Join us on an extraordinary mini semester program that explores the captivating landscapes of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of the Caribbean as you explore historic cities, engage with local communities, and partake in enriching experiences. Venture into Santo Domingo's colonial zone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before delving into community service projects in batey settlements. Experience the wonders of Los Haitises National Park, journey to the serene Samana Peninsula, and embrace the vibrant culture of Jarabacoa. Deepen your cultural immersion through homestays, language learning, and participation in water access projects, forging connections and gaining a profound appreciation for local life.

Wrap up your journey in Puerto Rico, where you'll volunteer with SBP to aid hurricane-affected communities, explore the historic charm of San Juan, and explore the wonders of El Yunque Rainforest. From pristine beaches to bioluminescent bays, this program crafts a diverse and transformative experience that blends cultural exploration, community engagement, and personal growth.

 

  Pacific Discovery Top Rated Organisation Voted Best Gap Year Program

 

This Gap Year Program Is For You if You...

✓ Experience a new culture but stay close to home

✓ Make a positive difference to communities who have been affected by natural disasters

✓ Snorkel in crystal-clear waters, spotting vibrant marine life and coral reefs

✓ Explore a rainforest; trek its trails, discover cascading waterfalls, and marvel at the diverse flora and fauna

✓ Improve your Spanish language skills

 

Not sure where you want to go yet?

Our Program Quiz can help you find your perfect Program match! Or get the full Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!

Request Online Catalogue

 

 

  • Service-learning and Volunteer Projects
    • • Engage in meaningful community service contributing to vital infrastructure projects. 
    • • Make a positive difference in the lives of local residents while gaining insights into immigration challenges and fostering cross-cultural understanding.
    • • Witness the resilience of communities post-natural disasters, as you volunteer to rebuild homes.
  • Outdoor Adventures
    • • Immerse yourself in the lush beauty of El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. Trek its trails, discover cascading waterfalls, and marvel at the diverse flora and fauna that call this enchanting place home.
    • • Embark on an unforgettable cave exploration in Los Haitises National Park, where you'll encounter ancient Taino pictographs and petroglyphs. Traverse through captivating cave systems, witness unique geological formations, and uncover the secrets of this hidden gem.
    • • Snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Magallanes Beach, witnessing vibrant marine life and coral reefs.
    • Experience the magical Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques, where the water glows with bioluminescent organisms, creating a truly unique and mesmerizing spectacle.
  • Cultural Immersion
    • • Immerse yourself in the rich history of Santo Domingo's colonial zone, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    • • Dive deep into Dominican culture during a five-day homestay in Manabao.
    • • Improve your Spanish language skills with interactive classes and daily interactions with locals.
    • • Dive into volunteer work in both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, gaining a deeper appreciation for the challenges and triumphs faced by these communities.
    • Sample traditional Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisines, experiencing the flavors that define these cultures.
  • Personal Development
    • • Become a global citizen with a global perspective on environmental issues
    • • Work confidently and collaboratively with others
    • • Navigate diverse communities and engage in meaningful service work, fostering cultural sensitivity and empathy.
    • Learn the local traditions, customs, and values, broadening your cultural awareness and self-discovery.
    • Explore social, environmental, and cultural issues in two distinct Caribbean nations, fostering a broader global perspective. As you witness resilience, challenges, and triumphs, you'll develop insights that shape your worldview and inspire a commitment to positive change.

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**

Week  1: Santo Domingo & Service Learning

In the first week of your adventure, you'll have the opportunity to explore the colonial zone of Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest city in the Caribbean. Immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture as you wander through its charming streets and visit its iconic landmarks.

Afterwards, you'll head to our base house for the week (equipped with a pool!) in the coastal town of Juan Dolio. This will serve as your home base for the week as you engage in community service projects.

Your focus will be on making a difference in the lives of the batey communities near San Pedro de Macoris. Bateys are traditional communities of predominantly Haitian descent, who are often sugar cane workers and face challenging living conditions. Your efforts will involve infrastructure work, such as building homes, cementing floors, and constructing latrines, among other important projects.

Throughout this experience, you'll gain insights into critical issues of immigration and statelessness, deepening your understanding of the challenges faced by these communities.

