Costa Rica Service Learning Trips

Our Costa Rica service learning trip is ideal for teachers and group leaders looking to focus their student travel program on an international service learning project. This 8-day itinerary gives your students 32-40 hands-on service hours within the country of Costa Rica. We believe that students’ participation in international service projects empowers our students to gain essential skills, determination and motivation to become much needed global leaders of the future.

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Pre-Program Activities to Prepare Students

In addition to your students in-country service hours, our company offers a pre-program curriculum to prepare your students for the service project in Costa Rica. Researching the topic of the service participating students will complete in Costa Rica is an essential step in the Service Learning Process. It allows students to deepen their connection to the topic and fully understand the importance of their contribution.

The pre-program curriculum and total number of service hours can be customized to fit the needs of each group. We also encourage and can provide host teachers with post-service work activities to help students fully reflect upon their service learning experience in Costa Rica. This final reflection piece is essential in a true “Service Learning” project.

Our hope is that through their service trip with us, students will be motivated to continue to serve within their own communities and/or will seek out other international service projects that are in line with their interests.

Service Projects Help Costa Rica Communities in Need

There are numerous communities and organizations in the Turrialba area in need of assistance; therefore, service projects are plentiful. We develop our projects with local community leaders and prepare the logistics of the work before the group arrives.

We work side-by-side our community partners to complete our service projects. The service projects chosen are based on a combination of the needs in the community combined with each student group’s budget and/or donation that they contribute to the project. Our program manager will work closely with the host educator during the pre-planning process of the trip in order to select a project that best suits the participating student group.

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Our Service Partners are community-based and typically involve local schools, kindergartens, community centers, parks, plazas, municipalities, churches and local farms. Because we work with a variety of different Community Service Partners, we are able to customize your service work according to the topic and skills your student group brings such as:

  • Tropical agriculture – supporting small local organic farmers
  • Reforestation
  • Recycling
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Community Development – constructing bus stops, improving roads, park clean up projects
  • English-language education
  • Art / Murals
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles – constructing playgrounds, improvement of existing plazas, donation of sports equipment, instruction of new Sports

What the Service Project Work is Like

The majority of our service projects are a combination of light construction work such as mixing cement and digging holes, gardening, planting, painting, organization of and operation of community fundraisers and activities, and face-to-face interaction with community members. Speaking Spanish is not essential, but is helpful as our Community Partner members are mostly Spanish-speaking. Working side-by-side one another is a great way to practice the language.

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Keeping Students Safe

There are various rules that always apply to our service projects such as no electrical tools will be permitted to be used by students. All students need to wear closed-toed shoes and protective eyewear, masks and work gloves when needed. Most of the work is done in shorter durations to not tire out the students. We also create subgroups and rotate through various different types of projects to help keep student interest.

Find out more about our Community Service Partners and Projects.

Fundraising Efforts & Projects

An important element involved in each program’s service project is the fundraising element. Each participating student group is required to donate funds towards the international service project. Many host educators ask,“Why do we have to pay to do service?” Well, because there is the need!!

Our local Costa Rican partner organizations are organized and run by committees. They set short-term and long-term goals. They work hard to apply for financial help locally from various places – the local government, the federal government, local businesses, etc. The community organizations also hold fundraisers such as BINGOs and food sales and solicit donations from its community members, but many times the funds gathered are not sufficient enough to cover costs of their proposed projects. The donations from our student groups, coupled with the funds raised by our partner organizations, allow the organization to achieve project goals. This collaboration works and it is extremely rewarding to be a part of as it is a true collaboration–all members (local and international) doing their best to realize a common goal.

Creating fundraising projects, earning money, and/or preparing lessons and other materials to contribute to the selected service project allows your student group to work towards a common goal before they arrive to Costa Rica. It also educates your local community of the different needs that exist in international destinations. This type of interaction and activity allows your group to work together and bond before the trip. It also allows the students to create and feel true, genuine ownership for the project in which they will participate in during their time in Costa Rica.

