Combine the opportunity to learn Spanish with the rewards of community service and the adventure of travel. We have teamed up with Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI), the only Spanish immersion school in Costa Rica with three campuses, to give you a unique educational experience featuring three very different regions of the country – Central Valley, Flamingo Beach and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. This variety ensures you enjoy diverse excursions to complement your in-class instruction. Surf the Pacific, run a day camp for local children and chat with the “ticos” to practice your Spanish skills – the recipe for an amazing summer!
Language study, service and adventure – what a combination!
30 hours of Spanish class and 30 hours of community service, all while having so much fun
Experience the SkyTrek zip-line – it’s a “wow” as its longest cable is almost a half-mile long
Spanish classes that you will enjoy in 3 locations – across from the beach, in the Cloud Forest and within view of the volcanoes of the Central Valley
Learn to ride the waves with professional instructors on Tamarindo Beach
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 Miami, determined in the spring once we see the cities of origin of the group. 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.
For the 21-day 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 to check in and remain in the airport until flights in designated times have departed.
This program is open to students from complete beginners through advanced Spanish speakers. On day one you will be assessed and assigned to a class of up to five students based on your Spanish ability.
There are a total of 10 classes held in the afternoon across the three school locations from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. The focus of the course is to enhance your verbal skills; however, attention is also given to grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing skills. We don’t just want you to know Spanish, we want you to become comfortable speaking it so that you can confidently use your Spanish skills in your daily life, whether that’s having a conversation with a friend or ordering dinner in a restaurant.
CENTRO PANAMERICANO DE IDIOMAS (CPI) LANGUAGE SCHOOL
Founded in 1991, CPI is a respected Spanish language school in Costa Rica, accredited by the Ministry of Education. Teaching staff consists of professionals with university training, certification and experience in teaching Spanish as a second language to visiting students.
Classes in Three Locations – One Continuous Curriculum
WEEK 1: CENTRAL VALLEY CAMPUS (HEREDIA)
Situated in the suburban town of Heredia, the school is beautiful with painted murals, local art and tropical gardens to take a break.
WEEK 2: FLAMINGO BEACH CAMPUS
Located literally across the street from the beach, the Flamingo location has a basketball court and is surrounded by cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
WEEK 3: MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST CAMPUS
Our school is high up in the mountains by the St. Elena Reserve with gorgeous views of the lush cloud forest.
PRACTICE YOUR SPANISH THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Our staff and local guides are fluent in Spanish, so get ready to practice beyond the classroom. Whether you are ordering a meal at a restaurant, working alongside local community members during the service component or bargaining with local market vendors, your Spanish language skills are sure to improve.
WEEK 1: CENTRAL VALLEY (HEREDIA)
Community Service Project – Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation
Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation – In 1978, Gail Nystrom left New Jersey for a Peace Corps assignment in Costa Rica. She later moved there and founded the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) to improve quality of life for populations in need. From her vision and drive, the CRHF manages more than 50 projects focusing on education, community development and preventive health care. Our groups have helped build a high school for the youth of Picagres and run programs, such as sports, reading, dance, crafts and face painting for the children of La Carpio and from the schools of Palenque and Concepción. We constructed and delivered beds to help reduce overcrowding and provide children with their own bed for the first time, as well as participated in a beautification project by painting murals on the walls of the community and the outside of people’s homes. Gail is a shining example to each of us of the difference a single person can make.
WEEK 2: FLAMINGO BEACH
Community Service Project – Siempre Amigos (Always Friends): social and environmental responsibility program
Siempre Amigos (Always Friends): social and environmental responsibility program – The impact of tourism and development has created economic and environmental challenges for the locals of this beach community. Our groups have helped in preserving beaches, painting and restoring local homes for underprivileged residents, sprucing up the community center and renovating a local classroom – all going a long way towards improving this community’s quality of life. Enjoy a day at a school interacting with local children and practicing your Spanish.
WEEK 3: MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST
Community Service Project – Life Monteverde Co-Op
Help promote sustainable living on this 42-acre farm by planting trees, taking care of the animals and helping with organic fertilizing.
All Included In Your Tuition!
HIGHLIGHTS BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
CENTRAL VALLEY – Whitewater raft the thrilling Pacuare River and experiment with the local cuisine in cooking class
FLAMINGO BEACH – Learn to ride the waves with professional instructors, set sail on a snorkel cruise in the Pacific, partake in a Latin dance class and chill out by a beach bonfire at night
MONTEVERDE CLOUD FOREST – Zip-line through the Cloud Forest, visit the Reserve and enjoy a local disco
Included In Your Tuition!
Visit La Fortuna Waterfall and relax in thermal hot springs. Enjoy the view of this active volcano but don’t worry, we keep a safe distance.