During your downtime, make the most of the beautiful beach in Juan Dolio. Relax, unwind, and soak up the sun as you reflect on the meaningful work you've accomplished and prepare for the weeks ahead. Get ready for a week filled with cultural immersion, community engagement, and a chance to make a positive impact on the lives of those in need.

Week  2: Explore Los Haitises National Park & Samana

After a week of meaningful community service, it's time to explore the natural wonders of the Dominican Republic. Your next destination is Los Haitises National Park, a gem known for its stunning mangroves, captivating caves, and intricate waterways. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this important ecological reserve and discover the rich biodiversity that thrives within.

As you venture through Los Haitises, be prepared to be awe-inspired by the unique landscapes and the fascinating cave systems that hold  Taino pictographs and petroglyphs. Take in the breathtaking views, and let the serenity of nature envelop you. During your stay in Los Haitises, you'll have the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate at Paraiso Caño Hondo, where you can take a refreshing dip in a natural pool surrounded by lush vegetation. Allow the tranquility of this place to restore your energy for the adventures ahead.

Next, we embark on a scenic ferry ride across the Samana Bay, keeping an eye out for dolphins and other marine life. Upon arrival at the Samana Peninsula, you'll make the charming town of Las Galeras your home for the next week. Immerse yourself in the pristine beaches of Playa Rincon, where turquoise waters and soft sands await. Relax under the swaying palm trees, take refreshing swims, and simply bask in the beauty of this Caribbean paradise. Explore the Cueva Duarte, a fascinating cave system that offers a glimpse into the geological history of the region. Marvel at the impressive formations and learn about the cultural significance of these caves.

Deepen your understanding of sustainable agriculture through a permaculture workshop. Discover the principles of ecological design and learn how to cultivate food in a way that is harmonious with the environment. As you continue your journey in Samana, you'll be captivated by the natural wonders and cultural richness that surround you.

Week 3: Mountainous Adventures & Language Immersion

Get ready to venture into the breathtaking mountains of Jarabacoa, a hidden gem in the Dominican Republic. This region is a well-kept secret, boasting the highest peak in the Caribbean and a plethora of natural wonders.

During your week in Jarabacoa, you'll have the opportunity to explore the central mountain range. Discover picturesque waterfalls, lush forests, and connect with the vibrant local communities that call this place home. Experience the warmth of Dominican hospitality as you stay at a family-run lodge, where you'll feel right at home. This will be your base for the week as you embark on various activities designed to enrich your experience.

Take advantage of Spanish classes to improve your language skills and enhance your cultural immersion. Engage in interactive lessons led by experienced instructors who will guide you in learning the language and provide insights into the local way of life.

In addition to language learning, you'll also have the opportunity to contribute to water access projects in the Jarabacoa region. We’ll work alongside an organization that has been partnering with local communities for the last decade to build aqueducts, bringing running water to areas that have lacked this basic resource. Join the effort and contribute to the construction of an aqueduct, all while gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of access to clean water.

Throughout the week, you'll learn about the challenges and triumphs of water access in the region, and witness firsthand the positive impact these projects have on the lives of local communities. Immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, embrace cultural exchange, and make a meaningful contribution to the community during your time in Jarabacoa.

Week 4: Cultural Immersion in Manabao

In your final week in the Dominican Republic, prepare to fully immerse yourself in Dominican culture. Building on your Spanish language skills from the previous week, you'll have the opportunity to dive even deeper into the language and way of life.

Embark on a five-day homestay experience with local families in the community of Manabao, nestled in the shadows of Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Dominican Republic. This humble community primarily consists of farmers and their families, offering you a genuine glimpse into their daily lives and traditions. You'll be welcomed into their homes and become part of their routines. Engage in conversations, share meals, and participate in their daily activities. This authentic immersion will provide a unique opportunity to practice your Spanish skills and gain a profound understanding of Dominican culture from within.

As you bond with your host families, you'll forge connections and create memories that will last a lifetime. Experience the warmth, hospitality, and resilience of the people of Manabao, and gain a newfound appreciation for their way of life.

Week 5: Exploring Bayahibe

Discover the peaceful charm of Bayahibe, a scenic coastal town that offers a memorable getaway. Begin your trip by unwinding on the calm and inviting Bayahibe Beach, where you can enjoy the soothing sun and gentle sea breeze. Explore the natural beauty of Padre Nuestro National Park and swim in the stunning waters of the partially submerged Cueva Chicho. Inside the cave, admire the fascinating formations of stalactites and stalagmites that create a unique underground landscape.

