Summer 2017: High School Programs Costa Rica
97% Rating
(72 Reviews)

Summer 2017: High School Programs Costa Rica

One of Rustic Pathways largest countries of operation, Costa Rica is the perfect location for first-time travelers, adventurers, and nature lovers. Programs are one to two weeks in length but are easily connected. Start with one week of Spanish language immersion, then volunteer in an indigenous village, and finally, reward your hard work with a week zip-lining, rappeling, rafting, and surfing. With over 16 unique programs, you're sure to find your perfect Costa Rican experience.

“Costa Rica offers so much to new and experienced travelers alike. I have had the opportunity to expose students from all over to the world to the laid-back culture, friendly people, and nature that Costa Rica has to offer. As a proud Costa Rican, I love encouraging students to learn about my country.”
--Ricardo Romero, Costa Rica Country Director

Locations
North America » Costa Rica
Length
1-2 Weeks
Project Types
Language
English
Housing
Host Family
Hostel
Hotel
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Costs vary depending on program. Between $ 1,195 and $1,895 per week, plus international airfare to San Jose, Costa Rica. Students traveling from the United States will travel on our escorted group flight from the United States, international participants can choose to take our group flight from the USA or arrange their own airfare.
Other Locations
Uvita (Bahia Ballena)

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    94%
  • Support
    96%
  • Fun
    92%
  • Value
    95%
  • Safety
    97%

Program Reviews (72)

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Alyssa
Female
16 years old
United States
Other

Intro to Community Service

10/10

Going into the program I wasn't completely sure of what to expect, but I had a friend that had done the same program earlier in the summer and she came loving it. I never would have imagined that I would have so much fun and meet such amazing people while also doing difficult community service. The intro to community service is the perfect program introduction because you get to do a little bit of everything. You get to interact with the kids at the school, you work on various projects in the community, and then you get the weekend to do fun things such as ziplining, going to a waterfall, and white water rafting. I didn't expect to become so close with the people I met, but I ended being in tears when we had to say bye at the airport. I still talk to some of my close friends from the trip and they are still some of my best friends even though we live thousands of miles away from each other. It was such a life changing experience and have nothing but amazing things to say about it. One of my favorite parts was when we went white water rafting because it was so much fun and it started raining so the view was really pretty. I also loved being able to use my limited Spanish with the kids at the school. If I were to do it again though I would bring my own work gloves and bring more shirts because sometimes I would want to shower after service but we would still be doing other activities and I didn't want to dirty a new shirt.

How can this program be improved?

Maybe have a smaller group

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Emma
Female
15 years old
Glen Rock, Nj
Other

Surf and Service, week 8

10/10

As I walked into the airport I prayed that this group of people would be completely different from the people at my school. Everyone was kind of reserved at first until I got through security and found a few people from my trip and we instantly clicked. When we got to the hotel I met 19 strangers, now known as my bestfriends. On our four hour bus ride to the base house, I knew these remaining 8 days would be unbelievable and unreal. I met the best people, the people I just want to talk to for hours. We all became so close, even with our leaders, they described us as “one of the best groups to ever come through the surf and service trip”. From walking up the steps to breakfast, lunch and dinner seeing everyones smiling faces to surfing in the 80° water, there was never a dull moment. Some of my favorite parts were having dance parties after dinner, laughing so hard everytime one of us would nose dive on their surfboard, and getting cement splashed all over us after pouring it in the machine. I met my favorite people and could cry right now thinking about my trip. I couldn’t ask for better people, food, and activities. One of the best experiences I have ever had.

How can this program be improved?

I wish it could have been longer, so we could learn how to surf really well.

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Emily
Female
15 years old
Philidelphia, Pennsylvania
Other

My amazing rustic trip

10/10

So, I chose to do the Surf and Service program located in Uvita, Costa Rica. I don't think i would've chose to do any other program. I met 20 amazing people that I bonded with so much that the east coast side of our trip met up at the beach and we spent a weekend together after the trip. The councilors were inspiring, we bonded with them so much and had a lot of dance contest, and we shared a lot of information and memories. I will never forget how we went to a soccer field and i got really down on myself because i couldn't score a goal and ethan ( one of our councilors) kept trying to help me get one and when i finally did we celebrated like there was no tomorrow it was an amazing feeling. I will never forget being in the ocean and someone screaming "PARTY WAVE" and we all start paddling for our lives trying to catch that wave ad when we did it was the most amazing feeling. The community service was amazing and it felt great helping out the community and meeting the local ticos. I suggest this program it was amazing!