Rincón de la Vieja
On this volcanic retreat, ride horses through the forest along a river. Experience rustic mud baths and cool off with a rewarding swim by the pool at our eco-resort after hiking to a beautiful waterfall.
Our groups will be staying at a few carefully selected hotels in the Central Valley. Properties include Hotel Autentico, Hotel Bristol Aeropuerto, Hotel Adventure Inn, La Rosa de America and Hotel Aeropuerto. Amenities at all hotels include air conditioning, internet access and a swimming pool to enjoy.
Your group will stay at one of the following hotels near Arenal volcano: Hotel San Bosco, Hotel Montechiari, Lavas Tacotal, or Lavas del Arenal. All of the hotels offer great views of Arenal Volcano. Rooms are air conditioned, Wi-Fi enabled and have refreshing swimming pools.
Our group will be staying at one of the following carefully selected hotels near Flamingo Beach: Hotel Casas del Toro Hacienda, Hotel Cabinas Isolinas, Hotel Nany or Seis Playas Hotel. Amenities at all hotels include air conditioning, internet access and a swimming pool to enjoy.
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 a recreation space
This hotel features incredible views of the Cloud Forest, charming rooms and a restaurant.
At Westcoast Connection nothing else comes first. From our extensive trip planning department through our management team and our leaders, it is our single biggest priority! Safety procedures, equipment – we’ve got it covered. All Trip Leaders and Directors are certified in First Aid and CPR. We are extremely proud of our safety record and welcome all questions you may have in this area. Please see more under Safety First.
Once you are on your trip, you will have sensitive leaders that are caring, approachable and always there for you. Your Trip Director and Trip Leaders are people with incredible backgrounds including teachers, guitar players, IRONMAN triathletes, SCUBA divers, volunteers, and so much more.
Every staff member takes part in and must complete our extensive training weekends that review our philosophy and procedures to provide a well-supervised and fun-filled program.
Our Trip Directors, the individuals responsible for overseeing each itinerary, take on the roles of teachers, coaches, camp counselors, mentors, concierges and hosts. They’ve been trained to provide individual attention and create an all-inclusive family atmosphere (our EACH & EVERY philosophy). There’s a definite art to building dynamic groups, and we’ve worked hard to master it! We want you smiling on day one right through to a teary goodbye at your farewell banquet.
Our leaders are non-smokers. To learn more about our staff, please visit our Summer Leaders section.
We can’t say it too many times, this is a really incredible group experience. A great dynamic starts with our secrets for group bonding. Our bag of tricks goes way beyond traditional ice breakers. Imagine people hunts, Rock, Paper, Scissors championships, Ninja tournaments, flash mobs and so much more. On our Spanish language programs, get ready for a word of the day, fun Spanish language routines and other activities to help improve your language skills. We work hard to get everyone moving beyond first impressions and creating an atmosphere of total acceptance. Our staff hiring and training emphasizes social safety and establishing an inclusive culture. Many of our travelers come as individuals and we have a geographically diverse enrollment with students joining us from across the U.S., Canada and internationally. This mix helps eliminate cliques at the outset and establish an open environment that benefits you. We take great care in assembling groups to create an unforgettable social experience.
In Costa Rica, we partner with Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI). CPI’s teachers are university trained with experience in teaching Spanish as a second language. They are accredited by the Costa Rica Ministry of Education. CPI’s method emphasizes conversation and provides the students with the opportunity to speak Spanish from their first moment in class.
Classes are designed for students of different levels, from beginner through advanced.
Outside of the classroom, Costa Rica will become your classroom. While interacting with the locals and speaking with your fellow trip members and leaders, your language skills will inevitably improve. In addition, morning songs, announcements of the day and daily news… all in Spanish, and by the end of your program, your skills will be muy buenos! Your Westcoast Connection staff team and local guide, who is with the program every day, are fluent in Spanish.
The community service component of these programs offers teens a summer of self-discovery through volunteering, cultural immersion and interaction with populations in need. As participants evolve through the experiential process of service learning, you grow in your understanding of others and of yourself. We know that each individual has something special to offer and wants to give of themselves. We provide the tools and the exposure to people and projects that allow for our group members to take the lead and show us just how much they can accomplish. The communities where we volunteer speak little or no English so you will have lots of practice speaking Spanish to communicate with the locals.
We partner with established organizations that have a long history of achieving their goals and integrating teen volunteers into their efforts. Over the years we have built strong relationships with various organizations in the communities we visit who look forward to hosting our groups year after year. The specific service projects that we will work on are finalized in late spring and depend on what is most needed in these communities. Past projects include helping build a high school for the youth of Picagres and restoring local classrooms with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. Last summer we completed 23,201 hours of service (that’s equivalent to 2.6 years!) in just 8 weeks.
