Frequently Asked Questions

Tropical Adventures Programs

  • Where are you and your programs located?

    Our headquarters are based in Hojancha, a beautiful hamlet in the very middle of the the Nicoya Peninsula. This is also where we run our Hojancha Community Project. Our projects are spread out over the country. Click here for our map.
  • Can I plan my trip anytime?

    Most of our programs are designed so that you can start any day of the year. Please check the project descriptions carefully, as there are a few exceptions. Or call us anytime to discuss options. We’d love to speak with you!
  • Can I come for just a few days?

    Yes! We are happy to customize a trip for you, based on the time you have available.
  • Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

    • Your basic weekly fee covers the cost of your meals, lodging and any related program costs, such as background checks for those working with children.

    • The Administration Fee covers our necessary expenses of operating our programs. These costs include expenses such as our electricity, rent, water, internet, etc.  After operating expenses are paid, 100% of our proceeds go to help fund our non-profit, the Casa Milagro Foundation.

    • Tropical Adventures would not be able to support our many programs without your participation and assistance. Thank you for your support!
  • What are the accomodations like?

    Our accomodations range from 5 star hotels to very basic host families and from nice boutique hotels to inexpensive hostels. Together with our customers we always look for accomodations which suit their needs.

    All of our host families are well screened for cleanliness, safety and friendliness. Room sizes and styles will vary from house to house but normally you will have your own private room with private bathroom. Some rooms have fans and television sets. Not all homes have hot water showers. Please inquire for more info.

    Some of our host families are Costa Rican and don’t speak any English. More than 90% of our volunteers do not speak any Spanish. This is never a problem. Our families are quite accustomed to finding ways to communicate with our visitors.

    . They are always glad to welcome our participants into their homes and appreciate the volunteer work you are doing.

  • Are there things I can bring with me to donate?

    By all means! We support many needy children and families. Click here for a list with things we need.
  • Is there an age requirement?

    Yes, you must be 16 years old to participate in our programs, unless you come with your parent(s) or legal guardian. Those who are 16 and 17 years old need parent permission.
  • How much spending money do I need?

    The answer to this question really depends on what you intend to do in Costa Rica apart from your volunteer program. For instance, while at any of our projects you don’t need any extra money for lodging or food. Most of our volunteers, however, do take part in several of our tours. Apart from tours, you may want money for snacks, a meal or two away from your host family or volunteer lodge to try our local cuisine, perhaps some souvenirs, or a drink at the local watering hole.

  • Do families travel with Tropical Adventures?

    Yes. Family travel in Costa Rica has become increasingly more popular. It’s an incredible way to vacation and spend time  together. We have aunts travel with nephews, grandmothers bringing their grandchildren –  and whole families traveling together. We have even hosted families with as many  as 28 members!
  • What’s the youngest age children you allow for your programs?

    Children traveling alone are restricted to 18 years of age or 16 and 17 with parent permission. We allow children of all ages to travel with a guardian. We also encourage it.

    Costa Rica is a very family-oriented country. There is no better way to get to know the country, culture, language and people than to come and live with another family for a while.

    Almost all of our host families have small children themselves. So this cultural enrichment and exchange is not only good for the adults, but it is also great for the children. Some parents have been worried in the past that it would be hard for their children to adapt, but we’ve found the opposite. Their children have adapted much faster and easier than they have.

  • Do younger children get enough out of volunteer travel?

    Absolutely! We recently asked a mother from California if she thought her young children got much out of their experience. She told us they commented to her upon returning home how nice it was to see how much in common they had with people from other parts of the world instead of focusing on their differences. They are now spending more time volunteering in their own community.
  • Is volunteering advised for non-experienced travelers?

    We suggest people who do not have much experience in traveling outside of their own area to start with something on the mild end. Culture shock is real. It not only affects the traveler, but also the family they are staying with, the community they are volunteering in and the organization they are working with.

    So for instance, we might discourage a first-time traveler from signing up for a 2-week volunteer trip to work deep in the Talamanca Indigenous Reservation, and perhaps suggest teaching English in a small town like Hojancha where they would be living with a more “modern” family in a type of house that would be more similar to the kind they are used to.

    All that being said, we would certainly encourage volunteer travel, as it is an amazing way to learn more about one’s self and the world around them. We know for us it changed our lives and made us the people we are today.

  • Why take a volunteer vacation with kids?

    Costa Rica is a big playground for kids. Between the waterfalls, animals, other children, beaches, butterflies, etc….it’s a living classroom.

    They really get another perspective of how other people live and it opens up their minds in a way that they can’t get out of a classroom or a book. It also helps prepare them to be more empathic adults and citizens.

    But as far as any other issues go, I really can’t think of any. Children under the age of 12 in Costa Rica often get to stay in hotels free, travel in private shuttles for half-price, eat inexpensively, etc. So plan to stay a few extra days and we will help you plan a great excursion!

  • Can we also explore the area when we go and volunteer with Tropical Adventures?

    We offer a variety of excursions and tours which you can book when you go volunteering with us. We have several sample itineraries to give you some fun ideas, and we would be more than happy to speak with you to help build a personalized itinerary!
  • What’s the benefit of traveling with Tropical Adventures versus planning the trip on my own?

    Please see here why traveling with us is different.


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Traveling to Costa Rica

  • Do the prices include air transportation?

    No, people who travel with us are responsible for their own round trip airfare. Our team is always willing to help you look for the best rates. Please contact us today!
  • What airport should I fly into?

    Please check with us before purchasing your airline tickets. San Jose International Airport (SJO) is the best airport to fly into for most of our projects. However, if you are going to be in a project in the Guanacaste Region only and will not be doing any traveling before or after throughout other parts of the country, then Liberia International Airport (LIR) might be the best choice for you.

  • Do I need a passport to enter the country?

    Yes, you do need a valid passport to enter Costa Rica with six months remaining on your passport before it expires. US Citizens can obtain information about applying for a passport on the US Postal Service website.
  • Do I need a visa to enter the country?

    Travelers need the following documents to enter Costa Rica:

    • A valid passport with at least one blank visa page. The expiration date of your passport must be greater than 6 months from your date of entry to Costa Rica.
    • A pre-paid airline ticket to exit Costa Rica, or proof of financial resources ($400.00US – $1,000.00 USD in cash, traveler checks, and/or ticket (either to return to your home country or to go to another country)
    • In the case of minors, if they do not have their own passport, they should be included in the passport of one of the parents.

    For more information about visa requirements, please visit the Costa Rica Visa Resource Center.

  • What kind of vaccines or shots do I need before entering the country?

    Ninety five percent of our guests receive no shots or vaccines, nor have any of our guests run into any medical problems during or just following their trip. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control do not require any vaccinations prior to leaving the United States. They do, however, offer some helpful information for travelers to consider on their website.

    You might also want to review the Costa Rica Consular page on the US State Department’s website.

  • What should I bring?

    We suggest you consider bringing the following items:

    • Insect repellent with Deet
    • Shampoo (biodegradable)
    • Towel
    • Light-weight cargo pants
    • Light-weight long-sleeve shirt
    • Sturdy, open air shoes (such as Keens)
    • Light Clothes….it can be hot and humid
    • Mosquito net (optional, but nice to have)
    • Rain Coat
    • Bathing suit
    • Small Umbrella
    • Snack Bars (you will receive three meals if with a host family and breakfast if at the hostel, but these come in handy!)
    • Flashlight (non-battery if possible)
    • Toothpaste / toothbrush
    • If volunteering at a school, you’ll have to have sleeves and you must wear pants or a skirt. You might also want to bring stickers, temporary tattoos or other small gift to hand out as prizes in class.
    • Backpack
    • Sun block
    • Camera (don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards)
    • Passport (and copy of your passport)
    • Money and ATM card
    • English / Spanish Dictionary
    • Possibly gift(s) for your host family (if applicable), such as photos of your family, post cards and a map from your community, a “treat” local to your area such as maple syrup or something fun to share.
    • Any required medications in their original container
    • A few plastic bags to keep soiled/wet clothing in
    • Consider filling up any extra space with donations for the orphans or students! Ask us for more details…

    If you are participating in one of our programs on the indigenous reservation, Monte Alto, Barra Honda, or Monkey Park, please consider bringing the following:

    • Hooded sweatshirt
    • Hiking Boots

    Some countries require their citizens to get a Yellow Fever vaccination before returning back to their home country after visiting Costa Rica. This is not the case for the US or Canada. For more information please see this chart.

  • Do I need an electrical/universal adapter?

    Costa Rica’s electrical system is the same as the USA’s and Canada’s, so no adapters or transformers are needed. But, obviously, if you are traveling from outside of the USA or Canada, you’ll need to bring the appropriate adapter or transformer. Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two-prong plugs (or three prong if grounded). Adapters are tough to find here, so try to remember to bring yours!
  • Does my cell phone work in Costa Rica?