How can this program be improved?

It was amazing but i would add a little bit more adrenaline activities!

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Alex
Female
17 years old
United States
Other

Costa Rican Adventurer

10/10

The Costa Rican Adventurer program was my first Rustic Pathways trip ever. I went in horrified being alone and still kinda awkward. But at the airport, before I even got to Costa Rica, I had made so many friends. I was so excited to actually get to the country and be able to make memories with all the amazing people I had meet at the airport. My program was an amazing experience. I still remember in detail the warm beaches, the challenging hikes, the sounds of the waterfalls where we slept, the howler monkeys at night, the water coming down on my and my friend Lily as we repelled 150 feet down a waterfall, the rush when we successfully went down a tough rapid while white water rafting, and the rain drops pelting me in the face as I zip lined across lush rainforest. My trip was amazing, breath taking, and so memorable. I still talk to everyone from my trip including my trip leaders. the friends you make through a Rustic trip are friends you will keep forever. At my school I have gotten so many other people to go on Rustic trips because I know they are for every one. I would 100% recommend any Rustic Pathways trip to anyone.

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Alexia
Female
16 years old
Massachusetts

Heart of the Jungle

10/10

I absolutely loved the "Heart of the Jungle" Rustic Pathways program in Costa Rica! The packed sixteen day trip completely flew by because before I knew it, I had to say goodbye to the luscious land of Costa Rica and all of my new friends. "Heart of the Jungle" was the perfect mix of adventure and service. The thrilling activities, like whitewater rafting and waterfall rappelling were incredible experiences that I'm glad I got to check off my bucket list! I wish I could do them all again. The service component of the trip was life-changing. My group helped start building two houses, a handicap accessible bathroom in a community center, and more. The best part was being able to interact with and work alongside the locals. One night we even had an extremely fun soccer match with them and made up our own chant in Spanish. Going into the program I was a bit worried about my limited knowledge of the Spanish language, which is none because I study French, but I realized that the true "language" of Costa Rica was their "pura vida" lifestyle. Everyone was so kind and welcoming that language did not even matter. Along with doing service and participating in activities, I learned a lot more about the environment. Thanks to Rustic I learned how to become a more conscientious and respectful traveler, especially in the evironmental sense. My leaders were extremely knowledgeable, not to mention also being kind and caring people. My trip this past summer has made such an impact on my life and I've gained not only new friends, but also new, unforgettable memories I'll hold throughout my life.

Holly
Female

Surf & Service in Costa Rica

10/10

I was so nervous going on the trip and I kept having second thoughts. I went by myself. Walking in the airport to find the group, I noticed a lot of people had gone with friends, which made me even more nervous. However, after spending 9 days of surfing, boating, rafting, building, and laughing with 20 friends, who were once strangers, I didn't want to leave. I'm so happy I went on this trip. The Rustic leaders and great. We were all crying at the airport saying goodbye. I still talk to these friends every day. I have never been so happy in my life. If anyone is on the fence about going or is having doubts, you should get out of your comfort zone and go! I would regret if I didn't take advantage of this trip! I encourage everyone who can to do a trip with Rustic- whether or not it's Costa Rica. Your trip will amazing no matter where you go.

How can this program be improved?

It's perfect :)

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Maya
Female
15 years old
USA

Summer Camp Leadership in Costa Rica

10/10

This was my first trip with Rustic Pathways and I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. The leaders were great and they really added on to my great experience. I loved working along with the others on the trip to create a summer camp for the Tico children. It was a great experience, helping me improve my leadership skills and learning more about the culture. Not only did we work to provide a fun camp for the children, but we also got to explore and have fun in Costa Rica, participating in trips such as whitewater rafting, zip lining, and relaxing in hot springs. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.

