Summer High School Programs in Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways

Video and Photos

Samaná Beach
Samaná Beach
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Black Water Treatment: Service Project
Black Water Treatment: Service Project
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic
We visited the colonial zone in Santo Domingo.
We drove through under privileged towns and communities.

About

Since Rustic Pathways started its first Dominican Republic programs in 2012, our goal has been to emphasize the people over the places. While our staff and students adore the pristine beaches and idyllic settings, our programs go much deeper than the average tourist’s trip.

Each program in the Dominican Republic dives deep into service opportunities, whether through community development, environmental stewardship, or public health, and allows our students to connect with members of the communities where they serve.

While you’ll be sure to enjoy the picturesque beaches and tranquil mountains, you’ll also understand what life is really like for Dominican people. Next to resorts lie marginalized, impoverished communities called bateyes. Dominicans face many challenges and they have big hearts, warm personalities, and enjoy sharing their fun-loving culture.

Popular Programs

Work alongside health care professionals on high-impact public health projects across the Dominican Republic. Explore the diverse regions of this beautiful Caribbean island while immersing yourself in local culture and practicing your Spanish in a healthcare setting. Identify the health needs of rural, urban, wealthy, and impoverished communities and help develop meaningful public service initiatives.

Explore the crystal blue waters of Bayahibe Bay and the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Work alongside marine biologists to rebuild the coral reef habitat that is home to many marine species, including manatees, dolphins and sea turtles. Learn biological techniques to monitor sea animals in the wild. Get muddy as you work to rebuild the mangrove swamps of Los Haitises National Park. Contribute to antipollution projects with local ecological organizations.

Create and run a day camp for marginalized young students in the Dominican Republic. First, bond with your group as you hike and camp the mountain town of Jarabacoa. Work together to plan games and learning activities for a six-day camp. Teach English, play sports, and have a blast with the young kids and learn more about their lives in the Dominican Republic. After all the hard work, relax with a catamaran tour and snorkeling around Saona Island.

Explore mangroves, reef formations, and marine wildlife at Los Haitises National Park and Samaná peninsula. Get your hands dirty as you work on ecological restoration projects and learn from experts and communities about the efforts to maintain the extensive biodiversity of the region. Venture to hidden caverns to see ancient Taino cave paintings, and soak up the sun on some of the island’s most beautiful beaches.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

95%
based on 64 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.4
  • Growth 9.6
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.7
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 15 of 64
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Mia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer Camp Leadership Program

This summer, I traveled to the Dominican Republic to work in a summer camp for thirty local children ages 9-13. The Summer Camp Leadership program was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. I went on this trip alone and I was very scared to meet new people. I was nervous that no one would like me or that I would get homesick. It is nerve-racking to go to a completely new country, not knowing the language, people, or culture. Straight off the bat, I felt welcomed by the amazing program leaders and the other caring students. We all really connected by doing ice-breaker games and bonding over our many similar interests. Aside from the six-day summer camp that we ran and the consistent volunteering opportunities we had, this trip consisted of camping in the beautiful mountains, swimming in the crystal clear water, and exploring the cities of Jarabacoa and Santo Domingo. When I signed up for this program, I did not know what to expect. I knew that I wanted to work with children but did not fully understand how I would approach this foreign community. Throughout these 16 days, I learned how to communicate with people from different backgrounds and, most importantly, I learned what it means to be a leader. I realized that communication is the utmost important part of being a good leader. As I learned from the first couple of days of running the summer camp, communication is the key to creating a successful and inclusive environment. Although this program was challenging, mentally and physically, I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to experience a completely new culture with a new group of friends. I knew that I could always count on the program leaders and my new friends to be by my side throughout the two weeks. Thanks to this trip, I felt a true connection to the people around me and to the work I was doing. I really recommend this trip to anyone who is passionate about being a part of a new community and enjoying every aspect of it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice for future travelers on this program is to go out of your comfort zone and really try to get to know your program leaders and the other students. The program leaders are all super nice and are there to help you with whatever it may be. Whether you are homesick or just need a high five, you can always count on the program leaders to be there. If you decided to go solo, I guarantee you that most of the students on this trip also came alone and it is important to befriend as many people as possible. By going out of your comfort zone and meeting new people, your experience in the Dominican Republic will only get better.
Default avatar
Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer Camp Leadership

