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 31 - 45 of 72
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Ava
10/10

BriBri Village Service Experience

This summer I had the opportunity to go on a Rustic Pathways trip to Costa Rica. I chose to go on the BriBri Village trip as I felt that it would be both rewarding and full of adventure. I am 15 years old and I truly believe this trip exceeded my expectations. If you are unsure of whether or not to go on this trip, I would suggest to go for it. I can guarantee that you will not have another experience as unique as this one.

It is an immersive program and is truly "rustic." The village of Yorkin, where the BriBri people are found, was serene and secluded yet full of fun things to do. We slept in a 3 story, wooden, open-air house overlooking the jungle. Falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of nature was truly incredible. Keep in mind that there are LOTS of mosquitoes in this part of Costa Rica and that you will be VERY muddy for the majority of the trip. My only advice for people looking to go on this trip would be to make sure you bring rain boots and to bring lots of bug spray. Also, in terms of the social aspect of this trip, be sure to keep your mind open and you will be sure to make friendships that will last a lifetime.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you will rarely have internet access during this trip. Coming from someone who is pretty attached to social media, I'll say this: you will be absolutely fine. In fact, it was refreshing to step back and take a break from the digital world.

In conclusion, this trip was an experience I will never forget. The people I met, food I consumed, and things I did all created an amazing trip. I'm looking forward to partaking in another Rustic trip next year! Trust me, it's worth every penny!!!

How can this program be improved?
The length of the trip- I wish it could've been longer!!!
Yes, I recommend
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Julia
10/10

Young Explorer.

The most adventurous future of my trip was staying in different places, most memorable was stay at the Maleku village where I got to experience their indigenous culture, interact with members of the tribe. We got so friendly that their dog snuck into our bus as we were leaving, he was discovered and put outside. Sadly... he was jogging behind the bus for sometimes...as if he did not want to part with newly made friends.
Worth mentioning daily trips to different activities such as zip-lining, surfing, white water rafting. Food was delicious all along and I made lots of friends.

How can this program be improved?
It would be amazing if our hotel was directly on the beach. Although the short drive was barely noticeble .
Yes, I recommend
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Krista
10/10

Rustic Pathways Sarapiqui

If you are deciding between Rustic or any other teenage travel program, choose Rustic. Although I've never traveled with any other programs, I've heard stories about other programs that were not so impressive. Rustic has to be the most organized and well thought out travel program out there. From people greeting you at your home airport, to flight leaders, to someone greeting you when you land at your destination, Rustic Pathways values safety above all. Although it is total chaos trying to move over 100 other rustic kids through airports, customs, and baggage claim, Rustic really makes every effort to make sure no one gets left behind and everything is in order. Which is pretty impressive. So after you choose Rustic, you start looking at prices and program lengths. As a first time traveler, I knew I wanted a community service and adventure component, without spending a month in a foreign country. For what you are getting with rustic, paying $3,000ish dollars sounds like a lot, but for what you are getting, its an amazing deal. If you want to save money, book your trip early and pay in full (I think it's like a 15% discount). For me, I ended up choosing Sarapiqui, which ended up being one of the best choices of my life. I traveled alone (which I recommend if you really want to have a new exciting experience) and I met some of the best friends I will ever meet. Our program leaders all were amazing and we made such strong bonds with them as well. What is really cool about Rustic is that they have connections with local people and tribes all over the world, so one of our team leaders was actually a local that got us the coolest "ins" such as taking us to a hidden waterfall, arranging soccer matches with the locals, and showing us to the best shoppes in town. You won't follow the iternary necessarily because Costa Rica weather will be unpredictable, but don't worry! Your team leaders do their best to make sure you are having a blast, and if you want to do something, just let them know and they will do everything to make sure its arranged. As for lodging for this trip, you stay in "eco-tents" If you want to learn more, you can just go on their website and look at the tents and their bathrooms. For being immersed in the rainforest, it is the perfect balance of luxury and rustic (which is what your trip should be based around). This will seriously be the best week of your life if you willingly let go and enjoy being in such an amazing country. I found that everyone on our trip was being super real with each other, which only made our bonds stronger. Don't be afraid of getting wet, making new friends, or speaking spanish, because I promise that if you step out of your comfort zone you will have some great benefits! If you have any questions about Rustic or specifically about Sarapiqui, please email me at [email protected] because I would love to tell future Rustics about my trip or help them find a trip to suit them!

