Costa Rica Sea Turtle Service and Adventure
$2,895 + Airfare
Jun 29 – Jul 9, Aug 1 – Aug 11
Session 2, Session 5
9, 10, 11, 12
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from around the world!
|Places we visit:||
Turrialba, La Fortuna, Sámara Beach
|Optional group flight there:||
Dallas to San Jose
|Optional group flight back:||
San Jose to Dallas
Did you know that the sea turtle population is declining rapidly? Six out of seven sea turtle species are going extinct, and in Costa Rica, the Pacific Leatherback population has declined 90% since 1980! TFT is committed to making a difference for this ancient species, and we invite you to join us this summer to help!
We partner with an organization in Montezuma dedicated to protecting the four species that frequent this area’s beaches. These turtles are at risk for extinction due to a variety of factors, including human activities. Our goal will be to monitor the turtles that nest on Montezuma Beach and assist with a strategy for future conservation efforts. Some of your volunteer duties will include evening patrols to look for nesting turtles, collecting nest data, and even releasing baby turtles safely into the ocean!
This program is also unique because of its community outreach efforts. We will work closely with the local village school and spend time with the children who go there while helping out with a variety of projects. This will allow you to make a positive impact on both the sea turtles and the community you are staying in, allowing for an all-around immersive cultural experience.
Our service efforts will be complemented by a variety of fun activities designed to embrace the “pura vida,” including ziplining through lush jungle canopy, swimming in stunning waterfalls, relaxing in natural hot springs, and learning how to surf on Montezuma’s beautiful coastline.
If you are looking for an opportunity to give back and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle of Costa Rica, then this is the perfect program for you!
On this program you will:
- Earn 20 hours of service volunteering with an organization dedicated to sea turtle conservation
- Patrol the beach at night to look for nesting turtles
- Help hatchlings safely make their way to the ocean
- Monitor and protect nests and their surroundings
- Participate in a community outreach project with the local village elementary school
- Zipline through the treetops
- Swim in jungle waterfalls
- Enjoy a scenic catamaran ride to a tiny island
- Relax in natural volcanic hot springs
- Learn to ride a wave during a surf lesson
- Take a yoga class on the beach
- Visit an indigenous community
- Spot monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife at a famous national park
- Snorkel, swim, and explore the underwater world
- Stand up paddleboard on the ocean
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM DALLAS
As the group flight takes off, our South American journey officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 3: Puntarenas
Our first night we will get to know each other with some group ice breakers and become acquainted with Costa Rican culture. The next morning we will hop on a catamaran to Tortuga island for a relaxing island lunch before heading to Montezuma, the site of where our service project officially begins!
DAYS 3 – 8: Montezuma Sea Turtle Service Project
Montezuma is a very small village with a population of approximately 500 people and it is the perfect place to not only start our service project, but learn what Costa Rica is all about away from the crowds and the typical tourist path!
As soon as we arrive, we will receive an introduction to the sea turtle conservation station we will call home for the next six days. The center has simple accommodation for us on site, which will allow us to participate in night patrols and be ready to spring into action if there is any nesting or hatching activity that happens during the night or early morning. Our days here will be filled with turtle conservation efforts. One day you may be helping to collect nest data, and the next you may be helping baby turtles (hatchlings) make it safely to the ocean! As turtles are wild animals, there is no guarantee of what each day may look like, but that is part of what makes this program so exciting! July is peak nesting season for turtles, so there is a very high probability that you will be able to watch a female turtle lay her eggs or witness babies hatching. Other projects may include building hatcheries, beach clean ups, tagging and measuring turtles, and anything else related to protecting these beautiful creatures.
In addition to our sea turtle efforts, we will also help out the local elementary school. You will be able to form relationships with the school children, play games with them, and help out with any light maintenance projects around the school. This community outreach will allow for an immersive experience and deeper insight into Tico culture.
Our service work will also include plenty of fun activities! Hike and zipline through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall and enjoy a refreshing swim. Enjoy a surf lesson and learn to ride a wave, followed by a relaxing yoga session on the beach. Try stand up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and a variety of other water activities.
DAYS 8 – 11: Bagaces
For the next portion of our trip we will stay in beautiful Bagaces. This small town is surrounded by two different rivers, which creates some beautiful waterfalls, stunning scenery, and plenty of hiking trails for us to explore! We’ll swim in the Llanos de Cortés Waterfall, often considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country! We’ll also visit the Palo Verde National Park, which is one of the best places to view wildlife. The park is home to lagoons, mangroves, limestone, grassland, and forests, and we will keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, exotic birds, and more! During our time in Bagaces we will also visit the Guaitil Indigenous Reserve, where we’ll discover what life is like for the tribe that calls this area home.
Our accommodation in Bagaces has thermal hot springs on site, fed by the nearby volcano, so we’ll spend our evenings relaxing and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of the mineral water!
DAY 11: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FOR USA
What kind of teen typically participates in this program?
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.
What are the requirements to join?
This program is only for students who are currently in 9th through 12th grade and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels and hostels 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.
Our first night we will stay in Puntarenas at a family run hotel located right on the beach. We will be able to enjoy the swimming pool and have easy access to the ocean. The accommodation at Montezuma is a rustic and basic structure designed specifically for volunteers. We will stay in dorm rooms with bunk beds- think summer camp style! Please note that we are staying in a developing community and will not have access to AC or hot showers. In Bragaces we will stay at an eco hotel that has its very own hot springs fed from the nearby volcano.
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 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 program 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 like most about this program?
Students love that they are able to have a hands on experience helping protect the endangered sea turtles. This program allows them to get out of their comfort zone and give back, while also enjoying exciting activities like surf lessons and zip-lining. Combining these adventure with meaningful service projects provides for a well rounded experience.
What is unique about this program?
In addition to working with sea turtles, students will also be able to connect with the local community and volunteer at the village school. This provides an immersive experience and allows students to discover all facets of life in Costa Rica.
What is included?
Ground transportation, accommodations, all breakfasts, lunches and, chaperones and guides, program related activities, program related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not Included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): Airfare, visas and visa application fees, eight lunches, beverages other than filtered water at meals, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not program related, such as movies, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as 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 program’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 program starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on programs 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 LEADS THE PROGRAM?
The Trip Director for every program 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 program 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. Programs 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 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 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 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!
We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group almost 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 Arenal and Sámara beach. A counselor will always be nearby when participants have free time in each city. Additionally a lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
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/. After you register, we will provide you with a list of vaccinations you should consider discussing with your child’s family doctor.
What kind of Visa do you need for this program?
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!