This summer, I went on my first service trip. I went to the airport, terrified. I was scared of meeting people, scared of leaving the country, and not knowing the language. I came back from my trip, excited, passionate, and ready to continue exploring. Throughout my trip I learned so many things that have improved my outlook on the world. From the first day, I started to fall in love with the country, the culture, and the people I was meeting. I quickly became close with everyone in my program through team bonding and leadership games, making all the rest of my fears a lot easier to handle. The amount of service was well balanced with exciting adventures. One of the most memorable nights was camping in the mountain town of Jarabacoa. We took a four-hour ride on a safari truck to get there and then spent the afternoon hiking to a swimming hole. When we got back, we played with the local children while their family cooked us a traditional domination dinner. Before spending a night in tents, we made a fire and sat with the family while they told us ghost stories. This experience was one of many that made me so thankful for this adventure.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Embrace the culture, immerse yourself in its every aspect. The food, the dancing, the language, all of these impacted both my experience and what I took away from the program. The Dominican Republic is an amazing place filled with amazing people and during the time that you're there taking a moment to absorb it all will truly enhance your experience.
Default avatar
Nicolas
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventures in the Dominican Republic

When I first signed up for the trip to the Dominican Republic I did not know what to expect, since I didn't have any prior knowledge about the country. This trip with Rustic Pathways was my first time visiting the Dominican Republic, and I have to say it was a very interesting experience. I am from Mexico, and I decided to embark on this Rustic trip with a couple of my friends. It was a lot of fun to go on a trip like this with my friends from home, but another part of a trip like this that is a highlight is getting to know other people, which for me are from a different culture. It was a really fun and enriching experience to get to know a group of new people so well and work alongside them on service. That was another highlight of my trip, the service. As a group, we got to work on tons of different service projects in the country. We did beach cleanups and coral reef observations with an organization called FUNDEMAR. Here we got to see the beauty of the ocean that surrounds the Dominican Republic, and the environment we were trying to help protect. Another part of the service was planning and executing a day camp for some kids at a local school. I am lucky enough to be bilingual and being able to understand the kids was interesting for me because I got to get a better understanding of their lives, and the similarities between the Caribbean and Latin American countries. Although, this doesn't mean that you have to speak Spanish. Quite the contrary actually, the English speaking members of my had an even more interesting time laughing while they tried to understand the kids and have the kids understand them. Overall, this program was a lot of fun, and it allowed me to experience the culture and the environment of a new country.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I feel like the most surprising thing that I ate wasn't one specific thing, but more just the general food that they have. It's not that the food is weird or bad at all, it was really good. But when I went there I kind of assumed that it would be really similar to Mexican food. And I was extremely surprised when I realized that Dominican food has absolutely NOTHING spicy. No chile or salsa or anything like that. I was really surprised at how different it was.
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Molly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life in the Bateyes Experience!

My Rustic Pathways experience was incredible. From the moment I met my fellow travelers in the airport, I was overwhelmed with a sense of community and excitement. Throughout the trip, it was completely life changing to see the different ways of life in these developing communities and it gave me perspective. Not only did my Rustic experience change the lives of the communities we partnered with, it changed my own life significantly. While I was living in this new country for two weeks, learning Spanish from community members, and developing teamwork, I found confidence and fueled my curiosity. I would highly recommend this program to any traveler looking to broaden their understanding and perception of the world, complete deeply meaningful community work alongside new friends, and indulge themselves in a unique culture.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you approach this experience with an open mind, you will gain so much from this program. By engaging with culture and experience, you will have a life changing experience that opens your perspective to different cultures, lifestyles, and realities for these communities. It is amazingly eye-opening.
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Caroline
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Truly Amazing Experience

