This six-week mini semester program offers you an enriching and inspiring experience in Costa Rica. 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, permaculture, trekking through the epic Costa Rican rainforests, relaxing yoga and meditation, and endless beaches.
After a week of hard work and animal snuggles, head over to Jaco beach where you will get to try your hand at surfing. This is no ordinary surf camp though; you will get one on one coaching with video analysis of how to improve your riding! This journey will continue on to a permaculture campsite that we have known and loved for years, followed by a week of adventure in the Golfito area. Take a trip to the windswept and remote Cabo Natural Reserve to give a hand to a turtle or two before taking a much needed moment of decompression with a yoga and meditation retreat. You will move north from here to absorb yourself in neon green beauty to two unmissable rainforest areas.
Or maybe you want to stay closer to home? Have a look at our Hawaii MiniMester.
Take a peek outside the plane window to get your first glimpse of Central America as you arrive to San Jose. Start your journey off right by enjoying the most common, delicious local cuisine, Gallo Pinto. Wake up to the sights, sounds and smells of a Latino capital! San Jose is surrounded by lush rainforests and is home to just 300,000 people. San Jose is a busy commercial hub surrounded by amazing rainforest mountains behind. Amidst the small, winding streets you will get to see a great mix of European architecture.
There are lots of things to keep you busy on your first full day in country! Getting to know your group will be a priority, as well as familiarising yourself with the culture and history of Costa Rica. Take some exploration time in San Jose while you exchange money, meet with your in-country operators who will provide you with more important information for the rest of the program. Your instructors will facilitate some important orientation topics over the course of the day as well. Dollars can be used as a primary currency in Costa Rica and only small amounts of the local currency are required. Take care while you are out exploring the city and look after each other!
Take a short hope over to Cebadilla, where we will be undertaking our animal rescue volunteering! This rescue center is home to a variety of animals that were rescued from the illegal animal trade, which is unfortunately still functioning in parts of the country. The goal is to help the animals recover from both physical and psychological wounds that have arisen from their past suffering. During the stay we’ll support the center with volunteer work such as working in the animal kitchen, assisting with the sloth garden, helping with the compost and enriching their homes. We’re sure that by the end of the week you’ll feel as at home at the center as the animals and won’t want to leave!
We’ll spend this week learning how to surf and honing our skills on the Pacific swell in this world-renowned surf mecca, in between exploring the area’s breathtaking beaches. Give your mind a well-deserved rest and kick back on the beach with a coconut, sprinkled with a few amazing sunset hikes and croc encounters along the way.
Spend your final day in Jaco furthering exploring the coastline, surfing or swimming in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean. Any activities you choose are optional so make sure to have a good look into all that the surrounding area has to offer.
Rancho Mastatal is an education center in the rural farming town of Mastatal, situated on the edge of the last remaining virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s beautiful Puriscal County. It is a working permaculture farm, lodge, and community rooted in environmental sustainability, meaningful, place-based livelihoods, and caring relationships. We will be working alongside the community, furthering our permaculture education and learning skills such as fermentation and natural building.
Take a trip to the wild side and adventure down the much less traveled south coast. We base ourselves in an epic rainforest lodge and take on multiple adventures. From canyoning, waterfalls and zip-lining to snorkeling and cruising, we have everyone's needs covered. This week is about making memories and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone a little.
Take an adventurous journey to the very southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula in the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve. In this exclusive and remote destination, we connect with National Park rangers and conduct marine conservation work. The days will be spent at the tide pools catching sea turtles, identifying fish, and collecting biological data. When the tide is high, we will head back to the San Miguel station to debrief. This unique conservation experience will stay with you for a lifetime.
You’ll head to a secluded beach in the Nicoya Peninsula to get acquainted with the relaxed pace of life before checking into your yoga and mediation retreat. Each day will bring a further exploration into self-reflection, development and empowerment. We could all use one of these to rejuvenate and prepare for a wonderful 2021.
Located in the north-western corner of the country, Rincon de la Vieja National Park is classified as a tropical dry forest. It is a fascinating area with plenty of exploration opportunities - climb the main massif or head out on one of the many circular routes to waterfalls, mud pools and hot springs. Fumaroles are also found here due to the high level of volcanic activity. Your first afternoon here can be supplemented with an optional horseback ride, allowing you to explore deeper around the ranch that you will stay on for the duration of your time in Rincon de la Vieja. Now that you are becoming accustomed to travel in Costa Rica, the itinerary over the next two days in in your hands. There are lots of options for your team to choose from in terms of trekking options, but make sure it’s adventurous as you’re likely to be in Rincon only once!
Your last days will be spent wrapping up the program, digesting your experiences and sharing your final days floating through a cloud forest with some newfound lifelong friends. The Monteverde cloud forest offers your team lots of different trekking options. Keep an eye out for some of the diverse flora and fauna on offer throughout the cloud forest. For a more peaceful time, the Santa Elena Reserve is smaller, has fewer visitors than the main Monteverde Reserve and has an excellent network of short trails to follow whilst you acclimatize to the area. Look out for orchids whilst you trek.
Fun fact: Monteverde has the highest number of species of orchids in the world. It also is home to what we know as “The Great Divide” meaning that as you stand on the separation between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you will be in two continents at once! You could also top off your time in Monteverde by visiting an ecological sanctuary, orchid/butterfly garden, serpentarium or by going to an activity park that offers things like ziplining and high ropes courses. Finally, make your way down from the clouds as you take a bus from Monteverde to San Jose and depart the country.
Open to students, graduates and non-students, ideally 18-24 years. This program is suitable for anyone of average fitness with an enthusiasm for the outdoors, conservation and new experiences. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the volunteer components of the program i.e. trail building or the removal of invasive plants and while on the outdoor activities, be prepared to give-it-a-go. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. We expect you to join the program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will be a mixture of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable and clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and WiFi facilities will be available most 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. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight.