This comprehensive itinerary is ideal for middle school groups who would like to take advantage of learning about the diverse ecosystems Costa Rica has to offer as well as enjoying the cultural immersion experience through our homestay and service project phase. This itinerary will take your group to three destinations:
- Arenal Volcano / La Fortuna
- Caribbean Coastal town of Cahuita
Students will test their personal limits and group skills by participating in exhilarating adventure activities such as white-water rafting, ziplining, and surfing. Through educational field trips, students will gain extensive knowledge of a variety of different Costa Rican environments including volcanic parks, rainforests, tropical agriculture, and coral reefs.
Your middle schoolers will practice their Spanish language skills and learn firsthand about the Costa Rican culture through their homestay experience. They will gain global leadership skills through the international service project.
Top 3 Highlights of the “Culture, Service, Volcano & Beach” Middle School Student Itinerary
- Experience three distinct destinations within Costa Rica
- Discover different ecosystems through education and adventure activities
- Explore volcanoes, rainforests, agricultural lands, and coral reefs
- Participate in an International Service Project
- Complete 12 – 16 hours of service work
- Collaborate with a local community to achieve its goals
- Increase Self-Esteem & Leadership Skills
- Gain international travel skills & a new perspective of the world
- Improve the Spanish language through authentic interactions
Sample Costa Rica “Culture, Service, Volcano & Beach” Middle School Student Itinerary
The following itinerary is a template to work from. We pride ourselves on customizing each of our itineraries to meet the specific needs of interested student groups. Please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can modify our program to fulfill your group’s desires.
Day 1 – Arrival Day & Group Orientation
Upon arrival at the San José (SJO) International Airport, your group will be met by two professional, bilingual guides and a private vehicle. Depending upon your arrival time, you will stop for lunch, and head to your hotel, which is located close to the airport.
This afternoon and evening will be dedicated to assimilating the group to each other, to the country, and to the culture of Costa Rica. Your guides will lead the introduction and team-building activities. The group will create a “safety pack” and will review its personal and group goals. Dinner and night will be enjoyed at the hotel.
Day 2 – Tour of La Paz Waterfall & Transfer to Arenal
This morning you will be bound to wake up with the birds as they are always eager to start their day early! Breakfast will be enjoyed at the hotel. Your group will then head off to the incredible La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Here students will have the opportunity to view the treasures of the country.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens is home to five impressive waterfalls, but also is a wildlife rescue center that is housed within the rainforest. Here you will learn about and view a variety of wild cats, monkeys, reptiles, and birds. Within the aviary, toucans have been known to perch on visitors’ shoulders! La Paz has an incredible buffet lunch that the group will have the opportunity to try out.
This afternoon you will head to your hotel in the Arenal area – home to the conical Volcán Arenal. This evening the group will enjoy swimming in the hotel pools. The group will have a preparation meeting about the homestay and service phase of the trip this evening before dining and exploring the town of La Fortuna. Then you will head back to your hotel for a rewarding night’s sleep.
Day 3 – Morning Hanging Bridges / Zip-line Tour & Afternoon Hot Springs
Get ready for a day of adventure! Fill up your bellies this morning with a hearty breakfast at your hotel. Today you will set out for an incredible COMBO tour of Hanging Bridges, Tram Ride, and Ziplines.
Upon arrival, your group will enjoy a hike with a local naturalist guide to learn about the incredible rainforest ecosystem. You will be able to view it from the canopy level on a series of secured hanging bridges. The views of the Arenal Volcano are spectacular!
Next, your group will be harnessed up and will receive a safety talk and demonstration of the canopy/zip-line tour. You will travel on a tram to the highest point of the tour where you will enjoy zipping along cables through the rainforest. This tour is truly exhilarating! Lunch will be enjoyed on site.
This afternoon and evening the group will have the opportunity to enjoy the famous therapeutic geothermal hot springs of Arenal. Heated by the energy of the volcano itself these waters are filled with healing minerals. Dinner will be enjoyed at the resort before returning to your hotel.
Day 4 – Safari Float/Whitewater Rafting & Transfer to Homestay Community
After enjoying another tropical breakfast, your group will head to Turrialba to experience the homestay and service portion of your Costa Rica Exploration. This is an adventure transfer, and your group will select to either participate in a Safari Float or a Whitewater Rafting Tour.