Going to the Dominican Republic is a truly amazing experience. It was by far the best two weeks of my summer and I have met friends that I will have for a lifetime. We took part of many educational activities, but we had so much fun. Service was balanced perfectly with fun activities. We worked hard but we would always look forward to coming back to our base house and swimming in the pool, or playing with the dogs. We visited beautiful beaches and spent a day touring a major city. The trip was the perfect length of time and at the end we all wanted to stay longer. The accommodations were very comfortable. The program leaders were so fun and were one of the best parts of the whole trip. I would completely recommend taking part in this enriching experience.

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Elizabeth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience in the Dominican Republic

The program that i did was marine life and costal restoration which was focused on cleaning up the beaches and helping out a local nonprofit. I was really nervous going into the trip but as soon as I met the other people in my group, I was really excited because everyone was so cool. Our trip leaders were really friendly and helped you with any issue you could have had, and they made sure everything was really safe for us. The trip was 16 days long, and even though it wasn’t that much time, my whole group bonded and become so close and we had the best time together. The travel process was really easy because of all the instructions and procedures that the the trip leaders follow, so that wasn’t stressful at all. This trip was the one of the highlights of my summer and I loved it so much that I’m going on another trip with rustic pathways again this summer! I 10/10 recommend doing one of these trips because of how meaningful the work is that you do, and you reflect back on the trip knowing that you made an impact somewhere and tons of fun doing it too!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The most unfamiliar thing I ate was lionfish at a local woman’s home. It was kinda scary looking and was unlike anything I had ever seen, I tried a small bite and I was surprised by how flavorful it was, and it was really cool that we got to help make it too!
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Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration in the Dominican Republic

Instead of sitting around on the couch this summer, I wanted to make a difference. My Rustic Pathways trip changed my life and opened my eyes. I found a love in community service and helping others. I see the Earth, not as a thing, but my home that we need to save. I loved working at the kid's camp and creating bonds with the children. I enjoyed learning about different cultures and the history of the Dominican Republic. I really enjoyed working with FUNDEMAR, and organization dedicated to saving the coral reefs. I learned so much on this trip and I grew passionate about saving the ocean and the coral reefs. I can't thank Rustic Pathways and my Program Leaders enough for giving me the experience I got. I want other people to have the same opportunity I had.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future travelers on this program is to really live in the moment. This trip will go by so fast and sadly we can't go back in time. Enjoy every second of the trip and really apply yourself in your service.
Default avatar
Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration in the Dominican Republic

This past summer I went to the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways. It was not only life-changing but probably the most fun I have ever had. I learned so much and found a love of the ocean. Every hour of community service we did I felt so useful. I felt like I was finally doing something important and something that will help many people. I am so happy I got to go on this trip and I recommend this trip to everyone. I loved learning about the Dominican Republics' history and culture because that's something I haven't learned in school yet. A highlight of the trip was running a kids camp and meeting the children. It's crazy how I created special bonds with so many kids and we didn't even speak the same language. It showed me I can be friends with anyone and everyone. I'm so glad I signed up for this trip and found Rustic Pathways. It is an amazing program that I will never forget.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future travelers on this program is to really live in the moment and enjoy what's around you. Sadly you can't go back in time and relive any moment so enjoy every second of the trip because its truely amazing and will change your life.
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Alyssa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer High School Programs in Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways

Rustic Pathways in the Dominican Republic was the single greatest experience of my life. I worked on a project where the entire group consisted of girls in a community that was very oriented on men doing the labor work. At the end of our trip and the last day of service, we sat with the community to talk about our time there. The men helping us on our project talked about how impressed they were with our work and how as the only group of all girls, we got the most work done of any other group. Every part of Rustic Pathways embodies unity and trust. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my summer than working with Rustic Pathways. No community or program will ever compare to the experiences and memories that come from going on one of their programs.

