Hawaii, California, & Grand Canyon Trip Overview
This summer, experience some of America’s most beautifully unique states on this one-of-a-kind adventure to the Aloha State and the great American Southwest. The first part of our journey will include service projects focused on wildlife conservation in Hawaii, where we will learn about sea turtle conservation and participate in several community service projects to protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Projects include snorkeling and reef surveying, nest watches, night patrols, and watching over sea turtles as they bask on the island’s beaches. Our service work will also include a special visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Honolulu, where we’ll meet local youth and spend the morning with them.
Visit a small village tucked away in a private valley and fully immerse yourself in the traditional Hawaiian lifestyle. Only those with an invitation can visit this special place and we will have the unique opportunity to spend the day. Connect with a local Hawaiian family and help out with their sustainability projects while embracing the traditional Hawaiian way of life. This is a true cultural immersion experience and a wonderful way to experience the true meaning of Ohana in Hawaii!
After our time in Hawaii, we will venture to the mainland to live out the last days of summer in the Golden State and Grand Canyon State! From LA to San Diego, you’ll soak up the SoCal sun in two of California’s greatest cities. We’ll begin this leg of our journey in the star-studded city of Los Angeles where you’ll stroll the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and admire the city lights at sunset from Griffith Observatory. Enjoy the Pacific Ocean while hanging out at Venice Beach and ride the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. In San Diego, hang ten as you learn to surf at one of the city’s most famous beaches and kayak through secret caves in La Jolla while looking out for sea lions. If the San Diego Zoo or Disneyland* has been on your bucket list, check them off here!
On our way to the Grand Canyon State of Arizona, we’ll make a pitstop in Nevada in the vibrant city of Las Vegas. Ride the High Roller Ferris wheel and enjoy a delicious feast at an interactive dinner show! There’s no downtown in America quite like the Las Vegas Strip! The flashing lights and fountains complement the high energy of Vegas.
There’s no better way to end this road trip than through some of the most famous places in America than at one of the seven natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon. See it for yourself and try to envision how the Colorado River created such a masterpiece over hundreds of thousands of years. We’ll continue on to Page, Arizona to see lesser-known hidden gems: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend! These natural wonders are not to be missed sites in the Grand Canyon area. We’ll even stop in beautiful Sedona before ending our journey in Phoenix.
So grab your bathing suit and your hiking boots as we go from beaches to canyons on the adventure of a lifetime!
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of service credit volunteering with multiple wildlife conservation projects
- Learn about sea turtle conservation and protect the endangered hawksbill sea turtles
- Spend the day with a local Hawaiian family in a beautiful valley at their sustainable farm
- Cook a traditional Hawaiian feast and learn the ways of “old Hawaii”
- Learn to surf on the famous shores of Waikiki Beach
- Kayak through the pristine waters of the Pacific Ocean
- Learn to hula and enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast at an authentic Hawaiian luau
- Take a step back in time and visit 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
- Zoom over the lush jungle canopies on an adrenaline-pumping zipline tour
- Try a morning of scuba diving and explore the world under the ocean’s surface*
- 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
- Watch sunset from Griffith Observatory, stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and see that famous sign for yourself
- Live out your childhood dream of visiting Disneyland*
- Relax at the beach in Santa Monica or enjoy one of the rides at the pier
- Kayak secret caves and look for sea lions in La Jolla
- Ride the High Roller in Las Vegas for views of the strip
- Take in the wonder of the mighty Grand Canyon
- Check out the natural beauty of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAYS 2-4: 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 famous Diamond Head Crater for breathtaking views of the island.
No visit to Oahu would be complete without a journey to the past to pay respects at the USS Arizona 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.
DAYS 5-10: 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 also snorkel in the pristine blue waters at Molokini Crater.
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 participate in a variety of projects dedicated to sea turtle conservation. Some of these projects include snorkeling and reef surveying to collect ocean data and look for turtles, beach cleanups to protect their 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 even cooking 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 sea kayaking, ziplining, walking through bamboo forests to waterfalls, 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!
On our last night in Hawaii, we will experience a traditional Hawaiian luau with incredible performances and plenty of food! After living up island life, we will part ways with the Aloha State, but the Ohana we created will last forever!
DAYS 11-14: LOS ANGELES
From Hawaii we will travel to California to 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, window shop in Beverly Hills at Rodeo Drive and check out the Chinese Theatre. Spot the Hollywood sign on your way up to the Griffith Observatory where you’ll watch the city light up as the sun sets. Explore vibrant Venice Beach and shop in the famous Abbot Kinney neighborhood. Play on the Santa Monica Pier, or relax on the beach. Discover some of the best sites of LA by bike. You will even have the chance to go on an optional day trip to one of America’s favorite theme parks: Disneyland!