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Jude
Female
17 years old
Lebanon
Other

Heart of the Jungle: the Adventure of a Lifetime

10/10

Basically, the program was nothing like I imagined it would be. It was the most incredible experience of my life. You start off the program easy, doing really adventurous and fun activities like surfing and waterfall rappelling, and then kayak to an ecolodge that has the most amazing views you will ever see. After that, you spend a few days in a hotel, and this is when the hard community service comes in, where you meet people and get to give back to the world less fortunate than you. After that, you go to another ecolodge, which is exactly what I imagined paradise to be, and you get to see all sorts of animals all while cleaning the beach. The final stop is back in the base house, where you get to white water raft, and then go to San Jose to spend a few hours zip lining. What I just described was the most basic itinerary of the summer I spent with Rustic and there's so much more to it. There are memories that are etched into my mind until the day I die. Like when we swam in the ocean, and it started raining, leaving us all in awe of the most beautiful scene. Or in Saladero, when there was a thunderstorm, so we just made a bonfire using flashlights and cups. There's the rainbow we could see as we were rappelling down the waterfall. There's the nights where we'd be exhausted and we'd all sleep on each other while the counselors tried to ask us how much fun we were having. There's the laughs together, the tears, the stories. The list is endless. There's the singing Moana songs in the middle of a store, and stopping for milkshakes at any chance we got. We made a family. We laughed together, cried together, shared our stories. We all fell in love with each other, and created bonds that we cannot fathom anywhere else in the world. We were all disconnected from the world, with no wifi half the time, and we got to experience the purest version of each other and most importantly, ourselves. Costa Rica changed everything about me, and the trip helped me find who I am, who I want to be, away from the social media world our generation is being sucked into. The people who go to Heart of the Jungle are people who are ready to work and do actual community service - the people who have the biggest hearts on the planet. Rustic Pathways are doing a really great job of bringing the best people in the world together, and making sure they make a family. They make sure we all are tolerant and we love one another, and we find the best version of ourselves. I had the most incredible experience of my life, and it hurts so much to know that my family is spread across the globe. But I am so lucky to have shared the adventures with them, so lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard (Winnie the Pooh).

How can this program be improved?

Make sure you have a lot of bug spray!

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Cailin
Female
15 years old
Ridgewood, New Jersey
Other

Rustic Pathways: Surf and Service

10/10

Going into my first Rustic Pathways trip, I was both nervous and excited, naturally. Those nerves disappeared quickly upon my arrival to the airport. I was greeted by many kind people and had made friends within about five minutes of being at the airport. Rustic truly does attract some of the kindest, most adventurous and engaging people you will ever meet. I would be traveling, along with these new friends of mine, to Uvita Beach in Costa Rica for the Surf and Service program. Uvita Beach is a beautiful, safe place filled with friendly people and lots of culture.
All it took for our group to become instant best friends was the four hour bus ride from San Jose to Uvita Beach. Upon arrival at the base house, the group had gelled unbelievably well and we were more like a family than a group of strangers who had met the night before.
Whether we were surfing, whale watching, doing service, or even just relaxing at the base house, we had the greatest time with each other. Smiles were contagious and there was never a dull moment.
As for the program leaders or counselors - if you are looking to meet some of the most inspiring, adventurous and kind people in the world, then come on a Rustic trip and meet our counselors! Each counselor makes time to engage with each student, whether it be on the walk to a service destination or during a meal. Each time I got the chance to talk to one of my counselors on Surf and Service, I came away from the conversation feeling inspired and enlightened. Getting advice from one of the counselors or even just having a conversation with them was truly a gift like no other. The experiences and opportunities that this trip offers, along with every other Rustic trip, is a gift like no other.
Post-program, this trip has changed my life in the best way possible. My friends and family say that I haven't stopped smiling since I got home, other than the occasional frown or even tear that missing all of the amazing people and the amazing friends I made on my trip creates. I left for the trip with 19 strangers, and came home with 19 best friends from all over the country. My passion for travel has grown immensely since my trip, and I have developed a sense of adventure that will stay with me for the rest of my life. And for that, I have Rustic Pathways to thank.
I recommend this trip to absolutely anyone who is eligible to go on it. It is a unique experience that will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime, friendships that will last a lifetime, and a passion for travel and adventure that will last a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?

The only way this program could be improved would be by making it longer!

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Alex
Female
18 years old
Massachusetts
Other

Nicoya Turtle Expedition

10/10

As a first time traveler, I was very nervous about leaving the country and not knowing anyone on my trip. However, as soon as I met my flight leaders in the airport, a weight was lifted off my shoulders because of how friendly they were. Once in Costa Rica, my group bonded very quickly through service and outings. Most days were spent cleaning up the beaches to aid turtles who were nesting on the beaches. At night, we collected turtle eggs and re-nested them in hatcheries so that they were protected from poachers and predators. All of my leaders were amazing, and I felt like I could talk to them about anything. One of my favorite memories from my trip was hiking up a small mountain near the beaches we were staying. It was very challenging for me as I am not a hiker, but it was so rewarding to see the views from the top, as well as pick mangos. Post-program, I gained a new view into tourism and traveling. We talked a lot about being a traveler versus a tourist during my trip. Travelers go places to learn about the area; they appreciate the culture, eat native foods, and talk to locals about their lives. I encourage everyone to be a traveler, and learn about the place you are going to so you can truly understand it. Costa Rica was a beautiful country, and all of the local Ticos were incredibly friendly. It's a great country for first time travelers, and I would highly recommend this program to anyone with a love of nature and preservation.

