Summer High School Programs in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways

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About

Since opening Costa Rica operations in 2003, Rustic has expanded to include the most spectacular regions of this Central American paradise. From the Pacific to the Caribbean, from rainforests to rivers, from service to adventure, our programs here encompass the breadth of what Costa Rica has to offer. Our team of talented local staff members challenge veteran travelers with new experiences and introduce more novice adventurers to the joys of travel.

With our large staff of local Ticos, you’ll quickly feel at home in Costa Rica and easily slip into the lifestyle of pura vida, a phrase meaning “pure life.” Embrace the idea of living life to the fullest as you learn to relax, appreciate nature, and experience everything Costa Rica has to offer.

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 94 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 61 - 75 of 94
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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 this program
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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.

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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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Madeline
10/10

Eye Opener

During my two week trip to Costa Rica I made so many friends that I'll have for a really long time. I'm from a really small town and this trip gave me an opportunity to see people, animals, and culture that I otherwise would not have been able to see. Rustic pathways takes you to places and to do things that tourists don't normally do. A moment that really stuck out to me was one day we were eating lunch at a restaurant in La Fortuna and I happened to be seated at the end of the table. The restaurant was really open and had big doors to the street in the front. Just sitting there watching people go by in their daily lives in a culture that is so different from my own was so amazing. It made me realize that people are so different and it's actually a really good thing. I feel like sometimes I forget that and this trip helped me open my eyes to what is out there and all the things there are to do and people to become friends with.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change one thing about this program I would have more opportunities to work with the animals there.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Riley
10/10

Surf and service trip in Costa Rica

I don't even know where to begin! My trip to Costa Rica this past summer was by far the best trip I've ever been on, it was truly eye opening. We got to surf almost everyday and we got to do community service. I'm not just saying this to sound good, but the community service was one of my favorite parts. We went to a village in the town of Uvita and assisted families in poverty. We helped them by building/ repairing their homes. We painted rooms for them and we even built a filtration system for one of the houses. The people were so thankful for the work we did and it felt so good to be able to help. Before this trip like a normal teenager I definitely took things for granted, wether it was having my own bed to sleep in, food on the table every night or shoes to wear on my feet it was the little things I didn't realize I was lucky to have until I went on this trip. Another thing I really enjoyed was meeting new people. At first I was kinda nervous I was going to get there and have no friends but I was complelty wrong, as soon as a passed through security at the airport and checked in at my gate I had already made friends and when we got to the base house it was like we were a family after only hours of knowing each other. I could go on and on about how great my trip was but you would end up reading a novel so I'm going to stop here.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I would Change about the actual program was the length, I really wish it was longer! And an improvement as a company would be to not use United airlines! They lost my luggage, delayed every flight, and even cancelled one, Rustic got us on the first plane avilable so it wasn't their fault it was the actual airline companies fault!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Kathryn
10/10

Best trip ever

On my trip to costa rica i had the time of my life. I saw things I've never seen before and met a ton of new friends i still keep in touch with from all across the country. I learned about the culture in Costa Rica and how to help a community thrive. Overall it was a wonderful trip through Rustic Pathways.

How can this program be improved?
The way the program could be improved is by extending the trip to sixteen days it was a little short. I really would have loved to stay longer.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alessia
10/10

A Fun and Learning Experience

I did two programs in Costa Rica. The first one was Surf & Service, which I chose because I had always wanted to learn how to surf and I wanted to help out the community. I had a lot of fun at this program, made new friends and created unforgettable memories. the second program I did was the Maleku Experience program. This program was truly very rustic but fun. I learned new things about the Maleku Tribe's culture and traditions. I recommend both of these programs to anyone who is interested in surfing or learning about new cultures.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jamie
10/10

Turtle Conservation

The goal of this trip was to help save sea turtles. We helped in the hatchery carrying bags of sand and leveling out the sand. We also went on LATE/LONG night walks. We stayed in a beach hut. it was very humble no a/c but a nice chef. We went ziplining and horse back riding as well as white water rafting and surfing. I wish we did more optional activities. There was alot of free time which was spent napping because we didnt sleep at night because of the night walks. Over all it was an awesome experience i would definitly do again in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?
Less free time. more group activities/bonding activites
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jenny
9/10

#sorustic

I felt very involved during the community service hours. I could feel myself making a difference. The optional activities were super cool like river kayaking to a waterfall. Also being able to talk to the locals really got you to see what life is like there.

How can this program be improved?
The amount of downtime in between activities and service.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Emily
10/10

Intro to Community Service

This trip was honestly the best experience of my life so far! The community service projects were definitely hard in the hot environment but it felt very rewarding. I loved teaching English to the kids who seemed go enjoy every minute of it and were very eager to learn. The ziplining and white water rafting were extremely fun and adventurous! Even just relaxing at the base house was great, talking to friends, playing soccer, and going in the pool. I met so many amazing people on this trip who will be my friends for life. This trip was an amazing opportunity that I am very happy I did!

How can this program be improved?
I
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alison
9/10

Heart of the Jungle

I just returned from Heart of the Jungle and the trip was two of the best weeks of my life. We travelled around Costa Rica, saw many parts, including Corcovado National Park, the Osa Peninsula, Puerto Jimenez, and Uvita, did extreme adventure activities, like rappelling, rafting, zip lining, hiking, and kayaking, and service- and all was with great friends!!! The leaders were incredibly enthusiastic, knowledgable, and fun! And the kids on the trip were also amazing!

Yes, I recommend this program

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...