If your travel group desires an authentic, Spanish-speaking environment in which your students can immerse themselves fully into the Costa Rican culture and practice and improve their Spanish-language skills, this is the trip for you!
Turrialba: The Perfect Setting for a Costa Rica Spanish Immersion Program
Costa Rica Explorations operates its student programs in a small, less-discovered area of the country, within the mountain town of Turrialba. Turrialba is located about 2 hours east of the capital of San Jose and is the largest county in the province of Cartago. It is home to the most active volcano in the country, the Turrialba Volcano. This agricultural town is also known for its coffee and sugarcane production, its famous cheeses, and its rivers that travelers use for white-water rafting excursions.
Turrialba is considered the gateway to the Caribbean Coast, as it is located just over 2 hours from Puerto Limon. Turrialba used to be a major transportation hub in Costa Rica when the main highway connecting the capital city of San Jose to the port town of Limón traveled through the city. It also was an important train stop for the intercontinental train. Without the train and with the development of the new Braulio Carillo Highway from the Central Valley to Limón, most people now bypass Turrialba.
These recent developments have left Turrialba to be a small, quaint, mountain town in Costa Rica, where the influence of North American culture and the English language has been very minimal. It’s the perfect destination for travelers seeking to improve their Spanish language skills and immerse themselves in a truly authentic Costa Rican culture.
Homestay Experience & Spanish Language Course
Our homestay communities welcome our students with open arms into their homes and pridefully, yet with much humility, teach our students the Tico way of life.
Our Spanish Immersion program not only includes a custom course led fully in Spanish by our professional trip leaders, but it also includes structured Spanish instruction coupled with a great deal of close cultural interaction. Fully immersed in the language, students get a chance to improve and expand their knowledge of the Spanish language and authentically practice the language through everyday experiences within their homestays, educational and adventure activities, and service projects. Because of their dedication to the Spanish language, your students will take advantage of the opportunity to learn first-hand about this developing country’s culture.
We use bilingual, professional guides who are trained educators that will be accompanying the group for the duration of your program in Costa Rica. These guides work together with the host educator(s). They will supervise all activities and will run group meetings, team-building events, and debriefs at strategically pre-determined times throughout the trip.
These instructions and meetings can be run in English, Spanish, or a combination of both. We are 100% open to your desires and goals for the students’ experiences during their visit to Costa Rica. In the case that an educator wants to provide this type of program where there is 100% Spanish spoken, we can coordinate the itinerary and curriculum to do so. This is something that we can do and have had a great deal of success with in the past. Of course, the level of the students’ Spanish will need to be advanced, so we require the host educator’s input on this. In certain cases, where important instructions need to be passed along, we can make sure to use both languages.
Most Homestay families and service project workers do not know English. Therefore, if you decide to host your trip in English, there is still a great deal of Spanish that all students will have to use in their daily lives. In the case that the students’ Spanish is at a high level, this is an incredible enhancement that will continue the language learning process and continue to improve Spanish language skills.
Spanish Immersion Program Focuses
Our Spanish immersion programs focus on the following areas:
Our students are exposed to a unique culture as they will live within our homestay communities. The homestay communities consist of rural, middle-class families located nearby the town of Turrialba. Turrialba has all the amenities needed such as banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, health clinics, and a hospital.
Your group will all live within the same homestay community within walking distance of one another. Students are typically paired up and strategically placed with families. The host teacher and our group leaders live within the community as well to provide the utmost supervision and care needed.
Our group leaders are on call 24/7 and can be at a homestay within minutes if necessary. In the case of a Spanish language immersion group, we are open to considering placing only one student per family in order to maximize his/her’s exposure to the Spanish language. Please note that this is always considered on a case-by-case basis.
Safety is our #1 priority, and while we want to push students’ comfort zones, in the end, we always want to make sure the students feel comfortable as that is the most important element to allowing successful learning to happen. Find more information regarding the Homestays and Community Service Projects.
2. Spanish Language Instruction
Your group will participate in Spanish language instruction typically lasting 2-4 hours a day. A placement test will be given to the students during orientation and based on the results of the assessment, students will be divided into small groups based on their level of the Spanish language. For convenience, private Spanish instructors will come to the homestay community to instruct the students.
Students will learn and practice both written and oral language skills by walking through grammar and vocabulary lessons. They will be given time each evening to complete assigned homework. Many of the homework assignments will be interactive, encouraging students to engage in conversation and observe their homestay families during their daily lives. There is no more powerful way to learn a language than to be immersed within it.