The relaxing Safari Float is an incredible way to view wildlife from the river. Your naturalist guide will help you to identify various birds, reptiles, and mammals along the way and you will learn bits about their unique behaviors.
The adventure-packed Whitewater Rafting trip will take you down a Class II & III river section. Your professional rafting instructors will give you a safety talk where you will learn how to paddle as a team to guide your boat safely down the river. S/he will instruct you on safety positions and techniques of how to navigate the currents and rapids of the river. Lunch will be enjoyed after the tour.
You will arrive at your homestay communities in the afternoon where students will pair up and meet their individual host families. Please learn more about our Homestay Communities and Selection Process. Students will go to their respective homes, meet their families, enjoy a snack and unpack.
This evening the homestay families will host a Welcome Dinner for the entire group. The evening will be filled with traditional games, dancing, and a delicious home-cooked dinner. Nights will be spent in homestays.
Day 5 – Service Project & Community Soccer Game
This morning, the group will enjoy their first breakfast with their homestay family. It is bound to include the famous “gallo pinto” dish, eggs, fresh bread, and fruit. Homestay families will accompany the students to the Service Project Site where the group will meet their guides and the community leaders involved in the project.
Each group’s service project is unique as the needs of the community are continuously evolving. Our projects are focused on collaborating with and supporting the community in order to achieve their goals. We partner with local elementary schools, community centers, parks, sports fields, preschools, and more. Projects involve light construction work, painting, gardening, and educating.
Most service learning begins before students arrive to the homestay community as they are raising funds for the project, creating educational presentations and games to share with the community or gathering specific donations to share with the community. Please learn more about our Community Service Projects and Partners.
After a rewarding day’s work, students will gather with local peers to play a friendly game of soccer. This activity usually lasts until the sun has gone down. It is a favorite for all involved. Dinner and Night will be spent at the homestays.
Day 6 – Service Project & Evening Dance Lessons
Breakfast will be enjoyed at your homestay before students head off for their second day of Service. The second and final day of the service project is often extremely productive as your team of students understand their jobs and are motivated to finish. Many times, there is a culminating event with respect to the project such as a Field Day and/or a friendly game of BINGO.
Students will return to their homes to rest up for very active evening activity – Costa Rican Dance Lessons. Participants will learn the famous rhythms of merengue, salsa, and cumbia. Homestay members are invited to join the group, which is wonderful as they can make wonderful dance partners! Dinner and night at your homestays.
Day 7 – Local Organic Farm Tour & Traditional Cooking Classes
Today students will learn experientially a day in the life of a local farmer or “campesino”. It’s important for students to eat a hearty breakfast this morning before meeting up with their group for a local farm tour.
Participants will learn how coffee and sugarcane grow and are harvested. Discussions will take place on how this farmer is combating pests through organic measures and what it takes to become an organically-certified farm in Costa Rica. Students will get their hands dirty by helping the farm in a reforestation project and also help to harvest fruits and vegetables to enjoy for lunch.
After an enriching morning in the hot sun, the group will have a chance to cool off in the natural pools and waterfalls of a local river. A “farm-to-table” lunch will be eaten at the farmer’s home with his family. The group will return to their homestays with time for a “siesta” before meeting back up for Traditional Costa Rican Cooking Lessons.
Students will help cook their dinner by preparing various Costa Rican dishes such as “picadillo de chayote”, fresh “tortillas con queso”, “ensalada rusa”, and of course a dessert or “postre”. With bellies full, students will return to their homestays to practice their Spanish-language skills through conversation or playing board games or cards with their homestay family members. We encourage students to bring a game to teach to their families. ¡Buenas noches!
Day 8 – Indigenous Ruins, Waterfall & Final Dinner Celebration
Today your group has the opportunity to visit two incredible destinations: Guayabo National Monument and Aquiares Waterfall. A little less than an hour away is Guayabo National Monument, the largest indigenous ruins in Costa Rica. Between the years of 1000 BC and 1400 AD, this site was a booming spiritual, cultural and political center.
Your group will walk through the spectacular secondary forest’s trail system that winds throughout the grounds to view petroglyphs, ancient tombs, an internationally recognized aqueduct, and the circular bases of the cacique and other important leaders’ conical living structures. You are bound to spot various species of birds and butterflies and might even be lucky enough to spot a resident sloth!
