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

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 72 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 16 - 30 of 72
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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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Lucie
10/10

Costa Rica

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Alexandra
10/10

Heart of the Jungle

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Cristina
8/10

Intro to Community Service in Costa Rica

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).
Yes, I recommend
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Delaney
10/10

Costa Rican Adventurer

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.
Yes, I recommend
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María
9/10

BriBri Village-Surf and Service

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.)

Yes, I recommend
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Megan
10/10

Trip of a lifetime

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.
Yes, I recommend
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Megan
9/10

Costa Rica Intro to Service Program

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!
Yes, I recommend
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Keara
10/10

Heart of the Jungle

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.
Yes, I recommend

About Rustic Pathways

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...