What would you improve about this program?
I can honestly say that I would not change a single thing about my experience with Rustic Pathways DR. My trip was picture perfect.
Default avatar
Ian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration-Ian Travis

Let me start by saying that this trip to the Dominican Republic(D.R.) was far and beyond what I was expecting. I started the journey at Miami International Airport, knowing almost nothing, entered a foreign country with little knowledge, and no friends with me. That was changed within hours of arriving in Santo Domingo, with the program leaders leading us through fun, engaging team building activities. We talked in great detail at what we were going to be doing in the D.R., and we talked about the impact we would leave. On this trip, we worked with coral reefs predominantly, in that we did everything in our power to help the corals while we were there. We dove down under the water to see how the coral reefs were doing, and we educated local kids with our little Spanish about how important it is to protect these building blocks of life. We also cleaned beaches, planted mangroves, and ran a summer camp for a day. In addition to this meaningful service work on our trip, we visited many places. Our group visited Santo Domingo's old town, caves with petroglyphs, went looking for turtles at 2 AM, and visited natural pools. We stayed at a variety of locations, all of which enriched the experience. My favorite place was the eco-lodge at Caño Hondo(https://paraisocanohondo.com/en/) in Los Haitses national park. It was a hotel like no other and is built into a mountain with a river running through it. Anyway, to conclude, the program was incredibly enriching; I learned more than anyone could ever learn in a classroom, and I feel that I have had a lasting positive impact on the ecosystem of the Dominican Republic. I would rank this program 10/10, and next year I am embarking on another Rustic trip, this time to Thailand and Laos.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I would say it is when we were planting mangroves in Los Haitises National Park. We had to get the young mangroves out of the mud in their original spot in one part of the forest, but to get them, we needed to walk through mud that was 6-10 inches thick. I got my foot stuck once and lost a shoe. I started panicking since I lost a shoe in a tropical jungle, so I overcame this challenge by getting my friend to hold me and dig into the mud to let loose both my leg and my shoe. We managed to recover both, and we went on to transplant ten mangroves into a treeless area that had been destroyed by a hurricane. That was both a significant day and a fun day.
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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventurous and Life Changing Trip

In the summer of 2019, I attended the Marine Life and Coastal Restoration program in the Dominican Republic. This trip impacted my life in so many ways and because of that, I learned so much more about myself. Not only did a learn in two weeks what many would learn in a classroom throughout the year, but I made some of the most real and genuine connections with other student attending this trip. When working on specific projects, we would split up into different groups each time, giving us the opportunity to get to know everyone attending the trip, including our leaders. I went on this trip alone and it was the best decision I made. It gave me the opportunity to form real connections with others and learn about other kids experiences from around the country. These connections along with learning about the very real effects of climate change on our earth and taking steps ourselves to help this issue, has made me much more of a well-rounded person. I am always open to meeting new people now and finding little things to help better our environment. By meeting new people, I can also teach them what I've learned and inspire them to take little steps like I am to improve and help save our environment.

What would you improve about this program?
One thing I would improve about this program is giving the students just a little more down time. We constantly were doing something and a lot of which required to be in the sun which really tired us out.
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Kiera
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rustic Pathways: Marine Life and Costal Restoration

In just a span of two weeks, I was able to create lasting friendships, make a direct impact on the environment and alter the way I view the world. The Marine Life and Coastal Restoration allowed me to really appreciate the environment and see what impact humans can have on the planet. In general, I learned about conservation in a way that I never imagined possible. For the first week, we snorkeled either picking up trash or identifying parrot fish and collecting data for FunDeMar, a local organization. I learned so much including that parrot fish and coral reefs are crucial components of the ecosystem. Even more, not only was I directly helping the ecosystem, but I was also creating lasting bonds with those around me. I never knew it was possible to connect with so many people in such a short amount of time. Rustic Pathways allowed me to open my eyes and view the world in a completely new and exciting way.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
The last two nights we spent at an eco-lodge. I definitely would have liked to stay longer.
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Gabrielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Traveling With Rustic Pathways Is An Unforgettable Experience

