Costa Rica “Spanish Immersion & Service” High School Student Itinerary

This itinerary focuses on Cultural Immersion, Spanish Language and Community Service. While all of our trips incorporate these three elements, this itinerary is especially relevant as your group will remain in the Homestay community for the duration of your stay in Costa Rica. The additional time within the homestay community allows you to authentically integrate into the Costa Rican way of life by utilizing your Spanish-speaking skills and participating in significant service work at the same time.

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Because this itinerary stays in one destination, the town of Turrialba, it offers groups a very affordable program tuition option all while incorporating enriching adventure and educational experiences for the group. As you will see in the itinerary summary below, the group will participate in both adventure activities and educational day tours such as white-water rafting and ziplining and learning about tropical agroforestry, biodiversity of the rainforest, and the ancient civilizations of Costa Rica.

Top 3 Highlights of the Spanish Immersion & Service Itinerary:

  • Extra time living within homestay community
    • More time to practice Spanish-speaking skills
    • More time to assimilate to the Costa Rican culture
    • Opportunity to build stronger relationships with community members
  • Increased focus on international service project
    • 24 hours dedicated to completion of service project
    • In-depth look at local issues surrounding project – past and future
    • Incorporation of pre-trip and post-trip connection to service project
  • Affordable program tuition with enriching experience
    • Travel to one destination lowers the overall cost of program
    • Cultural experience has greater depth due to increased time in homestay community
    • Adventure and educational activities still included in itinerary

Sample Costa Rica Spanish Immersion & Service High School Student Itinerary

In this itinerary, your group will arrive to the SJO international airport and transfer east through the Central Valley to the town of Turrialba, which is nestled within the Turrialba Valley flanked by the famous Turrialba Volcano. Here the homestay community & service project phases will take place in one of our pre-approved communities. During your time in the homestay community, students will learn about and experience first hand the Costa Rican lifestyle and the Spanish language. An increased amount of community service takes place on this trip as well as education field trips and adventure excursions to enjoy as well.

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This itinerary can be further customized to your group’s exact dates, duration and/or any specialized curriculum or content goals. Please note that all of our trip itineraries can be lengthened or shortened based on the wishes of the school group and/or host educator. The sample itinerary below should serve as a template to work from as you collaborate with Costa Rica Explorations to design and develop the perfect trip for you and your student group.

Day #1 – Arrival Day & Night at Mountain-Top Lodge

After all of your hard work preparing for your travels, you will board your plane to San Jose, Costa Rica, where you will embark on your highly-anticipated cultural & service project adventure. As you exit the airport, two bilingual Costa Rica Explorations guides will be outside to welcome you to the beautiful country of Costa Rica. You will climb aboard your private vehicle and take off to the town of Turrialba. The journey takes about 2.5 hours.

Along the way, you will pass through the capital city of San José where you will view the hustle and bustle of the busy city and some of its famous destinations such as the National Theater and Museum. You’ll also take a moment to stop in the former capital of Costa Rica, the town of Cartago, to enjoy your first Costa Rican meal and to learn about the storied history of Costa Rica. En route, your two guides will introduce themselves and will start to get to know each member of your group as well. They will educate you on this ride and begin to orient you to the country of Costa Rica.

When you arrive to Turrialba you will check in to your hotel in Turrialba. This evening you will enjoy dinner and a Program Orientation Meeting. After dinner you will fall right asleep, enjoying the sounds of the rainforest that surround you.

Day #2 – Team-building Activities, Waterfall Hike & Introduction to Homestay Community

Breakfast will be early each morning in Costa Rica. The sun rises around 6:00 am and sets about 12 hours later at 6:00 pm. You will notice that the birds wake up a bit earlier than the sun! It is wonderful to have such a natural alarm clock. After a delicious tropical breakfast of “gallo pinto”, eggs and fresh fruit, the group’s Orientation will continue.

This morning’s meetings are important, as you will thoroughly discuss what life will be like within your homestay community as well as the type of service work you will set out to accomplish during your stay. During your meeting, you will also learn more about each other, yourselves, and your guides through a variety of team-building activities, role-playing scenarios, and interactive games. Cultural similarities and differences will be openly discussed as you prepare for your immersion into your homestay community.

Before lunch, the group will go on a guided Waterfall Hike. This short hike through the rainforest departs from the back door of the hotel and offers a great swimming hole at the base of the waterfall.

After the hike and swim, your group will pack up and move to the homestay community. We’ll arrive just in time to meet the families and eat lunch with them. Students are typically paired up and placed within homestay families. All of the families are housed in the same community and located within a very short distance of one another. The guides and host educators are also strategically placed in homestays within the community and remain there for the duration of the program so as to be accessible 24 hours a day.

This afternoon, your group will begin the service project before returning to our homestays to relax and to prepare for the Welcome Dinner with the entire homestay community. The Welcome Dinner is a great way for your group to meet the families involved and for all involved to start to bond over a tasty home-cooked meal, interactive games, and dancing.

