The Three Best Programs for First-Time Travelers
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The Three Best Programs for First-Time Travelers

It can be both exciting and scary for teens to take their first trip by themselves. Parents and teens naturally have questions about what to expect during the journey. To make the process easier, Rustic has information tables on each program page that indicate important factors, such as student ages and the level of on-program travel.

Certainly a first-time traveler can pick any program they want, and some adventurous teens may be ready for a more challenging trip. But for those who are uncertain, here are three of the programs commonly picked by first-time travelers:

Pura Vida Service, Costa Rica

This nine-day program is for students ages 12-18 and takes place in the beautiful town of La Fortuna near the mountainous terrain of the Arenal Volcano. Teens stay at Rustic’s Volcano and Rainforest Service Base that has convenient Western amenities, including hot water and Western-style toilets. The program is led by Costa Ricans who are very familiar with the region and will take students under their wing – showing them the best the area has to offer.

Stay at the comfortable Volcano and Rainforest Service Base located on the outskirts of the Arenal Volcano. Copyright: © 2013 Rustic Pathways

Rustic Country Manager Wainer Ocampo, who was born and raised in Costa Rica, says the village is a great place for student travel.

“What I love about Fortuna is it is very safe and well-managed. The town is clean and the people are welcoming and friendly. There also are many adventure activities nearby,” Ocampo said.

These activities include ziplining and whitewater rafting, along with some meaningful service projects. An added bonus is that the city of San Jose is only about a five hour plane ride from major U.S. cities like New York and since it’s in the Central Time Zone there aren’t many problems with jet lag.

Mountain Air and Island Service, Dominican Republic

This nine-day program has some of the same advantages as Pura Vida Service. The lodging is comfortable with stays at base houses and hotels with Western-style amenities. The location is a shorter plane ride from the United States and the program has a similar age range, including students ages 12-17.

This program has a little more on-program travel. Students spend time in the mountains, on a picture-perfect beach, and in the capital. They get to try their hand at meaningful service projects and then go snorkeling where they can see coral formations. Along the way, they may enjoy other cultural aspects of the nation, such as the merengue and bachata dances and scrumptious local food.

Copyright: © 2015 Rustic Pathways

Rustic Pathways Country Manager Manuel Del Villar says the program leaders take students a little off the beaten track to ensure they have an immersive travel experience that you can’t get in a resort.

“They may arrive a little scared, shy or overwhelmed, but then they grow in some way and come out as a better version of themselves,” Del Villar said.

Intro to Community Service, Fiji 

This nine-day program for students ages 12-18 is perfect for new travelers who want to travel a little farther from home. Students stay in the Rustic Pathways Eco-Lodge Base that was constructed using locally grown timber and includes modern bathrooms and many other features. It has a kitchen, office, large dining area, and game room with billiards.

Rustic Pathways Eco-Lodge Service Base in Fiji

Rustic Pathways Eco-Lodge Service Base in Fiji

There also is an infinity-edge swimming pool, gardens, sports fields, and meditation decks. Students in this program stay in base houses that sleep eight to ten people in bunk beds.

The base is located between two Fijian villages and surrounded by a number of local farms generally owned by families of Indian descent. Students can learn about the country by being immersed in an area with both Fijian and Indian neighbors.

This program differs from the other two above in a few ways. It has more service hours for students who really want to make an impact. It also has several add-on options, including scuba diving, skydiving, island hopping, ziplining, and a Fijian massage. This allows students to structure their trip as they see fit. All students traveling in the program have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Fijian culture and try their hand at  snorkeling, swimming, or surfing.

Swim, snorkel, surf, or just relax at picturesque Natadola beach. Copyright: © 2016 Rustic Pathways

Overall, Marine Program Manager Leba Digitaki says the intro program gives students a wonderful taste of life in Fiji.

“Of all of the companies that offer travel programs in Fiji, Rustic’s trips provide the closest views of the traditions and culture,” Digitaki said. “Students get to see the real Fiji and not what they see online.”

For more information about these and other programs, please visit our program page.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.