Pacific Discovery Semester Programs are epic!

They 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 programs 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!

Our educational travel programs are suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, college students and graduates, ideally 18-24 years.

For an incredible gap year, you can combine each program with another of our exciting Spring or Fall semester programs exploring South America, Nepal & Tibet, Southeast Asia, or New Zealand & Australia.

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

New Zealand & Australia Gap Year Program

Conservation volunteering, adventure travel and experiential learning through the North and South Islands of New Zealand, and East Coast of Australia

This educational travel semester offers a spectacular spring or summer 'down under' combining three week-long volunteer conservation projects in different national parks in New Zealand and Australia; with multi-day outdoor expeditions - a surfing camp, a canoeing journey, a backpacking trip; a rock climbing camp and overland adventure travel through New Zealand and Australia’s stunning mountain, forest and beach environments.

Fall Dates 14 Sep - 22 Nov, 2020
21 Sep - 29 Nov, 2020
13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
20 Sep - 28 Nov, 2021
Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021
8 Feb - 18 Apr, 2021
15 Feb - 25 Apr, 2021
Winter Dates 27 Sep - 1 Dec, 2021

Program Tuition $12,500 USD
Availability Open

Southeast Asia Gap Year Program

Inspiring educational travel semester through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia

Travel through the diverse and friendly Buddhist countries of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. You'll get involved in service learning projects. Have opportunities for meaningful connections with local people. Gain knowledge of Southeast Asia's history, societies and environments. Push personal boundaries, develop your leadership skills, and have incredible adventures hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking amidst dramatic landscapes.

Fall Dates 14 Sep - 22 Nov, 2020
13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021

Program Tuition $12,250 USD
Availability Open

Nepal & Tibet Gap Year Program

Cultural immersion, community service and adventure travel through Nepal and Tibet

A challenging and rewarding semester - you'll trek in the shadow of Himalayan mountains through Annapurna National Park. Get involved in community life and contribute to valuable community service projects. Experience mindfulness during a meditation and yoga retreat. Take an incredible rafting expedition from the Himalayas to the plains. Travel the roof-top of the world between Kathmandu and Lhasa, Tibet. Explore Lakeside Pokhara and Royal Chitwan National Park.

Fall Dates 14 Sep - 22 Nov, 2020
13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021

Program Tuition $12,250 USD
Availability Open

Central America Gap Year Program

Spanish immersion, culture, service learning and expeditions through Mexico, Belize, Guatamala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

Challenge yourself on this inspiring experiential gap year semester journeying through the astounding cultural and environmental diversity, ancient ruins, and spectacular land and seascapes of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This program combines immersive Spanish language study, hands-on service learning and permaculture projects, and challenging expedition elements - diving, trekking, surfing.

Fall Dates 14 Sep - 22 Nov, 2020
13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021

Program Tuition $12,500 USD
Availability Open

South America Gap Year Program

Spanish immersion, service learning and adventure travel through Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Gain insight into the lives of indigenous Andean and Amazon communities. Immerse yourself in Spanish. Participate in community-initiated service learning volunteer projects. Be astounded by Machu Picchu, beautiful Lake Titicaca and the incredible wildlife in the Galapagos Islands. Trek, raft, cycle and snorkel through diverse environments.

Fall Dates 14 Sep - 22 Nov, 2020
13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021

Program Tuition $12,950 USD
Availability Open

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

 Program Comparison

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.

  • The New Zealand Australia program is very physical, yet not so much that you should feel daunted. There are four expedition components (canoeing, backpacking, rock-climbing, surfing). On the backpacking expedition, group members will carry a full backpacking pack with a share of tent, stove and food for four days 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 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 and Australia 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 program are in the outdoors for roughly 2/3 of the program. South America, Central America & Nepal & Tibet are around half and Southeast Asia is around 1/3.


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 program has no homestays.


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

How suitable each program is if you have not previously travelled abroad (more stars = more suitable). This comparison is not an attempt to deter you, or funnel first time travellers to particular programs, as we regularly get first-time travellers join all of our programs.

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 Semester: Culturally different and has its challenges but has more regular access to WiFi and comfortable accommodations than our other programs.
  • New Zealand & Australia: Easy culturally 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.
  • South America: A lot of time spent in homestays makes this program more challenging for first time travellers than Central America, Southeast Asia or New Zealand/Australia.