The service component of this program involves directly working with the local communities, so not only are you giving back, but you’ll be putting your Spanish skills to use in real-world situations as well! In Turrialba, our community service will consist of working with local schools. We will play games with the children and also teach them some English (in return they will help teach you some more Spanish!) and also perform some light maintenance work. In Puerto Viejo, we will be working directly with the rangers at the Cahuita National Park to keep the park and beaches beautiful. In Tamarindo, we will work with different schools around the area doing whatever they need us to help out with.
Of course, with all of our hard work learning Spanish and performing community service, we will need some time to relax and experience the best Costa Rica has to offer! We will snorkel in crystal clear waters, zipline over the jungle canopy, go whitewater rafting, ride horses, spot monkeys, sloths and tropical birds in protected rainforests, and much more! So what are you waiting for? Discover the real meaning of Pura Vida with us this summer!
During this program, you will…
- Improve your Spanish with 30 hours of fun interactive classes, some of which are incorporated into cooking and dance lessons!
- Cross another country off your bucket list on our day trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama!*
- Perform up to 25 hours of meaningful community service in local communities
- Teach school children English and learn some Spanish from them in return!
- Snorkel in azure Caribbean waters and spot exotic marine life
- Relax on the beach and soak up the sun
- Take a fun surfing lesson (for all skill levels)
- Ride horses through the lush Costa Rican countryside with views of a majestic Volcano (no experience necessary!)
- Go white water rafting through the jungle on a world famous rafting river
- Zipline over the jungle for a bird’s eye view of the canopy
- Hike to and swim in a stunning waterfall deep in the middle of the jungle
- Experience authentic Costa Rican cuisine as you indulge in fresh delicious meals
- Take nature walks and spot monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, and other incredible wildlife
- Go on a once-in-a-lifetime whale, dolphin, and sea turtle-watching and snorkeling cruise
- Rappel down a 120-foot waterfall
- Go sailing along the Pacific Coast at sunset
*This is an optional excursion.
This trip is the extended version of our 11-Day Costa Rica: Spanish Language Immersion & Service program.
DAY 1: DEPART FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 1-6: TURRIALBA
We start our 22-day journey with a private coach ride to Turrialba, a beautiful little town located in the center of Costa Rica and our home base for the next six days. Here, we’ll have our Spanish lessons and work on various service projects, including working with children at a local grade school. Spending quality time with the children and speaking to them in Spanish is always a highlight of the trip! When we’re not volunteering or learning Spanish, we’ll do adventure activities like canyoning, a zipline canopy tour in the jungle, hiking to a stunning waterfall, and taking in amazing views of the nearby volcano on a horseback ride through the countryside.
Days 6-10: Puerto Viejo
Next stop is Puerto Viejo, one of the premier destinations on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Here, we will continue our Spanish lessons with style! Our classes will incorporate both a cooking lesson and a dance lesson. In addition to spicing up our language classes, we will delve into a new service project while helping out at a Jaguar Rescue Center.
During our time in Puerto Viejo, we will have plenty of beachside fun! We will perfect our surfing techniques in the Caribbean water (for all skill levels), go snorkeling to see colorful marine life, and relax and enjoy the sun and sand. You’ll even have the opportunity to take a day trip across the border to Bocas del Toro, Panama, and cross another country off your bucket list.
DAY 10: WHITEWATER RAFTING > SAN JOSÉ
En route to San José, we’ll stop for an incredible whitewater rafting adventure through the jungle. You’ll never forget the adrenaline-pounding experience of whitewater rafting with our professional guides! We’ll spend one night in San José before continuing our journey down to the beautiful Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
DAYS 11-16: MANUEL ANTONIO
We’ll hit the road to our next destination, Manuel Antonio National Park, a small peninsula on the Pacific coast that is an ecological reserve. Trek through the lush park keeping your eyes wide open, because here you can spot raccoons, agoutis, two-toed sloths, as well as white-faced, howler and squirrel monkeys. In the park is one of the region’s most beautiful beaches and we will spend some time swimming and relaxing on the warm sand.
While we are in the area we will visit Dominical to hike to one of the most amazing waterfalls in the country, standing at 120 feet tall! Then, make your way down to Uvita, where we will take a half day boat trip to spot whales, dolphins and sea turtles.
DAYS 17-21: TAMARINDO
Say hasta luego to Manuel Antonio to keep traveling along the Pacific coast to Tamarindo. In the next days you will learn how to surf in one the most popular spots in Costa Rica. The waves here are appropriate for all levels, from beginners to pro surfers. Take the afternoon to visit Tamarindo beach, one of the most famous surf towns in the country. Perform meaningful community service at the public schools around the area and sail along the coast at sunset.
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 grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 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 stay in a beautiful family-run hotel from which you can see the amazing Turrialba volcano. In Puerto Viejo, we stay at a nice hotel close to the beach and town. In San José we stay in a great centrally located hotel. In Manuel Antonio, our hotel is near the ocean. In Tamarindo, our hotel is close to the beach and town. At all of our accommodations in Costa Rica, you can expect to see monkeys and other wildlife hanging out!
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 the fun and interactive Spanish lessons. They appreciate that they are not stuck inside a classroom the whole time, and find that the activities and format of the lessons help take their Spanish further than a standard class ever could!
What is unique about this program?
One of the most unique aspects of this program is our approach to language lessons. Teens learn the language better when they are immersed into it and incorporating it into fun activities. Combining the language lessons with a service project is a great way to enhance the lessons and get the students interacting with locals throughout the entire 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?
Our local Spanish teachers will divide you by your Spanish ability and put you in the appropriate class level, which means we can accommodate anyone from beginners to more advanced speakers!
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 were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017.
Carly had the best trip. The counselors were amazing! Thank you for the daily updates and communication and for taking such great care of the kids. The staff have been an absolute pleasure and so professional!"
"Another amazing day! Laura had a bit of art history in her Spanish class this past year and was looking forward to seeing some of the paintings. Thank you again for giving all the kids such wonderful opportunities! Thank you again for all that you are doing to broaden their horizons! You work magic and get the kids to do things that we parents never would be able to get our own kids to do! Just want to tell you how much Laura’s family is enjoying your amazing, funny, and artistic pictures! Laura’s Grandma Root enjoys reading your informative, adventure-packed updates, and looking at the pictures every night before she goes to bed."
"Thank you so much! Mariia is very happy in Spain. She likes Spanish classes and has fun spending time in San-Sebastián."