Costa Rica Middle School Summer Travel Program Overview
For those middle school students looking for their first trip abroad without their parents, join us in Costa Rica for unforgettable memories and valuable service work! We have tailor-made the itinerary with middle school students in mind, allowing for a more relaxed experience to help everyone adjust to the culture shock of being abroad. Experience everything that Costa Rica has to offer stress free!
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.
Along with our meaningful service work, you will explore volcanoes, jungles, and beaches. We will experience the best Costa Rica has to offer while ziplining, hiking, whitewater rafting, sea kayaking, and much more! Eleven fun-filled days in Costa Rica will leave you saying “Pura Vida!”
During this program, you will…
- Volunteer in two different communities for up to 20 hours of service
- Participate side-by-side with two local associations on various projects, including working with children from the area
- 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 that’s famous for its perfect waves
- Swim, surf and sunbathe while staying at a tropical paradise along the coast
- Sea kayak to a gorgeous island for an incredible snorkeling adventure
- Swim deep in the jungle in a pool formed by a 210-foot-high waterfall
- Visit a small countryside town and drink rich Costa Rican coffee
- Relax in the natural hot springs at the foot of a volcano
DAY 1: FLIGHT DEPARTS 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 its most famous volcanos! Spend your first night at a mountain lodge overlooking the volcano. The next day we will jump straight into a thrilling overnight 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! We will take fun hikes to waterfalls and natural pools when we are not rafting. The second day of our rafting journey will not disappoint, with the Pacuare River being 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 tenth 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 enjoy an easy 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, we will board a private coach to Sámara 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 work 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 parrotfish and other colorful sea life.
DAY 11: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE STATES
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.
"This summer I went to the Costa Rica for Younger Teens: Hola Costa Rica trip. It's a very big step to go out of the country with people you don't know. Trust me I was very hesitant. It takes a lot of courage to sign up for something so far out of your comfort zone, but I assure you, you will NOT regret it. I had the time of my life. Everything was perfect. The food was wonderful. The other kids were great. The counselors were very professional and experienced. It was truly a life-changing experience that I was lucky enough to be a part of."
"Sounds like the girls are having a wonderful time. A trip of a lifetime. Looking forward to see more pictures of the girls."
"Thank you! Shannon had the best time ever!! Thanks so much for taking care of her on the trip and getting her on the plane!!!"
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
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 stay in a beautiful family-run hotel from which you can see the amazing Turrialba volcano, then 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 like most about 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.
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 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.
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!