This program combines fun surfing lessons (for all skill levels) with meaningful community service for an incredible Costa Rican experience! We will learn to surf at one of the best beaches in the country, Playa Sámara, known for its gentle waves for beginners and fun easy riding for those who already are comfortable on a surfboard. Keep an eye out for the wild horses that roam the beach here!
Our certified surf instructors will teach you everything you need to know to be safe and have fun in the water. After several days of lessons at Playa Sámara we will take our surfing skills to Playa Grande for some of the best beach breaks on the Pacific Coast. Here, we will enjoy additional surfing lessons to perfect our surfing skills.
We’ll also spend time with local schoolchildren and help to improve their community facilities. 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.
Surfing and service aren’t all we’ll do. We will also take cooking and dance lessons, zipline, hike, go on a mangrove animal safari, snorkel and enjoy Costa Rican pura vida!
During this program, you will:
- Donate your time and energy to meaningful community service projects in Playa Sámara working with local schoolchildren. You’ll earn up to 20 hours of community service!
- Zoom through the lush jungle canopy on an adrenaline-pumping ziplining tour
- See the abundant animal life that Costa Rica is famous for, including sloths, capuchin and howler monkeys, iguanas, parrots, toucans and more
- Go on a safari through a rare coastal mangrove forest
- Swim, surf, and sunbathe while staying at a tropical paradise along the coast
- Sea kayak over to a gorgeous island for an incredible snorkeling adventure
- Prepare a classic Costa Rican meal at a cooking lesson
DAY 1: DEPART FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 1-6: PLAYA SÁMARA
Playa Sámara is our home for the first six days of the trip. During our stay in Sámara, we will spend our time with local students getting our hands dirty working on important projects at a community center. Past projects have included painting school buildings, renovating a soccer field, planting trees, and cleaning up and renovating the town park. From our rustic yet comfortable lodgings at a farmhouse, we’ll get to know both the animals and the family that cares for them.
We will also begin our surf lessons! The waves in Sámara are perfect and gentle enough for beginners, yet still fun for more advanced surfers. Other activities will include zip-lining through the jungle canopy, sea kayaking and eco-hikes to nearby hidden beaches!
DAYS 7-10: PLAYA GRANDE > TAMARINDO
The Playa Grande is where we learn the true meaning of pura vida. Here on the Pacific coast, we will take our surf lessons up a notch and start to perfect our skills. We’ll also learn about local Tico culture, cooking up local specialties, learning traditional dances, and paddling with a nature guide through a coastal mangrove forest.
DAY 11: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE STATES
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 Sámara we stay in a hotel right by the beach surrounded by a trees where you can see monkeys, iguanas and toucans hanging around. Our hotel in Playa Grande is very similar.
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 while combining surf lessons with meaningful service work. Teens leave the program feeling like they accomplished new skills and made a difference!
What is unique about this program?
We have strong ties to the community in Sámara where we complete our service work, so you are guaranteed to have an authentic experience. Students will be immediately welcomed into the community and treated like family. The aspect of combining surf lessons with service while still incorporating the other fun adventures of Costa Rica makes for dynamic 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 I need to know how to surf already to go on this trip?
Students do not need to have any experience surfing to participate. Students who already have a comfort level or previous experience surfing routinely do this program to improve their skills while other participants are there to give it a try for the first time.
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 were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017.
"Signing up for a Travel For Teens trip was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was a bit nervous at first about traveling by myself, and I was worried I wouldn’t make any friends. Little did I know that in just a two week time period I’d have a whole new point of view on travel, and friends that will last a lifetime. There was never once a second where I felt homesick because every day was filled with life changing experiences like working hands-on with sea turtles, ziplining, surfing, and exploring the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our counselors were some of the sweetest, and funniest people I’ve ever met, and were super helpful in guiding us on how to be proper travelers, rather than tourists. I swear time moves quicker in Costa Rica, because those amazing two weeks were over too soon. Our group may have looked incredibly weird to the patrons in Miami Airport terminal 24 who probably do not see very many groups of 12 teenagers huddled in a crying group hug. We eventually all managed to stop crying and go our separate ways, meanwhile planning our TFT trips for the next summer. Overall I returned more confident and open than I was before going on the trip, and am counting down the days till my next trip."
"I would like to thank you for all detailed letters and pictures you sent to the parents during this trip. Thank you making this trip fun and safe. Nicole loved the trip and her counselors."
"You have been amazing and very comforting. Thank you for all your patience with our children and those pesky parents. They must have had an amazing time as they are in Miami and are still hanging out together."