I traveled to the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways in June 2019. My time in the beautiful country is one I will always cherish. Before this fantastic trip to volunteer, I have never traveled without my family, so I was a little nervous. Though, the Rustic Pathways traveling team was with the other kids and me the whole time, which made me feel safe. When I arrived in the Dominican Republic, our group's lovely leaders met up with us. On our bus ride to the first place we were staying, they told us more about this country I would call home for the next week and a half. On my trip, I helped with the black water treatment system. This is a system that would help re-use water and clean it. Since freshwater is not found all over in the Dominican Republic, this system would be able to help out the community so much! Other places I volunteered during my duration in the Dominican Republic were helping at a local garden, cleaning a beach sadly ridden with trash, and my favorite, re loacting mangroves. Each time volunteering made me feel so good knowing that I was helping the people and the Earth as well. Rustic Pathways is very good at teaching kids on their programs about helping out whenever you can. Before my trip, I did volunteer around my community, but, after my journey, I have more than doubled how much I help out in my community. No matter where you live, there can always be places to go and help out the earth/community. I started my Rustic Pathways trip nervous of what would happen. I left with a new understanding of the world I live in, life, long friends, and memories that will always hold a dear place in my heart.

What would you improve about this program?
I loved this program in the Dominican Republic and getting to meet all the incredible people! Though, I do wish I could have done more. For instance, I had two beach days, and instead of having two beach days, we could spend one of those days cleaning a beach. I feel the people there do not deserve to live with a trash-filled beach nor does anybody in that matter, I am lucky enough to live by a beach and can go to, depending on the weather. I want to help clean more beaches, so more people can be able to experience having fun at a beach.
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Maya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Summer "Off the Grid"

This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad through the Rustic Pathways "Service Off the Grid" program. Initially, I will admit I was very nervous. Will I make friends? What will the program leaders be like? 5 days without my phone?! Reflecting back on my trip, I must say that I got pretty lucky. I was able to bond with all of my peers and program leaders. To this day, my group continues to stay in touch! Cell phone separation anxiety was a real thing, but the lack of service brought my group and me closer together and forced us to bond with the community. I can't even begin to describe the kindness I was shown by the locals. Every meal, every dance party, every hike, etc, they took us in with open arms and showed us what it meant to live a happy life. Although the language barrier was difficult at times I was still able to make meaningful relationships with people of all ages, races, and economic classes on the island. 9 days in the Dominican Republic was not long enough! Every Rustic trip has something unique and special about it, but what you make of it is the defining factor. I know for a fact that all the program leaders and other staff at Rustic Pathways are working their hardest to guarantee that each traveler gets the best experience possible. My experience embodies the phrase, "A trip of a lifetime", and I would strongly encourage others to take advantage of the many opportunities Rustic Pathways has to offer.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If I could give one piece of advice to future travelers, it would be to go into each trip with an open mind. As a teenager girl, I can be hyper judgmental at times. Like all the time. Leave the judgment behind. Don't be scared to try new things and just go with the flow. In the end, that open mind will push you to try new things and have a once in a lifetime experience!
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Luciana
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Marine Life and Coastal Restoration

This summer I went to the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways on the marine life and coastal restoration program. I was very impacted by this experience working with a community in need (Bayahibe). The people of Bayahibe and those from Fundemar showed me different ways to reduce my carbon footprint by eating less meat, reducing my plastic consumption, and using public transportation. I really enjoyed doing beach cleanups because I could see the progress my group made each and every day. We were also able to participate in kid camps where we interacted with different age groups of kids. It brought me great joy when a young boy asked me to make him a paper airplane and he spent the day throwing and watching how far the plane would go. It was really fulfilling to see a big smile on a kids face knowing that you impacted their life.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don't be scared of getting a little dirty. This trip is full of so many wonderful experiences and you can't let a little dirt get in the way. For example, when we went searching for mangroves we were all scared to climb through the mud, but in the end we were all rubbing dirt all over our faces.