    If you want to use your own cell phone, you need to know the following:

    • 1. Your telephone must be a GSM phone with either Tri-Band capacity or work on the 1800Mhz frequency
    • 2. Your telephone must have the bands “unblocked”. Many carriers in the U.S. like AT&T, T-Mobile and Cingular block their bands when you the telephone is included on their plans. If your telephone is blocked it will not work in Costa Rica. You can purchase unlocked, prepaid phones that will provide service in Costa Rica.
    • 3. Most European phones are not blocked and will work well in Costa Rica if you meet the criteria in item 1 above.
    We recommend that you buy a Costa Rican SIM card at the airport. You can buy it from one of the Kolbi stands. When you buy a SIM card it costs about $6 USD. And  it comes with an equivalent amount of talk time.
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Costa Rica General

  • What is the weather like and what is the best time of the year to come?

    Costa Rica has two seasons, dry and rainy. The dry seasons typically runs from late November to late April and represents the high tourist season. In many parts of the country, especially along the Caribbean coast, you can expect some kind of rain year-round (it is the rainforest after all). Most days, however, start out sunny with just a few hours of rainfall in the afternoon and evening.

    Temperatures vary primarily with elevations, not with seasons. The Central Valley region feels much cooler, due to higher altitudes. Beach regions such as Puerto Viejo, where our programs are based, tend to feel much warmer and can be very humid. Average year-round temperatures are 75 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night.

    The Guanacaste Region in the Pacific Northwest is a more dry and arid area when they are not in their rainy season. They get the most rain between September and October. Between December and April it might not rain a drop.

  • How do I get around?

    We will help you plan all the transportation necessary for your trip. There are options to fit everyone’s budget, from public buses to charter flights. We have many years working with safe and friendly service providers and are happy to help you with all the details.

  • Do I have to worry about safety issues?

    Costa Rica, like any other country, has good people and bad people. A certain level of common sense is needed no matter where you travel in Costa Rica. Safety is our number one concern. Our project locations have been purposely chosen with safety in mind. Though we can’t guarantee nothing bad will ever happen to any of our guests, we do all we can to keep people safe and comfortable.
  • What is the local currency and exchange rate?

    The unit of currency in Costa Rica is the colón (plural is colones). The current exchange rate is approximately 500 colones to the American dollar. We will drive you to an ATM machine or a hotel to withdraw or exchange your money. You will receive the best rate of exchange by withdrawing cash with your ATM card, however, major hotels will exchange money at decent rates as well.

    You can bring traveler’s checks with you, but only some banks and possibly some hotels will cash them, and you will be charged a fee. Credit cards are widely accepted in Costa Rica.

  • Is there internet access available?

    Some of the host families you may be staying with have internet access in their homes, and there are many, very inexpensive internet cafes throughout the country.
  • What kind of food can I expect?

    For breakfast, expect wonderful, fresh fruit along with eggs and Gallo Pinto, a national dish of fried rice and black beans. Typical lunch and dinner meals include rice and beans, salads, and either fish, chicken or beef. On the Caribbean Coast you will also find delicious homemade Caribbean-style food, such as jerk chicken or curry dishes. The food will vary depending on which center or host family you are staying with. We are very accustomed to accommodating those with special food needs such as food allergies, vegetarians, vegans, those with celiac disease, etc.
  • What is there to do in my free time?

    We are happy to help you arrange special activities and tours, such as:

      • Irazu Volcano National Park
      • Apame Eco Park
      • Diria Coffee Plantation tour
      • Orosi Valley
      • Cartago Basilica
      • Bribri Waterfall
      • Bribri Indigenous Chocolate Factory
      • Corcovado National Park
      • Manuel Antonio National Park
      • San Jose Walking Tour
      • La Paz Waterfall and Butterfly Garden
      • Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna
      • Manuel Antonio National Park
      • Tapanti National Rainforest
      • Bocas del Toro, Panama weekend trip
      • Tortuguero Island / Tortuguero National Park
      • Cahuita National Park
      • Damas island estuary boat trip
      • Monte Alto Natural reserve
      • Barra Honda National Park
      • Playa Carillo, Playa Tamarindo, Playa Samara
      • Puerto Viejo
      • Gandoca / Manzanillo National Park
      • Canyoneering
      • Canopy (zip line) Tours
      • Spanish Lessons
      • Kayaking
      • River Rafting
      • Snorkeling
      • Surfing
      • Hiking
      • Mountain biking
      • Horseback riding
      • Stand up padling
      • Surf lessons
      • Yoga
      • Dolphin and whale watching tours
      • Scuba diving
      • Cooking classes with host families
      • Insect night tour
      • Jaguar rescue center


    And much much more!

  • Are there bugs and snakes in Costa Rica?

    Yes, we are located in a tropical region. There are creepy crawly things here. Though we are happy to say none of our guests have had any problem with bugs or snakes. That’s not to say that some people haven’t been bothered by them. For more information about Costa Rica’s bugs and snakes, please see this article.
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Other questions?

If you cannot find the answer for your personal questions, we are happy to answer via e-mail.