Summer High School Programs in Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways

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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.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

94%
based on 45 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 16 - 30 of 45
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Sarah
10/10

Summer Camp Leadership

The trip brought a lot of realizations to all of the participants. We were able to experience the life of the locals there and we were given an introduction to their culture. The campers we had taught us all different aspects of caring for each other and creating special bonds that we never thought we would learn in such a short time. I will never forget the day we said goodbye to our campers. The bonds and memories we made throughout the week had been so strong it brought us all to tears. After experiencing this trip, I have been inspired to start doing service trips to benefit the kids that we met and other kids in similar situations. Tips I would share are bring a journal to write down and reflect on the day, and never be afraid to share in group discussions or participate in group activities. Also, the climate is very hot and we wore a lot of pants so water and staying hydrated is very important.

How can this program be improved?
I think this program was very spot on with the overall categories of what makes a program a great program. The only suggestion I have is the group meetings sometimes were a bit repetitive or dragged on. Other than that, the overall experience was outstanding and I would reccomend this program to others.
Yes, I recommend this program
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grace
8/10

Mountain Air and Village Service

Overall this program was a really great experience. It was awesome to have the opportuntiy to contribute to a good cause and see a new country, culture, and lifestyle. The activities we did after dinner were always really fun and helped the group come together! The staff, accommodations, and food were all great. The group I was in, was almost thirty students, which lead to lots of small groups and at times I felt very left out. I feel that if the group was smaller then everyone would have a better oportunity to get to know each other and the group wouldn't be as socially divided. Another thing I might change would be going shopping in a huge market. The last day of the trip everyone went to this huge indoor market which was very intimidating because people would hassle you to come into their store. Although it was nice to have freedom in this market, I feel that it was not the safest way to shop. Maybe go shopping on the streets near the world heritage site- it seemed a little more safe and less overwhelming. Other than those two flaws, I was really glad I went on this trip, it was an awesome experience to see a different part of the world!

No, I don't recommend this program
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Khrystopher
9/10

Life in the Bateyes

There is so much to learn and the people in the communities you work in are so beautiful and fun to hang out with. This is most definitely an experience worth taking. You can travel learn how to build and learn so much about yourself as well. To be honest, the group that I was with had amazing people. Don't be afraid to get close with your group mates. Go there and enjoy yourself remember to hydrate.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Fatoumata
10/10

Summer Camp Leadership

I had such a fun time on this trip. From the time I got there I was exposed to new music and new food. The people were so welcoming. I had 3 great group leaders who made us all feel super independent and made sure we were aware of the culture around us. I will be back to the DR without a doubt, and look forward to being with the children and families from the Bateyes again. They all have a special place in my heart and the culture as well.

How can this program be improved?
More time in the communities of the kids that are in the camp!!!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Hope
10/10

Mountain Air and Village Service 2017

This is my third year traveling with Rustic Pathways and there's a reason why I keep returning! This trip was a great balance of meaningful work in the community, fun and leisure activities, and important lessons about language, history, and culture. The specific project that we worked on was laying pipes in a rural mountain community so the community members could access running water in their houses for the first time ever. For weeks other Rustic groups had been working on the project, however my group was lucky enough to actually finish the project and as a reward we got to see the water actually get turned on within these houses and the looks of pure excitement on the locals' faces. We actually worked alongside the community members and bonded greatly. For me it was an opportunity to improve my Spanish that I had learned in school, but for others that weren't as confident in their Spanish, the program leaders were eager to make any translations. Every day the local women would bring us coffee, the men would work alongside us, the teenagers would cheer us on, and the children would eagerly play with us if we had to take a break from working due to rain. The locals even taught us some of their favorite games! And at the end of a long day, the program leaders always rewarded our work by buying us ice cream, or a trip to the local smoothie shop. In addition to the community work, we also spent time at a beach and we even got to go snorkeling at a coral reef! the pictures were incredible. At the end of the week, we went to Santo Domingo and got to tour the colonial zone (a UNESCO world heritage site) and experience a traditional Dominican dance performance. The whole week was also filled with small surprises like Dominican dance lessons, a trip to a chocolate museum, and open air bus rides. I really enjoyed how the activities were a mix of things we expected from the schedule, and fun little surprises. One of the things that stood out most to me was how perfectly hired the staff is. Every Rustic trip I've been on has had at least one local program leader who knows everything about the area and can answer any questions about what local life is like. The local leader on this trip was also an avid traveler and backpacker, spoke perfect English in addition to his native Spanish, and was EXTREMELY funny and charismatic. Our other program leaders were a high school teacher from Spain, and a Venezuelan-American with a degree in international relations. They were all dedicated to making sure we got the most out of the trip. Overall this wasn't the most rustic trip that I had ever done. In the past I've done programs that were far more rural and involved sleeping in tents and going without electricity. However I think that makes this trip PERFECT for any first time travelers or parents who may be apprehensive. We spent a lot of time in hotels with hot showers and wifi so this is nice for anyone that might want to try it out before going on one of the more extreme trips. One thing to note is that if you want a traditional tourist experience, Rustic Pathways really isn't the program for you. In all of my trips, we've avoided the major tourist areas and activities in favor of getting a much more local, unique experience. But if local and unique is what you're looking for, then 10/10 I would recommend Rustic Pathways

