This itinerary is a favorite for student groups with a desire to participate in a cultural immersion and service project as well as tour a few different destinations within Costa Rica.
- Arenal – The tour starts in the world-famous conical volcano destination of Arenal. Here, the group is oriented to the country and each other. They will participate in a variety of tours including high-adventure activities that call for teamwork – a wonderful way to bond at the beginning of a program.
- Turrialba – Next, the group will travel to the town of Turrialba, their homestay community, where they will complete their service project and will integrate into the authentic Costa Rican culture by participating in a variety of educational and cultural activities.
- Cahuita – After completion of their service project and time with the homestay families, the students head off to the Caribbean Coast to the small beach town of Cahuita for the reflection phase of their Costa Rica Explorations program.
This itinerary offers groups a comprehensive experience of Costa Rica, giving participants a great sample of its diverse environments and delightful culture.
Top 3 Highlights of the “Culture, Service, Volcano & Beach” Student Itinerary
- Experience the famous Rainforests and Beaches of Costa Rica
- Participate in educational and adventure activities within the tropical rainforest and at the beach
- Explore three distinct destinations within Costa Rica
- Participate in Community-Based Service Project
- Complete 16 hours of service
- Learn how to become a leader by collaborating with a local community to achieve goals
- Develop Confidence through International Travel
- Gain international travel skills
- Practice the Spanish language through authentic interactions
Sample Costa Rica Culture, Service, Volcano & Beach High School Student Itinerary
Costa Rica Explorations can customize each itinerary further to fit the needs of your group’s exact dates, duration, and/or particular curriculum or content goals. Our trip itineraries can be extended or shortened based on the school group’s desires. The following itinerary serves 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 & Orientation
Your group will arrive at San José Airport (SJO) and will be greeted by two professional, bilingual Costa Rica Explorations guides. You will load your luggage and yourselves in your private vehicle and head to a nearby hotel. Your group will start to assimilate into the Costa Rican culture right away by enjoying a traditional Costa Rican snack or “merienda” in route. As you peer out the window, you will begin soaking in the beautiful lush surroundings of the Central Valley.
Upon arrival at the hotel, your guides will hold an Orientation Meeting consisting of ice-breaker activities, and team-building, all while working out the kinks of your Spanish language skills. The group will also create personal, as well as group, goals, and expectations of the trip–focusing on how to make this program a safe, enjoyable, and enriching experience for all members. You will enjoy a traditional Costa Rican dinner this evening and then retire to your beds for a wonderful night’s sleep.
Day 2 – Tour of La Paz Waterfall & Night in Arenal
Your group will be wakened by the sounds of tropical birds and warm rays of sunshine coming through your window this morning. After a delicious Costa Rican breakfast of “gallo pinto”, eggs, and fresh fruit, your group will participate in some team-building activities to learn more about yourselves as individuals and how you can become a more effective member of a group. You will then head off to the famous La Paz Waterfall Gardens on your way to the town of La Fortuna, home of the conical Arenal Volcano.
At La Paz your group will participate in an intimate tour of the privately-owned animal rescue center which includes a domed aviary with an array of tropical birds including beautifully colored toucans that have been known to perch on visitors’ shoulders! You are also able to see the incredible collection of cats – jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and monkeys as well as reptiles – snakes and tropical frogs. There are five beautiful waterfalls within the gardens as well as a traditional casita and ox-cart experience.
You will enjoy a buffet lunch at La Paz before heading off to Arenal where your group will settle into their hotel. Participants are welcome to take a swim in the pool or rest all while viewing the incredible Arenal Volcano shooting out from the rainforest.
This evening, the group will head to the town of La Fortuna for a dinner at a typical soda and will have time to enjoy an ice cream in the local park and check out the local souvenir shops in town.
Day 3 – Morning Hanging Bridges / Zip-line Tour & Afternoon Hot Springs
Breakfast will be at your hotel and then the group will ride in their private transportation to visit the famous rainforest canopy by way of hanging bridges. Your and your guide will locate a variety of tropical bird and reptile species in the natural habitat. If you are lucky, you will also be able to observe playful monkeys and fascinating sloths hanging from the high branches of the canopy. It is a majestic tour that allows you access to the incredible world of the rainforests canopy. How many species of flora and fauna will your group be able to identify?
After lunch, the group will head off to an adventure-packed zip-line tour through the canopy. You will get harnessed in and participate in a safety talk and demonstration before clipping on to secure cables where you will zoom through the incredible foliage of the canopy.