Our groups participate in well-planned and substantial community service projects in between surfing, zip lining or rappelling down waterfalls. We know when to pick up the pace to get the adrenaline flowing; we also know when it’s time to chill with some downtime on the beach. The balance of service and recreation is what sets our programs apart. By integrating adventure and recreational highlights into our itineraries, we are able to maintain a high level of enthusiasm.
If you come prepared with a positive attitude, ready to speak and improve your Spanish, you will be ready to embrace the challenges and reap the many rewards of these programs. It takes teamwork, cooperation and leadership to succeed in a service project and a commitment to see your Spanish improve by actually speaking the language. You are committing yourself to participate in 3 to 5 hours of service on the days that do have service and to speak Spanish with your staff and fellow Trip Members and when interacting with the locals in the communities you will visit. By giving it your all, you are sure to enjoy incredible memories. You will receive a certificate of completion recognizing the hours of service and listing the projects you helped to complete.
Westcoast Connection is a Certifying Organization for the President’s Volunteer Service Award. The award program was developed in 2003 as a way to honor and thank U.S. citizens and residents who engage in service both domestically and abroad. Presidential recognition of what you have achieved speaks to the type of person you are and hopefully inspires others to take positive action to change the world. The award requires completing 100 hours of community service within a 12 month period. Your service hours with our program qualify towards that total to earn the award.
As you travel to new places and experience different cultures, your journey may challenge your ideas and preconceived notions. We recognize this and strive to provide an environment where you are free to question and learn. This is nurtured by our leaders’ open and non-judgmental guidance. The opportunity for growth through service learning is endless!
Of all our summer programs, community service provides the greatest opportunity to interact with the local people and culture. Being exposed to families and children who have different customs and daily realities can broaden our perspective and raise our awareness of important issues. In a multicultural world, this education can break stereotypes and help us understand the role we play as global citizens.
There really is a difference in how different summer programs operate! Motivated teens going away with qualified leaders is a given. But what sets us apart is the depth of our qualified personnel that allow us to perform with the greatest consistency at the highest level.
Your Trip Director and Trips Leaders are with you throughout your program. They have daily contact with one of our two 24-hour Communication Centers and are in regular contact with our Company Directors. Our Company Directors are the most seasoned veterans who each oversee specific programs providing support to trip staff and to assist with any situations that may arise. Our Company Directors alternate between traveling to visit programs and being reached in the office. Program visits enable us to provide ongoing support and development to our Trip Directors, allows trip staff to have a sounding board for their own progress in reaching trip goals, helps us to identify any challenging areas for improvement while it still has relevance to your summer rather than as a mention on your end-of-summer survey, and helps us to identify the future Directors from the current crop of all-star summer staff. These visits are by Company Directors along with our Regional Supervisors, who are former Trip Directors with further experience out in the field. Collectively our team is an incredible resource with 420+ summers of combined teen travel experience. This way, we can lend a hand wherever and whenever a little extra effort is called for. Last year, we had 208 scheduled supervisory trip visits to make sure all was running well, provide ongoing support to our staff in the field, and have fun! This investment in depth of personnel is unrivaled in teen travel and is a critical element to achieving consistent, excellent program quality and surpassing client expectations!
Included in the trip tuition are all activities and entertainment described, breakfast & dinner daily, lunches as indicated on your specific program, gratuities, taxes, land transportation, accommodations, and fanatical customer service from our full-time team and summer Communication Centers. This can add up to tremendous value!
We provide clean and comfortable accommodations. Please don’t expect luxury resorts and at the same time we know you need a good night’s rest to perform community service as well as have energy for our many other included activities. For quality and consistency of the group experience, we do not have any homestays. Each student has their own bed. For more detailed information on any specific program, visit the section marked Where We Stay.
A big part of a program’s success depends on how well you eat. We are proud of the fact that year after year we are complimented for our quality and quantity of food and variety of options. Meals vary by destination. 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. In Costa Rica, we recommend against drinking the local tap water and we provide clean water for our travelers.
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 personal experience in this area. International travel may present more challenges than domestic locations and we are happy to review your personal needs and help you select an appropriate itinerary.
On our Spanish language programs, you’ll ride in an air-conditioned motor coach with a professional driver.
You only need to bring one week’s worth of clothing as outlined in our packing list as we have the opportunity for laundry weekly.
On our international programs, 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.
While you’re out having the summer of your life, your parents should feel like they are in on the action as well. We post updates to our blog and Facebook page and e-mail photos approximately once a week so those at home can be in on the fun. Parents also have access to our dedicated office Trip Monitors 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns. We’re as in touch as any trip operator could possibly be via smartphones with e-mail and text. The goal is uncompromising safety and peace of mind, day after day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Participants may bring their personal cell phones.
In last summer’s surveys, 98% of responding teens and parents said they would recommend us to others. We must be doing something right!