DAYS 15-17: SAN DIEGO
Our adventure continues in sunny San Diego. We’ll get a taste of the laidback SoCal lifestyle as we explore the neighborhoods and coastline that make this city so well known! Wander through Balboa Park and visit the world famous San Diego Zoo. Kayak through secret caves and watch the lazy seals in La Jolla. Take a surf lesson and learn to catch a wave in the Pacific. Absorb the history of the gaslamp neighborhood and enjoy colorful sunsets every night in the beautiful San Diego weather with your new friends.
DAYS 18: LAS VEGAS
On our way to Arizona we’ll stop in the vibrant city of Las Vegas to stroll the Strip and check out some of the well-known sites, including the dancing fountains at the Bellagio and the High Roller ferris wheel. We’ll hang by the hotel pool and catch a dinner show at one of Vegas’s top casinos before heading to our next destination.
DAYS 19-21: ARIZONA CANYONS
You can’t visit Arizona without visiting the Grand Canyon National Park but we’ll take it one step further and visit some of the best-hidden gems of the Southwest. Discover one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon, and see for yourself what makes it one of the most incredible sights in the entire country! Page is home to both Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. If you love traveling to natural wonders off the beaten path, this stop is sure to satisfy your spirit. A short walk takes you to the overlook of Horseshoe Bend where the Colorado River wraps around the canyon below in a literal horseshoe shape! Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon secretly tucked below the ground. You’ll wander through the canyon, gazing up at the bright orange walls that make you feel like you’re on another planet. If you’re feeling up for a swim, stop by the beautiful Lone Rock Beach on the shores of Lake Powell. On our last day, we’ll stop in Sedona to see one of Arizona’s most beautiful areas.
DAY 22: DEPART FROM PHOENIX (PHX)
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
"My first TFT trip was incredible. I got to see the various types of beauty found along the pacific west cost from national parks to vibrant cities. Not only were the destinations wonderful but so were the TFT staff. They were immensely caring and fun people to be around. Some of my fondest favorite memories came from those friendships. One of my favorite aspects of this trip was that we were taught to be travelers, not tourists. Where we are encouraged to seek and explore all corners of the earth. I loved my TFT trip and I hope to never stop traveling."
"This past summer, I went on my third TFT trip and was once again swept off my feet by the adventure. On each trip, I have made lifelong memories and friends that I will forever cherish and they each have a spot on the ten best experiences of my life. My most recent trip, USA: California and the Grand Canyon, showed me the beauty in my backyard. One of my favorite parts was the bike tour in Santa Monica. It was a great way to explore the area with new friends. I also enjoyed going to the famous Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset and see the City of Angels light up the sky at night. The mix of activities planned for the trip made sure that everyone had something to do that was right up their alley, from sea kayaking to watching a show in Las Vegas! This also allows campers to get out of their comfort zone and try new things, such as surfing lessons. In Arizona, we got more in touch with the Earth and explored Grand Canyon National Park and Antelope Canyon, two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Travel for Teens has had such a big influence on my life and because of them, I am a traveler, not a tourist."
Who can go on this program? What kind of teen typically goes on this program?
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 11th and approximately 14 to 17 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.
All accommodations on this trip have been selected to ensure quality while still maintaining character of the places we are visiting. All hotels or dorms are guaranteed to be clean, safe, and equipped with 24 hour security.
In Oahu, we stay at a great hotel right in the center of vibrant Waikiki that is walking distance to all of the shops, restaurants, and best of all, just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach! In Maui, we stay at a beautiful hotel right across from the beach in sunny Kihei. We will also spend two nights at rustic cabins in a beautiful private valley. There are swimming pools at both hotels perfect for cooling off after a fun day spent under the sun.
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 trip.
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 as well as spend quality time with a local family gives students a whole new perspective on the islands.
Students also love that they are able to explore a wide variety of cities and landscapes on this program. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you truly get something for everyone. In addition to the cities, the natural wonders along the way are not to be forgotten. Seeing the Grand Canyon is on every true traveler’s bucket list and this trip is sure to accomplish many more!
What is unique about this program?
This program is a beach trip meets service trip meets legitimate road trip designed for teens in mind. Intimate sized groups make this an incredible experience for everyone on board.
We have an exclusive invite to a private valley where we have the unique opportunity to spend two nights with a local family and learn more about the traditional Hawaiian way of life. Those lucky enough to visit describe the valley as magical, and it would be impossible to have this experience as just a tourist!
You’ll also see cities and spend time outdoors in some of the greatest places in California and the Southwest that will create lifelong memories. In addition to the Grand Canyon, your journey to the American Southwest will include visiting hidden gems in Page, Arizona–a destination no other teen travel company ventures to.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts and dinners, chaperones and guides, program related activities, program related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not included in cost (this not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; lunches; 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.
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 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: Hawaii, California & the Grand Canyon program is an exciting combination of our Hawaii Sea Turtles Service & Adventure and USA: California & the Grand Canyon 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.
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 stay 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 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. In the Southwest, try the best Mexican food you’ve ever had!
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.