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Outward Bound Costa Rica


BE. OUT. THERE. Outward Bound Costa Rica inspires a lifetime of leadership, growth, and a commitment to serve through adventure-based learning. Since 1992, we have honed our approach to experiential education, utilizing Costa Rica and Panama’s tropical reefs, rivers, and rainforests to help participants discover their hidden potential.

We offer rigorous programs that expand students capacity in leadership, intercultural competence, Spanish language, self-awareness, and life skills. Push your limits mentally and physically as you explore off the beaten path in Costa Rica and Panama with activities including hiking, scuba diving, whitewater rafting and more.

Enroll in a Spring Gap Year & Semester course by Nov 15th to receive a $500 Early Bird discount!


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Yes, I recommend this program

This trip was better than I expected it to be. I did not really know what to expect but it better than I could have ever imagined!!!! It was life changing! The staff is very nice and made it great! I feel like we all became close friends. I think we will stay in touch with each other for many years to come. The staff was excellent and very knowledgeable in all aspects of the trip, from the actual activities to group relationships. I felt I was challenged in many ways. It helped me grow as a person in many areas and ways. I highly recommend this trip and would love to do it again! I would highly recommend this to other kids. I would like to do it all over again! I thought the length of the trip was just right! I wasn’t ready to leave but had to!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do this trip! You don’t need as much stuff as the packing list says. You’re basically in your swimsuit the whole time!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I think the camp was really cool, I got to meet new friends and I really enjoyed it. I also got better at surfing and the trip was just a really cool experience. It not only improved my surfing, but also helped me open up more and talk to new people. I think everyone would enjoy a trip like this. I just recommend preparing physically to deal with rough currents in the water while ok surfing, since it can really wear you out, trying to go against the current. All the instructors in the trip were really encouraging and knew what they were doing, which made me feel good. They were also cool to be around. They really helped me out in the water, making me more comfortable with the big waves. They were also responsible, and all of this made me feel comfortable. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Definitely when I went out in the ocean the first day and felt the strong current and saw how big waves could get. I never really had to deal with rough oceans since I always went to different ones. So I had to build up my courage to go out farther on my surfboard. The instructor really helped out, too, and eventually I realized it wasn’t so bad and I wanted to keep going afterwards.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Even though we had to change the itinerary because of strikes, my instructors made the most of it. They made bad situations into a great time. For example, we still were able to do everything we were meant to do, like helping sea turtles and painting the classroom in Talamonca and more that no other group has experienced, like feeding baby sheep and holding them. My group was the first group to be able to do some extra tourism, and it was so cool. Plus, the incidents and tourism activities helped create a stronger bond with all of the girls and boys. I will forever be grateful for my experience at OBCR and for my instructors, and course mates. The bonds I have created with them will last forever, and I will stay connected with them for the rest of my life.

What was your funniest moment?
When my guy instructor screamed like a teenage girl when there was a big bug in our room in Talamonca.
Yes, I recommend this program

I went to the Costa Rica Outward Bound. I absolutely loved everything about this trip, the girls, the staff, and the sights. I learned about the culture and the people and of course some Spanish. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and i’m glad I took it. If I didn’t I wouldn’t have gotten so much out of it. It has changed me in so many ways, I took more risks than i’m used to, I didn’t think so small of those living in another country. Being there taught me to “live in the moment” rather than worrying about what is to come. The girls I was with I truly bonded with them, they taught me to be myself and love who I am. The staff are amazing as well, caring, funny, and teach us about everything around us. I enjoyed every bit of it, from the sunburns to the zip lining. Every little thing was enjoyable.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Cacique [kəˈsēk]: a native chief or local political boss.
I will never forget waking up that morning in a sweat, knowing everyone was going to depend on me. The day my outlook on life changed forever. The day I was cacique.
There were fifteen roles for each of the fifteen girls on the trip to Latin America with me, varying from a cleaner to cacique. Cacique was the job every girl dreaded. Each of the fifteen girls had to be on task and punctual at all times, and if they were not, cacique was to blame. Cacique made the decisions for the whole group, and by the end of day, was the one girl everyone was sick and tired of.
I used to think of myself as the opposite of a leader. I believed I had good ideas, but I always kept them to myself to avoid any external conflict or confrontation. Being cacique for a day forced me to step out of my shell and make decisions for not only myself, but for girls that I cared for like family.
Although I had dreaded being cacique for days, once I asserted myself, my confidence grew. I voiced my once silent opinions and genuinely made a difference in the efficiency of our group. I realized that being a leader is not about silencing others, but rather representing them and being a role model for peers.

