Central America GAP Semester Program | Pacific Discovery

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About

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! 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.

Highlights
  • Practice and grow your Spanish language skills through immersion and homestays.
  • Rewarding conservation service-learning projects working with animal rescue centres
  • Become PADI dive certified in the clear waters of Cozumel
  • Witness volcanoes glowing in the dark from your tent
  • A yoga and meditation journey by the highland volcano crater Lake Atitlan

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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.

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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.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

8.14 Rating
based on 7 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 42.86%
  • 7-8 rating 57.14%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Housing 6.1
  • Support 8
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 7.7
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 7 of 7
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Emily
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Good times, good people

Overall this was a fantastic experience- I loved all of my group mates and instructors to the bottom of my heart. The activities we did were amazing and always left me wanting more, and I’m leaving feeling very confident in my ability to travel on my own in the future. I did get what I wanted- I challenged myself, learned a bunch of new skills, and met super cool people along the way.

Sometimes, we did struggle with budgeting for food- it was confusing where the money was for the 3 meals a day and a lot of us ended up supplementing with our own money out of pocket. Also the itinerary wasn’t exactly what it was advertised to be- could be due to COVID alterations, but we definitely missed out on some things and had a lot of free time.

I like how much the instructors trust you, the independence you are given, and the confidence this gave me to travel in the future.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Expect to spend more out of pocket money than they say you will- also the packing list isn’t great, try to find one online that’s better
2 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Olivia
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

PD central america

this has been an amazing experience for the most part. the people in my group have become family and i love my instructors. most of the activities have been interesting and fun. overall i am very happy i joined this program. there are a few things however that could have been done differently or explained more thoroughly. the budget for this trip has not been up to par. quite a few of the places we have been are very americanized and a 5-7 $ budget for dinners is not easily attainable. we are all growing young adults, and this trip is very active. in short, we eat a lot. this can be worked on for future programs.
the next things is the itinerary. i understand that we are now living in a world that has been complicated by the pandemic. however we were given an updated itinerary for this purpose. there have been many occasions that what we are actually doing on the program does not match up to what i initially signed up for. that unfortunately has been disappointing. if the itinerary says that we are surfing or diving for a week, i would assume that would be at a least 5 days of those activities, not 3. i did not enjoy have an entire week at a permaculture farm and only 3 days surfing. we were also disappointed that our marine conservation week is not going to be what was advertised.
the next thing is that i would expect our entire trip to be planned out, per the itinerary. however there are days, meals and accommodations that we can all see have been thrown together in a hurry. that is not what i payed for. this was an expensive trip, i would hope these things would be figured out before we arrive.

What was your funniest moment?
the group i am traveling with as a whole is hysterical. i am very fortunate that i got to travel with them.
2 people found this review helpful.
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Isabella
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Central America

We started our trip in Mexico. In Mexico I was happy to have time to get to know the group but I was also extremely bored with the lack of activities. Once in Tulum we had a blast with the students and exploring. However in Mexico we were asked to spend a lot of extra money on food and activities that PD hadn’t budgeted for. The hostel we stayed at in Tulum was absolutely disgusting to the point that I got a bacterial infection in my throat. Guatemala was definitely a highlight of the trip as we were busy outdoors nearly everyday. These activities were physically challenging but definitely worth it. Once in Costa Rica the service work began which was interesting but definitely slow paced and not as fun as Guatemala. It was frustrating to have to deal with expensive meals that pacific discovery gave not even half of restaurant costs, my own medical issues with little support, and very little information or activities planned for many days at a time. I loved my group and the instructors and if I hadn’t made such incredible trips I would have gone home in Mexico. I recommend the experience to anyone looking to travel however the cost was extremely high and definitely not what I had hoped for

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would advise future travelers to pack light, sleep as much as possible, remember to be kind, take lots of pictures, journal.
3 people found this review helpful.
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Sanne
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Pacific Discovery

This spring I went on a gap year programm with pacific discovery. I joined the programm, together with a friend, 2 weeks before it started so I didn’t have a lot of expectations.
Before comming here we got a packinglist with all the things we need. It said we needed a wetsuit, a divingwatch, a lot of conservative clothes, etc. The first two we didn’t need at all and we didn’t need as much conservative clothes as they told us we needed. I did need more normal clothes, summerdresses, shorts, t-shirts, etc. The next thing is that they told us that we would spend 5 tot 10 dollars a day, which is definitely not what I spent and I didn’t go crazy on the spending so I would
Recommend saying that you need more money. The accommodations where fine most of the time, except for the fact that in a lot of Them you didn’t have any personal space which can be hard. Besides this I love the activities (the hiking, surfing, diving and way more), I love meeting new people and making new friends. It was an experience which wasn’t always easy but definitely worth it!! Overall I love it!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Walking to the top of a volcano in Guatemala without extra layers
2 people found this review helpful.
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Katharine
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing 10 weeks in Central America!

I had a great time during my 10 week trip! Because of Covid, we only went to Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica but I think that made it even better because we could really get to know the countries we visited. I liked being immersed in the different cultures and seeing how each country differs. There was a huge range of things we did throughout our time including scuba diving, surfing, challenging hikes, kayaking trips, and a yoga retreat + more. It was great to get so close with the group of students and the instructors and I learned a lot.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
We did three really big hiking trips which were incredible but definitely very challenging and a bit unfamiliar.
2 people found this review helpful.
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anna
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great program

It was a great trip with fun activities, good people and a lot of lessons learned. We met a lot of new people who immersed in Latin American culture and taught us about their lifestyles. While having a great time with new people, I also learned a lot about myself and saw opprotunities for more in my life then I ever imagined. At times, it seemed a little disorganized, but everything always worked out. Another great thing was how much variety in the activities we did. It was really cool how much we could do in 70 days. Great experince!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
How I realized I can live off of one bag of clothes and make it work. Also how I accoustumed myself to constantly living with 14 people and learning how to work around those obstacles and how fun it can be
2 people found this review helpful.
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Abby
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Spring 2021 Central America Program - An Amazing 70 Days

My trip to Central America with Pacific Discovery was the best seventy days I could've imagined. We traversed through Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

Let me start by saying that I traveled with PD in the spring of 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. PD could've easily said that it was too difficult to travel internationally at the time, but with the right protocol, planning, and leadership, they pulled it off. I am so grateful for this opportunity to travel safely and get an amazing experience.

The program activities were something out of a dream; who wouldn't want to spend a semester scuba diving, surfing, hiking, sea kayaking, and immersing oneself in the incredible cultures of Central America? I pushed myself physically, mentally, and socially and got so much out of it. Although not every moment was perfect, the trip was the best thing I've ever done.

Jack and Amelia, my co-leaders, are two of the best people in the world. They modeled leadership, flexibility, and positivity. They encouraged us when we were struggling and would always be willing and available to talk to us.

I wish we'd had a slightly larger food budget when going out to eat, but I understand that Pacific Discovery has to pay its HQ team. I was able to mostly stick to my personal budget through careful planning.

I can't say enough nice things about Pacific Discovery. I have grown so much as a person and learned so much about myself. I feel so ready to travel independently. I will never forget my gap year. I only hope I can inspire others to also take gap years.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Scuba diving has always been a big fear of mine and it was a huge mental challenge. I almost didn't go through with the PADI certification, but I am so glad that I pushed through it. With encouragement from the PD instructors and the scuba divemasters, I overcame my fears. Now I love scuba diving and I can't wait to dive again!
2 people found this review helpful.