How can this program be improved?
If there could be one improvement, it would be doing more activities as promised. Although there was some changes to our schedule because of weather, I think a lot of people in our group were looking forward to repelling and horse back riding, which we didn't get the opportunity to do.
Yes, I recommend
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Saloma
10/10

Loved the Service

There are many things that made my jaw drop and my heart race during the Sarapiqui program, especially the white water rafting and the ziplining, but I honestly think the best part of it was the service work we did. At least it was for me.
I can honestly say it was very humbling experience. Especially when we had to mix cement ourself, mainly because at home we take that for granted. To do it yourself is back breaking work. It takes maybe 30-45 mins to make a batch, so don't even get me started on if they need more batches after you've made about 3.
It was also quite neat that we got to work with some of the locals on the project. I wish I understood them more, but that added to the amazing experience. The language barrier was tough at first, but soon you seem to comprehend everything they're trying to tell you, even if you only know obvious phrases and saying.
The trip was an eye opening experience, it makes you realize how fortunate you are. I would strongly recommend Sarapiqui to anyone that wants to have a perfect balance of adventure and service. Pura Vida everyone!

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, it would be doing more group activities so we feel like a family at the end of the trip.
Yes, I recommend
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Maya
9/10

Sarapiqui: A Service Adventure

I extremely enjoyed my time in Costa Rica on this trip. I loved the service that we did and the locals that we worked with. It was especially empowering when you got to see a project from start to finish. Adventure activites like zip lining and rafting were also a blast. I will say that it is the rainy season, so be prepared to get wet and maybe muddy. I suggest bringing closed toe shoes that aren't brand new, maybe rain boots? And be prepared to eat lots of rice and beans at every meal. I loved every experience I encountered on this trip because it was the perfect balance between adventure and service, I highly recommend it for anyone.

How can this program be improved?
I would probably change the packing lost to include more clothing because you get wet and dirty a lot.
Yes, I recommend
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Mindi
10/10

Rustic Pathways Costa Rica

My daughter just returned from her RP Costa Rica Summer Camp trip for two weeks. I can say without a doubt this company took excellent care of my child. We were supported effortlessly prior to the trip and updated during the trip. Her travel adviser was always available to me. All of the accommodations were nice and clean and safe. Airport travel was well coordinated. All of the activities were well planned and very fun!!! She loved them!!! Plenty of food, and time for friend bonding. The time with the children in the summer camp was life changing. I can certainly recommend this organization.

Yes, I recommend
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Maddie
10/10

Heart of the Jungle

I decided early in my sophomore year that I would spend a part of my summer in a different country helping people I didn't know. I chose to go to Costa Rica on the Heart of the Jungle trip, alone. The idea was daunting and I spent the rest of the year mildly freaking out about the decision I had made. When I got to Costa Rica I instantly made three friends who I know will be in my life for a long time. The trip was good for me because it mixed service, which I was pretty excited about, and adventure, which I was very excited for. My leaders were nice, but one stood out above all. If you ever get to go on a trip with Katherine, you'll know instantaneously that she's the kind of person you want to be around. She's super upbeat and funny and I was lucky to have spent two weeks with her leading me through this beautiful country. If you're considering this program, I would highly recommend it and if you choose it, I'm positive you'll have an amazing time!

How can this program be improved?
One of my leaders (Carlos) was never very fun to be around and acted like he was superior to us and the rest of the leaders at the time. It made my trip a little less fun than it could have been, but I was able to block him out and make the most of my time there!
Yes, I recommend
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Vicki
10/10

Outlook-Changing BriBri Experience

My daughter just returned from the Costa Rica/BriBri Village trip. She went alone and was initially a bit nervous. The friends she made, however, likely will be hers for life and the village experience showed her how others in the world live -- challenges and opportunities, joys and hardships, and being human through it all. It was amazing for her to travel so far to find that people are people ... you just have to open your mind and let yourself experience their world. And, she participated in some rather difficult work while there (building a ramp into a school for disabled children), learning that hard work has its rewards and knowing that she made a small difference in someone's life through her couple of days of giving. Thank you RP and staff!