What would you improve about this program?
A bigger van for the thirteen girls on the long drive from Costa Rica to Panama.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I had already done some surfing before this, and wanted to get better. My parents helped me find the program with Outward Bound and I decided to try it out. I did look at other ones, like the sea turtle adventure in Panama, but decided to go for surfing since I really loved it. I’ll probably try another one next time.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I did not have a program provider, I just found out about it since they work with my school, but they didn’t tell me about this program. My parents and I applied to the program and we did everything ourselves. We looked into all of Outward Bound’s programs on our own, and ended up planning everything out.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would just say to prepare to fight tough currents, meaning being a little more physically prepared, since if the currents are rough (they won’t always be), it can really wear you out and you’ll be too tired to actually surf correctly. Also, one more thing is that, even if it’s not on the packing list, I would take a pillow and blanket, since that isn’t provided.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Everyday we woke up at about 6:00 AM and got ready. Someone was assigned the job of being the cook, and had to make everyone breakfast. After we ate, we got the surfboards and put them in a truck that would take them to the beach for us while we rode the bus. We went surfing for about 3 hours, and hung out on the beach. Then we went back and ate lunch. We would have solo time (writing in your journal), then we would either go to the pool or go back to the beach just to hang out and play.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I had gone on other camps before (with my school), but none ever lasted as long as this one. So I was pretty nervous just being away from home for so long. That was my only fear, but I easily overcame it when I met all the people I’d be with during the entire trip. Everyone was cool, and very nice and reassuring. After a few days, I wasn’t nervous anymore.

What’s something you will still remember in a few years about the trip?

I will probably remember the whole trip, but something that I will remember more than the other stuff is how cool all the people I met on there were. I made new friends that I’m still in contact with, and even the instructors were really nice cool to hang it with. Another thing is that we got to go zip lining and do other cool and different activities the last few days before we left.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Debra Woolley

Job Title
Director of Marketing & Communications
Debra brings 20 years of experience to Outward Bound Costa Rica, having previously worked in the field of international education with roles at AFS-USA and the National Society of Leadership and Success. A native of Long Branch, New Jersey, Deb is passionate about intercultural education and sports. Her travels have taken her around the globe to places including South Africa, Brazil and Turkey.

Debra fell in love with Costa Rica when she participated in a ten day bike ride from San Jose to Arenal Volcano to Samara, a beach down in the Guanacaste region. She is thrilled to be back in Costa Rica and part of a dynamic team that brings the OBCR experience to life for more than 600 students each year.

What position do you hold at Outward Bound CR and why do you like working there?


Debra: I am the Director of Marketing & Communications. OBCR allows me to fulfill my passions - intercultural education and outdoor experiential learning. In other words, I am able to bring the concept of alternative education to a network of high school and college students so that they may broaden their knowledge of themselves and their leadership abilities in order to succeed in school and beyond.

What is one thing you would tell any future gapper?

Debra: Take the time to investigate all your options, and choose the one that appeals to your passions the most. Give yourself the opportunity to expand beyond what you think you are capable of, and choose something that will push your boundaries and allow you to grow and find out more about what will make you happy and fulfilled.

What is the level of cultural immersion your gappers receive?

Debra: While here, gappers will work with Costa Rican natives on their course, travel through and work on community service projects for Tico communities, speak Spanish and spend time in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.

What would you tell a parent who's reluctant to send their kid abroad?

Debra: Sending your child away is never easy particularly when you think about the distance sending your child abroad creates. However, the benefits to your child are substantial. Your child will build real world skills not taught in a classroom - cultural awareness and secondary language proficiency come to mind.

Going abroad builds self confidence and self esteem, opens the mind toward diversity and change, and allows for a profound sense of personal priority - what is important to your child as he/she preps for college and beyond.

How does going on a gap year with Outward Bound CR prepare young people for college?

Debra: Outward Bound Costa Rica applies an experiential learning model that encompasses the environment. Our courses specialize in leadership development, building self-reliance character development, teamwork, cultural and language immersion, global citizenship, compassion for service to different cultures and outdoor technical training and certifications.

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