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Isabelle
Female
15 years old
USA
Other

Summer Camp Leadership

10/10

This was my first Rustic Pathways trip and I really enjoyed it. I would recommend it to anyone looking to do community service in Costa Rica. All the activities were very fun and the leaders were very nice and helpful. It was interesting to interact with the Tico children because you get to learn about their culture and they were so sweet and thoughtful. I thought it was a nice balance between community service and also having a great time in Costa Rica. I also believed I improved my leadership skills by taking charge of the camp along with the other students.
Tips:
1- Pack light, I didn't end up wearing a lot of the clothes that I brought
2- Bring a camera and a journal

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Jordana
Female
17 years old
United States
Other

PURA VIDA

10/10

Going into this program, I had no clue what to expect. I mean, I knew that there would be service and fun involved, but I did not know to what extent. I quickly learned that the phrase, "work hard, play hard" was important to Rustic as with any service project, we had a fun activity shortly thereafter. The friends that I met here are sure to last a lifetime. Being on the quieter side, it is rather hard for me to open up to people, but knowing that I was in a safe, loving, and judgement free environment, it was pretty easy to make new friends. On the last day, I never saw more teens cry in one area in my life. We were all heartbroken over having to say goodbye to our friends from all around the world, but we were happy that we met each other. Rustic Pathways changed my life in a positive way.

How can this program be improved?

This program does not really need to be improved.

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Ali
Female
17 years old
Eugene, OR
Other

Saving the Turtles

10/10

Going to Costa Rica was my first trip out of the country. I was pretty nervous flying all that way by myself with no one that I had ever met before. However, it turned out to be the greatest experience of my life. I think the fact that I went alone made the trip more worthwhile than if I had gone with a friend. It forced me to go outside my comfort zone and learn new things about myself all on my own. I think I really grew as an individual that week. I not only learned about myself, but about the environment in Costa Rica and more about our global community. The conservation trip taught me the about the damage that humans are constantly doing to mother nature and the destruction we have caused on our beautiful oceans. My favorite part was releasing the baby turtles back into the ocean. It was a physical reminder that what we were doing was good and worth all the hardships. This experience opened my eyes to a whole new world outside of the small suburban bubble I grew up in. This program has given me this unstoppable itch to travel all over the world and help where I can, and stop being a part of the problem that is ignorance toward our global issues.

How can this program be improved?

It was amazing! Nothing!

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Olivia
Female
14 years old
Charlotte, North Carolina
Other

Turtle Conservation - Most Amazing Week of My Life

10/10

I was really really nervous about going on this trip because it was my first time traveling by myself, but I am so so happy that I did end up deciding to go. I can't even explain how much the trip impacted me, and I came home feeling like a new person. It has literally changed my life, and now I feel like I have a second family.

All of the people that went on my trip were so easy to connect with and we created such close relationships with each other so quickly that by the end of it, it felt like I've known each of them my entire life. I feel like all of the free time we had and having to be in such a communal environment contributed to our friendship a lot. One of the best things about this trip by far was not just the friends I made but the group leaders, park rangers, and the cook. All of them were so welcoming and by the end, you feel so close with each of them. And the food was some of the best food I've ever eaten in my life!!

Before leaving for the trip, I didn't know much about the topic of turtle conservation but now after working in the hatchery, doing beach cleanups, and going on night walks (even though we only got to do 2) broadened my knowledge on the subject and got me really into continuing conservation work at home.

In the beginning, I kind of dreaded doing the service work 2 times a day for 2 days in a row, but after doing all that we did, like aerating sand, I feel very accomplished and it gave everyone a sense of pride. One morning, we got woken up early by a group leader and were told to go down to the beach to release baby turtles, it was honestly one of the coolest experiences that I've ever had. Also, on the night walks you could see the Milky Way and tons of stars in the sky and it was beautiful.