How can this program be improved?
Require all kids to disconnect electronically (easier said than done!). My daughter did, and was very happy about that. She said others didn't. Wonder if they got as much out of the program.
Yes, I recommend
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Abby
10/10

Amazing Bri-Bri Village Experience

The Bri-Bri Village Experience was an incredible trip that I will never forget. We worked in an indigenous community with no electricity or hot water that gave me a new perspective on the world. I cannot wait to do another trip just like this.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing I would change the packing list. A few of us were unprepared and I did not know we would need tall rubber boots for the jungle so I did not bring long socks. Otherwise this program was amazing.
Yes, I recommend
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Stewart
1/10

Restrictive travel

My daughter did this program in 2014. Only after she had been in costa rica for 2 weeks did we discover the kids are NEVER allowed out of the sight of program staff. So something as simple as 2 kids going somewhere for a soda is forbidden. This means the only interaction with the locals happens if there is an activity planned that involves locals. Otherwise the group just spends time with itself. Very insulated. A bunch of privileged American kids hanging out just with each other in one of the top rated countries in the world for happiness and quality of life. No spontaneous interactions are allowed.

Lots of exciting activities, but they might as well just go to an amusement park in the US, in my opinion.

Some parents want their kids under 24/7 complete supervision and restriction. My take is why would they want to send the kid to Costa Rica. The biggest value of international travel is the opportunity to learn how other people live and that the "Reality" in the US is not what most of the world enjoys. Ziplines are great but you don't need to spend $6k, or travel to a foreign country. In my opinion, this program completely misses the value of being in Costa Rica. I called it a jail, which really offended them. I'm sure e staff works hard, but what is the point of a program like this? In my opinion your kid will not experience life growth in this program. They will get to ride a zipline though.

Company literature was not clear on this level of supervision, or in my view, restriction. They told me that because of my experience they were changing company literature. I have not checked.

--

This is part 2 of a review for the rustic pathways costa rica program.

My daughter was sent home early because she broke the rules. She snuck away with another student (a boy) during a soccer game to get a soda. Staff found them and gave her a warning. Then that's night she snuck out again. She's a sneak. So they sent her home. I did not have any problem with their decision and agreed with their action. I do wish they had communicate with me earlier than they did because they basically called to say shed be home the next day, and we were traveling. They had known about the issue for at least 2 days and were trying to be thorough. So I understand. But I would have liked to have been included in the conversation earlier.

All of this would have gone differently if there was some amount of independent time in the itinerary. Because there was no unsupervised time, she snuck away. It would not have happened if the program was what we thought going in because our daughter would have been able to explore. We honestly thought they would get free time.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Chris, the CEO. He's a good guy and, like me, he traveled extensively and independently as an teen and adult. I told him he's got the best job in the world. I also challenged him as to why our kids experience should be so much more limited than our experiences as travelers when we were young adults. The answer, unfortunately is that we live in an uncertain world and most parents want a completely supervised itinerary. I suppose this makes sense but I have to wonder if that's how most parents really feel.

In any case Chris agreed with me that the program description and info sent to parents did not clearly describe the level of supervision. So it was the CEO who agreed that the Rustic Pathways program description needed to be revised to reflect the actual experience.

So if you want a tightly run and supervised experience for your kid, with absolutely no opportunity for independent exploration, then this is a good choice, in fact a great choice. If you think your kid would have a more meaningful experience being allowed to explore, even with a buddy model, this is not a good program for your family, and the Chris the CEO agreed with that exact statement.

They did tell me that a foreign traveler was raped in costa rica in 2013, although nowhere near where rustic pathways goes. It was a solo traveler over 18 who was in a small town by herself. Of course, rustic pathways uses a few carefully selected towns that are quite safe, and by program staff admission, these towns have no history of problems for foreigners. As one of the safest countries to travel to, I have to wonder how the risk compares with letting your daughter go to the shopping mall at home.

However as a program for teens, they have only liability so they have to play ultra ultra safe. For our family, foreign travel is not about staying in a protective bubble. It's about seeing how far you can challenge yourself. I'm sure there are many families like that. For all of us, this may not be the best choice for our precious summer experiences.

No, I don't recommend
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Spence
10/10

turtle experience

the nicoyan peninsula tour of turtle conservation was amazing. i had been to the caribbean side of costa rica before, but the nicoyan peninsula was very different. i felt much more connected to the ecosystem and to the people. the turtle work was awesome as well. lots of late nights, but the beaches and weather and people all made it worth the lack of sleep.

Yes, I recommend
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Holly
10/10

Home is not a place, it is a feeling

An excerpt from my travel journal:
It has been exactly 4 months since I have been with my favorite people in the world and in the best country, Costa Rica. Not a single day goes by where I don't think about my incredible journey and the lessons I learned on it. It is heart breaking that my memories are slowly fading with everyday that passes. I will always have my journal and photos to remind me that home is not a place, but a feeling. This is exactly how I felt on my trip in Costa Rica and I hope you are lucky enough to feel that way too.