3. Community Service
Community service is an essential element of each of our student programs. During our Spanish Immersion Program, students will work within educational institutions, most likely local elementary schools and kindergartens, to assist teachers with their classes. Depending on the level of Spanish, students can help teach math, art, and creative writing classes in Spanish. Participating students most likely will also be called upon to help instruct a few lessons on the English language, as that is a wonderful gift that they can give a Spanish-speaking community.
4. Travel & Reflection
Our Spanish Immersion program also includes cultural, educational, and adventure activities such as Costa Rican cooking, dancing, and art classes. There are a variety of interesting local educational field trips that we offer such as organic farm tours, a trip to the largest Indigenous Monument in Costa Rica, and hikes through rainforests and coffee farms to hidden waterfalls. One of our missions is to teach our students essential international travel skills within a controlled environment.
Our hope is that through our program, students will gain the confidence and know-how needed to continue international travel on a more independent level for longer durations of time in college, university and beyond. The world is an incredible place and there is no better way to explore it than through firsthand experiences.
We believe that in order for students to take full advantage of their learning experiences, time is needed for daily reflection. Our professional group leaders lead daily group reflection meetings and encourage students to participate in important personal reflection as well. Students will learn and improve upon their strengths and weaknesses as group members in team-building activities throughout the program. We encourage each of our students to become active future global leaders.
Our Spanish Immersion Program Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival Day & Orientation
Your student group will arrive at San Jose, Costa Rica, International Airport and will be greeted by our professional group leaders and private vehicle. You will travel 2 to 3 hours east towards the Caribbean Coast to the mountain town of Turrialba, where you will settle in for your first night in your hotel that overlooks the city of Turrialba.
This evening, your group will participate in a variety of Introduction Activities in order for the students, teachers, and our group leaders to get to know each other better as you are about to embark on a wonderful educational experience together. It is important for students and teachers to feel 100% comfortable with our group leaders. This trust allows for open communication within the group, which creates a safe learning environment for all.
The group will also discuss personal and group goals for the trip and will go over the rules and policies of the program. Safety is our #1 priority. This Orientation Meeting can be conducted in Spanish or English depending upon the desires of the student group and their level of Spanish.
Day 2 – Introduction to Homestay Community
This morning you will enjoy a delicious tropical breakfast at the hotel. You will participate in teambuilding activities and will prepare for your homestay experience by discussing different scenarios that might occur during your homestay. The group will then take their first adventure as they walk through the nearby rainforest to visit a local waterfall. This challenging, yet refreshing activity is a great way to begin your immersion experience.
The group will pack up and will travel to the homestay community where you will spend the remainder of your trip. The homestay community will be eager to greet you and the students, teachers, and guides will go to their respective homes for lunch and to get unpacked. This afternoon, the homestay community will meet in the local plaza for a friendly soccer game and will wrap up the evening with a festive Welcome Dinner for the entire community.
Day 3 – 7 – Private Spanish Language Classes, Service & Cultural Activities
For the next 5 days students will settle into a nice routine within their new community. Each morning they will wake up and enjoy breakfast with their families. Breakfasts typically consist of eggs, “gallo pinto” (a Costa Rican specialty of white rice and black beans), tropical fruits, cheese, and bread.
Students will head off to their Spanish language lessons. After Spanish class, the group will then head over to their Service Project Site to volunteer within a local elementary or kindergarten. The group will break up into pairs and will assist students within classes. Most likely your group will have prepared a few English lessons, potentially a mini-unit or workshop, and/or PowerPoint presentations about selected topics of participating students’ own culture to share with the local students. The student group will eat their lunch at the Service Project site.
The details of the volunteer project will be a collaboration between Costa Rica Explorations, the community service partner, and the visiting student group. Each volunteer project is customized based on the needs of the community, the expertise of the student group, and the budget for the project.
In the afternoon and/or evening, students will then participate in a cultural activity of Costa Rican Cooking Classes, Dance Classes, and Art Classes. They will learn the Latin rhythms of salsa, merengue, and cumbia, along with the secret recipes for homemade tortillas and Costa Rican arepas.
One afternoon students will visit the town of Turrialba where they will participate in a scavenger hunt. Using their Spanish language skills, students will break into groups and will navigate their way around the city finding the answer to various different questions. Whichever group finds the answer to the most questions, wins the activity!
