Pacific Discovery Gap Year Programs are epic!

Our amazing gap year programs combine rugged journeys to some of the most spectacular places on earth, with authentic cultural immersion, language study, rewarding service-learning volunteer projects, and inspiring adventures. You’ll be secure in a supportive group environment and learn more than you ever dreamed.

Our gap semesters are based on the concept of experiential education, and blend cultural immersion, personal and leadership development, volunteer and community service projects, ecotourism and sustainability focus, and transferable academic credit options.

They provide opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, pushing personal boundaries, and gaining knowledge of a country or region's history, societies and environments, facilitated by our knowledgeable Program Instructors.

If you are looking for an experience that challenges you, broadens your horizons, and merges cultural insights and environmental sensitivity with fun and adventure - come and explore with us!

Join us on a gap year program after high school or college. These educational semester programs are perfect for high school graduates, gap year students, college students and graduates, ideally 17 -22 years.

For an incredible gap year, you can combine each gap year program with another of our exciting Spring Semester Programs exploring Central America, South America, Nepal & Tibet, Southeast Asia, New Zealand & Australia, Indonesia & Australia, the Polynesian islands, the Western United States and Hawaii & The Western United States!

Want to go in Spring instead?

Check out our Spring Programs! We have a big selection of gap year programs running in February and March, to Hawaii, Central America, Southeast Asia, South America, Nepal & Tibet, New Zealand & Australia, Fiji and Bali just to name a few.

kara barnhart
Kara hard at work building a trail to a remote village in Nepal

“I can honestly say that I KNOW Nepal, not that I saw it as a tourist, but that I experienced all that it has to offer as if a Nepali myself.” I can't say enough good things when it comes to Pacific Discovery. Now that I've gone through the whole process of looking into the program, signing up, getting ready, traveling through Nepal and Tibet… and coming home… it is so hard to imagine any other way to see an area of our world. The experiences we had on this trip would be impossible for someone to have without Pacific Discovery's planning, and connections to people in the area. Every day felt like a dream; I will forever remember my trip as one the best decisions I've made in my entire life, and am thankful beyond words that Rachel and Scott have created Pacific Discovery and continue to offer these life-changing opportunities.” Read more Kara Barnhart, 2014
Syracuse University

Hawaii Gap Year Program

Surfing, Hiking & Marine Conservation

Experience epic surf, golden beaches, the aloha spirit and active volcanoes on this 70-day gap year program in Hawaii! Your days will be as varied as the islands you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work, surfing, snorkeling, cultural immersion and, of course, non-stop adventure! There is an endless list of things to do in Hawaii. From learning to smash open coconuts and making beautiful leis, to stargazing on top of a dormant volcano and heading out to one of only four green sand beaches in the world. Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture as you discover its fascinating ocean and mountain landscape and explore the incredible jungle, volcanoes, and beaches.

Fall Dates 10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021
10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021
17 Sep - 25 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $13,500 USD
Availability Open

Hawaii & Western United States Gap Year Program

Sand Sledding, Mountain Biking & Yoga retreat

Uncover more about your own backyard than you even knew existed. This gap year program offers you enriching and inspiring experiences through the west frontier of the US and the chance to see the on and offshore beauty of Hawaii's Big Island! This 10-week gap semester program combines conservation volunteer projects in diverse reserves; outdoor expeditions including backpacking, rock climbing, yoga and surfing; and educational adventure travel through the west’s stunning mountain, rainforest and desert environments. Mountain bike through the famous red rocks of Sedona, stargaze on the summit of a dormant volcano in Hawaii, sled down the sand dunes of White Sands National Park and test your balance during a yoga retreat!

Fall Dates 10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021
17 Sep - 25 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $13,500 USD
Availability Open

Thailand Gap Year Program

Diving, Rafting & Elephant Volunteering

Learn to scuba dive, explore Buddhist temples and volunteer at an elephant sanctuary on this inspiring gap year program through Thailand! We start this journey through Thailand by exploring some of the most stunning beaches in the world in Phuket and Krabi, before heading up north to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and learn about mindfulness in a yoga and meditation retreat. Immerse yourself in local communities; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle, islands, and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, scuba diving, rafting and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-changing gap year program abroad!

Fall Dates 10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021
10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $13,500 USD
Availability Open

Central America Gap Year Program

Mexico, Belize, Guatemala & Costa Rica

Join us on an epic journey witnessing the cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the tropical islands of Belize, through the rich highlands of volcanic Guatemala and down to the black sand beaches and exotic animals of Costa Rica. Our 70-day gap year program offers you an enriching and insightful fusion of environmental and animal rescue volunteer projects, cultural immersion, surfing, scuba diving, rafting, Spanish langue study, and, of course, non-stop adventure! You will absorb, explore, interact with, and understand the beautiful diversity of these locations. Your days will be as varied as the countries you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work, camping under the stars, and healthy doses of mountains and beaches.

Fall Dates 10 Sep - 18 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $13,500 USD
Availability Open

Hawaii Mini Semester

Surfing, Snorkeling & Marine Conservation

Experience epic surf, golden beaches, the aloha spirit and active volcanoes on this gap year program in Hawaii! This 6-week mini semester program offers you an enriching and inspiring experience in tropical Hawaii. Hawaii consists of eight islands, which are all unique in their own way. Your days will be as varied as the islands you visit, with a fusion of hands-on volunteer work, surfing, snorkeling, cultural immersion and, of course, non-stop adventure!

