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Make new animal friends

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Spend time with baby sloths

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bottle feed a monkey

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Costa Rica Animal Rescue Service


$5,395 + Airfare


Jun 29 – Jul 20, Jul 21 – Aug 11




Session 2, Session 4

Who can go on this trip?

Students from around the world!

Finishing Grades:

9, 10, 11, 12

Places we visit:

Puerto Viejo, Turrialba, BriBri, Cahuita, Bocas del Toro*

Optional group flight there:

Miami to San Jose

Optional group flight back:

San Jose to Miami

Would you like to bottle feed a baby monkey? Do you want to stand guard over baby sloths learning to climb? How about making sure the deer wandering the property have a salt lick? Come and spend the summer in Costa Rica volunteering at a wildlife rescue center and do just that while making friendships to last a lifetime!

You will help out at the shelter in the morning, preparing breakfast for the animals and helping them heal on their road to recovery. You will also assist with a variety of tasks imperative to the running of the shelter such as cleaning the animals’ cages, preparing medicine, light construction, or any other work that is needed. After lunch, there will be a choice to take Spanish lessons at our school in the village, or to return to the rescue center for more work with the animals.* By mid-afternoon, we will head to the beach to relax, snorkel and surf. We will also go whitewater rafting and biking, and visit the local indigenous BriBri tribe. Evenings are spent embracing the beat of the Caribbean by listening to village music, enjoying authentic dinners, and strolling the streets of the village.

*Spanish lessons are optional and an additional cost. Please inquire for cost and details.


  • Earn up to 80 hours of community service credit at a wildlife animal rescue center
  • Learn about the ongoing efforts to protect endangered animals
  • Feed and nurture animals while assisting with their road to recovery
  • Learn about the inner workings of an animal rehabilitation center
  • Relax on stunning Caribbean beaches
  • Practice your Spanish and improve your fluency with lessons taught in a fun and easy-to-learn format (optional)
  • Visit a native tribe of Bribrí people, learn their way of life and enjoy their traditional cuisine
  • Try whitewater rafting, snorkeling, and surfing in clear Caribbean waters
  • Cruise down the coast for a day trip to Bocas del Toro, Panama*
  • Fly through the jungle canopy on a zipline adventure
  • Eat delicious Tico cuisine
  • Take a guided night walk through the jungle to see nocturnal animals come alive
    • *This is an optional excursion.



After arriving in San Jose we will take a private bus to Puerto Viejo and our new jungle home for the next few weeks. We will have an introduction to the animal rehabilitation center and receive a training session before jumping into our service work! We will get to know all of the animals at the shelter and spend our mornings taking care of them and keeping the shelter operating smoothly. Students will work only with animals that are safe, but you will see the staff’s efforts to rehabilitate snakes (including some of the most poisonous snakes in the world) and other injured and orphaned animals. Service work is need based and always varies, but in past years we have rescued a sea turtle and nursed him back to health before returning him to the ocean, cared for orphaned sloths and monkeys, repaired cages, given medicine to a variety of animals, worked on various maintenance projects, and overall gained a better understanding of the work that goes into running and operating an animal shelter, the dangers that face animals in the wild, and preventative actions to improve the environment and help these animals in the future.

With all of our hard work we will need some time to enjoy everything this gorgeous country has to offer! We will incorporate plenty of fun activities into each day to help you maximize your time in Costa Rica. With optional Spanish lessons, beach time for surfing and snorkeling, horseback riding, soccer, fishing, sailing and beach volleyball you are sure to love your time spent in Puerto Viejo!

In addition to our laid back beach activities we will also include some adventurous activities in the jungle, such as ziplining through the rainforest, white water rafting down one of the most famous rafting rivers in the world, and hiking in the afternoon. If you aren’t feeling very adventurous, no worries! We always offer options and there will be alternative activities if you prefer not to partake in the more adventurous sports.

To better understand Costa Rican culture we will take a trip to the indigenous Bribrí tribe to meet them and learn more about their day to day life. We’ll also visit a chocolate making facility to learn how this delicious Costa Rican product is grown and produced, and of course, sample some treats as well!.

By the end of your 3 week adventure you will have not only gained an appreciation for the animals of Costa Rica, but also learned more about rescue and rehabilitation work, immersed yourself in the culture, had thrilling adventures, and made some lifelong friends (with both humans and animals)!


Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?

We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.

