Travel to Costa Rica this summer for a teen community service program you won’t forget! Work alongside some of our long-standing service partners on projects such as taking part in a community infrastructure project in the Central Valley and helping protect native plants from invasive species. This Costa Rica student trip uses a service-learning framework tailored for high school students, where our staff provide guidance and reflection on the impact of the work we do throughout the program and promote the value of empathy and cultural sensitivity. When not volunteering, you’ll be off on amazing adventures like learning to surf, rappelling down a waterfall and zip-lining over the rainforest canopy! It won’t be long until you will fall in love with all things Costa Rican and the Pura Vida lifestyle.
About This Program
What It's Like
The perfect balance of meaningful service projects, cultural immersion and unforgettable adventures.
This program requires an open mind to experience a different culture, new foods and comfortable hotels.
60 Service Hours
A letter of completion detailing the program's service hours and projects will be issued after the program.
Everybody participates together in each project. Specific projects are confirmed in late spring and are similar to those described.
A professional guide accompanies our staff with the group to assist, educate and immerse the students into the local culture.
Hotels & lodges.
Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Includes all recreation & activities listed.
Chartered, air-conditioned motor coach with a professional driver.
Separate departure dates are assigned to create compatible co-ed age groups.
Up to 24 participants.
• Participate in a local beautification project.
• Snorkel among tropical fish at Isla Tortuga.
• Work on a community project like helping to build homes.
• Enjoy a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure.
• Experience a canyoning adventure in Arenal.
• Learn to surf with professional instructors.
• Zip-line over the canopy in Rincon de la Vieja National Park.
• Learn how to salsa at a Latin dance class.
Throughout our longstanding relationship with the CRHF, our groups have helped with numerous projects. We have helped build a high school for the youth of Picarges and run sports, reading, dance, crafts and face painting programming for the children of La Carpio, Palenque, and Concepción. Our participants have constructed and delivered beds to reduce overcrowding and provided children with their own beds for the first time. Finally, our groups helped reconstruct a single-family home that was destroyed in a fire.
About the CRHF
In 1978, Gail Nystrom left New Jersey for a Peace Corps assignment in Costa Rica. She moved there and founded the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) to improve the quality of life for populations in need. From her vision and drive, the CRHF manages more than fifty projects focusing on education, community development and preventive health care. Gail is a shining example to each of us of the difference a single person can make.
Flamingo is the quintessential beach community. The impact of tourism and development has created economic and environmental challenges for the locals. Our groups have helped in beach preservation, painting and building local homes for underprivileged residents, sprucing up the community center, and renovating a local classroom – which has all contributed to improving this community’s quality of life.
About Siempre Amigos
Founded in 2011, Siempre Amigos is an NGO partner organization that focuses on social responsibility with the mission to assist low-income families in the rural areas of Guanacaste, specifically in the improvement of living conditions. Siempre Amigos facilitates short-term projects with both local and international volunteers.
For 22 years, Urbarium has worked with those living in vulnerable communities coordinating efforts to create positive change. Urbarium provides sustainable social programs and building projects strengthening community bonds, spaces, and infrastructure. Our groups learn and work alongside community members through one of Urbarium’s various programs. Past projects have included constructing new homes for individual families and helping to renovate a multi-purpose field used by local community members.
Urbarium is a non-profit association that has been promoting communities for more than 20 years. They work to ensure at-risk groups have access to housing and accessibility to adequate social, physical and environmental communities.
Volunteer at this animal sanctuary, home to sloths, ocelots, macaws, toucans, crocodiles and much more. Help their team with the important work they cannot accomplish without the contribution of volunteers.
About the Refugio Animal de Costa Rica The sanctuary is located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. It provides a safe haven for orphaned and injured wildlife, as well as for those who had to be relocated away from homes in the city.
Kick off the summer with a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure! You will also enjoy an incredible catamaran cruise to the white sand beaches of Tortuga Island and embark on an unforgettable snorkeling escapade amongst tropical fish. Taste famous and delicious Costa Rican coffee while learning how it’s grown by the comic troupe at Café Britt and join a Latin dance class.
Visit La Fortuna waterfall and relax in thermal hot springs. Experience a canyoning adventure in Arenal Volcano National Park.
Get set for professional surf lessons at Tamarindo Beach, you’ll be on the board in no time! Kick back and relax by an evening bonfire on the beach.
On this retreat, cool off with a rewarding swim after hiking to a beautiful waterfall. You will also enjoy zip-lining over the rainforest canopy and covering yourself at the mud baths. Enjoy some downtime by the pool at our eco-resort.
Central Valley, Costa Rica
Our groups will be staying at a few carefully selected hotels in the Central Valley. Properties include Hotel Autentico, Hotel Adventure Inn, and La Rosa de America. Amenities at all hotels include air conditioning, internet access, and a swimming pool to enjoy.
Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica
Hacienda Guachipelin is an eco-resort set atop the mountains with an open-air restaurant overlooking the valley. Facilities include a pool, patio with hammocks, air-conditioned rooms, Wi-Fi, and recreation space.
Flamingo Beach, Costa Rica
Our group will be staying at one of the following carefully selected hotels near Flamingo Beach: Hotel Casas del Toro Hacienda, Hotel Cabinas Isolinas or Seis Playas Hotel. Amenities at all hotels include air conditioning, internet access and a swimming pool to enjoy.
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Your group will stay at one of the following hotels near Arenal volcano: Hotel San Bosco, Hotel Montechiari, or Lavas Tacotal. All of the hotels offer great views of Arenal Volcano. Rooms are air-conditioned, Wi-Fi enabled, and have refreshing swimming pools.
Flight to San Jose, Costa Rica
Participants on this program have the option of joining us on a chaperoned flight to San Jose that will be from either a NY/NJ area airport and/or South Florida, determined in the spring. Our staff will be with you from check-in onward. For our many travelers from outside these areas, you can choose to join the chaperoned flight and we are happy to help you arrange connecting flights at suitable times. If you prefer, you may meet us in San Jose and we will help you coordinate your flight and times and greet you as you come through immigration and customs.
Return Flight Home from San Jose, Costa Rica
For your return from San Jose, we offer a chaperoned flight back to the USA. You may choose to join that flight and arrange transfers (if required) at suitable times after clearing customs and immigration in the USA, or you may fly from San Jose to your home city and our leaders help you check in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
Where We Stay
We carefully select clean and comfortable accommodations with the needs of our students in mind. While our volunteer programs do not stay at luxury resorts, we do know that a good night’s rest, in your own bed, is key to performing your service hours well and having enough energy to enjoy the day’s activities. For this reason, and also to maintain the close group bond and to uphold the quality of this program, we do not offer any homestays.
Meals & New Cuisines
Eating well while away from home is an important part of a summer’s success. We understand how it helps our travelers feel secure, happy and looking forward to their day. Part of your travel experience will be immersing yourself in the local cuisine and culture, so please bring with you an open mind and a willingness to try new things. For example, Costa Rican traditional cuisine offers plenty of rice, beans, meat dishes and tons of fresh fruit, but don’t worry, they also have North American style options on the menu.
We have satisfied the choosiest of eaters and gladly accommodate most special dietary requests including vegetarian, anaphylactic food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, and kosher style. We welcome discussing your individual requirements with you and have extensive experience in this area.
It’s generally okay to drink tap water in Costa Rica, except for a few select areas. As a precaution, we will provide purified drinking water in large containers so that travelers can fill up their reusable water bottles as needed.
We recommend you follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and consult with your physician for current immunizations and medication required for travelers to Costa Rica. These recommendations may change from time to time. We will send you detailed information in March (or upon enrollment if later) regarding the current recommendations for this itinerary.
You will only need one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in the packing list that will be sent to you prior to departure. Every week you will drop off your laundry at a local wash and fold service and then pick it up clean, folded and ready to go.
Included in your program tuition is all lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, recreation & entertainment listed, airport transfers in designated times, gratuities & taxes.
Not included is transportation to and from the program and personal spending money for snacks, souvenirs, and laundry. We also make available optional travel insurance that is not included, but highly recommended.
Please contact us with any questions. We are happy to hear from you!
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I need to contact my teen during the program?
Participants may bring their cell phones so parents may call and message their kids directly. You may also contact our Communication Centers which serve as the official link between programs on the road and parents. We are staffed every day during the summer and have somebody on call for after hours emergencies ready to assist you 24/7.
Who are the staff and what are their qualifications?
Our staff are educators, guidance counselors, coaches, college and university students, former camp counselors, residence life coordinators, community volunteers, world travelers, and other leaders with diverse backgrounds. Many are former participants themselves who couldn’t get enough of the Westcoast experience! Learn more about our summer leaders.
How are roommates assigned?
On our Active Teen Tours, Global Adventures and Community Service programs rooming rotation is as follows:
Giving everyone a chance to make new friends creates a cohesive group and one of the most warm and welcoming social environments in our industry! To promote this we’ve found the best system is for the program director to assign the rooms for the first and second stops. For the first stop, independent travelers room with other independent travelers and any friends who enrolled can room together. All participants will be assigned a different roommate for the second stop. Roommates are assigned based on gender identity. After the first two stops, choice of roommates is always up to you!
On our Pre-College Enrichment programs & Career Experiences rooming is as follows:
We assign independent travelers with another independent traveler for the duration of your stay. Any friends who enrolled together can room together. Roommates are assigned based on gender identity.