After your canopy tour, your group will travel to local geothermal hot springs that are heated by the Arenal Volcano! Relaxing in these therapeutic waters is, by far, the best way to end a fun-filled day in La Fortuna.
Your group will eat dinner onsite at the hot springs and will return to the hotel to rest up for another day of adventures tomorrow!
Day 4 – Safari Float/Whitewater Rafting & Transfer to Homestay Community
Enjoy your last breakfast at the hotel this morning as you view the picturesque Arenal Volcano. Your group will pack up and choose which morning activity to participate in – either a wildlife-spotting cruise on the river Safari Float or a thrilling Whitewater Rafting trip down a local river en route to the homestay community in Turrialba.
If your group chooses the Safari, your professional naturalist guide will lead your boat while you spot a variety of birds, bats, reptiles, and more! Some groups are lucky to see monkeys playing in the trees alongside the river.
The Whitewater Rafting adventure is in Class II and III rapids and is recommended for young, old, and beginning rafters. Before setting off on your rafting trip, your designated whitewater rafting guide will lead you in a safety talk and help educate you on how to efficiently paddle down the river as a team.
Both adventures are around 2 to 3 hours in duration. Either of these river options is very enriching and memorable! En route to your homestay community, your group will stop to enjoy a delicious traditional Costa Rican lunch.
Upon arrival to your homestay community, students will pair up and meet their respective homestay families. The group will unpack and get ready for the homestay and service portion of their student program. Please read more about our Homestay Families and Selection Process. This afternoon the group will unpack and settle into the daily life of a Costa Rican.
This evening the group will gather together for a Welcome Dinner hosted by the homestay families where the entire group to enjoy dinner, dancing, and traditional games. You will then return to your homestays to enjoy your first night with your Costa Rican homestay family.
Day 5 – Service Project Day & Community Soccer Game
Breakfast will be enjoyed today with your homestay family. It typically consists of Costa Rica’s famous “gallo pinot”, eggs served to your liking, and fresh fruit and bread. After breakfast, the group will meet up with their guides and community members at the service project site. Here the group will learn about the details and importance of their service work. Our Service Projects continually evolve based on the community’s current needs. Please read more about our Community Service Partners and Projects here.
Your service project will focus on community development, educational enhancement, or environmental sustainability. Your group will receive the details of your project a few months before your arrival in Costa Rica. Within each service project, there are typically a few sub-projects to be completed. Our guides will help form subgroups that will rotate between various duties so that everyone gets the chance to try each task.
Service work typically consists of light carpentry work, gardening, cement work, sanding, cleaning, painting, and/or teaching English or other relevant topics to local community members. To get the most out of the service project, we encourage participating groups to start preparing before arriving in Costa Rica. This can look like gathering donations to bring down with your group, preparing informational PowerPoints or English lessons to share with the local community, and/or making direct contact with the group you will be serving in Costa Rica through a video conference call or some other form of correspondence. Your Program Manager will coordinate these activities with your host teacher/chaperone in preparation for your project.
Your group will enjoy lunch at the service site or will travel back to your homestays. There is typically a little break to rest before putting in a couple more hours of work in the afternoon.
This afternoon’s cultural activity is a favorite for all involved – a friendly group soccer game with your visiting group and the homestay community. You will typically play until the sun goes down when you will travel back to your homestay for dinner and some sleep.
Day 6 – Service Project Day & Evening Dance Lessons
This morning make sure to fill up on another delicious breakfast at your homestay. You will then head off to the service project site to finish up your project.
Now that everyone has a day of experience under his/her belt, this second day of service tends to be very productive! The goal is to complete all of the tasks the community and group have set for the project.
Lunch will be on-site or in your homestay. Sometimes there is a culminating activity at the project site such as a BINGO or a Field Day to celebrate the wonderful connections that have been made and all of the hard work. Hopefully, each individual feels satisfied with his/her efforts within the service project and inspired to partake in service projects within their own communities upon returning home. This afternoon, your group will return to the homestays to rest a bit before Costa Rica Dance Lessons this evening.
This evening all host family members and group participants are invited to learn and practice the basic steps to the tropical rhythms of salsa, merengue, and cumbia. This is a time to enjoy and get an incredible workout! Your group can put the dance skills learned in class to work at the Final Dinner Celebration. This evening dinner will be enjoyed at your homestay followed by another night’s rest.
