This is the original itinerary offered by Costa Rica Explorations since our beginning. This is a very versatile trip that thoroughly explores the eastern portion of the country. The Talamanca Mountains and the Caribbean Coast are two of Costa Rica’s best-kept destination secrets. Not only do they provide a great deal of biodiversity and outdoor educational opportunities, but the Tico culture and Spanish language is still very much in tact, which allows us to offer a truly authentic and genuine cultural immersion experience.
As is the case for most of our trips, this itinerary begins with arrival into the SJO airport. The group moves east to the mountain town of Turrialba where the homestay community & service project awaits. The final phase of the trip consists of some fun, relaxation and reflection on the beach in the quiet, fishing village of Cahuita.
Top 3 Highlights of the Culture, Service & Beach Itinerary:
- Culturally immerse oneself with homestay experience
- Practice Spanish-speaking skills
- Assimilate to authentic Costa Rican culture
- Actively Participate in International Service Project
- 12 hours dedicated to completion of service project
- Gain leadership skills through service-learning experience
- Relax and Enjoy Beaches & Rivers of Costa Rica
- Enjoy last few nights relaxing and reflecting on Caribbean Coast
- Participate in adventure activities of White-water Rafting, Ziplining & Surfing
Sample Costa Rica Culture, Service & Beach High School Student Itinerary
Day #1 – Arrival Day & Night at Mountain-top Hotel
After all of your planning, meetings and preparation the big day has finally come. Your hard work is going to pay off as you board your plane to Costa Rica. Your group will arrive into the SJO, Juan Santamaria International Airport in Alajuela. Two dedicated, bilingual CRE guides, a driver, and your private vehicle will be outside waiting for you.
Today’s transfer to Turrialba takes about 2-3 hours and includes a quick stop in the old capital, Cartago. Your guides will introduce themselves and educate you on this ride through the capital city of San José and through the mountains to the town of Turrialba. The stop in Cartago is at the halfway point and visits a very significant and historical church called La Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles. Based on arrival and transfer time, there will be lunch included along the way.
After your visit, you will arrive to a mountain-top lodge in Turrialba. Everyone will check into their rooms & unpack. We will have an Introduction & Program Orientation Meeting this night, time permitting.
After dinner you will fall right asleep and enjoy the cool breeze and the sounds of the rainforest jungle that surrounds you.
Day #2 – Teambuilding Activities & 1st Night with Homestays
Breakfast will be early this morning. The country of Costa Rica is close to the equator. Typically, the sun rises around 6:00 am and the sun sets about 12 hours later at 6:00 pm. You will get into this rhythm right away in Costa Rica. After breakfast everyone will gather for to continue your Group Orientation. This is the time that you will truly begin to get to know more about the members of your group, yourselves, and your CRE guides.
The group will participate in various, pre-planned, team-building activities that will be relevant to the program’s curriculum. We will also take time to thoroughly discuss the homestay community, living with families and the service project. We often host role-playing scenarios and talk about the cultural differences that can be expected.
Just before lunch we’ll get out and stretch our legs on a Waterfall Hike, which departs from the back door of the hotel. Midday we’ll pack our bags and transfer to homestay community for lunch and to meet your host families. After lunch, we’ll have the afternoon orientation of the Service Project. We will begin to acquaint ourselves with the project and will begin a few tasks 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 to meet the families involved. There will be delicious traditional cuisine, music and dancing this evening as the community welcomes you into their homes for the next week.
Day #3 – Whitewater Rafting & Ziplining Tour
Today you will put your team-building skills to the test. This day is meant to bring the group closer together by paddling through the abundant rivers and rainforest of Costa Rica and by stretching comfort levels by flying through the canopy on ziplines!
After breakfast with your family, a vehicle will arrive to transfer you to the beginning of today’s combo tour. Today you will have the opportunity to raft the upper section of the gorgeous Pacuare River, where you are bound to spot toucans, sloths and many other rainforest creatures in their natural habitat. Your professional & bilingual guides will give you a safety talk and you will practice safety techniques before departing on your tour. Your group will charge through the rapids on the way to a gorgeous river camp where you will be suited up and oriented to the adventure sport of ziplining.