We also got to go on surfing, zip lining, rafting, and canoeing excursions. While during zip lining, we got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm and we had to hike all the way down in the pouring rain, which turned out to be a great experience!

The whole trip was absolutely life changing and I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.

Tip - Bring more clothes than they tell you too!!!

How can this program be improved?

The only thing that I would say is to make it longer!!!

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Cassidy
Female
17 years old
Boston, MA
Other

Intro to Community Service in Costa Rica

10/10

I would highly recommend this program to first time travelers or students who have never experienced a Rustic program before. This program immerses you into the Costa Rican culture and puts you in that "pura vida" mindset. I loved being connected to the Ticos and learning so much about their life values from communicating with them. Though I knew very little Spanish, it wasn't nearly as difficult as I first thought it would be to effectively communicate with the Costa Rican residents. This program was a perfect balance of service, education, and ultimate adventure! The Rustic Program leaders are amazing at connecting with you and doing their best to make your experience an experience to remember. I never had a doubt about my well-being or safety on this trip. The people are incredibly nice and so down to earth. They truly care about your experience in Costa Rica and will do anything to make your stay a great one. Lastly, this trip has had an everlasting effect on me and has changed the way I look at life. I have been taught so many crucial life lessons and have made incredible memories.

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Alison
Female
15 years old
United States
Other

Turtle Conservation

10/10

The Turtle Conservation Project was a completely life-changing experience. At first, I thought it would be a bit awkward, but upon arrival at the airport, I was greeted by the staff and other travelers and instantly made new friends. In regards to making new friends, everyone is so welcoming and amiable, and you definitely are given free time to get to know them better. The friendships that were built over the course of the 9 days are strong and definitely life-long. The service work made me feel a different level of appreciation and inspiration for the environment and conservation, alongside with guidance and talks from different park rangers and biologists. Through the 30 hours of service, they definitely breeze through after a while if you make them more fun for yourself and it made my group and I feel a big difference, especially when we released the baby turtles to the ocean. Though the night walks are tiresome, you begin to appreciate them more and more as this would usually be a one person job, and you gain an abundance of knowledge about nests and turtles. Aside from service, we also participated in thrilling activities, such as ziplining, rafting, surfing and canoeing. They overall give you plenty of time to rest in the lodge, which is made out of wood, and even the lodging gives you a better sense of appreciation for nature. The program leaders most definitely made this experience what it was, where them as well as the cook, made it seem like family and home. There are so many moments and experiences that are indescribable, but this trip is definitely worth the money.
Tip: Always stay hydrated and bring a large water bottle, and stay off your phone because it will make the experience so much better! Also, bring extra clothes because you get dirty really easily.

How can this program be improved?

Shifts for the night walks.

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mckenna
Female
15 years old
Colorado Springs, CO

Rustic Pathways - Turtle Conservation Project

10/10

This summer I went on Rustic Pathways Turtle Conservation Project. The experience was great from the moment I met the Rustic staff at the airport. The volunteer work made you feel like you are truly making a difference. In the down time you get really close with the people on your trip. The off days from service were great. We participated in exciting activities with knowledgable guides. The lodging is pretty rustic so if you're not okay with camping than this will not be the program for you. This trip is truly worth the money. I have memories to last a lifetime, but can't wait for my next trip!
Tips: a full size quick dry towel and an extra large water bottle would have come in handy.

How can this program be improved?

* shifts for night walks

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Grace
Female
17 years old
United States
Other

Sarapiquí Costa Rica

10/10

This trip was absolutely amazing.

For starters, airport organization was extremely professional. I instantly felt confident in traveling abroad on my own for the first time. My mom also had peace of mind, for they sent photos to all of the parents once we had all arrived safely!

My leaders were some of the coolest people I have ever met. Our driver was basically another leader, and he was the absolute best. He worked with us every day. Throughout the trip, we got to work alongside members of the Sarapiquí community. We partnered with a family of 6. We not only cemented the floors of their home, but we fixed their roof and leveled the ground. It was definitely hard work. You must be willing to work hard throughout this trip! You do not have to be strong, just remember that will power, motivation, and optimism can go a long way.

Furthermore, I want to share an experience I had on my Rustic trip with you, because I feel like you might benefit from hearing my story.

One day during my trip, I had a flare-up of my stomach condition. To my surprise, one of my leaders drove on his motorcycle to get me coconut water because he says it makes everyone feel better. It made me feel better too! It was so kind. All of my leaders came in to check on me, and honestly, they couldn't have been nicer.

