Summer High School Programs in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways

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About

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

Questions & Answers

Hi there Cesca, I would recommend checking out our blog channel all about prepping for your program. It won't be specific to Summer Camp Leadership, but might help. (Link below.) I would also check out our student lead Facebook group – Rustic Pathways Travelers 2018. Hopefully that helps, but please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any additional questions....
Basically, Rustic Pathways has a program called group travel, and you can choose which country you want to go. For the Costa Rica group travel programs, the prices range between $1945 and $2355.

Reviews

97%
based on 80 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 16 - 30 of 80
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Jude
10/10

Heart of the Jungle: the Adventure of a Lifetime

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!
Yes, I recommend
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Cailin
10/10

Rustic Pathways: Surf and Service

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!
Yes, I recommend
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Alex
10/10

Nicoya Turtle Expedition

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Isabelle
10/10

Summer Camp Leadership

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

Yes, I recommend
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Jordana
10/10

PURA VIDA

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Ali
10/10

Saving the Turtles

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!
Yes, I recommend
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Olivia
10/10

Turtle Conservation - Most Amazing Week of My Life

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!!!
Yes, I recommend
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Cassidy
10/10

Intro to Community Service in Costa Rica

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Alison
10/10

Turtle Conservation

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.
Yes, I recommend
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mckenna
10/10

Rustic Pathways - Turtle Conservation Project

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
Yes, I recommend
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Grace
10/10

Sarapiquí Costa Rica

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Sofia
10/10

Surf and Service, Costa Rica, Rustic Pathways

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!
Yes, I recommend
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Ava
9/10

Perfect for first time travelers!

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.
Yes, I recommend
Domenica
10/10

Life Changing Summer Camp Leadership

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.
Yes, I recommend
Ali
10/10

Great Leaders and an Even Greater Program

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.
Yes, I recommend

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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...