Contact us about fundraising ideas and efforts that you can implement at your school in preparation for your student group trip.

Awarding Students for Their Service

At the end of your group’s service experience, they will receive an International Service Award that will be handed out by the local Costa Rican Service Community Provider. Our Community Service Partners are always very grateful for the support, love and kindness that our student groups bring during their stay. It motivates the local community to continue striving to achieve their goals, and it inspires the local Costa Rican youth to seek out ways they can become community leaders and continue to help their town.

Our travel experiences are designed to build tomorrow’s leaders by providing participating students with the knowledge and leadership skills to take home and apply in their own communities. Through our carefully planned and designed service learning and community service projects, students see first hand the positive difference their work and dedication has on the community.

Service Learning Program Itinerary Overview

Day 1 – Arrival Day and Group Orientation

Your group will arrive at the San José Airport and will transfer around 2.5 to 3 hours to the town of Turrialba. On the way you will pass through the capital city of San José and the city of Cartago, which is home to the famous Basilica Our Lady of the Angeles.

Depending upon your group’s arrival time, you will stop for lunch at a local “soda” or restaurant for a “casado”, Costa Rica’s typical lunch, which includes white rice, black beans, fried plantains, steamed vegetables or salad, and your choice of a protein (chicken, meat, pork chop or fish). Each meal comes with your choice of a fresh tropical fruit drink.

Then you will stop at the famous Basilica, Costa Rica’s central Catholic church, for a tour of this very sacred building. Home of “La Negrita”. Your group will continue to the hotel where you will drop your luggage and head to your first Orientation Meeting. Here the group will play a few Introduction and team-building games with the goal that the group members and our guides will get to know one another better. This community building is important as the group will be working together to achieve the goals of their service project.

This evening you will enjoy a warm dinner at the hotel and will settle in for your first night’s rest in Costa Rica.

Day 2 – Introduction to Homestay and to Service Partner

Around 5:30 am the birds will start their morning calls and the sun’s rays will shine through your windows. Mornings in Costa Rica start early and are full of activity! Your group will enjoy breakfast at the hotel and will then participate in another Orientation Meeting.

During this meeting your group will prepare themselves for their time living within the homestay community. Students will be paired up and placed within homestay families. The homestay experience is incredible as it will allow your students to fully understand the community in which they are serving. They will be able to live the daily lives of the families, to understand their values and to make new friends. This intimate experience gives students a new perspective of the world, one in which they can reflect upon and compare and contrast to their own family life and community.

Many times students come to realizations about how they would like to improve their way of life and/or reevaluate their priorities of their daily lives after reflecting upon their homestay experience in Costa Rica. Please read more about our rural, middle-class families and the careful Homestay Selection Process that is used when choosing our homestay partners.

After the meeting, the group will take a short hike to a local waterfall where they will have their first taste of walking in a lush tropical rainforest. Then everyone will get packed up and will head off to the homestay community where they will meet their respective homestay families and will enjoy their first meal in their assigned “tico” home.

This afternoon is when the students will finally get to meet their Community Service Partner! The group will become oriented to the service project. A few hours are set aside today to begin work on the project. Your group will discuss all of the project goals and will break into subgroups to get started.

This evening your group will return to their homestays to clean up and to get ready to be hosted by the community at the Welcome Dinner. All the homestay families are invited. During the dinner everyone will get to know each other a bit better and will share in a home-cooked meal, games and dancing.

This evening is the first night you will stay with your homestays. Enjoy!

Day 3 – 6 – Service Work & Cultural Activities

The next four days are dedicated to work on the service project. Students and host teachers will enjoy a delicious breakfast with their homestay families each morning and then will head off to the worksite.

The service work will most likely be within the same homestay community making the commute easy. Our guides, the project’s foreman, and other community members will be there to greet the group and collaborate on the project. Many times there are a variety of sub-projects that need to be accomplished, so students are split into subgroups and rotate through the different projects so as to experience each of them.

