Hawaii & California Middle School Trip Overview
Join us this summer for some sun, sand, and sea turtles as we explore the beautiful Hawaiian Islands and hit up the Golden State of California on this adventure designed especially for middle school students! From vibrant Honolulu to laid-back San Diego, this program covers some of the best highlights of Hawaii and California, including postcard-perfect beaches, turquoise water, bustling cities, and plenty of adventure!
Learn about sea turtle conservation while participating in several projects to protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Projects include learning about sea turtle conservation efforts, watching over sea turtles as they bask on the island’s beaches, as well as the possibility for nest watches and night patrols. Our service work will also include a special visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu. While here, we will run a program for the children involving sports, arts and crafts, and anything else we can dream up! This provides the opportunity to bond with the children while gaining insight into BGCH’s mission of inspiring the local Hawaiian youth. Next, we will make our way to sunny SoCal, seeing San Diego’s most iconic sights. Give back to the community as you volunteer with the local Boys and Girls Clubs, then hang ten as you learn to surf at one of the city’s most famous beaches.
Plenty of action-packed adventure will complement our service projects in both Hawaii and California. Hike to the top of a volcanic crater, take a surf lesson, ride in a traditional outrigger canoe and more in the Aloha State before enjoying the best that California has to offer. Immerse yourself in the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles as we take you to all the best spots of this bustling city. Witness incredible landscapes and vistas as you travel along Highway 1, taking in the beauty of the world-renowned Big Sur. Once in NorCal, check out Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco. Embrace the city by the bay as you take in the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Muir Woods, and much more.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 15 hours of service credit helping with a sea turtle conservation project, volunteering on a farm, and working with the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego
- Participate in evening beach patrols to watch for nesting turtles, or if you are lucky, witness baby hatchlings and make sure they make it safely to the ocean
- Snorkel with vibrant marine life in the biodiverse Molokini Crater
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- Try out stand up paddleboarding and sea kayaking
- Learn to hula from a professional hula dancer and create your own fresh flower lei
- Take a step back in time and visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial
- Hike through lava tunnels to the top of Diamond Head Crater for stunning coastal views
- Spend time playing with the local children of Oahu
- Try a morning of scuba diving to better explore the underwater world*
- Catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds*
- Play beach volleyball, swim in crystal clear water, and enjoy life under the Hawaiian sun
- Learn to surf in San Diego
- Get up close with the animals of the San Diego Zoo, one of the largest and most famous zoos in the world
- See the seals and sea lions of beautiful La Jolla
- Explore Hollywood and the Walk of Fame
- Wander through Venice Beach and along the Santa Monica Pier
- See LA lit up at night from the Griffith Observatory
- Take a road trip along Highway 1, experiencing the unique Big Sur
- Sink your toes into purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach
- Be amazed by the exhibits at Monterey Aquarium
- Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge
- Enjoy a delicious chocolate sundae at Ghirardelli Square
- Feel what it might have been like as a prisoner at Alcatraz
- Hike through giant redwood trees at Muir Woods
- Spend a magical day at Disneyland*
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAYS 2-6: MAUI
Maui is truly a Hawaiian paradise with pristine white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, lush vegetation, and turquoise ocean. Lucky for us, our hotel is right across the street from some of the best beaches on the island! We can hop over any time we like for beach volleyball, relaxation, and a refreshing swim. You’ll have the opportunity to zipline over luscious jungle and take a sunset dinner cruise.
Maui is also home to our sea turtle service project. We partner with a local organization dedicated to protecting and researching this endangered species. We’ll learn all about the hawksbill sea turtles and will participate in a variety of projects dedicated to sea turtle conservation. Some of these projects include beach cleanups to protect the turtle’s natural habitats, watching over basking turtles on the beach, and educating tourists.
Summer is also the time of year these turtles typically come on the beach to nest. This means that it is very likely that we will have the opportunity to participate in a night watch for nesting turtles or watch over a nest hatching and help the babies make their way safely to the ocean!
For a truly authentic experience while on Maui, we will visit a small village tucked away in a private valley. Here you can fully immerse yourself in the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle. The valley is stunning and surrounded by rolling hills, lush vegetation, streams and hiking trails. It’s a place tourists would never be able to visit. Only those with a special invitation can visit this magical place and we will have the unique opportunity to spend the day there!
Connect with a local Hawaiian family and help out with their sustainability projects including taro farming and fish pond restoration. Embrace Hawaiian traditions and try your hand at a variety of activities such as hula, drumming, and enjoy a Hawaiian feast! This is a true cultural immersion experience and a wonderful way to experience the true meaning of Ohana in Hawaii!
Our service work will be complemented with plenty of fun activities, including a boat trip to snorkel in famous Molokini crater, sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding, riding in a traditional outrigger canoe, scuba diving (optional), and learning to hula from a professional hula dancer.
There will also be an optional excursion to catch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala Volcano and bike down through the clouds. For those who don’t feel comfortable biking, don’t worry, there is the option to ride down in a vehicle too!
