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
Hiking to the water fall where we slept in a cave
Hiking to the water fall where we slept in a cave
White Water Rafting
White Water Rafting
Surfing
Surfing
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 76 - 90 of 112
Default avatar
Mindi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

Default avatar
Maddie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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!
Default avatar
Vicki
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Abby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Read my full story
Default avatar
Stewart
1/10
No, I don't recommend this program

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.

Default avatar
Spence
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

Default avatar
Holly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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!
Default avatar
Carey
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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!!

What would you improve about this program?
Just improve the packing list
Default avatar
ccostarica
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Dylan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think to change was the length. If I could've stayed longer I would've.
Default avatar
Madeline
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
If I could change one thing about this program I would have more opportunities to work with the animals there.
Default avatar
Riley
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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!
Default avatar
Kathryn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
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.
Default avatar
Alessia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

Default avatar
Jamie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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.

What would you improve about this program?
Less free time. more group activities/bonding activites