Take a leisurely excursion to Isla Saona, a serene island with beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Snorkel in the clear Caribbean waters where you’ll spot a variety of marine life, including colorful fish and coral reefs.

At Magallanes Beach, you can immerse yourself in the serene underwater world once again while snorkeling amidst vibrant marine life and coral formations. Engage with the local community and embrace their passion for baseball by participating in a friendly pickup game with the enthusiastic youth.

Week 6 : ¡Bienvenidos a Puerto Rico

During the last week of your adventure in Puerto Rico, you'll have the opportunity to explore the vibrant city of San Juan. Take in the sights of Old San Juan, with its colorful streets and impressive architecture, and immerse yourself in the rich history and lively atmosphere.

A highlight of your time in Puerto Rico is the chance to make a positive impact through volunteering with SBP. Work together with this dedicated organization to assist in rebuilding homes affected by hurricanes and earthquakes. By participating in this meaningful work, you'll witness the resilience of local communities and contribute to ongoing recovery efforts.

Nature enthusiasts will be delighted by a visit to El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. Explore its stunning trails, marvel at cascading waterfalls, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this enchanting destination.

As part of your experience, you'll also journey to Vieques, a captivating island just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Enjoy a few days of relaxation on pristine beaches and witness the magical Bioluminescent Bay, where the water glows with the light of bioluminescent organisms.

As you bid adieu to Puerto Rico, take with you the cherished memories of these final days, knowing that this island paradise has provided the perfect ending to an unforgettable 6-week journey of cultural immersion, adventure, and personal growth.

 

*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.

**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the locations, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.

For full program details, please request the information booklet

What's included?

✓ All in-program travel and transport, excluding flights

✓ All accommodation

✓ All meals

✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects and entry fees as described in the itinerary

✓ Experienced Program Instructors and local guides

✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism

✓ Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves

✓ Certificate of Program Completion

Activity Level

   

Medium Activity Level: Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this mini semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program.

Camping Level

    

No Camping: You will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels, lodges and homestays.

Volunteering Level

   

Medium Service Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference to the local community during your stay. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and do some hands-on learning about local issues.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Our accommodation will be a mix of apartment style rooms comfortable hostels, lodges and homestays. Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available some days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Specified breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks and meals not specified are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $12 per meal per day and a total of $12 for the snacks per day.

Meals are a mixture of eating out at restaurants or with local families at each location and also food preparation shared by students. An average day on program would consist of the following: 

  • Breakfast: Mangú: This is a traditional dish made from mashed green plantains, typically served with sautéed red onions on top and often accompanied by fried Dominican cheese, salami, or eggs. Queso Frito: Fried cheese is a popular accompaniment to many Dominican breakfasts. It's usually made from a firm cheese that's sliced and fried until golden and slightly crispy on the outside. Los Tres Golpes: Translated as "The Three Hits," this refers to the combination of mangú, fried cheese, and eggs, typically served with sautéed red onions on top. Egg, Yucan Tostones (Twice-fried plantains)
  • Lunch: Rice and beans are a staple of Dominican cuisine, Pollo Guisado: This is a flavorful Dominican-style chicken stew, often made with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and a variety of seasonings. La Bandera: Known as "The Flag," this is a classic Dominican lunch dish that typically consists of white rice, red beans, and a meat or protein source (such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish, green salad, arepitas (cornmeal patties)
  • Dinner: Soup, fried fish, salads, pasta, empanadas, grilled meats, arroz con leche. Dinner in the Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico  is typically lighter and more relaxed than lunch, focusing on nourishing and flavorful options while keeping portions moderate. 

To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.

They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.

Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.

We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!

We have been running successful international programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look.

Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.

We have answered the most frequently asked questions in the FAQ SectionIf you still have any other questions, feel free to  schedule a call with our admissions team for more information.

Fall Dates 10 Oct - 20 Nov, 2024
Spring Dates 6 Mar - 16 Apr, 2025
Duration 42 days
Program Tuition $9,975 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,000 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 12 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 Ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Strongly Recommended
Optional College Credit No Start/Finish Program Start: Santo Domingo, Rep Dominicana
Program Finish: San Juan, Puerto Rico