Summer High School Programs in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways

Video and Photos

my bestfriends and I at the beach
my bestfriends and I at the beach
my bestfriends and I at the beach
my bestfriends and I at the beach
Surf and service
Surf and service
Surf and service
Surf and service
White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
Surfing
Surfing
Hiking to the water fall where we slept in a cave
Hiking to the water fall where we slept in a cave
La Leona
La Leona

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.

Scholarships

Rustic Pathways Scholarships
Rustic Pathways Scholarships and Financial Aid

Rustic Pathways is committed to making life-changing opportunities possible for students worldwide. We know how impactful our programs are, and continually strive to make them more accessible to all students.

Value
$1,000 - $5,000

Popular Programs

Surf and Service

Learn to surf or take your skills to the next level during this one-week program. Live at our base house and soak in the laid-back culture of beach town life. When you’re not surfing, work on infrastructure projects supporting the communities around Playa Grande. You’ll also have the chance to go on a private catamaran and go whitewater rafting!

Traveling Soccer and Service Team

Get ready to travel, work, and play your heart out on this intensive two-week soccer and service project through the heart of Costa Rica. Using the game you love as a medium, you’ll develop relationships with tico locals throughout this beautiful country, and give back to your host communities through thoughtfully designed service initiatives. In your downtime you’ll take advantage of the best adventure activities that Costa Rica has to offer.

Turtle Conservation Project

This program is designed especially for students who are passionate about turtle conservation and want to embrace the authentic and rustic park ranger lifestyle! Live at an actual park ranger station, take cold showers, and work alongside the rangers to protect this incredible species. Take walks along the beach at high tide to track sea turtle behavior. When not working hard, zip line, surf, and enjoy the beautiful beach views and sunsets.

Summer Camp Leadership in Costa Rica

If you love working with children, this is the perfect program for you! Begin your trip with an adventurous whitewater rafting trip down the Pacuare River, then spend three days learning leadership skills and planning a creative summer camp experience for local Costa Rican children. After this amazing bonding experience, work together to run the summer camp where you will develop meaningful connections with your campers through fun and engaging activities.

Spanish Language Immersion

Perfect for students of all abilities, this program allows you to learn Spanish from native speakers in a small group or private instruction setting. Practice Spanish with fellow students and live with a welcoming host family that will introduce you to the warm tico culture. Outside of the classroom get your heart pounding as you zip line through the jungle and raft down the whitewater rapids of the Pacuare River.

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 112 reviews
  • Impact 9.4
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 61 - 75 of 112
Domenica
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish we interacted more with students our age from the community.
Ali
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
Would've been nice if we were given more freedom when shopping in town.
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Lucie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

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Alexandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

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Cristina
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
-Stricter cell phone policy.
-More showers per group (although it was pretty good, keeping in mind you're literally in the middle of the jungle).
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Delaney
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have loved to seen more of the ticos and their culture. Although the trip was about adventure with no service aspect, it would have been really cool to at least meet some people or experience the culture a little more.
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María
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.)

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Megan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing about my trip, it would be the very first day, or the "travel day". After multiple flights to get to my gateway city to meet up with the flight group, we spent about 6 hours in the Houston airport between flights and it was super long and stressful and I felt pretty alone. That night after all the flights when we were finally in Costa Rica I laid in bed and felt so alone and homesick because of how stressful the day had been.
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Megan
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would have changed is the amount of time spent at the schools in the community because that was everyone's favorite part I felt and we spent little time there!
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Keara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
Give a more accurate idea of what the volunteering duties might be.
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Ava
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!!!

What would you improve about this program?
The length of the trip- I wish it could've been longer!!!
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Julia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
It would be amazing if our hotel was directly on the beach. Although the short drive was barely noticeble .
Read my full story
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Krista
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.
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Saloma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.
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Maya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
I would probably change the packing lost to include more clothing because you get wet and dirty a lot.