I sat out for service that day. While I was sitting on a nearby bench, the two sisters of the family we were working with began to play bingo with me. I taught them how to play Go-Fish, for they had never seen playing cards before. I gave them the cards to keep, and they were SO excited! Even though I was feeling a bit down, all of the people around me lifted my spirits and truly made my day.

If you have any sort of medical condition you are nervous about, or if you have food sensitivities, you WILL BE FINE with Rustic. The food was great and extremely easy and accomadating, the people were caring, and my leaders were extremely responsible.

I would recommend this trip to any first-time traveler looking for a life-changing trip that is not only service work, but also includes an element of fun. We played lots of soccer, did a ton of nighttime activities like tree-frog hunting, and we went white water rafting, ziplining, and to a waterfall. We also went to a chocolate plantation which was the yummiest thing ever. They even took us for pizza lunch and icecream one day in the village! On the last night, we showed the family how to make smores!

My experience with Rusic was life changing. Sarapiquí Costa Rica is AN AMAZING TRIP. I would highly, highly recommend.

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Sofia
Female
Dallas, Texas

Surf and Service, Costa Rica, Rustic Pathways

10/10

Amazing trip! If you are new to travel abroad or have been traveling for years this trip is perfect for everyone! A nine day trip to Costa Rica with up to nineteen other surfers, feels like five minuets while you're having the time of your life. If you're one to get homesick, you won't have time to be, It's constant go go go, and having tons of fun! I learned some new Spanish as well as construction techniques when working in the village, Uvita. If you've never surfed before the awesome guides will teach you and give you tips throughout the week, and if you think you're a pro... I promise you'll learn new tricks and see some incredible waves when you're there. You get to see wild life from sloths to monkeys to iguanas and ALL KINDs of bugs. Hands down the most amazing trip I've ever been on! You make friends with people from all over the country who are friendly and share the same interests as you! They'll become your friends for life, I know mine are, we've already planned our first reunion for later this year! The only tears that will be shed on this trip are at the airport on your last morning together! 100% recommend this trip for anyone who wants an exhilarating, unforgettable trip. Pura Vida!

How can this program be improved?

The only way this program could get better, is if it was a two week program!

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Ava
Female
16 years old
Port Washington, NY

Perfect for first time travelers!

9/10

The Heart of the Jungle trip in Costa Rica was the first trip I had ever been on alone. I definitely think I chose the perfect trip! It was perfect for first time travelers because the sleeping conditions were never overly "rustic" and the meals were never too adventurous in any way. The counsellors made sure that I felt safe at every given moment of the trip and I felt that I could ask them anything. If you are an experienced traveller I still would recommend this trip because there were so many fun and adrenaline filled activities with an abundance of nature involved that I never was bored.

How can this program be improved?

Often we would have an activity in the morning and we would have the rest of the day free. I wish they had planned more optional, leisurely activities during some of the downtime.

Domenica
Female
17 years old
Guayaquil, Ecuador

Life Changing Summer Camp Leadership

10/10

This past year was really difficult for me and I ended up "losing myself." I took the summer to rediscover and reinvent myself. My Rustic trip genuinely helped me become a person I am very happy and proud to be. I found peace with myself and the world around me. My life feels completely enriched. What affected me the most was probably our group (including the leaders). The students in my program and the students in the camp made me learn to have patience, be grateful, and never judge someone without knowing their story. The leaders helped put my future into perspective and made me excited to dream big. I loved every minute of my experience on the trip.

How can this program be improved?

I wish we interacted more with students our age from the community.

Ali
Female
18 years old
Seattle, Washington

Great Leaders and an Even Greater Program

10/10

I went on the Rustic Pathways Summer Camp Leadership in Costa Rica, and it impacted me in more ways than one. Meeting the Tico kids allowed me to make connections despite the language barrier (I barely spoke any Spanish) and allowed me to improve my Spanish skills. The leaders treated us as their equals and were always open to talk with you about anything or to take suggestions or critiques. Everyone on the program made me feel like I was part of their family. I would recommend this experience to everyone.

How can this program be improved?

Would've been nice if we were given more freedom when shopping in town.