I did Rustic's Surf and Service trip. It was the best experience of my life. The counselors were amazing, I they feel more like a friend than a superior but are still 1000% responsible. The food was amazing and had options for everyone. I'm going to be honest, I did not get along with everyone on my program, but one of the great things is that does not matter at all. It is your choice who you surround yourself with. The activities we did were awesome. I did not have any surfing experience and I was fine, so was everyone else who didn't. The service was actually one of my favorite parts. We did beach clean ups, built houses in a small community, built recycled trash cans and painted signs. We did 14 hours all together it was really manageable, I actually wanted to do more! It was also really fun practicing my spanish, but don't worry if you don't know spanish, you don't need to know any because they counselors are all fluent. Also, if you're parents are concerned about safety, there was a body guard on my trip at the beach and at night. I felt safe the entire duration of my trip. My only complain about the program is no one tells you how much is sucks to leave your friends :( No matter what trip you chose and with whatever travel company make the most out of your trip, it truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

How can this program be improved?
On my program a lot of kids came with friends. For the most part this was totally fine, but in the beginning it felt a bit cliquey. The people who came with friends were totally open to making new friends.

The advertised travel duration for this trip is 9 days. Keep in mind the first and last day are solely dedicated to the airport. The 2nd and 8th day you have a 4 hour car ride. So you really only have about a week for activities which was fine for me.

Airfare is really pricey through Rustic. Luckily for Costa Rica and Dominican you can book your own airfare. BOOK YOUR OWN! You will save hundreds even thousands of dollars!
Yes, I recommend
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Carey
9/10

Living the Unforgettable

I traveled with Rustic to Costa Rica this past summer in program Bribri. This was a truly life-changing experience. I was humbled in seeing how these impoverished yet content people lived. The Bribri people were nothing but pleasant and embraced us as their own. There were nine other girls on my trip and we all grew to be a close-knit group of friends. Our counselors were beyond excellent with their humor and personalities all the while keeping safety and unanimous happiness a number one priority. Our service work required physical strength and was difficult but quite rewarding. We were constantly dirty, sweaty, and hot but personally that didn't affect me all that much (we were in the jungle after all). If Rustic didn't offer so many other amazing travel opportunities, I would return to Costa Rica with them in a heartbeat.
The only problem that stands out was the fact that the website did not include rain/mud boots on the packing list and those are essentials. Also, being plenty of garbage bags because your luggage will get wet and your clothes will get dirty! This program is not for those who dislike dirt and mud but that almost becomes part of the fun.
Overall, this was a wonderful first Rustic experience and I look forward to Thailand this summer!!

How can this program be improved?
Just improve the packing list
Yes, I recommend
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ccostarica
10/10

Amazing Experience

I went to Costa Rica with Rustic for two weeks, Intro to Community and Maleku. It was by far the best experience I have ever had. All the people and counselors were so nice, and the work we did was amazing. There are some harder, more physical trips than others, but in the end it all works out. I didn't want to leave Costa Rica, the whole experience was a eyeopener and really changed my views on the world. I would go back any time, any day if I could. Overall, Rustic Pathways Costa Rica trips are the most amazing thing I have experienced in my life.

How can this program be improved?
It was pretty well structured. If they focused more on one service idea on the Intro to Community we would of had a stronger connection with the people.
Yes, I recommend
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Dylan
10/10

Life changig

I participated in the Soccer and Service program in La Paz, Costa Rica. Going in, I was nervous because I knew nobody in the program and I'd never done anything like this. It took no longer than ten minutes at the airport to meet friends and talk to people. As far as the actual program itself, it was just as inclusive. Our activities included practices for about 2 1/2 hours most mornings at a beautiful local field surrounded by rolling hills and coffee farms. We'd then either work on our community service projects (either improving a school or helping create a medical clinic) or do some other activity like hiking. Each student stayed with a family of the La Paz village. We were treated to huge, delicious meals three times a day that I miss here in the US. The families were amazing and made sure to help each student feel welcome and comfortable on the trip. There were the exciting things like zip-lining that got the heart rate up but everything was just as fun when you were surrounded by new friends and a breathtakingly beautiful country. The amazing program guides I had made the trip so much fun and inclusive for every member. This was truly one of the best weeks of my life. 100% worth the money which is why i'm returning to try the Surf and Service program next year in Costa Rica.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I can think to change was the length. If I could've stayed longer I would've.
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...