Challenge yourself on this incredible Central America gap year program journeying through the ancient ruins and spectacular land and seascapes of Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Adventure. Immersion. Service. This whirlwind journey is packed to the brim with transformational experiences.

This program combines immersive Spanish language study, hands-on service learning and permaculture projects, and challenging expedition elements - diving, trekking, surfing.

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, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Join us on an epic journey witnessing the azul cenotes of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, through the rich highlands of volcanic Guatemala and down to the black sand beaches and exotic animals of Costa Rica. Our 70 - day semester offers you an enriching and insightful fusion of environmental service projects, cultural immersion, personal development, and, of course, non-stop adventure! You will learn all about the indigenous cultures and the clash of European language and religion. They may be close in geography yet these key central American countries could not be more diverse in nature. 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 project work, connecting with locals during village stays, camping under the stars, and seriously healthy doses of mountains and beaches. Join us on this journey that moves organically from the Caribbean to the forested highlands of Central America and across to the Pacific.

This program has an experiential focus - students immerse in Spanish, get involved in service learning projects, have opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, gain knowledge of Central America’s history, societies and environments, experience sustainable development, push personal boundaries and develop their leadership skills.

 

• Becoming PADI dive certified in the clear waters of Cozumel
• Immersive Spanish lessons to give you a more connected experience
• Witness volcanoes glowing in the dark from your tent
• A yoga and meditation journey by the highland volcano crater Lake Atitlan
• Exploring the local villages of Guatemala’s mountainous terrain on foot
• Rewarding conservation service-learning projects working with animal rescue centres
• Exploring endless beaches
• Surfing on the Pacific coast
• Investigate sustainable agriculture and its importance in developing communities
• Informal lectures and discussions on history, culture, society and environment
• Very personalized small group experience, maximum of 12 participants
• Experienced Pacific Discovery program leader supported by local guides

To Mexico

With a rich and diverse indigenous history, Mexico is a melting pot of colour and culture. We balance island living and cultural immersion during our time in the fascinating Yucatan Peninsula.

Week 1: Island Life

Skip the cities and swing straight into Cozumel’s international airport. On arrival in picturesque Mexico, you’ll be met by your program leaders. We will take the first few days to decompress from the events of 2020 and settle into the Caribbean flow. After a comprehensive program briefing, we’ll immerse ourselves in the epic nature surrounding our new home base. Our days will be spent getting to know each other whilst cycling around Cozumel and exploring the local town and its exotic fruits and veggies.


Week 2: Diving and getting PADI qualified


We’ll meet our diving instructors and get into the headspace of the underwater world. During this immersive week you will be living and breathing diving. You will be doing your learning with your peers online and in the pool, ensuring you have all the skills for a lifetime of safe diving ahead of you. Following this, a vast amount of the training is spent out on the sea doing dives from a boat and nourishing your exhausted body on white sandy beaches. Spend the rest of your time on Cozumel exploring ruins and riding your bike to find white sandy beaches.


Weeks 3: Language Immersion


We jump over to the Mexican mainland and find a home base in the dreamy getaway of Tulum in order to hone up on our Spanish skills. The lessons are specific to your level of Spanish and the experienced teachers will help you with relevant conversational Spanish for the journey ahead. Considering this language is more widely spoken than English, it’s worth your while to get acquainted! Each day will be filled with just the right amount of learning combined with yoga and exploration of the surrounds.

To Guatemala


Guatemala is widely considered the hearth of the Maya civilization. Mayans ruled the area that is now Guatemala until around 1000 AD. Today, nearly 40% of the population of Guatemala is indigenous, with the vast majority of those being of Mayan descent. We suggest you take a keen interest in the Mayans, because they were the ones who invented chocolate.


Week 4 - 5: Into the Heartland


We take a flight from the coast to the mountains and by evening you’ll be dining on corn tortillas in Antigua! Take a few days to absorb this new environment of cobble stoned, European-esque streets, socially conscious NGO headquarters, homemade leather goods and cool cafes. The trendy town also happens to be the gateway to adventure. We embark on a multi-day hiking adventure in search of volcanoes and high altitude lakes. Once you’ve gotten your fix of hot lava views, we will join the dots from village to village in the highlands of Guatemala meandering through cloud forests, streams, corn fields and small pueblos. Immerse yourself in this real and raw journey. Every village has their own subtle differences between dress, language and food. The hiking adventure comes to a close as you see the sun rise over the crater Lake Atitlan – arguably the most beautiful lake in the world. Let us know what you think when you see it? Here on the waters edge is right where your next journey begins.


Week 6: Meditation & Yoga Retreat


You are in for a real treat here! Wind down and connect with nature amongst jaw dropping surrounds. Knitted in between the program there are chances for you to SUP on the Lake as well as explore villages by boat. Each day will bring a further exploration into self reflection, development and empowerment. You will most likely relish the opportunity to slow down at this point halfway through the program and feel refreshed before we pick up the pace again in Costa Rica.


To 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.

Week 7: Animal Rescue Program Volunteering


Costa Rica is a safe haven for so many of the exotic animals our world is home to. We travel straight to an animal rescue centre which is dedicated to protect and help endangered Costa Rican wildlife with all means available. Get hands on experience connecting with the animals and help them recover from both physical and psychological wounds that have arisen from their past suffering. We’re sure that by the end of the week you’ll feel as at home at the centre as the animals, and won’t want to leave!

Week 8: Surf’s Up


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.

Week 9: Permaculture Camp


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.


Week 10: Marine Conservation and Program Wrap, Costa Rica


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. Your last days will be spent wrapping up the program, digesting your experiences and sharing your final beach days with your fellow participants. Celebrate all your accomplishments at the final dinner before packing your things and departing this fabulous country.

 

For full program details, please request the information booklet

Suitability

The program is open to high school graduates, university students and graduates, ideally 18-24 years. This program is challenging and rewarding and participants need to be interested in engaging with local people, pursuing new experiences, pushing personal boundaries, and have an interest in learning Spanish - or at least be open to discovering this rich language. You do not need to be proficient in Spanish.

This program is suitable for both beginner and experienced Spanish speakers. You don’t need to have had previous experience with travel or any of the activities offered, but it is important you have a ‘can do’ positive attitude. You need to be committed to, and prepared for, some physical work whilst on the service learning components of the program ie. tree planting, gardening, trail- building; and challenging physical activity whilst diving, trekking and surfing.

Accommodation

Our accommodation will vary from welcoming lodges and camping with shared facilities, to hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and WiFi will be available frequently, except while at our service learning projects, trekking trips and community stays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.

Meals

Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. We recommend you budget the sum of $10 per day for drinks and snacks (approximately $600 for the program).

Program Tuition Includes

  • All in-country land transport and travel (not flights)
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All Spanish language classes (at your level of proficiency)
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Service learning projects in conservation and community development
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation, development, eco-tourism, ecology and sustainability
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • 1-3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue travelling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure web-page with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist, for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt

The Pacific Discovery Central America Gap Year Semester is an inspiring 10-week journey through  Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, experiencing incredible cultural and environmental diversity. The program combines immersive Spanish language study, hands-on service learning projects, and amazing educational adventure travel.

 

Spring Dates 1 Feb - 11 Apr, 2021
Fall Dates 13 Sep - 21 Nov, 2021
Duration 70 days
(plus independent extension options)

Program Tuition $13,500 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,500 USD
Availability Open
Group Size 14 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 18 - 24 ideal
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Start in Cancun, Mexico
Finish in San Jose, Costa Rica
(we assist with flight arrangements)