With spectacular views of the river, you’ll sail through the canopy of the rainforest soaking in the beauty of the biological reserve that surrounds you. Upon completion of this tour you will have a traditional river lunch at one of the jungle camps. This day is always a highlight for everyone. After lunch you will ride in 4×4 vehicles out of the camp on dirt roads to your vehicle, which will be ready to pick you up and take you back to your homestay community.
This evening is always very relaxing and typically there are no formal activities planned. Based on the energy level of the group, a soccer match can be organized or the group can choose to take a night at home practicing Spanish and relaxing for tomorrow.
Day #4 – Service Project & Soccer
Today is a service project workday. We will spend the vast majority of today getting a great start on the service work that needs to get done to accomplish the group’s goals. The service project is based on a combination of the needs within the community coupled with the abilities and goals of your group. There is no shortage of service projects. Review sample service projects and the selection process for these service projects.
Before your group arrives, our dedicated guides will work together with the local community members to coordinate an organized workday schedule. Students are normally split up into smaller groups where they rotate between jobs in order to get a chance to try all aspects of the service project. Once a single rotation has been done, the students tend to find their niche and work within the job or jobs that interest them.
Lunch is had each day at the individual homestay family’s house around midday. After about 1.5 hour lunch break the group returns and continues on the service project in the afternoon. We will work until about 2:30 or 3:00 pm this day. We’ll then gather at the community’s soccer field to play a little game of “futból” before returning to our homestays to eat dinner and rest up for tomorrow.
Day #5 – Local Farm Tour, Reforestation & Evening Cooking & Dance Lessons
As normal, you will awake this morning with your host family and eat a delicious breakfast with fresh fruit, Gallo Pinto and eggs. The food in your homestays is always very fresh and typically includes rice and beans in some form.
After breakfast, your guides will meet you at the designated meeting area to transfer to the local organic farm for a tour of the farm, a fun volunteer project and a hike to the river for some swimming in the pools and little waterfalls.
During your time on this tour you’ll learn more about what it takes to produce various crops in Costa Rica. You will learn about the coffee & sugar cane growing and harvesting processes. You will have the opportunity to see a local garden and try fruits and vegetables that are unique to the tropical Costa Rican environment.
The tour of the farm concludes with a little volunteer project. Often times you will be able to harvest food for the cooking classes that take place later in the day or perhaps plant a tree to assist with the reforestation process. There are always projects that need to be completed at the farm!
After some hard work on the farm, the group will hike to the river to cool down in the water. This is always a great finale to the day’s tour before returning to the local farmer’s house for a traditional lunch.
After lunch, the group will return to their homestays to rest a bit before setting off to Costa Rican cooking classes. During this cooking class, you might learn how to make tortillas, empanadas or even the tasty treat called “prestiños”. This activity ends with everyone’s belly full as the group returns to their individual homestays to rest up for dance classes this evening.
A great way to end this day full of Costa Rican culture is in dance classes with the local community. Your group works up a sweat learning the basic dance steps of the typical Costa Rican rhythms of salsa, merengue and cumbia. Your host family members will help guide you with your newly-learned skills as you dance the night away.
Day #6– Service Project & Final Dinner Celebration
Today is your group’s final service project workday. We will continue where we left off from the past service project day. This will be the last chance for the group to finish the project before heading to the beach to celebrate their accomplishments. Lunch will be onsite or at individual homestays today. Typically at the end of the service project, our Community Service Partners will thank the group and/or will end the service project with some sort of culminating event.
This afternoon, upon arrival to the homestays, we encourage all the students to pack up their belongings and get their things ready to transfer to the beach, as tomorrow we change locations and explore another area of this exquisite country.
This evening students will participate in a Final Dinner Celebration hosted by the homestay families. We will enjoy delicious homemade Costa Rican food, music, dancing and fun. The entire group will thank one another for a wonderful week, will celebrate new friendships and will congratulate one another on a job well done.
After the party, the group will return to their homestays for their final evening in the community.
Day #7 – Transfer & Orientation to town of Cahuita
This morning you will awake to have a final breakfast with your Tico family. You will say “Adios” and give hugs to everyone before you board the bus to make the 3-hour drive to the Caribbean Coastal town of Cahuita. While it is always sad to say good-bye to the homestay community, this is a great time to reflect on the time that you had and the work that you did over the past week.
