Mexico, Costa Rica, & Guatemala

START Cancun, Mexico |
FINISH Guatemala City, Guatemala |
DURATION 10 weeks |
AGES 17 - 22 |

Vibrant Tapestry of Central America

Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Central America on this gap year adventure! Explore Mayan ruins and cenotes in Mexico's Yucatan, trek volcanic highlands in Guatemala, and encounter exotic wildlife on Costa Rica's black sand beaches. Your days will be a fusion of volunteer work, cultural connection, Spanish language learning, and heart-pounding activities like scuba diving, rafting, volcano hikes, and paddleboarding. Make a difference while you explore, by helping at a local school, permaculture farm, coffee plantation, or animal rescue center. This journey will leave you with a deep understanding of the region's diverse cultures and ecosystems.


Paddle through exhilarating rapids and refreshing waterfalls, surrounded by the lush embrace of the rainforest. This isn't just a 4-day white-water adventure; it's a chance to build teamwork, conquer challenges, and witness the raw beauty of Costa Rica's untouched wilderness.

Deepen your Central American experience with a unique homestay in Guatemala. Live alongside a local family for a week, immersing yourself in their daily rhythms and traditions. Learn the language firsthand, savor authentic cuisine, and gain a deeper understanding of Guatemalan culture. This homestay isn't just accommodation; it's a chance to forge genuine connections and live like a local for an unforgettable week.

Join a community volunteer project in Tinamu and contribute to a local school.  You'll not only be helping students but also gaining valuable cultural exchange and fostering connections within the community. It's a rewarding way to give back and make a positive difference on your travels.


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

Click download to view the full 10 week sample itinerary.

Download Sample Itinerary

Mayan Ruins, Salsa Dancing, & Language Immersion

After meeting each other in Cancun airport, we’ll head south down the spectacular Caribbean coast to the ancient Mayan city of Tulum. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea, it is one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans. While we enjoy its brilliant turquoise-blue waters and crushed-coral white sands, we’ll spend some time getting to know each other during orientation. Our time will focus on creating a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our program goals.

In Tulum, we will also explore the Mayan ruins along the coast, learn to salsa dance, swim in the crystal clear waters of a cenote (a natural cave system filled with fresh water), and head inland to a Mayan ruin and one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá! We will also get Spanish language classes and put our new skills to use while gaining insight into the culture. The lessons are specific to your level of Spanish and the experienced teachers will help you with relevant conversational Spanish for the journey ahead. We will hear, see, and feel the Spanish language in its natural environment. Considering this language is more widely spoken than English, it’s worth your while to get acquainted!

Biosphere Reserve, Cooking Class, & Scuba Diving

Based in Tulum, we will start the week by exploring the sublime natural beauty of Sian Ka’an. This Biosphere Reserve is composed of a delicate balance of ecosystems, complete with tropical forest and coral reefs, blue lagoons, hundreds of bird species and other animal life, and untouched beaches. We will visit the ancient Mayan ruins of Muyil before enjoying a boat ride through the turquoise lagoons, mangroves and Mayan waterways. On our way back, we will float back down through these clear, fresh water canals using our life jackets as a floating seat!

The next few days, we wake up the mind and body with morning yoga classes in preparation for our continued daily Spanish lessons. Don’t worry, we won’t be stuck in a classroom for this, but are instead being taught outside in the shady garden. After a few hours of absorbing everything we possibly can, we delve deeper into the culture by learning to cook authentic Mexican food and having a cultural exchange with local children. Every day has something new in store for us!

After leaving Tulum, we will meet our diving instructors in Cozumel and get into the headspace of the underwater world. We will be living and breathing diving for a few days! We will be doing our learning in the pool first, ensuring we have all the skills for a lifetime of safe scuba diving ahead of us. Following this, we will head out on the sea to do dives from a boat.

Animal Rescue Center & Montverde Cloud Forest

Our time in Mexico has unfortunately come to an end. After spending our final day in Mexico relaxing on the white sand beaches of Cozmel, it’s time to fly to one of the happiest countries on earth - Costa Rica! This might stem from the laid-back Tico outlook combined with the incredible model of eco-stewardship Costa Rica boasts.

We travel straight to an animal rescue center that is dedicated to protecting and helping endangered Costa Rican wildlife with all means available. 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.

We 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 after a couple of days you’ll feel as at home at the center as the spider monkeys and won’t want to leave!

It's time to head to Monteverde, right next door to the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We will fully immerse ourselves in the culture of Costa Rica by living under the same roof as local families for a few days. This homestay gives us the opportunity to live and breathe the local culture, make friends as well as memories, and explore destinations in a truly authentic way.

While in Monteverde, we'll experience the coffee culture and learn about the process of sustainable coffee farming. We will also head out for a hike through the Cloud Forest Reserve, keeping our eyes open for the incredibly diverse flora and fauna on offer. This is also 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, we will be on two continents at once!

Program Details

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


For full program details, please request the information booklet.

Request Information Booklet

High Activity Level

Anyone with an average to advanced fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for a couple of multi-day hikes in Guatemala and some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.

Medium Camping Level

You will be doing some camping on this program, mostly during the multi-day volcano hikes, but you will spend most of your time in comfortable hostels and lodges.

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.

Have you got any questions before applying?

Mexico, Costa Rica, & Guatemala