This 8-day Cultural Immersion itinerary is a wonderful option for middle school groups who are looking to immerse their students into a Spanish-speaking culture and give back to the community at the same time. Students are provided a safe and authentic opportunity to practice their Spanish-language skills, learn the value of volunteering, and appreciate a new culture.
This program’s focus is on assimilation within the Costa Rican culture rather than touring various Costa Rican destinations. Therefore, the program itinerary includes travel to one destination, deepening the cultural learning experience for the students as well as identifying the positive impact they can have on the world.
Due to the age of middle school students, we recommend a two-night stay in the hotel during the orientation phase before students enter their homestays. This extra time gives students an opportunity to ease into their cultural immersion experience.
Top 3 Highlights of the “Cultural Immersion–Spanish & Service” Student Itinerary
- Practice Spanish-language Skills in an authentic environment
- Living with Spanish-speaking families provides students an authentic space in which to practice the language
- The town of Turrialba is not a tourist destination, but a small, safe, rural town in which students are able to assimilate into the Costa Rican culture.
- Learn the value of volunteering
- 12-16 hours dedicated to the completion of the service project
- Analyze local issues and collaborate with the community to work towards a solution
- Appreciate cultural similarities and celebrate differences
- Learn about and compare your own culture with the Costa Rican culture
- Identify the universal values that exist within all cultures
Your group will arrive at the San José, Juan Santamaria (SJO) International Airport where you will be greeted by two bilingual guides and a private vehicle. Your group will then transfer about 2.5 hours to the town of Turrialba which is nestled in a valley east of San José flanked by the famous Turrialba Volcano.
The first two nights will be spent in a mountain-top hotel overlooking the Turrialba Valley, where your group will participate in Orientation Meetings and Teambuilding Activities before transferring to their designated homestay community. Within the homestay community, students will be paired up and will meet their pre-approved homestay families in which they will live and learn for the next five evenings. The student group, including your guides and host teacher, will all be housed within the same homestay community, within a minute’s walk from one another. During this portion of the program, the group will complete its service project and participate in various adventure and educational activities, such as whitewater rafting, zipline tour, and learning about organic farming in the tropics.
Sample Costa Rica Cultural Immersion–Spanish & Service Middle School Student Itinerary
We pride ourselves on customizing each middle school group’s student travel program by working with the interested host teacher to set ideal travel dates, activities, and program inclusions. The itinerary below is a sample itinerary that is popular with our middle school groups and has been a very positive experience for groups in the past.
Day #1 – Arrival Day & Orientation
Upon arrival in Costa Rica, your group will be received by your two dedicated, bilingual guides at the San José, Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). They will help you load your baggage into your private vehicle that will take you safely east through the capital city of San José to the small, agricultural town of Turrialba.
The transfer takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. You will make a stop halfway through the journey in the town of Cartago to enjoy a typical meal and to visit the famous basilica, home of Costa Rica’s patron saint, la Negrita. Your guides will orient you to the Costa Rican culture along the way answering any questions that may arise. Your trip will end at a mountain-top hotel overlooking the valley of Turrialba where the group will settle into their hotel rooms and get ready for the first Orientation Meeting.
Tonight, students will be tired from their travels, so the guides will keep the meeting interactive and fun leading various inclusion activities to learn more about one another and to start building trust within the group. Warm, home-cooked dinner will be enjoyed after the meeting as students look down upon the twinkling lights of the city before heading to bed.
Day #2 – Teambuilding Activities, Waterfall Hike & Introduction to Town
The sun (and birds) rise early in Costa Rica and most likely so will you! The group will meet for a buffet-style breakfast of fresh eggs, “gallo pinto”, bread and tropical fruits. If you are lucky you will even be able to try the famous “Turrialba cheese”. Orientation continues as your guides gather you together to discuss culture and goal-setting, then the group will break into a teambuilding activity to learn the importance of being an active and aware team member before heading off for your first rainforest hike right out the back door of the hotel to a hidden waterfall!
Upon return, the group will shower and get ready for a trip into the bustling town of Turrialba where students will break into groups and participate in a town scavenger hunt. Students will need to utilize their Spanish-language skills to find various stores, prices, and points of interest within the town. The group will also have the opportunity to purchase any missing items then need and materials that they will need for their service project.
This evening’s Orientation Meetings focus will be on preparation for the Homestay Experience and an overview of the Service Project. Dinner and evening will be enjoyed at the mountain-top hotel.
Day #3 – Integrate into Homestays, First Day of Service Project & Welcome Dinner
After another filling and delicious breakfast this morning, the group will pack up and transfer to the homestay community where they will pair up and be introduced to their Costa Rican families. Students will drop off their bags, receive a tour of their respective homes and enjoy a mid-morning snack before heading off to their first day of service. Please read more about our Homestay Communities and Selection Process.
Typically, the service project site is within walking distance of the homestays. Your guides will designate a group meeting point within the homestay community where your homestay families will drop you off and you will all walk together as a group to the service project.
Our service projects continually evolve as the needs of the community change throughout the years. Projects will typically involve light construction work, reforestation, environmental sustainability awareness, helping local communities and elementary schools achieve Bandera Azul, and assisting in community events such as BINGOS and Field Days. Students’ service will consist of a combination of skills such as creative brainstorming, teamwork, manual labor, and face-to-face interaction with community members of varying ages from preschool to the elderly. Please read more about our Community Service Partners and Projects. Lunch will be enjoyed on-site or in your homestays.
This evening all of the homestay families will come together to host a Welcome Dinner for the group where there will be incredible Costa Rican cuisine, dancing, and games. The group will then return to their individual homestays to enjoy their first evening in the community. ¡Bienvenidos!
Day #4 – White-Water Rafting & Zipline Tour
Today is a day filled with adventure! After a delicious and filling breakfast at your homestay, the group will travel to the Pacuare River where they will meet their team of whitewater rafting guides. Riverside, students will participate in a safety talk and demonstration, understanding the importance of maintaining focus and participating as a team during this exhilarating adventure in one of the finest rivers in Latin America.
You will raft Class II & III rapids as you wind through the rainforest. Waterfalls flank the sides of the river and blue morpho butterflies cross your path. The trip will end at a river-side lodge where you will enjoy a tropical lunch and get fitted in harnesses for your Canopy or Zip-line Tour through the jungle. You will sail high through the treetops crossing the river below. Many times, students’ fears are tested and conquered today as they are encouraged and supported by their travel group.
This evening is set aside to rest and spend with your homestay family. We encourage students to create personal scrapbooks to share with their families that explain their culture and where they live. In addition, host families love to learn new card games or board games. These are a nice gift idea and also a wonderful way for students to practice their Spanish! Dinner and night will be spent at your homestays.
Day #5 – Service Project & Soccer
Today is the second and final day of your service project. Make sure to eat a filling breakfast of “gallo pinto, huevitos, pan y frutas” before heading out to meet your group and walk to your service project site. The second day of service is typically extremely productive as the group understands the goals of the project and is motivated to achieve them!
Many times visiting students will be asked to prepare presentations and educational lessons at home that will be used to present to our partner schools and community centers. This is a great way for students to connect to the service project before arriving and also extremely enriching for the community to learn from and to share time with the visitors. Lunch will be enjoyed on-site or within the homestays.
This afternoon the group will join up with Costa Rican peers and play a friendly game of soccer, a favorite sport of Costa Ricans. The afternoon often ends as the sun is setting. Students arrive home to their homestays fulfilled by another day of enriching activities and fun! Dinner and night will be spent within your homestay.
Day #6 – Local Farm Tour, Cooking Classes & Evening Dance Lessons
Today the group will play its role in the day-in-the-life of a “campesino” or local farmer. After breakfast, the group will travel to a local farm where they will learn about organic farming practices. The group will learn how to harvest coffee, sugarcane, and bananas. They will get their hands dirty in a reforestation project on the land as well as work in the gardens and fields of the farm.
The group will then take advantage of a small river that borders the property and will cool off in its natural pools and waterfalls. Lunch will be enjoyed at the farmer’s home today. Many times, students will eat the same food that was harvested by them that day. There will be cooking lessons to follow. Students will learn how to make homemade tortillas con queso, enyucados, and empanadas.
Upon return to the homestay community, students will have the afternoon to relax and take a well-deserved “siesta” before participating in Costa Rican dance lessons. All homestay members will be invited to class as well where your dance instructor will teach you the basics of salsa, merengue, and cumbia. This evening is high energy–make sure to wear tennis shoes and bring a towel to wipe away your sweat!! Dinner and night will be spent with your homestay families.
Day #7 – Visit to Indigenous Reserve, Spectacular Waterfall Tour & Farewell Dinner
It’s hard to believe, but today is the last full day of your Costa Rica Explorations program! After yet another delicious breakfast with your homestays, students will travel to the largest indigenous ruins site in the country, Guayabo National Monument. Less than an hour’s drive from the town of Turrialba, students will witness the remains of an incredibly spiritual, political, and cultural center that existed between the years of 1000 BC and 1400 AC.
The mystery of Guayabo is that no one knows for sure why it was abandoned. In 2009, it was declared an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark due to its still-working aqueduct. Students will tour through the secondary rainforest paths as they learn about and view the highlights of the site. Picnic lunch will be enjoyed at the park.
The adventure continues today as students take a hike to view a 100-foot waterfall where they can celebrate its magnificent energy. The group will pass through the town of Turrialba and stop at a souvenir shop on their way to the homestay community.
This afternoon, students will pack their bags before going to the Farewell Dinner hosted by their homestay families. This evening, the group will celebrate their new friendships, the Costa Rican culture, and their efforts in completing an international service project.
Day #8 – Departure Day
This morning, students will enjoy a final breakfast with their homestay families before their transfer to the San José Airport (SJO) where they will catch their flight back home. It is typically a bit of a challenge to say goodbye as students have formed wonderful connections with their homestay members and program guides. Our hope is that you continue to stay in touch with your new friends in Costa Rica and that you are inspired to cross cultural lines and embrace new experiences all while giving back to the community.
Program Itinerary Inclusions:
- 8-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 main destinations
- All meals are included – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and some snacks
- 2-night stay in a hotel (at least a 3-star) – private bathroom, hot water, shared rooms
- 5-night stay with pre-approved, authentic homestay accommodations
- Adventure excursions and educational field trips as indicated above – guide tips included
- $50 donation per participant to service project
- CRE t-shirt
Program Tuition for this 8-day – Cultural Immersion itinerary is $2,295 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 a 16-student maximum or is smaller than an 8-person minimum, CRE is willing to discuss options to accommodate your group’s needs.
If the group requires or desires accommodations in a hotel throughout the duration of the trip, we are able to accommodate that need; however, the price of the program tuition will change.
Costa Rica Explorations enjoys customizing our student travel programs, so please don’t hesitate in sharing your ideas on how to make this itinerary fit the needs of your specific group.
The 7-day Program itinerary includes:
- 1 fewer nights in the homestay community
- Includes either Guayabo National Monument or Farm Tour
- Program Tuition is $2,155 / student for a minimum of 8 participants
The 10-day Program itinerary includes:
- 2 extra nights in homestay
- 1 additional educational field trip (La Marta Reserve, Irazu Volcano National Park)
- Day to participate in classes at a local middle/high school or an extra day of service
- Cost is $2,640 per student for a minimum of 8 participants