This program is jam-packed with multi-day adventures through a country rated one of the happiest on earth. We will see the jungle and wildlife first-hand by hiking through the rainforest of Los Santos, rafting down thrilling river rapids on the Pacuare, and kayaking through the Golfito. No prior experience is needed - just a sense of enthusiasm and curiosity! You can come and be the judge of why the people are so happy, but this rating probably stems from the laid-back ‘Tico’ vibe, combined with a globally inspiring model of eco-stewardship.
Costa Rica is a world leader in renewable energy. We get hands-on and learn about environmental sustainability at a permaculture ranch where we live amongst a local community and immerse in the authentic culture. We spend a portion of the program participating in conservation at a wildlife rescue center helping to rehabilitate exotic animals like sloths and howler monkeys rescued from illegal animal trading.
✓ Want to go on multi-day adventures like rafting, kayaking and jungle hiking
✓ Love to be amongst spectacular nature and wilderness areas
✓ Want to laugh with friends while at surf camp on the Pacific Coast
✓ Like to get hands-on experience in the world of animal welfare and conservation
✓ Want to receive a Certificate of Completed Service Hours to add to your resume
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
Get the full Summer Program run-down in our catalogue. This catalogue provides information about Pacific Discovery's values and program design, as well as program descriptions and testimonials!
Welcome! Bienvenidos! Costa Rica is only a tiny portion of the world's land mass, but it boasts 6% of global biodiversity. The capital of San Jose is surrounded by lush rainforests right in the middle of the country. We will start our journey by strolling through winding cobblestone streets with a European feel, checking out local markets, and trying delicious local food like Gallo Pinto. Getting to know the group is our first priority and our experienced instructors will facilitate orientation topics over the next few days while we are in Santamaria de Dota village. This gorgeous valley south of San Jose is famous for producing some of the best coffee in Costa Rica!
This week we will also dive into our first multi-day adventure, hiking on the Ruta Sukia. The pristine rainforest here has lots of exotic birds and flowing cascades. We will immerse ourselves in Costa Rican culture by living under the same roof as local families in homestays along the way.
Making our way from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean, we head to an education and farming center in the rural farming town of Tinamu, situated by evergreen forests on the River Savegre Basin. It’s a working farm and community rooted in environmental sustainability. We will be working alongside the community, furthering our sustainability education and learning skills such as carbon neutrality through tree planting. The area is teeming with rivers and waterfalls and has magnificent views of Cerro de la Muerte and the coastal area of Quepos. We will get out on a night safari and explore nearby caves. This rural living experience embodies the essence of service learning, and we will go away with just as much as we have given at Tinamu.
We transfer to the coast for the week that everyone is so excited about - surf camp! We will spend three days learning how to surf and honing our skills on the Pacific swell in the world-renowned surf mecca of Playa Uvita. The waves here are suitable for all abilities. You’ll see pros out there as well as learners, it just depends on which part of the beach you go to. The instructors will teach us all about ocean currents and wind direction, so we can take these newfound skills and feel comfortable in other surf locations across the globe. It’s such a special moment when we get to our feet for the first time and everyone cheers! By the end of surf camp, we will be catching waves. Spend evenings relaxing at camp, playing games, debriefing, and hearing the instructor’s wild stories before more sunrise surfs. The surf camp is all about laughing together, learning about muscles you never knew existed, and making memories that last a lifetime.
We will journey a little deeper with two days of yoga and meditation classes. Each day will bring a further exploration into self-reflection, development, and empowerment. We find that taking an intentional reflection halfway through the program not only allows presence but also helps draw energy and purpose for the remainder of the program.
It’s time for our next multi-day adventure! This once-in-a-lifetime experience will see us undertaking an epic sea kayaking journey through the Golfito and camping on beaches along the way. We will be amongst amazing rainforest scenes, dine under the stars and get a chance to see dolphins. We will be supported by professional guides and will be going at a pace that suits the whole group. We’ll pack our snorkels and jump in the beautiful water to check out marine life every chance we get!
After the action packed kayaking adventure, we travel to an animal rescue center dedicated to protecting and helping endangered Costa Rican wildlife. This rescue center is home to a variety of animals 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 animal homes. We’re sure that after a couple of days you’ll feel just as at home as the spider monkeys do and won’t want to leave!
We head out on our final multi-day adventure experience, a 3-day rafting trip on the Pacuare River. Filled with epic rapids through tropical rainforests and places for us to play under waterfalls, this is one of the best locations in the world for white water rafting.
We complete our Costa Rican loop with a transfer back to San Jose - the capital city where the group met an entire month prior. It has been an unbelievably action-packed month of travel and learning. We reflect on our experiences together and leave with a piece of this tiny Central American country in our hearts. The friends we’ve made will surely last a lifetime and the lessons we take home will help shape our decision-making processes in the future.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, do 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, excluding flights
✓ All accommodation
✓ All meals
✓ All expeditions, activities, excursions, volunteer projects, and entry fees as described in the itinerary
✓ Experienced and relatable Program Instructors and local guides
✓ Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
✓ Core Activities that encourage shared group reflection
✓ Certificate of Wildlife Conservation and Sustainability with 30 hours service to boost your resume
High Activity Level: There is a high level of activity on this program, but no experience is required! Anyone with an average fitness level and enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this summer program! There are 3 x 3-day expedition-style trips throughout the program: rafting, kayaking, and hiking. You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the conservation projects during the program, like cleaning out animal enclosures and planting trees. There is also downtime scheduled in between these expeditions.
Medium Camping Level: Be prepared to spend some time out in nature. You'll love the experience of camping, staring at the campfire, breathing in the fresh air, and stargazing the night away. You will also spend a lot of your nights on this summer program in comfortable hostels and lodges.
Medium Learning Level: You will be able to make a difference in 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.