Day #3 – First Day of Service Project & Dance Lessons

Today is the first major service project workday. After breakfast, your group will go to the service project site to continue the project. Typically there are various projects going on at once, so the group creates subgroups to accomplish all of the goals. This allows participants the ability to try out various tasks from light construction projects to teaching English in local elementary schools.

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The service projects vary for each program as they are based on a combination of the current needs of the community and the budget of each group. There is never a shortage of service projects in our homestay communities. Review sample service projects and the selection process for these service projects. Specialists are contracted for technical aspects of the project such as welding, electric wiring, using electric saws, pouring cement, and laying tile. Participant students will assist these trained specialists. The tool technology used to accomplish these jobs are more traditional, which allows the students a greater sense of appreciation for construction projects in Costa Rica.

After a morning of hard work, your group will either eat lunch at the work site or will return to homestays to enjoy lunch and some downtime. The group will return to the worksite to put in a couple more service hours after lunch before heading over to Costa Rican dance lessons. The entire homestay community is invited to join this dynamic activity of dance lessons. Students will learn how to dance to the rhythms of salsa, merengue, and the Costa Rican-style of cumbia. Thank goodness the homestay community members are there as dance partners to guide students through these new steps!

Safe to say your group will enjoy a delicious dinner upon returning to the house and will yet again melt into your beds for a wonderful evening of rest.

 

Day #4 – White-Water Rafting & Zipline Tour

Today is full of adventure and a chance for your group to put some of your team-building skills to the test. On this unique combo tour, students will spend the day exploring the jungle by river and having some fun flying through the canopy of the rainforest!

After breakfast, a vehicle will arrive to transfer your group to the beginning of today’s combo tour where you will have the opportunity to raft the upper section of the famous Pacuare River. The group members will divide up into boats of 5 or 6 people. Each boat will have a bilingual, professional rafting instructor who will guide you down the river. All of your group’s boats will travel together on the adventure. Each guide will give a safety discussion and orientation to the raft and the rafting equipment. It is very important to learn the commands and understand what is necessary while rafting this river.

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Based on the size of the group, there will also be at least one safety kayaker to accompany the rafts. After you and your professional & bilingual guides have a blast safely running the rapids of the Pacuare, you will arrive at the jungle camp. Here you will pull over to the bank of the river and climb up to the lodge to enjoy a delicious river-side lunch prepared by your guides.

Then you will be fitted to harnesses and learn about the popular adventure sport of zip-lining on a canopy tour. This particular zip-line tour sends you from tree to tree through the primary rainforest where you are able to explore the unique biological reserve from the canopy. The views you have of the river from the tree tops are unforgettable. Sit back, relax and enjoy the unique rainforest surroundings. Your river and canopy guides will transfer you safely to your vehicle, where you will return to your homestay community.

Tonight we’ve set aside time for participants to relax as your group has been engaged in activities since you arrived to Costa Rica. Participants will be able to enjoy a night in their homestays resting, eating dinner, and practicing Spanish with their Costa Rican family members.

Day #5 – Service Project & Soccer

Today is another service project workday! Since your group is already accustomed to the work site, this is always a very productive day in which your group will accomplish the bulk of the service project work. When the service projects include physical labor as well as volunteering/teaching in the classroom, we typically take care of the physical work in the morning.

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During your hour to hour and a half lunch break, your group either eats on site or goes to your homestay before returning to the school to assist with teaching English or working in another capacity of the classroom. The service aspect of our student programs is typically the most rewarding element of the trip. The interactions that occur are mutually beneficial. Friendships are created as collaboration between your students and the community members happen working together to make the world a better place.

This afternoon, students will have a bit of time to rest before the big community soccer game! Your homestay parents, brothers and sisters will join your group at the central plaza to play a friendly game of “futból”. The game typically lasts through sunset when participants will return to their homestays to enjoy dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Day #6 – Local Farm Tour, Reforestation Project & Evening Cooking Lessons

This morning, we encourage you to enjoy an extra large portion of “Gallo pinto” and “huevitos” for breakfast as today you will learn what it means to be a farm hand! Gallo pinto is a famous Costa Rican breakfast dish of slightly stirfried mixture of finely diced garlic, onions, sweet red pepper with black beans and white rice. The food in Costa Rica is always very fresh and has a nice mild flavor. Students typically can’t get enough.

After breakfast, you’ll transfer to a local family farm for a tour, a reforestation project and a short hike to swim in a local river’s natural pools and waterfalls. During your time on this tour you’ll learn more about the term “organic” and what it takes to produce various crops in Costa Rica. You will learn how to harvest coffee and sugarcane, two very important crops to the Turrialba region. The hope is that participants gain a greater appreciation of what it takes to produce freshly brewed coffee and sugar. You will also work within an organic garden and learn about new tropical fruits and vegetables that are typically grown in Costa Rican gardens. Often times the project involves harvesting food for lunch and the group will plant trees to assist with reforestation of the zone.

The finale to the day’s tour is returning to the farmer’s home for a fresh lunch cooked on a traditional wood-burning stove. After lunch students will return to their homestays to relax before participating in cooking class with the local community. Students will learn how to make fresh homemade cheese tortillas, homemade bread, and even a “picadillo”. Participants are sure to return to their homestays content and ready to rest up for tomorrow’s tour.

