This summer program offers an enriching and inspiring experience in Costa Rica. During the four weeks, you will trek through multiple National Parks, walk through clouds in the world-renowned cloud forest, and witness bioluminescence in Curu National Park. Jump right out of your comfort zone with a rafting trip and get involved with a volunteer project at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center where you will get to provide service for those animals who are impacted by the illegal animal trade. After a week of hard work and animal snuggles, head over to Jaco beach where you will get to try your hand at surfing. Sink your toes into the sand for a few days with a reflective yoga retreat on the sleepy pacific coast and then wind your way over to the mysteriously misty hill town of Montverde.
Experience a summer program where you will not only explore Costa Rica, but you will expand yourself personally. The nature-based activities will have you challenging new heights, pushing through humidity amongst the clouds, feeling the rainforest watching you and seeing new wildlife. With our volunteer projects you learn about the impacts that you can make for other living creatures first-hand. Finally, learn a new skill by riding the surf of the ocean!
This summer program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 18 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
Take a peek outside the plane window to get your first glimpse of Central America as you arrive to 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 you will get to see a great mix of European architecture.
A short hop north from San Jose and you will be immersed in this green paradise. Whilst here, you 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. Your instructors will facilitate some important orientation topics over the course of the next few days.
Next, we head over to Cebadilla, where we will be undertaking our 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 volunteering work at the animal rescue center. During the 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 the week you’ll feel as at home at the center as the animals and won’t want to leave!
Afterwards, we spend 3 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 breath-taking 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.
Spend your final day in Jaco furthering exploring the coastline, surfing or swimming in the warm, salty Pacific Ocean. Any activities you choose are optional so make sure to have a good look into all that the surrounding area has to offer.
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 is 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. You 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. You will also get a chance to go on an epic day hike. This experience embodies the essence of service learning, as you will go away with just as much as you have given at Tinamu.
Take an adventurous journey to the very southern point of the Nicoya Peninsula in Curu National Park. In this exclusive and remote destination, we will be exploring with self-led hikes and beach clean-ups. Take an evening trip on a boat to spot bioluminescence and fall even more in love with Costa Rica.
You’ll head to the most renowned beaches of Guancaste Province and get acquainted with the relaxed pace of life. 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 you’ve learnt along the way and spend your final day on the coast doing whatever it is that takes your fancy. Stand up paddle boarding, anyone?
Your last days will be spent wrapping up the program, digesting your experiences and sharing your final days floating through a cloud forest with some newfound lifelong friends. The Monteverde cloud forest offers your team lots of different trekking options. Keep an eye out for some of the diverse flora and fauna on offer throughout the cloud forest. For a more peaceful time, the Santa Elena Reserve is smaller, has fewer visitors than the main Monteverde Reserve and has an excellent network of short trails to follow whilst you acclimatize to the area.
Look out for orchids whilst you trek. Fun fact: Monteverde has the highest number of species of orchids in the world. 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, make your way down from the clouds as you take a bus from Monteverde to San Jose and depart the country.
Transfer back 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.
This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 18-22 years old. Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap 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. It is an excellent option for students and graduates wanting to be exposed to and immersed in a culture different to their own. You don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. Join this program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
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