DAYS 7-11: HONOLULU > PEARL HARBOR > WAIKIKI
Oahu is the perfect island for a little bit of adventure! We will take a surf lesson on the famous shores of Waikiki with professional instructors who will have you riding waves in no time. Our hotel is just steps away from the beach, so we will have plenty of time to relax, swim, and enjoy some quality time in the summer sun! For a truly unique experience, we’ll hike through a lava tunnel to the top of Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the island.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without a journey to the past in order to pay respects at the USS Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor Memorials. Accessible only by boat, this memorial is one of several sites in Hawaii commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor and honoring those who lost their lives as well as the few remaining survivors.
Our time in Oahu will be made even more special with a visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu. While here, we will run a program for the children involving sports, arts and crafts, or anything else we can dream up! This provides the opportunity to bond with the children and gain more insight into BGCH’s mission of inspiring the local Hawaiian youth.
We will cap off our time in Hawaii with a special Luau, complete with hula dancers, music, and a delicious spread of traditional Hawaiian food. After ten beautiful days soaking up the sun in Hawaii, it’s time to say goodbye as we continue our adventure to the California coast!
DAYS 12-14: SAN DIEGO
Our adventure continues in sunny San Diego. We’ll get our first taste of the laid back Southern California lifestyle as we explore the neighborhoods and coastline that make this city so well known! Wander through Balboa Park, watch the seals of La Jolla, hang ten as you learn to surf in the Pacific, and absorb the history of the charming gaslamp district. During your time here, you’ll give back to the community and have a chance to interact with the local children with the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.
DAYS 15-18: LOS ANGELES
Tackle the second largest city in the US without feeling overwhelmed! Wander through “Tinseltown” to spot your favorite celebrity along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and check out the Chinese Theatre, explore vibrant Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, window shop along Rodeo Drive, and hike through Runyon Canyon for incredible views from the Griffith Observatory. You will even have the chance to go on an optional day trip to one of America’s favorite theme parks: Disneyland!*
DAY 19: HIGHWAY 1
Arguably the most beautiful coastal road in the world, we’ll spend a couple of days snaking our way up it, stopping at the postcard perfect beaches of Santa Barbara and Pismo, the stunning McWay Falls, funky Bixby Bridge, and the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach. Explore the charming town of Monterey before strolling along quaint Capitola Beach and riding roller coasters on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
DAYS 20-21: SAN FRANCISCO
Experience all the best of the City by the Bay in the cultural epicentre of NorCal.. Ride the historical cable car and enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of famous Pier 39. Sample incredible seafood while watching the lazy sea lions bask along the pier before enjoying a delicious sundae at Ghirardelli Square. Explore San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods, including Haight Ashbury, SoMa, Embarcadero, and Chinatown.
Head North to Marin County, where you’ll cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and stroll through the quaint seaside town of Sausalito before hiking through the impressive redwoods of Muir Woods. Hop on a boat across the bay to tour the infamous prison, Alcatraz, also known as The Rock.
DAY 22: DEPART FROM SAN FRANCISCO (SFO)
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
"This past summer (2019) I attended the Aloha Hawaii for younger teens trip. I first decided I wanted to do a teen tour in the summer of 2017 after seeing my family friend go on one. I started to brainstorm ideas of where I wanted to go, after some time I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do something with animals, sun, adventure and nature. After some research I found the perfect trip. Not only did this trip have everything I wanted but it was also in HAWAII! And who doesn't love Hawaii? As soon as I met the counselor and fellow campers at the airport I knew this would be a trip to remember. As we got on the plane and took off, I started feeling anxious and thinking the worst. But when we landed, I was so excited to get this trip started. After an amazing 11 days our trip had come to an end, and let me just say I did NOT want to leave. With some tears and sadness I left for the airport knowing that I would never forget my first trip with Travel For Teens."
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.
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 the insight they gain from experiencing the “real Hawaii” off the tourist track. Having the opportunity to learn more about the marine life and participate in a meaningful project to protect an endangered species, as well as spend time with the local children, are just some of the highlights of this program.
Students also love the insight they gain from experiencing the “real California” off the tourist track. Having the opportunity to learn more about the different cities and landscapes, as well as spend time with the local children, are just some of the highlights of this program.
What is unique about this program?
This program is designed for younger teens in mind and intimate sized groups make this an incredible experience for everyone on board.
It is nesting season during our time with the sea turtles, so there is a very good chance of having the unique opportunity to witness a sea turtle nesting her eggs on the beach at night, or even watching a nest hatch and helping the babies make their way safely to the ocean. Both are unforgettable experiences!
You’ll also see cities and spend time outdoors in some of the greatest places in California that will create lifelong memories.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; lunches; 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.
Our USA For Younger Teens: Hawaii & California program is an exciting combination of our USA For Younger Teens: Aloha Hawaii and USA For Younger Teens: Hello California programs. The flight between programs is not covered in the cost of tuition and is considered part of your airfare. TFT will have a set group flight path from Hawaii to California. You can choose to book this on your own, but we recommend booking through our office as we usually are able to get better flight deals.
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.
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.
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 should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
The food in Hawaii involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course, seafood! Some typical foods we will have the chance to try are poke bowls, acai bowls, poi, and breadfruit. While in California, we’ll have seafood and food influenced by the neighboring continent of Asia.
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.
What kind of visa do you need for this program?
US citizens do not need passport or visa for this program, but a form of government-issued identification is needed for airport security.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.