Costa Rica Mini Semester

START San Jose, Costa Rica |
FINISH San Jose, Costa Rica |
DURATION 6 weeks |
AGES 17 - 22 |

Homestays, Spanish, & Animal Volunteering

Welcome to one of the happiest countries on earth!

Experience a gap year program where you get to immerse yourself in the culture by living under the same roof as a Costa Rican family, and also get to expand yourself personally. The nature-based activities will have you raging through rapids, feeling the rainforest watching you, and seeing new wildlife. You'll even get up and personal with the wildlife at an animal rescue center, where you will help care for sloths and howler monkeys.


Paddle through crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush rainforest-covered hills that hug the coastline. Explore secret islets teeming with exotic wildlife, and discover hidden coves perfect for a refreshing dip. Challenge yourself physically, reconnect with nature's beauty, and create unforgettable memories as you navigate to secluded beaches. Emerge from this adventure exhilarated, with a deeper appreciation for Costa Rica's hidden gems.

This highlight is a heart-pounding 3-day white-water rafting adventure on the Pacuare River!  Not just a thrilling ride, this is an immersive journey into the untouched beauty of Costa Rica.  Navigate churning rapids, refreshing waterfalls, and lush rainforests teeming with wildlife.  Build teamwork as you conquer challenges together, pushing your limits and forging lasting memories.  This unforgettable experience will leave you exhilarated, empowered, and with a newfound appreciation for the raw beauty of Central America.

Immerse yourself in the world of animal rescue by assisting at a dedicated center caring for sloths and monkeys. These captivating creatures, often orphaned or injured due to habitat loss or illegal wildlife trade, depend on the center's rehabilitation efforts for a chance to return to the wild.  You'll gain hands-on experience assisting with daily care, food preparation, and enrichment activities, all while contributing to the conservation of Costa Rica's precious wildlife.


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 6 week sample itinerary.

Download Sample Itinerary

Orientation & Explore Monteverde Cloud Forest

Take a peek outside the plane window to get your first glimpse of 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. There are lots of things to keep us busy on our first days in the country! Getting to know your group will be a priority, as well as familiarizing yourself with the culture and history of Costa Rica. Your instructors will facilitate some important orientation topics over the course of the next few days.

We will spend these first few days in Monteverde Cloud Forest. We head over to arguably the most beautiful place in the country; the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Monteverde cloud forest offers our team lots of different trekking options. The day hikes are really about zooming in on the beauty and keeping an eye out for the weird and wonderful flora and fauna of the cloud forest. Monteverde is also home to what we know as “The Great Divide”, meaning that when we stand on the separation between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, we will be on two continents at once!

After orientation, we make our way to our first adventure: a canopy ride through the cloud forest. During this adventure, you will traverse a series of ziplines, and suspended bridges, allowing you to experience  the incredible biodiversity of Costa Rica’s  rainforest ecosystem.  During our time in Monteverde we will Discover the Tiger Waterfall and hike over many hanging bridges.

Animal Rescue Volunteering & Manuel Antonio National Park

This week we travel 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. During our 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 after a couple of days you’ll feel as at home at the center as the spider monkeys and won’t want to leave!

To close our last week, we will go to hike and explore Manuel Antonio National Park, a stunning natural gem located on the Pacific Coast. Manuel Antonio is home to a remarkable variety of wildlife. You will encounter animals like squirrel monkeys, sloths, iguanas, coatimundis, toucans, and an array of bird species. 

Hiking Route & Volunteering At Tinamu

New week, new adventures! We will spend the next two days hiking to an education center in the rural farming village of San Isidro de Dota, situated on the edge of the last remaining virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s beautiful Savegre river canyon. During this week, while we experience the peace, serenity and authenticity of the real Costa Rican culture, we will be working alongside the community on a local project. We will help out in whichever way we can, whether that means getting hands-on with paintwork, building a concrete ramp, or just about anything else. In our free time, we can admire a nearby waterfall or go for a hike.

After this workout for our arms, we enjoy a well deserved rest day on Uvita beach. Playa Uvita is a spectacular beach surrounded by lush, sweeping mountains, infinite fresh streams and rivers, and a healthy reef offshore that hosts an enormous population of whales for several months each year. Here, we can relax at the long and wide beach, swim in the warm ocean and appreciate the great views. What a great place to call our home for the next week!

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

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, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants.

Low Camping Level

You will be camping for a couple of nights on this gap year program, 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?

Costa Rica Mini Semester