The group will enjoy a picnic-style lunch on site before hiking through the largest Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farm in Costa Rica – Aquiares. At the giant ceiba tree, you will descend into the coffee plantation and have a chance to view beautiful rainbow eucalyptus trees throughout the property. The Aquiares Waterfall stands 100 ft tall and is breathtaking. Students are free to swim in the river below and soak in its natural energy and beauty. The group will pass through the town of Turrialba on their way back to the homestay community to purchase souvenirs.
This evening, the host families will prepare a Farewell Dinner for the group. A savory dinner will be enjoyed, along with a chance for the group to try out their newly-learned moves as they dance to salsa, merengue, and cumbia music. There will be an opportunity for the group to share memories from their time together and thank one another for a fulfilling cultural exchange. This evening tends to tug a bit on the heartstrings of all involved! Last night will be spent in homestays.
Day 9 – Transfer to Caribbean Coast & National Park Hike
Enjoy your last meal with your homestay family this morning at breakfast. The group will pack up and travel to the Caribbean Coastal town of Cahuita, where they will settle into their boutique hotel upon arrival.
The group will enjoy lunch at the hotel before heading off to Cahuita National Park. Cahuita National Park was established in 1970 and covers an area of more than 2,700 acres. It has a very important purpose of helping to save the beautiful coral reef off of its shores. Within the park, your group will hike along a coastal trail to look for various species of monkeys, sloths, and reptiles.
After this educational tour, the group will find a spot on the beach to play in the waves and relax on the sand. The group will return to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. You will enjoy the famous cuisine of the Caribbean at a favorite local restaurant to enjoy the famous coconut sauces and spicy jerk flares of this area. Night in the hotel falling asleep to the sounds of waves crashing upon the nearby shores.
Day 10 – Animal Rescue Center & Punta Uva
After a delicious tropical breakfast at your hotel, the group will head south to the town of Puerto Viejo where they will visit the Jaguar Rescue Center. Founded in 2008, the Jaguar Rescue Center has rescued over 1,200 species of animals. With a 40% success rate of releasing rescued animals back into their natural habitat, you know that this center works hard for its success.
On your tour, you will learn how animals find their way to the rescue center, common obstacles that wild animals face in the area, and ways the center is educating the locals. A picnic lunch will be enjoyed on the resident beach of Punta Uva, a local favorite. Students will be able to swim in the calm waters of the emerald-green magical cove and play in its gentle waves.
This afternoon, the group will return to Cahuita where they can souvenir shop and enjoy an authentic Italian pizza dinner at the hotel before heading off to bed.
Day 11 – Surf Lessons & Transfer to Alajuela
This morning will be the last morning at the beach. Soak in the humid, salty air as you enjoy a fresh breakfast at the hotel this morning. The group will then gear up and head off to Playa Negra for surf lessons.
Surf instructors will give the group a “land” lesson before taking them out to try out their skills in the water. Instructor to student ratio is 1:1. While the first group has a go at standing up and riding the waves, the rest of the group will enjoy beach volleyball or soccer, building sand castles, or sunbathing. Lunch will be enjoyed in town before heading back to Alajuela, the town next to the San Jose airport.
This evening, the group will have its final reflection meeting and Farewell Dinner. Students will be asked to think critically about their experiences throughout the program and share their learnings. The night will be enjoyed at the hotel.
Day 12 – Departure Day
Your incredible educational tour has come to an end. After breakfast at the hotel this morning the group will pack up and transfer to the San Jose (SJO) International Airport. Here the group will say farewell to their dedicated guides. It can be tough parting ways as your guides have led you every step of the way! Thank goodness for technology. We hope that you will continue to keep in touch with us and return in the future!
We can customize itineraries to fit your group’s specific needs. Please don’t hesitate in giving us your feedback!
Program Itinerary Inclusions:
- Customized 12-day program itinerary – exclusive to your group
- Two dedicated, bilingual guides are available 24 hours a day
- Private vehicle transportation between main destinations
- All meals included – Breakfast, lunch, dinner
- 5 nights – Pre-approved Homestay accommodations with authentic, reputable families
- 6 nights – Hotel rooms 3+ star
- Adventure and educational tours as indicated – specialty guide tips included
- CRE t-shirt
Program Tuition for this 12-day – “Culture, Service, Volcano & Beach” is $3,790 per student for a minimum of 8 participants. The maximum number of participants is 16 students with 2 chaperones. With eight 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, we are willing 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 nights 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 per 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 per participant