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. You will learn all about environmental sustainability at a permaculture farm, before heading off and seeing the incredible biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer. Think surfing lessons on the vast beaches of the Pacific Coast, rafting through the rainforest on the Pacuare River, walking through clouds in the world-renowned cloud forest, and seeing plankton glow in the dark at a wildlife refuge.
Experience a summer program where you will not only get to explore this amazing country of Costa Rica, but you will get to expand yourself personally. The nature-based activities will have you challenging new heights, 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.
✓ Want to spot an abundance of wildlife in forests, mangroves and beaches
✓ Are interested in animal welfare and conservation
✓ Love activities like surfing, yoga and white water rafting
✓ Are enthusiastic about adventure travel
✓ Would like to experience the “pure vida” lifestyle
I would recommend the program to others to challenge yourself, make new friends, do amazing activities and to immerse yourself in a new culture! You really get to learn more about yourself and who you are as a person on this program! I learned to let go, and live in the moment. My trip to Costa Rica was truly life-changing. I made deep connections, did amazing activities, and I really gained clarity as to what I want out of life. I came out of this experience with more confidence and a greater appreciation for life! Ready to face any challenge and to just stay calm like the waves!”
- Mia LaFayette, 2021 Student
Take a peek outside the plane window to get your first glimpse of Costa Rica as you arrive in 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 we will get to see a great mix of European architecture.
A short hop north from San Jose and we will be immersed in this green paradise. Whilst here, we will be white water rafting on the Sarapiqui River! Getting to know your group will be our priority, as well as familiarizing yourself with the culture and history of Costa Rica.
Next, we head over to Cebadilla, where we will be undertaking some 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.
We continue our project at the animal rescue center. 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 by the end of our stay you’ll feel just as at home at the center as the animals and won’t want to leave!
Afterwards, we spend three days 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 zip lining adventures along the way.
We’ll spend our final day in Jaco further exploring the coastline, surfing or swimming in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean.
We make our way to an education and farming center in the rural farming town of Tinamu, situated on the edge of evergreen forests by the River Savegre Basin. It’s a working farm, mountain lodge, and community rooted in environmental sustainability, meaningful, place-based livelihoods, and caring relationships. We will be working alongside the community, furthering our sustainability education and learning skills such as carbon neutrality through tree planting. We will be able to reconnect with nature, peace and relaxation while exploring the surroundings. There are many rivers and waterfalls, as well as some magnificent views of Cerro de la Muerte and the coastal area of Quepos with clear weather. We will also get a chance to go on an epic day hike. This experience embodies the essence of service learning, as we will go away with just as much as we have given at Tinamu.
Next up, we take an adventurous journey to the very southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula in Curu National Park. This part of Costa Rica will blow your mind and not only will we be able to spot different kinds of wildlife here, we will take part in a bioluminescence experience. This will take place on the water near the refuge we are staying at. When night falls, we can observe the phenomenon of the lights in the water, caused by organisms that react to movement. We can observe this phenomenon from the edge of the beach or dare to swim, so you can enjoy the halo of light around the body when floating on water. During our time here, we will also go hiking and take a session on ocean and beach clean-ups.
We will head to the most renowned beaches of Guancaste Province and get acquainted with the relaxed pace of life. We’ll journey a little deeper with a three day yoga and meditation retreat located slightly inland from your coastal accommodation. Each day will bring a further exploration into self-reflection, development and empowerment. Put all of these travelling skills we’ve learnt along the way and spend our final day on the coast doing whatever it is that takes our fancy. Stand up paddle boarding, anyone?
Our last days will be spent wrapping up the program, digesting our experiences and sharing our final days floating through a cloud forest with some newfound lifelong friends. The Monteverde cloud forest offers our team lots of different trekking options. Keep an eye out for some of the diverse flora and fauna on offer throughout the cloud forest. 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!
Finally, we make our way down from the clouds as we transfer from Monteverde to San Jose for a night and depart the country. You'll be leaving with a whole new set of tools in your bag; trust us on this one!
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
✓ All in-program travel and transport
✓ 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
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 summer program! 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 spend most of your nights on this summer program 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.
Our accommodation will be a mixture of comfortable and clean hostels, lodges and campsites. Laundry and Wi-Fi 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. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $12 per day for.
Meals are a mixture of eating out at restaurants and food preparation shared by students. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand
To make things easy for you, we partner with a full service travel agency that can arrange flights, appropriate travel insurance and post program arrangements for our students.
They have access to a "Cancel For Any Reason" or CFAR travel insurance for US citizens in participating states. This optional travel insurance product allows travelers to cancel for any reason whatsoever up to two days prior to departure and still receive a significant refund. This allows you to keep planning for the future while avoiding the stress and the financial worry of canceling a program if you need to.
Our program locations and itineraries have been carefully selected and modified to minimize risk of exposure to anyone outside the group with most being located in rural areas. This allows for a more focused learning environment, as well as a safe haven from the stress of our modern world.
We've been working hard and watching closely to any CDC recommendations about group sizes and testing requirements to come up with options that will allow you to have a safe, healthy, and stress-free Gap Year experience. We do the hard work so you can come and enjoy the fresh air, adventures, and new friends!
We have been running successful international programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look.
Check out the information on our COVID-19 page to find out more about our Covid-19 policies, procedures and updates.