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Lucie
Female
17 years old
NYC
Other

Costa Rica

10/10

My trip to Costa Rica was SO FUN. The trip was extremely exciting and interesting. My favorite part was seeing a different part of the Americas (in Costa.) The food was delicious, I loved the chicken. My trip was so adventurous and the views were breathtaking, I loved the waterfalls. Also, the people in Costa Rica were welcoming and happy. To anybody that wants a quality trip... Pick Rustic Pathways Costa Rica.

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Alexandra
Female
18 years old
Portland, Oregon
Other

Heart of the Jungle

10/10

I fell in love with Costa Rica! It was nonstop adventure and some of the best fun I have ever had. I tried new food, activities and met new people that I will never forget. Costa Rica has a unique jungle that was breathtaking. Both the local people and the other students on my trip were amazing and extremely friendly. By the end I considered my program a family and we were heartbroken to leave each other. I spent two weeks surfing, hiking, swimming in waterfalls, laughing, and falling in love with an entire culture. Rustic Pathways' Heart of the Jungle program is a perfect balance of meaningful service and awesome adventure! I highly recommend this program.

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Cristina
Female
18 years old
Madrid, Spain
Other

Intro to Community Service in Costa Rica

8/10

If you're looking for an experienced-packed volunteering adventure and you're new to the whole volunteering scene, this program is a good pick. That's exactly what I was looking for when I chose it and I wasn't disappointed.
While going to at least 5 different schools in the area and doing a lot of volunteer work, you also get the chance to do a ton of once in a lifetime things, like swimming in hot springs, ziplining, or seeing some of the local animals- if you're lucky you'll see a sloth.
The volunteer work is, with a few exceptions, pretty physically tiring; it entails a lot of shovel work, and due to the unpredictable rains during the summer, usually while drenched. So, definitely not for people who can't get their hands dirty now and then. You also get to interact with a lot of kids, but again, they're Costa Rican, so brush up on your Spanish so you can talk to them a little.
Since the weather is very humid, my number 1 suggestion is TAKE MORE THAN ONE TOWEL! Depending on the number of girls and boys, you're in a room with 6 or 8 people to a bathroom so showering all the time isn't an option, although you might feel like it after the dirt, sweat and rain. It doesn't make much of a difference though, because nothing dries properly. If you have long or thick hair, consider always wearing it in a braid or tied up, because washing it and waiting for it to dry will take eons.
The food is good, depending on the program; I was on the Intro to Community Service program in July 2015, and our chef was amazing, but I was told by participants in other programs that the food wasn't as great. All in all, great or not, it's Costa Rica, so prepare yourself for lots of black beans with most meals.
I'm from Spain so I knew when I went on the program that I would be a minority, since Rustic is an American based program that caters to American teens. There are some nationalities, as there was a Turkish kid and a French kid on our program too, but you are mostly surrounded by American teens- which can be a good thing and a bad thing. If you're not that socially outgoing, it could be somewhat negative, because you've only got 9 days to open up and make friends with these people.
The Rustic staff are great. I really enjoyed talking to them and finding out about them. You usually have some South Americans or Ticos (Costa Ricans) on your trip, which make for a great cultural exchange. Again, brush up on your Spanish as for some, their mother tongue is Spanish.
Take lots of pictures, but don't go nuts about it. One of my BIGGEST issues with this program was that some of the USA teens could not put down their phones, despite the Rustic no phone policies. They were either constantly snapping pictures or checking social media. I understand taking some pictures of this once in a lifetime experience, but remember that that's exactly what this is, a unique experience, so why spend it all on your phone?
Overall, I would suggest the program for starters and, as the program name points out, as an introduction to service.

How can this program be improved?

-Stricter cell phone policy.
-More showers per group (although it was pretty good, keeping in mind you're literally in the middle of the jungle).

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Delaney
Female
16 years old
Cleveland, Ohio
Other

Costa Rican Adventurer

10/10

I absolutely loved my trip. The travel bug bit me early and this trip was the first trip (hopefully of many) that I started knowing no one. I was so excited to share some wonderful memories with equally wonderful people. The one thing I think I'm going to remember the most is the long bus rides. I remember looking around to bus and seeing great people and looking outside the bus to even better scenery. I will also never forget the stars in Costa Rica. On the last night with the trip, my group and I were all outside, in awe of the stars above us. There was next to no light pollution, and the sky was beyond beautiful. I will never forget my Rustic Pathways trip, and I hope to make even more memories all over the world.

How can this program be improved?

I would have loved to seen more of the ticos and their culture. Although the trip was about adventure with no service aspect, it would have been really cool to at least meet some people or experience the culture a little more.