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 Puerto Viejo we stay in a hotel surrounded by trees where you can see monkeys, iguanas and toucans hanging around.

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 by themselves?

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 are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you 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 BFFs on another TFT trip the next summer!

Can I bring a friend?

Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.

What do students generally like most on 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 do things like whitewater rafting, surf lessons and zip-line. Contribute with the community participating of meaningful service projects and share with the local kids.

What is unique about this program?

From spending a night in the heart of the jungle and do whitewater rafting in one of the top river in the world for this activity, to a hands-on community service projects. TFT’s expertise in leading trips through Costa Rica, this program provides unique insider access to this culture.

What is included?

Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunch and dinners, chaperones and guides, trip related activities, trip related activity admissions, taxes and tips.

Not included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, rail passes, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than tap water, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not trip related such as movies, clubs and the like, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the trip description such as damage to hotels, excess baggage fees and the like, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances such as transportation strikes, natural disasters and the like, personal and medical expenses.

How do the optional group flights work?

Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this trip’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the trip starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on trips that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.

Who are the counselors on the trip?

The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.

It is the job of the counselors to keep the trip fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.

What are the safety qualifications for our staff?

All of our staff members attend a week long training session every May to prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.

What is the average group size?

Group size is important! A smaller group size provides unique opportunities that a large group cannot accommodate. Think of your favorite local restaurant; could it easily accommodate a group of 50 teens? Probably not! Our group sizes average between 14 to 21 students, which means that we are able to comfortably use local transport, enjoy local restaurants, and have a more authentic experience overall! A smaller group size also eliminates the likelihood of cliques, meaning that our groups all tend to bond as a cohesive unit. We guarantee that you’ll have enough people to meet some new best friends, but not so many that you feel like “just a number” or lost in a crowd.

How does this program connect to other programs?

Most of our Latin America programs are designed specifically so that participants can combine them with other trips. If you are connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the trip and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.

What is the food like on this trip?

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 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!

As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.

Do I need any vaccinations for this trip?

We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/.

How much free time do we get?

Our counselors are with the group nearly always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. We do offer some free time to do some shopping, for example, in defined areas that we are very familiar with. If participants are ever shopping by themselves within these defined areas they go in groups and for no more than an hour. On this trip, the group will have some free time to explore some of the safe pedestrian areas of Puerto Viejo. A counselor will always be nearby when participants have free time in each city.

What kind of visa do you need for this trip?

Any US citizen that enters Costa Rica is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country 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!


  1. Sarah


    This trip to Costa Rica was one that I could never have imagined, it was better than my expectations. The counselors were friendly, fun, always prepared, and always ready for any challenge that came our way.
    Despite the time of year that I visited Costa Rica was during the “Green Season” or “Rainy Season”we made the most of the weather. A snorkeling trip in the Caribbean was switched out for a trip to the Sloth Sanctuary in Lima. There we had a tour of the Sloths that they had rescued, a tour via boat along the river next to the sanctuary where we saw a few wild sloths and other critters, and to my favorite part, the Sloth Nursery! We also had plenty of fun in the water, including surfing lessons in the Caribbean and my favorite, rappeling through waterfalls in Turrialba. We would rappel down a water fall and zip-line to the next one. This was a first time experience for me and I loved every minute of it. The instructors were there to help us every step of the way and had spotters below us to ensure safety. I never once felt scared. Another first for me was white water rafting where we had plenty of instruction and despite it being thrilling and exciting, I still was never scared.
    Trying all of the foods there was a big plus and one of the parts I do miss is the meals we had. Fresh juices at every restaurant and fried plantains with every meal.
    A rain jacket and water shoes were a must, as well as sunscreen and bug spray!
    Through this trip I learned the motto of Costa Rica, “Pura Vida” which means Pure Life but truly shows that we should embrace the beauty the world has to offer and to live life to the fullest, and Costa Rica has plenty to offer.

  2. Taylor Klinefelter


    My daughter loved it all–helping the sloths and monkeys, etc, surfing, horseback riding, zip lining, rafting, loved the food, the town, the people and the leaders! High quality program, great variety of activities every day, good balance of independence and structure, animal welfare is of high interest, great group. Excellent program from start to finish-well run, considerate and responsive to parents and really design a program that is constantly fun and interesting and varied for teens, superior.

  3. Taylor Klinefelter


    Great group of kids, friendly and inclusive, counselors were very organized and had great balance of being in charge/being fun and friendly, the animals of course, the day trips, surfing, speaking Spanish.