The bus ride allows for a great forum for the guides to begin the reflection phase of the trip. Our hope is that students will not only return to visit their Tico family in the future, but that students will also learn the value of community service and will be motivated to continue to learn about and embrace new cultures in the future.
Upon arrival to your hotel in the beautiful, beach town of Cahuita, you will be able to settle into your room, take a dip in the pool and even go out to the beach for a splash in the waves. After a dinner in town, you’ll relax at your bungalow hotel and have another quick reflection and info meeting before bed.
Day #8 – Snorkel & Hiking Tour of Cahuita National Park
You’ll have breakfast this morning at the hotel before you get out and about and explore this Caribbean Coastal town. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica is full of amazing wildlife and gorgeous beaches. Cahuita is home of a wonderful National Park to explore. Your boat captain and guides will take you to explore the waters, jungle and beaches of Cahuita National Park today.
On this combo tour, you will see the coral reef system of the Caribbean in your snorkeling tour. You will also see wildlife like a variety of types of monkeys, crabs, reptiles and sloths on your guided hike through the National Park’s trail system. You’ll stop off along the beach to have a picnic, swim, relax and enjoy the sunshine!
The afternoon is your opportunity to do some souvenir shopping and then return to your hotel for a little R&R before dinner and night at the hotel.
Day #9 – Morning Surf Lessons & Transfer to town of Alajuela
Wake up to a delicious breakfast and the sounds of the waves crashing against the sandy coastline. Surf lessons are on deck for today for all those who are interested. A group of trained and professional guides will give you all of the instruction and guidance necessary to try your hand at this famous water sport.
The group will split up and do their lessons in two parts. The surfing lessons begin with a land session, where your guides will familiarize you with the board and the body movements that you will need to master in the water. You’ll stretch and do a little practice before jumping into the water for some fun. For those who are waiting for their turn at surfing, we’ll have a volleyball net, soccer ball, Frisbee and a picnic area where we can lounge under the palm trees.
This morning is always enjoyed on the breathtaking beaches of the Caribbean Coast, which will provide plenty of opportunity for relaxation and fun. After lunch, everyone will return to the hotel to shower, pack up and load up for the transfer back to the Central Valley.
You’ll depart today around 1:00 pm and arrive to the hotel close to the airport around 6:00 pm. You’ll check into the hotel and get together one more time as a group with your guides to have a final reflection meeting. There will be many great topics to cover this evening as we relax before the flight back home tomorrow.
Day #10 – Departure Day
After breakfast, the group will say good-bye to their guides and head to the SJO airport for the flight back home. It is always a challenge to leave your guides and Costa Rica as students now have a special place in their heart for the people of Costa Rica. We hope that you will stay in touch and return to Costa Rica again with us in the future!
Customize this Student Itinerary for Your Needs!
The outlined itinerary is merely a template to work from as your group customizes its ideal Costa Rica Exploration. If there are activities, tours, ideas or other subject matter that you would like to include, please let us know, and we will attempt to work these into the trip. While we believe that this specific itinerary is very versatile and covers a lot of interesting elements, we welcome collaborating with schools in order to meet their unique needs. Please do not hesitate to give us your feedback and input, so we can help you plan your custom trip.
Program Tuition for this 10-day – “Culture, Service & Beach” itinerary is $2,325 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.
Program Itinerary Inclusions:
- The above highlighted, 10-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 between major destinations
- All meals included throughout the program – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- 4 nights – Authentic Homestay accommodations with pre-approved reputable families
- 5 nights – 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
- Student Protection Plan purchased on behalf of each participant – details upon request
- CRE t-shirt
12-day Program itinerary includes:
- 1 additional night in homestay community
- 1 additional night in hotel at the beach
- 2 additional educational excursions – Visit to Guayabo Monument & Visit to Animal Rescue Center
- Program Tuition is $2,725 / student for a minimum of 8 participants
14-day Program itinerary includes:
- 1 additional night in hotel during Orientation Phase with extended activities
- 2 additional nights in homestay community
- 1 additional night in hotel at the beach
- 2 additional educational excursions – Visit to Guayabo Monument & Visit to Animal Rescue Center
- 1 additional day of service
- Program Tuition is $2,975 / student for a minimum of 8 participants