Costa Rica Middle School Expedition

Costa Rica has protected over a quarter of its land from development, creating a refuge for countless species and ensuring that its rain forests and pristine beaches will thrive for generations to come. From the stunning northwest coast to the verdant Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, discover Costa Rica’s innovative conservation efforts and incredible biodiversity alongside your knowledgeable trip leaders and a National Geographic expert. Spot exotic marine and bird life, photograph monkeys in their natural habitat, and travel to a rural village to help local community members with service projects.

July 4 - 15 2019
Airfare is not included. We have arranged a round-trip group flight between Miami and Liberia, Costa Rica.

Trip Highlights

  • Venture into the Monteverde cloud forest with an ecologist to learn about the impacts of climate change on the world’s tropical forests.
  • Help with community restoration projects in a rural village, and learn about Costa Rican culture from your community hosts.
  • Practice wildlife photography using colorful birds and languid sloths as your subjects.
  • Take surfing lessons, and soar through the rain forest canopy on a zip-line course.


Days 1-2

Arrive in Costa Rica and travel to the country’s Pacific coast where we’ll settle into our accommodations on Playa Grande. Playa Grande is known for its pristine shorelines and crystal-clear waters, and the beach’s steady stream of breaking waves has long attracted surfers from around the world. Spend a morning catching waves with the guidance of professional surf instructors, discover coastal tide pools sheltering colorful anemones and sea stars, and paddle a canoe through estuaries teeming with exotic birds, capturing photos of their colorful beaks and plumage.

Days 3-6

Travel inland to San Luis, a small community situated at the southern edge of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. With your knowledgeable trip leaders and local guides, discover what fascinates you the most about this culturally vibrant and biodiverse country. Explore nocturnal Costa Rica on an expert-guided night hike, spy sloths and coatis in the forest, and learn new Spanish vocabulary. Swim under the spray of the spectacular San Luis waterfall amid blue morpho butterflies, search for the colorful plumage of the elusive quetzal, glide through the cloud forest canopy on zip line, and ride horseback deep into the forest to untouched primary growth. In the evenings, relax in a hammock and scan the treetops for howler and spider monkeys, or practice your nighttime photography skills with your friends

Days 7-10

Head to our rural village in the northwest province of Guanacaste, and work alongside local residents on a variety of small community service projects. Get to know local students and collaborate with them to paint a mural inspired by Costa Rican life and culture, helping them with their English. In the afternoons and evenings, learn about Costa Rican culture from our hosts. Help a local cook prepare traditional specialties like gallo pinto, tamales, and tortillas; play a game of pick-up fútbol; or practice Spanish with your new Costa Rican friends. Work as a team and use your new photography skills to create a photo-essay that tells the story of your time living in the community.

Days 11-12

Return to our base on the Pacific coast for the final days of the program. Reflect on your experiences in Costa Rica during a celebratory dinner with your fellow travelers and trip leaders before returning home.

Our middle school expeditions are for students ages 13 or older in grades 7-8, and offer students the opportunity to discover exciting destinations in a fun, engaging, and safe environment. With guidance from trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, students explore a number of themes that enhance their experience and encourage them to deepen the interests they already have, while discovering new ones along their journey. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic expert joins for a portion of the trip (four to eight days) to share their insights, and inspire students with their passion for the work they do and the places they will discover. The expedition group size ranges between 14 and 18 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
On this program, students will spend an estimated 10 hours on community service projects. At the end of the program, students will receive a certificate stating the number of service hours completed. Projects described in the itinerary are examples and vary depending on the needs of the community.
In Playa Grande, we will stay in a small hotel. In Monteverde we stay at a former research station that now serves as an eco-lodge. Accommodations in the community service village are simple. The group sleeps in sleeping bags on the floor of a community center. Sleeping areas and bathrooms are separated by gender.

Taylor Edwards, Conservation Biologist

Meet Our Expert

Conservation biologist Taylor Edwards is an Associate Staff Scientist at the University of Arizona Genetics Core, where he helped conduct public testing for National Geographic’s Genographic Project. Taylor specializes in reptile and amphibian studies, and he is a leading expert on tortoise genetics. At home in both deserts and rain forests, his research has taken him to Costa Rica, China, Cameroon, and beyond. Taylor will join the Costa Rica middle school expedition

Program Themes

Explore each of these three topics over the course of the program:

Learn the basics of wildlife photography and then practice your new skills using Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes as your backdrop. Capture images of intriguing animals—from howler monkeys to colorful tree frogs—and document the pristine beauty of the country’s beaches and jungles.
Examine Costa Rica’s innovative efforts to protect wildlife and natural ecosystems alongside conservationists and ecologists. Learn how locals live sustainably on pristine landscapes, and witness the effects of wildlife preservation while exploring protected rain forest.
Experience rural life in a Costa Rican village and help community members develop local infrastructure. Help restore a community building, clear forest trails, and learn about Costa Rican culture from our local hosts.