  4. Nataleena Daily


    When I was preparing for this trip I was excited, but being there and attending this trip was more amazing than I even imagined.
    During the day we would hold baby sloths and play with baby monkeys before exploring the town at night or even doing other activities such as surfing and horseback riding. Working at the center allowed me to learn so much about animals while discovering and exploring the culture at night.
    Being there for 22 days gave us a great opportunity to not only get to explore the culture but to also make amazing and close friendships with the other students and even the counselors.
    As cheesy as it sounds, the trip was the highlight of not only last year, but the last five years!

  5. Olivia Haan


    It was amazing to meet new people, new animals, and have new opportunities. On our days off from working in the center, we went zip lining, snorkeling, and even had the opportunity to go to Panama. I won’t forget following an anteater or playing with monkeys as tours went by. Every night we’d go for amazing, authentic Costa Rican food that I will always miss. Between working with baby sloths or monkeys at the center, to surfing, to white after rafting, to snorkeling, it was a trip I’ll never forget. I was very excited to go and plan on taking another trip this summer!

  6. Katie Zinkham


    Yes, we are still reading your wonderful missives and enjoying the photos. I love the way you let things develop–such as the observation of the animals and the student photography. And it is impressive how much work you plan for the kids to do–in all areas both fun and messy–and the fantastic activities available after the work is done. (Ariela’s parents are good salsa dancers, and I’ll bet they envied the dance lessons.) We are very impressed. Did any of the kids want to go home?

  7. Katie Zinkham


    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed these emails and pictures! It is hard to wrap my brain around all you managed to fit into your first couple of days in Costa Rica…I’m so grateful that Emma had such wonderful people guiding her through this experience – who could have imagined you would also be accomplished photojournalists and travel writers as well so we can live vicariously through our children on this amazing journey! You have no idea how seeing the pictures of her surfing and smiling and exploring and connecting with all of you reassured us! Thank you thank you thank you. I am deeply appreciative of the obvious time and effort you put into your emails.

  8. Katie Zinkham


    The picture of Grace zip lining speaks a million words! Should be the cover of a TFT catalog! All the pics were sensational!! I loved getting to know you and the kids through your dedicated daily letters and pictures. It was incredibly moving how you shared this journey with us. You can see how the group evolved and grew closer together. Really amazing and wonderful! We are so very grateful to you!

  9. Katie Zinkham


    I enjoyed every single email every night and I had not expected that so it was a wonderful surprise as I felt a part of the trip every night reading them and smiling and then seeing all the photos. My gratitude is endless that you guided that crazy gang of random teens with hearts for adventure and animals through 3 weeks of adventure safely and with undying enthusiasm and smiles. Mil gracias! I do hope there were friendships forged that will continue on and a connection to the JRC and creatures of Costa Rica to last a lifetime.

  10. Katie Zinkham


    I love your hats!! And all the incredible pictures!! What a successful trip !! My favorite parts were certainly the interaction with each other and the animals!!! Our kudos to your professionalism and care and helping them to be in quality leadership roles. I know they loved the adventures. (I’ll admit sometimes I was a little nervous at home until your emails and pictures came.) Many thanks to you all!!! Safe travels and here’s to many more adventures!

  11. Katie Zinkham


    It has been our greatest privilege and blessing for my daughters, and our family, that Grace & Elizabeth were fortunate enough to have had this time with you. You created the most outstanding and what was an unimaginable, spectacular trip!!! I cannot express enough my immense gratitude for your care and love, and endless effort in making sure that everyone was safe and happy for 3 weeks, non-stop, every day, in a foreign country. We will carry you in our hearts forever. We’ll all be in touch, though for the moment, I wanted to tell you that through what you have given our children, and to all of us through your letters and pictures, my life feels happier and better, and I loved so much following along in your journey. I know the girls will be forever changed. It was a perfect trip! Couldn’t have been better!

  12. Katie Zinkham


    Before Sofia, Sandy (her step mom) and I thought about this trip we were apprehensive just like the girls were taking the stage to dance salsa. We were expecting this to be a great experience for Sofia and had our fingers crossed. It turned out to be a fantastic trip and wanted to let you know, if you ever have any parent apprehensive about their kid taking that stage to join a trip like this you are more than welcome to list me as a reference. I’ll have them laughing before you know it.

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