How can this program be improved?
Maybe update the packing list? It said that we needed things like a long skirt which we never really used.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Bridget
8/10

2016 Mountain Air Service Trip

I went on a trip to Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways. It was my first trip with any travel program and my 2nd time to the DR. Since it was a service trip, there were 3 days of service, and 9 days total. The actual service work was pretty hard, but many of my group members were hardly working. Therefore, if you are worried about community service, yes it will be physically demanding, but you work (kind of) at your own pace, so if you are a lazy butt, you probably won't get sore. Conversely, if you are vey motivated, then you will get sore, and you might get blisters (I did!) I am a 15 year old girl, 5'6? who's max push-up count is 10ish. I was able to cope with the work load and get a fair amount of work done. Basically, you just need proper motivation and strength is optional.

During the program, we worked on 2 projects; building an aqueduct and a black water treatment system. We swung pickaxes and used shovels to dig out a trench for the aqueduct. Then, after the pipes were glued down, we filled the trench back in. For the black water treatment system, since the trips before us had pretty much dug out, built, and filled in the treatment system, my trip/group just had to fill in the outside and rebury it, since it was underground. We used buckets and shovels to refill the surrounding area. Now, during any other program, the service projects might be different, but this was just my experience.

Because of traveling from the US to the DR, one must subtract 2 days for air travel. Basically, you are left with 7 actual days of stuff. The itinerary went something like this: JFK to the DR, Travel to home base (day of intro), Service day, Service day, Beach day, White-water rafting, Service day, Last day (travel back to capital and spend the night at an airport hotel), Fly back home. Every day had a sufficient amount of stuff per day, and there were plenty of 20min breaks throughout the whole day. I'd say there was a good balance between fun and work, but if you don't want to work, then choose an exploratory trip instead of a service based one.

The lodging was not 5 star hotel quality, but it was pretty good for a tourist ranch in the middle of a rural mountain community. We were able to have running water, a toilet, 2 sinks, and a shower for 5 girls. Not too jam packed. It was also good lodging at the airport hotel and the beach-side hotel. The food was good, but it's important to prepare the brain and the stomach for a change of food style and taste. We traveled on open sides trucks to our community service projects, which were pretty dirty. They were safe though. By the end of the day, if you worked hard, you were as dirty as the truck. The truck rides averaged out at 20-30min. When taking multiple hour trips, we would ride the local buses, which were very comfy and AIR-CONDITIONED!!!

Yes, there were bugs, and yes, they were big. I had 20+ Mosquito bites by the end of the trip, even with copious amounts of application throughout the day. Even with the Zika scare going on, I have not gotten sick, nor did I take any meds throughout the trip, or get any shots before hand. If your trip doesn't require them, then you probably don't need immunizations. However, it's your money, so spend it as you like. Rustic Pathways always provides "safe" water, and will never let you or force you to drink dirty water. There were numerous opportunities to get burnt and bitten, so we were told to and willingly applied sunscreen and bug spray at every available option.