This day ends with time to enjoy ice cream and purchase some souvenirs. In the evening, students will need to complete interactive homework assignments with the help of their homestay families to present the following day in class. Dinner will be enjoyed at your homestay before participants fall fast asleep after a full day of activities!
Day 8 – COMBO Tour: Whitewater Rafting & Ziplining Tour
After the hard work students have put into their studies and volunteering, today is a time for fun and adventure! Students will wake up and eat breakfast in their homestays. They will get geared up for their Combo Tour on the river! The students will have about a 30-minute transfer to the river, where they will meet their whitewater rafting guides. The group will receive a safety talk and will learn what it takes to be an effective member of a rafting boat!
Students will learn paddling commands, how river currents work, safe positions in the boat and in the water, and how to rescue a boating member in case someone falls in. Your group will raft a Class I – III Section of the world-famous Pacuare River that runs through an Indigenous Reserve. It is an absolutely stunning tour down the river, but it will take good concentration and group participation skills.
After white-water rafting the river, you will stop at a River Lodge to enjoy a tropical lunch prepared by your rafting guides. You will then get into harnesses and take off on ziplines through the rainforest canopy. You will travel on cables between platforms perched high within the trees. It is an exhilarating experience, and the views you get of the rainforest and river from that height are unforgettable.
After your tour, you will dry off and transfer back to your homestay community where you have a free evening to enjoy with your Costa Rican family. They will have dinner waiting for you.
Day 9 – Local Sugarcane & Coffee Farm Tour w/ Waterfall or Tour of National Indigenous Monument & Waterfall Tour
Today your group will participate in an educational field trip. Your group will either tour a local coffee and sugarcane farm to learn about how these crops and other tropical fruits and vegetables are planted, grown, and harvested. Students will get their hands dirty and participate in a reforestation project on the farm. The group will harvest fresh crops to be used to prepare lunch that day. The day’s tour will end with a refreshing swim in a local river’s swimming hole.
Your group’s second option is the opportunity to visit Costa Rica’s largest Indigenous Reserve. Just a 45-minute drive from your homestay community is Guayabo National Monument. Here your group will walk through the lush secondary rainforest trying to spot sloths, morpho butterflies, unique insects, and if you are really lucky, even monkeys!
The well-maintained paths take you to a variety of sights of interest where our guides will explain the mysterious history of this spiritual site. You will visit tombs, petroglyphs, an award-winning and still-working aqueduct, and the circular bases of the indigenous leaders’ houses.
Both tours are full of new information and experiences.
This afternoon, students will return to their homestays and pack up as it is their last night in Costa Rica. The homestay families will host a Farewell Dinner for the group which will be filled with dancing, delicious homemade Costa Rican cuisine, and cheer. The group will celebrate new friendships that have been made and will thank the homestays for their wonderful hospitality. It is a bittersweet evening, to say the least!
Day 10 – Departure Day
Today the group, led by our guides will transfer to San José for your flight to the States. The ride to the airport is always a bit sad, but it allows the group participants to reflect upon all of their amazing experiences and the new knowledge they have gained about themselves personally, as a group member, as an international traveler, and as a Spanish language speaker.
Program Tuition for this 10-day – Spanish Immersion itinerary is $2,360 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.
We are open to customizing this program to meet the unique needs of your group, so please let our program managers know if you would like to adapt this suggested itinerary to fit your group’s desires.
Options to Extend/Shorten Spanish Immersion Experience:
The 8-day Spanish Immersion Program includes:
- 2 fewer nights at homestay
- 1 less day of Spanish classes and Service work
- Does not include a whitewater rafting & ziplining combo tour
- Program tuition is $2,040 per student, for a minimum of 8 participants
The 14-day Spanish Immersion Program includes:
- 4 additional nights at the homestay
- 3 additional days of Spanish Classes & Service
- 1 additional educational tour
- Program tuition is $2,960 per student, for a minimum of 8 participants
What Our Spanish Immersion Trip Student Travelers Say:
“I spoke all Spanish when I was in my homestay. This trip allowed me to fall in love with Costa Rica and its lifestyle. I now know that I can travel and immerse myself in another culture and feel comfortable.” — Meredith
“The homeastays helped me improve my Spanish a lot. Also, seeing all the buildings, interactions,
nature and staying with a (homestay) family deepened my understanding of the cultural difference between Costa Rica and the USA.” — Hannah
“My Spanish vocabulary and skills increased greatly!” — Audrey