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 and green sea turtles. Projects include learning about sea turtle conservation efforts, snorkeling to survey turtles and reef health, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work up close with injured sea turtle patients! Next, we will make our way to sunny SoCal, seeing San Diego’s most iconic sights and 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, zipline through the lush canopy 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. Through NorCal, check out Morro Bay, 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 20 hours of service credit helping with a sea turtle conservation project, and working with Urban Surf 4 Kids
- Learn about sea turtle and reef conservation and protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles
- Work up close with injured sea turtle patients
- Snorkel with vibrant marine life in the biodiverse Molokini Crater
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- 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 scuba diving to 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
- 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
- See an ancient volcanic plug formed by magma in stunning Morro Bay
- 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!
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. At the Center, we will work first-hand with injured turtle patients–tending to wounds, taking fluids, and whatever else these gentle friends need on their road to recovery.
Our service work will be complemented with plenty of fun activities, including a boat trip to snorkel in the famous Molokini crater, sea kayaking, scuba diving (optional), and ziplining!
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.
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, sea kayak 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 Urban Surf 4 Kids.
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, staying in Morro Bay and stopping at the postcard-perfect beaches of Santa Barbara, the stunning McWay Falls, funky Bixby Bridge, Santa Cruz, and the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach.
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 are awarded top youth travel organization year after year!
"Thank you, Kevin! She was really hesitant to try something like this before the trip, so we are so happy she participated and delighted she managed it well. Thank you again for your leadership and for doing such a thoughtful and wholehearted job!"
"Totally blown away! From day 1 to day 11! Breisen and Kristina are two amazing people. I don’t know how else to express my complete gratitude to & for them. I am just blown away and have been since the beginning. The funny thing is, from the get go, I saw it in the pictures that were posted on Waldo. They were amazing, fabulous, wonderful pictures that really told a story (as far as I am concerned). What I saw was a group of strangers that truly appeared comfortable, respectful of each other and appeared to really get along with each other. Part of that is just the group itself but the main reason, I believe, is that these amazing people made that happen & ARE TRULY EXPERTS AND AMAZING IN DOING WHAT THEY DO! They nailed it! I had basically no fear throughout this trip and when I did have a concern, there was an explanation immediately. All I can say is that I would send my children on a trip, (almost) anywhere in the world, with Breisen and Kristina! Throughout the morning at the LAX airport they happily and enthusiastically got every child either safely on their flight or at the very least, safely to their gate destination. I saw it! That is a HUGE feat! I flew into LAX because I was just nervous about my daughter in LAX by herself but I TOTALLY didn’t need to do that. This is one happy momma!!"
"With this being Owen's first time away from home in quite some time, we have been so grateful for the level of care and attention that you and the team put into every single detail of the trip. Even with the flight issues at the beginning you managed everything smoothly and ensured they had the time of their lives. It was so great to be well informed every day with emails and photos so we didn't even feel like we had to text Owen at all during the trip. I know he appreciated this independence! Owen had an unforgettable trip to Hawaii, met new people and had new experiences, and for that we can't thank you enough!"
Travel with us and discover why we are consistently winning awards for Top Youth Travel Organization.
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 the USA for Middle School: Hawaii & California trip?
Students love the wide variety of famous cities, relaxing beaches, meaningful service, and exciting activities on this trip. USA for Middle School: Hawaii & California has it all and more. Participants will have the opportunity to work with sea turtles and local youth, along with endorphin-fueled activities all designed for younger teens in mind.
What is unique about the USA for Middle School: Hawaii & California trip?
USA for Middle School: Hawaii & California provides eye-opening conservation service and time outdoors in some of the greatest places in California. Our work with our service partner allows us to get up close to the amazing green sea turtle, working first-hand with turtle patients, assisting the team with bandaging wounds, fin massages, and anything else they may need.
This program is designed for younger teens in mind and intimate-sized groups make this an incredible experience for everyone on board.
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 13 and 24 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. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
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.
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.