Day 7 – Local Coffee & Sugarcane Farm Tour & Traditional Cooking Classes
You will wake up this morning with your host family and fill your belly with another traditional breakfast. Try “agua dulce” with breakfast this morning. It is a good alternative to coffee. Agua dulce is a simple hot beverage made with hot water and tapa de dulce, a substance similar to brown sugar. This morning would be a great time to give it a try as you will be participating in a local farm tour and will learn how sugarcane is planted, grown and harvested.
You will meet your guides to transfer to the local coffee and sugarcane farm. During the tour you will give back by participating in a volunteer project such as planting new crops or reforesting an area of the farm. Your tour will end with a hike to the river to swim in some natural pools and small waterfalls.
This day’s tour culminates with a traditional lunch at the local farmer’s house. Enjoying the fresh “farm to table” meal. After lunch, you will return to your homestays for relaxation. This afternoon you will participate in traditional Costa Rican cooking lessons during “cafecito” time, the country’s afternoon coffee hour. Some of the favorite dishes to prepare are tortillas con queso, picadillos, empanadas or even pan casero. No member is left hungry after this activity!
Your group will return to their individual homestays to eat dinner and rest up for tomorrow. Students, host teachers, and chaperones are encouraged to participate fully in their homestay. Students are encouraged to bring card games or board games to share with their families. Making a scrapbook about your life and your home community is also a wonderful way to engage your host families in conversation in order to utilize your Spanish skills.
Day 8 – Excursion to Indigenous Ruins & Waterfall & Final Dinner Celebration
After breakfast with your homestay family this morning, your group will load up to visit the largest indigenous monument in all of Costa Rica – Monumento Nacional de Guayabo. Guayabo National Monument resides on the side of the Turrialba Volcano and offers visitors a glance into its indigenous history with a majestic hiking tour through a lush secondary forest.
Monumento Nacional Guayabo doesn’t have the impressive pyramids of the Aztec and Mayan cultures; however, it has an important spiritual center with sophisticated infrastructures such as an internationally-recognized working aqueduct system, mysterious petroglyphs, and tombs. The precious artifacts that were housed in the tombs within Guayabo have, unfortunately, been removed or stolen throughout the years. Some of the few that remain are on display at the National Museum in San Jose.
Your guides will inform you of all of the incredible insights into the indigenous culture that once lived there. After the tour, your group will enjoy a picnic lunch made by your homestays. It is always a cultural experience to see what is packed in your sack lunch!
Next, you will change into your swimming/hiking attire and head out on a short hike through the largest Rainforest-Alliance-Certified coffee farm in Costa Rica a view of the rainbow eucalyptus and giant cieba trees along the way. After you pass through a riverside forest a gorgeous 100-ft high waterfall will appear. Here you can take off your shoes and wade in the river. You will feel the powerful energy of the water and the cool mist on your face. It is an incredible sight!
On your way back to your homestays, the group then will pass through the city of Turrialba to do some exploring and buying of souvenirs. Once you arrive back home, you will need to pack up your bags as tomorrow you head to a new destination – the Caribbean Coast.
This evening the entire group and all the host families will gather for a Final Dinner Celebration. Here you will enjoy a delicious homemade Costa Rican dinner, music, dancing, and fun. Your group will appreciate the community for hosting you and the community will appreciate your group for the contributions and friendships you’ve made.
After dinner, you will return to your homestays to finish packing up and go to bed to get ready for tomorrow’s transfer to the Caribbean Coast.
Day 9 – Transfer to Caribbean Coast & National Park Hike
This morning will be your final breakfast with your Tico family. It is time to thank them for an enriching cultural experience and for their hospitality.
This morning you will have a three-hour transfer to the small, fishing town of Cahuita on the Caribbean Coast. The bus ride is typically quiet as it is often sad leaving your homestays as they feel like family. Take this time to reflect on the new friendships you have made and the work that you accomplished over the past week. Hopefully, you will return to Turrialba to visit your Costa Rican family in the future. We also hope you have learned the value of community service and pursue service opportunities in your own community back home.
Upon arrival to the quaint, tropical beach town of Cahuita, you will check in to your rooms in your hotel, enjoy lunch on site, and will get ready for an afternoon tour of Cahuita National Park. Cahuita National Park has an incredible trail system that parallels the coast. You will hear the ocean waves crashing along the shoreline as you are guided through the National Park spotting wildlife like monkeys, sloths, crabs, reptiles, and more!