Fall Dates 8 Oct - 19 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $9,750 USD
Availability Open

Bali Mini Semester

Surfing, Yoga & Animal Volunteering

This six week mini semester program offers you an enriching and inspiring experience in Bali. During the six weeks you will get to experience volunteering in an animal welfare center, dolphin spotting in the wild, disaster management and permaculture projects and a 5-day surf camp! The surf camp will take you from wobbling your way to shore, to riding through barrels like a pro. In between the conservation projects, surfing and yoga your days will be spent taking in the café culture of Bali, white water rafting, a volcano sunrise trek, snorkeling and some free time to explore!

Fall Dates 8 Oct - 18 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $9,750 USD
Availability Open

Costa Rica Mini Semester

Surfing, Canyoning & Animal Volunteering

Welcome to one of the happiest countries on earth, perhaps stemming from the laid-back Tico outlook combined with the incredible model of eco-stewardship Costa Rica boasts. During the six weeks you will get to experience hands-on animal conservation with sloths and monkeys, trekking through the epic Costa Rican rainforests, endless beaches, and yoga and meditation. Join us on an epic gap year program through Costa Rica to spot spider monkeys in the rainforests, surf the waves and relax on the tropical beaches!

Fall Dates 8 Oct - 19 Nov, 2021

Program Tuition $9,750 USD
Availability Open

The following table and comments will help you discern the differences between our semester programs and choose a program that is the right fit for you. 

Cultural challenges

A rating of how out of your comfort zone you can expect to be in terms of cultural differences. Southeast Asia is wonderfully culturally different but compared to Nepal & Tibet, Central America and South America, there is more English spoken and more access to creature comforts.

Physical challenges

A measure of how physically demanding the program is. All of our programs have portions that are physically challenging. If you are very unfit, you can expect to feel physically challenged at times. Keep in mind that all of our activities and excursions are catered to beginners!

  • The New Zealand Australia & US-based programs are very physical, yet not so much that you should feel daunted. There are various expedition components (canoeing, backpacking, rock-climbing, surfing, etc). On the backpacking expeditions, group members will carry a full backpacking pack with a share of tent, stove and food in addition to their sleeping bag, warm clothes and wet weather gear. We regularly have students join us who have not camped or backpacked before.
  • The Nepal & Tibet semester has a six-day rafting trip and a 16-day supported trek, where you only need to carry a day-pack. The trek is challenging as portions of the trek are at high altitude and some days you’ll trek for up to 6 hours.
  • Southeast Asia has a four-day trek, where you have to carry a day-pack and hike for 4-5hrs a day. It also has cycling, climbing, rafting and snorkelling activities.
  • The Central America program has two treks - a 4-day trek and an overnight ascent of a volcano, where you need to carry a day-pack. There is also a learn to surf camp, diving and snorkeling.
  • The South America program is the least physically demanding with only one 2-day trek, cycling, day hikes, snorkelling, canyoning and rafting.

Roughing it

How often you’ll be staying in basic accommodation, with few facilities.

Rugged travel

The comparison takes into account length of travel days, access to bathroom facilities, and how physically demanding the travel feels.


In New Zealand Australia & US-based programs we have our own vehicle driven by the instructors who hold professional bus driver licenses. All other programs charter private transport for longer journeys.

Time in the outdoors

How much time is spent in outdoor & rural environments vs urban environments.


The New Zealand Australia & US-based programs are in the outdoors for roughly 2/3 of the program. South America, Central America & Nepal & Tibet are around 1/2 and Southeast Asia is around 1/3.

Homestays

An indication of how much of the program is spent in homestays.

  • The South America program has four week-long homestays, the Central America program has two week-long homestays, and the Nepal & Tibet program has one two-week homestay. For these homestays, you are paired up with another person from your group and staying with a local family.
  • The Southeast Asia program spends time staying in remote villages but the group sleep together in a community house.
  • The New Zealand Australia & US-based programs have no homestays.

Language

Our South America and Central America programs have two weeks of Spanish language lessons at your level. We usually get a mix of students who’ve done previous Spanish study and students who are total beginners. Our other programs don’t have any formal language component.

Service Learning

A measure of how much time is spent doing service learning work during the program.

Suitability for a first time abroad

Travel can be challenging and confronting. How you experience it is all about your attitude. Being open to different ideas & opinions is a big help and although there is safety and support in traveling with a group, there will be times when you are stretched.

  • Southeast Asia: Culturally different and has its challenges but has more regular access to WiFi and comfortable accommodations than our other programs.
  • New Zealand Australia & US-based: Overall familiar cultures but spends a lot of time in the outdoors and 1/3 of the program is camping.
  • Central America: Has two weeks of homestays and some roughing it at dive camp and on permaculture projects.
  • Nepal & Tibet: A great mix of cultural and physical challenges and less access to creature comforts than our other programs. We regularly have students join this program who have not backpacked/trekked/camped or travelled in the developing world previously; however, you should expect certain discomforts and challenges.
  • South America: A lot of time spent in homestays can make this program more challenging for first time travellers than Central America.