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Lunch will be enjoyed either at the service project site or back at your homestays. After your six to eight hour work day, you will return to your homestays to rest and enjoy a “cafecito” or afternoon snack and a little “siesta”.

In the evenings, there are cultural events planned. Your group will participate in Costa Rican traditional cooking lessons, dance lessons, and “manualidades” (an arts-n-craft project).

One of the afternoons you will have a chance to travel into the town of Turrialba to participate in a scavenger hunt to help improve your navigational skills in Spanish and to go shopping. Your service work will typically culminate in some sort of community event, such as a Sports Day or an organized BINGO. It is wonderful to bring the community together and share cultures. If we are able to combine a local fundraiser into the mix – even better!

Dinner and nights will be spent at your homestays. Nighttime is a great time to practice your Spanish skills and to get to know your tico family members better. It is always nice to bring some sort of game, such as a card game or board game, to teach your family.

Day 7 – Adventure Day

Your group will head off on a COMBO – Whitewater Rafting and Zipline Tour today! After all of your hard service work, now it is time to celebrate your efforts! Your guides will explain what clothing is appropriate to wear. The morning will be spent whitewater rafting down a Class II & III section of the Rio Pacuare – a world famous river in Costa Rica!

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After working hard as a team to paddle through fun rapids, you will stop at a River Lodge to enjoy a delicious lunch made by your rafting guides. Then you will get fitted for your safety harnesses and will experience a thrilling canopy / zip-line tour through the trees on the property. You will zoom through the treetops from one platform to the next enjoying amazing views of the river below. This is a day you will never forget!

The fun is not over after your tour. Once you arrive to your homestays you will change for your Farewell Dinner. Your host families and community partner have prepare a special evening for you to thank you for your efforts in the community and to celebrate new friendships made. This will the last evening spent with your homestay family.

Day 8 – Departure Day

After breakfast this morning, your group will say their last goodbyes before heading off to the SJO airport for your flight back home. The ride to the airport is always pretty quiet as participants are reflecting upon their incredible stay and experience in Turrialba. Thanks to social media and the Internet, our world has become smaller making it easier to keep up with relationships abroad. Know that your kindness and compassion for the community of Turrialba will be cherished forever.

Costa Rica Service Learning Program Tuition Costs

Program Tuition for this 8-day Service Learning itinerary is $1,625 per student for a minimum of 8 participants. Group’s maximum participants is 16 students with 2 host teachers. With 8 fully-paying participants, one host teachers’ program tuition will be covered by Costa Rica Explorations.

Based on the group’s goals and budget, we offer varying lengths of our Service Learning Itinerary. We pride ourselves on customizing our itineraries to meet the needs of the group; therefore, please let us know how we can modify our itinerary to your liking.

We can offer alternative housing such as in a local hotel and/or shared living space. Please inquire if this is a need of your group as the tuition price will change.

Options to Extend Service Learning Experience:

10-day Service Learning Program includes:

  • 2 additional nights at homestay
  • 1 additional day of Community Service
  • 1 additional educational tour such as a local farm tour, rainforest hike and/or visit to indigenous ruins
  • Program tuition is $1,875 / for a minimum of 8 participants

14-day Service Learning Program includes:

  • 6 additional nights at the homestay
  • 4 additional days of Community Service
  • 2 additional educational tours please ask our program manager for options
  • Program tuition is $2,375 / for a minimum of 8 participants

What Our Service Learning Trip Student Travelers Say:

“It helped me see that there are different ways of living that can still give you a good life. This will help me be more open about others in the future.” — Amanda

“I believe I had a positive impact because our recycling project will allow their community to become a cleaner place.” — Izzy

“I believe our service did have a positive impact–donating the lacrosses equipment, painting a mural, making signs and decorating bins with host families.” — Beth

Ready to Plan a Costa Rica Service Learning Trip? Contact Us!