After your walking tour, you’ll stop off along the beach to swim, relax and play in the sand. Your group will return to the hotel to rinse off and walk into town for a delicious dinner. Then, you’ll return to your boutique hotel and have a group reflection meeting before going to bed.
Day 10 – Visit Animal Rescue Center & Afternoon at the Beach
You’ll enjoy a delicious tropical breakfast at the hotel before you head out on an enriching tour of a local animal rescue center called the Jaguar Rescue Center which is located in a popular town south of Cahuita called Puerto Viejo.
The Jaguar Rescue Center was founded in 2008 and has saved more than 1,200 since its beginning. It has a 40% success rate of releasing its rescued animals back into their natural habitat. You will be able to learn how they care for a variety of animals from reptiles to birds to mammals, such as sloths, monkeys, and some small cats.
After your tour, you will visit a very famous beach for locals in Puerto Viejo call Punta Uva where you will enjoy a picnic lunch and will spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach and playing in the calm waves. Upon arrival at the hotel, you’ll have a little R&R before a pizza dinner on site. With a full belly and a content mind, you’ll climb into bed for a good night’s sleep.
Day 11 – Morning Surf Lessons & Transfer to Alajuela
Wake up to a freshly-made breakfast of eggs, toast, and tropical fruit and the sounds of the ocean breaking against the sandy coastline. Surf’s up this morning! Your group will head out to the beach to meet your trained surf instructors who will give you the guidance necessary to try to successfully stand up and ride the waves.
The surfing lessons begin with a land session, where your guides will familiarize you with the board and the body movements. You’ll stretch and practice before going into the water with your board to try out your new skills.
Your group will partner up as each individual will be matched with one instructor. Those who are waiting their turn can play beach volleyball, and soccer, and enjoy relaxing in the sand. The morning is always very enjoyable and challenging! Take in the breathtakingly beautiful beaches of the Caribbean Coast, as after lunch you will be heading inland for your final night before departing Costa Rica.
After surf lessons, you’ll return to the hotel to shower, pack up and load up for the transfer back to the Central Valley. Before leaving Cahuita, your group will enjoy one last meal on the coast. Your transfer back to Alajuela is about 5 hours. You will spend your last night in Alajuela, which is within minutes of the San Jose Airport.
After you check into your hotel and enjoy dinner, your group will gather with your guides to have a final reflection meeting. There are a variety of topics that will be covered this evening as you relax and reflect upon your experiences in Costa Rica.
Day 12 – Departure Day
Depending on the time of your departure flight, you will enjoy your last breakfast at the hotel or will take it to go as you travel to the San Jose Airport.
Here your group will need to say “goodbye” and “thank you” to your guides. It is a challenge to separate from your guides as they have been with you through every step of your experience. They have a hard time departing from the group as well as strong friendships have been formed. Our hope is that you will stay in touch and return to Costa Rica again in the future!
Customize this Student Itinerary for Your Needs!
The above itinerary is a template from which to work from as your group designs its ideal program with our company. We invite the customization of itineraries, so please let us know your specific needs and desires.
Program Itinerary Inclusions:
- The above highlighted, 12-day customized program itinerary – exclusive to your group
- Two professional, bilingual guides for the duration of the program – on call 24 hours a day
- Private transportation between major destinations
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided each day
- 5 nights – Authentic Homestay accommodations with pre-approved reputable families
- 6 nights – Hotel rooms in at least a 3-star hotel as indicated in the above itinerary
- All adventure excursions and educational field trips as indicated above – guide tips included
- Costa Rica Explorations t-shirt
Program Tuition for this 12-day – Spanish Immersion itinerary is $3,790 per student for a minimum of 8 participants. The Group’s maximum number of 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 our 16-student maximum or is smaller than our 8-person minimum, we are willing to discuss options to accommodate your group’s needs. If your group would prefer hotel accommodations to homestays, we also can offer that service; however, the price of the trip will change.
The 10-day Program itinerary includes:
- 1 fewer night in the homestay community
- 1 less night of the orientation phase at the hotel
- Does not include La Paz Waterfall Gardens or Hanging Bridges Tours
- Cost is $3,250/ participant
The 14-day Program itinerary includes:
- 2 extra nights in the homestay community
- Opportunity to attend a local school & Extended Service Project
- Additional cost is $3,995 / participant