Day #7 – Visit to Indigenous Reserve, Spectacular Waterfall Tour & Scavenger Hunt

After breakfast this morning, you will climb aboard your private vehicle to visit the largest indigenous monument in all of Costa Rica. Guayabo National Monument sits on the side of the Turrialba Volcano and offers visitors an impressive hiking tour through a secondary rainforest. Typically you will be able to spot a sloth hanging from a tree and a bright, gleaming blue morpho fly overhead. Guayabo National Monument may not have the spectacular pyramids of the Mayan or Aztec archeological sites, but it is intriguing in its own right.

At Guayabo National Monument one can find a sophisticated city infrastructure as well as an award-winning aqueduct system and mysterious petroglyphs and tombs. The pottery and gold artifacts that were unearthed from the site are on display at the National Museum in San Jose. This guided tour provides fascinating insight to the indigenous culture that once lived here. Your group will enjoy a traditional picnic lunch prepared by your homestays after the tour.

After lunch the group will change clothes and head off on an amazing hike to a hidden waterfall! The power that the Aquiares Waterfall gives off is unforgettable.

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As your group passes through the town of Turrialba on their way back to the homestay community, you will take part in a dynamic scavenger hunt. Through this healthy competitive activity, your group members will use their Spanish language skills to learn more about how the town is organized, how much everyday items cost in Turrialba, and how to ask for (and receive) directions in a Spanish-speaking country. Your group will split into subgroups and each group will be accompanied by an adult leader. The scavenger hunt results are tallied at the end of the activity’s allotted time.

Your group will conclude its day at a local ice cream shop and then will pass by a souvenir shop before heading back up to the homestay community for dinner and bed.

 

Day #8 – Final ServIce Project Day & Farewell Dinner

After breakfast your group will transfer to the service site for its final workday. Your group will work hard to finish all of the goals created to accomplish the project. Whether the group is building a bus stop, improving the town’s community center, planting a garden at the local kindergarten, or teaching English to elementary school students, this day is always a culmination of the collaboration and joint efforts that took place.

Sometimes groups will organize a Field Day or a BINGO with the partner organization. The afternoon is normally dedicated to rest before the big celebratory dinner with the homestay community. During this time, students are encouraged to pack up as tomorrow your group is headed to the San José airport and then back home.

Tonight’s farewell dinner is a true celebration of the completion of the service project, new friendships, and broadened perspectives of the world. Your group will enjoy their last dinner filled with delicious home-cooked Costa Rican food, music, dancing, games and fun. The entire homestay community and participating group comes together to thank one another for a wonderful week shared together and a job well done. The participants then return to their homestays to get a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s travel day.

Day #9 – Departure Day

Wake up and enjoy your last breakfast with your homestay family. Your group and the entire homestay community will reunite one last time to say goodbye to one another before departing the town of Turrialba. The homestay community will remind your group that you are always welcome to return to visit and urge you to be sure to keep in touch as lifelong friendships have been created. Our guides will accompany your group to the San José airport (SJO) for your flight back home. Saying goodbye to your guides is yet again an emotional moment, but we hope that you will stay in touch and return to Costa Rica again in the future!

Program Itinerary Inclusions:

  • The above highlighted, 9-day customized program itinerary – exclusive to your group
  • Two professional, bilingual guides for duration of the program – on call 24-hours a day
  • Private transportation throughout entire trip
  • All meals included throughout the program – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • 7 nights – Authentic Homestay accommodations with pre-approved reputable families
  • 1 night – Hotel rooms in a at least a 3-star hotel as indicated in above itinerary
  • All adventure excursions and educational field trips as indicated above – guide tips included
  • $50 donation per participant to service project
  • Student Protection Plan purchased on behalf of each participant – details upon request
  • Costa Rica Explorations t-shirt

Program Tuition for this 9-day – Spanish Immersion itinerary is $1,850 per student for a minimum of 8 participants. Group’s maximum participants is 16 students with 2 chaperones. With 8 fully-paying participants, one chaperone’s program tuition will be covered by Costa Rica Explorations.

If the group size exceeds 16 student maximum or is smaller than 8 person minimum, we are willing to discuss options to accommodate your group’s needs. If your group would prefer hotel accomodations to homestays, we also can offer that service; however, the price of the trip will change.

This outlined itinerary is merely a template in which to work. If there are additional activities, tours, ideas or other subject matter that you would like to include, please let us know and we will help to customize your tour. Please do not hesitate to explain your specific needs. You feedback and input is always welcome.

7-day Program itinerary includes:

  • 2 less nights in homestay community
  • 1 less service project day
  • Includes either Guayabo National Monument or Farm Tour
  • Program Tuition is $1,625 / student for a minimum of 8 participants

11-day Program itinerary includes:

  • 2 extra nights in homestay community
  • 1 extra day of service
  • 1 additional educational field trip (La Marta Reserve, Irazu Volcano National Park, Day to participate in classes at a local high school)
  • Program Tuition is $2,125 / student for a minimum of 8 participants

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