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María
Female
19 years old
Monterrey, Mexico
Other

BriBri Village-Surf and Service

9/10

In Surf and Service you will learn about environmental awareness and witness how only 30 min of beach clean up CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE. Personally, I had never even touched a surf board before, yet I managed to learn how to surf very quickly. By the second day, you couldn't even distinguish those that had never surfed before with those that had. (Apart from some very experienced that had the opportunity of going deeper into the ocean to catch greater waves.) The base house is very comfortable, but chose your bed wisely. Consider that you'll either have the bed with the view but no air circulation, or the bed with not such a great view but next to a fan.
BriBri village is definitely a rustic program. Here there was always a great view and great air circulation because our beds or 'cushioned tents' were open aired. You will be staying in the middle of the rainforest only meters away from Panama. You will meet a wonderful man named Don Guillermo, who will tell you everything you need to know about his community and will be constantly at your service. He will teach you about construction, how to make chocolate, and the use of a variety of plants. (Tip: do not step on the 'cheesefuit', a fruit that looks like a potato, but smells like cheese. If you do step on it you will be constantly smelling it.)

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Megan
Female
18 years old
Rocklin, California
Other

Trip of a lifetime

10/10

My trip to Costa Rica was the most amazing experience, and it has forever changed me. I went on the Summer Camp Leadership program with Rustic Pathways. My program was being a summer camp councilor for underprivileged Costa Rican children. Throughout the whole trip as well as before AND after, the Rustic Pathways foundation/staff was so supportive and helpful. My program leaders were some of the nicest and most amazing people I've ever met, and I still keep in contact with them; they make sure every aspect of your trip is safe and exciting, and they do everything they can to be helpful. One example is when one of my leaders knew that I was missing a lot of cross country summer practice, so she invited me to run with her in the mornings before the camp started. It was so nice for a group of us to come together early in the morning a bond over a sport we all liked. There were definitely hard parts about the trip and times I doubted why I decided to go, but as I settled in, everything became natural and it was so clear that my trip was special. My experience traveling alone has made me so much more confident and has only reassured me that I know I want to do more traveling and more volunteering. Costa Rica as a country and culture is so beautiful and I think it was the perfect place for my first volunteering abroad experience. I would recommend this trip of a lifetime, to anyone.

How can this program be improved?

If I had to change one thing about my trip, it would be the very first day, or the "travel day". After multiple flights to get to my gateway city to meet up with the flight group, we spent about 6 hours in the Houston airport between flights and it was super long and stressful and I felt pretty alone. That night after all the flights when we were finally in Costa Rica I laid in bed and felt so alone and homesick because of how stressful the day had been.

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Megan
Female
19 years old
Hamilton, Ma
College of the Holy Cross

Costa Rica Intro to Service Program

9/10

The program was a very good experience for first time travelers in high school. It has amazing service opportunities and allows you to work with a big group of students. I remember building a sidewalk in the pouring rain and not even being bothered by it because of the impact we were having on the community. I would suggest this program to anyone who is looking to travel alone for the first time and is very interested in service learning.

How can this program be improved?

The only thing I would have changed is the amount of time spent at the schools in the community because that was everyone's favorite part I felt and we spent little time there!

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Keara
Female
19 years old
Ontario, Canada

Heart of the Jungle

10/10

I went on the program Heart of the Jungle in Costa Rica with the hopes of going on an adrenaline filled adventure. It was everything I had hoped for and more. Heart of the Jungle perfectly balances adventure, service, and down time. The white water rafting, zip lining, and rappelling are perfect for someone looking for a thrill. Although I am not very good with insects, staying in the tents was an amazing experience. I fell asleep to the sound of the jungle at night. There was also a base camp we stayed in for a few nights that was not very rustic. It was more like an apartment. We stayed in beautiful destinations that I had serious trouble leaving. The volunteering was a rewarding experience, since we helped build a house for a family in poor living conditions. The itinerary was not accurate on the volunteering jobs we would have because every program gets assigned jobs based on what is needed in the community at that time. I would not go into the program having any expectations on volunteering. I have to say that I loved the leaders on my program! We even called one of our leaders Mom because she was like a mom to us. Overall, it was an experience of a lifetime. I have met so many amazing people and have great memories. I would definitely recommend this program.

How can this program be improved?

Give a more accurate idea of what the volunteering duties might be.

About The Provider

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Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on purposeful community service projects, and expand

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