We’ll dive right into Hawaii’s biggest island on an adventure sure to leave you feeling rewarded and refreshed. Team up with a local marine conservation organization to earn 20 hours of community service while becoming ambassadors for a healthy Hawaiian ecosystem. Experience hands-on learning while working closely with marine biologists on important projects focused on the ocean and local sea life. Snorkel, survey reefs, collect ocean data and become educated about reef ecology. After three days of our marine biology project, you’ll officially become a certified reef teacher!
Plenty of adventure will complement our service projects — swim in secret waterfalls, sail alongside pods of dolphins, gaze at an active volcano glowing at night, snorkel with giant manta rays, take a surf lesson, and much more on this incredible journey to discover the best of Hawaii!
Our Older Teen programs are carefully crafted with 11th and 12th graders in mind. We understand that older teens require a different type of program, and need itineraries with more challenges and independence to help them grow and encourage even more confidence with traveling.
These programs are designed to nurture older teens and teach them to be more savvy travelers. Because as you grow, your interests and needs do too. So get ready to explore the very best the 50th State has to offer, connect with nature and local communities, and learn how to be an independent traveler!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service
- Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and watch an active volcano glow in the evening
- Snorkel with manta rays at night
- Learn about reef ecology and become a certified reef teacher
- Horseback ride or hike through Waipio Valley
- Hike through lush rainforests to sparkling waterfalls
- Enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast at an authentic Hawaiian luau
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
When the group flight takes off, the trip has begun!
DAYS 1-7: KONA
Our Hawaiian adventure will take place on “The Big Island” also known simply as Hawaii! Here we will work closely alongside marine biologists for four days to learn and help care for the fragile underwater ecosystem that surrounds the island. We’ll encounter numerous exotic fish, an abundance of healthy coral, dozens of sea turtles and more! At the end of our project, we will be certified reef instructors ready to educate Hawaii’s visitors about safe swimming and snorkeling practices and what they can do to help keep the reefs lifely. Our service projects will be centered around observational snorkeling to survey reefs, collecting ocean data for research, and educating visitors to Hawaii.
Marine conservation won’t be the only focus of our time on the West Coast of Hawaii, we’ll have plenty of adventures while there as well! Set sail out to the Captain Cook Monument for some world-class snorkeling and even snorkel or scuba dive* at night with giant manta rays. Take a horseback ride through stunning Waipio Valley and see what the North Shore is all about.
DAYS 8-10: HILO
We’ll road trip from sunny Kona to rainforest centric Hilo to experience a different side of the Big Island! We’ll see numerous waterfalls, a rainforest-themed botanical garden, and lava rocks galore! We’ll visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to wander through lava tubes, hike the rim of an active volcano, and watch lava glow as the sunsets!
You will also have the option to take a journey to the top of 13,000-foot Mauna Kea* for incredible stargazing through some of the world’s most powerful telescopes!
Our time in Hawaii will be topped off with an authentic Hawaiian luau, complete with amazing performances and delicious food! We’ll celebrate the past three weeks and reminisce about our incredible adventures under the Hawaiian sun.
* Mauna Kea is an optional excursion
DAY 10: RETURN FLIGHT TO LOS ANGELES (LAX)
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 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 chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. 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 Kona, our hotel is right next to a small bay, perfect for swimming and right in the heart of Kona’s many shops. There are swimming pools at all four of our hotels, perfect for cooling off after a fun day spent under the sun!
In Hilo, we’ll stay close to the ocean in a centrally located hotel with air conditioning and 24-hour security.
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 the 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 spending time with the locals from the island to learn more about their fascinating culture.
What is unique about this program?
Getting to work outdoors in a beautiful setting is truly the best way to give back. We’ll get to see marine life up close and spend a great deal of time in the water.
In addition to the service component, students love the exciting mix of activities that make each day a new adventure!
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.
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 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.
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?
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.