Our program leaders were awesome. I'm not being cliche. They were seriously awesome. They were kind, good, fun people. They encouraged participation, but also didn't force anyone to do anything they didn't want to do. Peer pressure did that for them. I had 3 native Spanish speakers program leaders and 2 native USA citizen program leaders on my trip. If you are traveling to a foreign country, yes, the language WILL be a barrier. However, my program leaders were a great help, and translated at need. However, in the rural parts of the DR, almost no English is known. Be prepared to learn new words, and if you can speak some Spanish, be prepared to use it. I just finished Spanish 2, and even though the class is boring and I learn nothing, my minimal spanish was really useful.

A few tips:
-overpack. Overpack. OVERPACK. You will get dirty, and no, you don't need dresses and rompers. Also, bring work clothes and non-short shorts. They aren't kidding when they say the locals will think you're scandalous if you wear short shorts. There are few to no chances to wash your clothes, unless you hand wash them. If your packing list says 6-8 shirts, bring 12. Again, OVERPACK.
-bring lots of everything. Extra contacts, extra shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, you name it. Cuz you really don't want to be needing it and borrowing it from your mates.
-don't relying a debit card. There are virtually no options to pull money out of an ATM, so bring at least $100USD in cash. More, if you want to buy lots of gifts and snacks. The rustic people will exchange your USD into pesos when you get there, but BRING EXTRA. Always better to be safe than sorry. And besides, if you have extra pesos, you can always change them back. 45 pesos = 1 USD.
-you will get dirty. You will work hard. That's what you signed up for. Mentally prep yourself so you don't become a sissy. No one likes sissys.
-prepare your mind for travel. You will be going to a different place, with different customs, values, and cultures, languages, and food. Embrace the popping of your bubble, and get used to being outside of your comfort zone. You will enjoy yourself more if you go for it. YOLO, and all that crap. Don't leave with any regrets. And lastly, it is always easier to ask for forgiveness from your program leaders than permission.

And yup, I think I touched on everything.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Hana
10/10

Rustic Pathways- Dominican Republic

I went on the Marine Life and Coastal Restoration trip in the Dominican Republic this summer and it was magnificent! I had never traveled with Rustic Pathways before nor, have I spent this much time away from home before. I had a great group and the staff members were amazing. They made me feel right at home and I never got homesick once! The country is beautiful and Rustic Pathways helped me to see that because unlike going on a family vacation where you stay in a resort, Rustic had us stay directly within the small town so that we could be amerced in the culture. Some of my best memories from the trip revolve around one of my staff members. She was a native Dominican so she was able to give us the inside scoop about the country. We had culture nights and personal tours with her and it was great. One of the best parts was when she was teaching use some of the traditional dances including the merengue and the boys had to dance it with her. (It was hilarious!) Memories and experiences like this you can't get by going to a resort and that is why Rustic Pathways is so amazingly unique. I'm so happy with my decision to do one of their trips and if I could I would do it over again. I am definitely doing one of their trips next summer!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Leigh
9/10

Dominican Passion

My service trip to the Dominican Republic, the island of arroz con pollo, fresh-squeezed chinola juice, smiling citizens, and aqua-tinted ocean, comprised of countless new experiences for me. I flew on an airplane independently to a different country, met locals and new friends, and I spent my July days in the lush mountains and salty ocean that the island had to offer.
As I look back, one of my first experiences foreshadowed my entire trip. When I sat down for my first meal there was an assortment of fresh tropical fruits including a chinola, which is the Dominican Spanish term for a passion fruit. My first impression of the round, exotic fruit that I had never tried before with waxy, yellow skin and bright yellow, gelatinous pulp with flecks of black seeds was skepticism. My natural instinct was to assess the flavor before I even tried the fruit. Instead of simply not trying the unique looking fruit based on the unappetizing appearance, I decided that I would try eating it. The chinola ended up being tangy and delicious, therefore becoming my absolute favorite fruit. Whenever I had an opportunity to sip chinola juice or eat an icy chinola popsicle while on the trip, I would eagerly take it.
The process that it took for me to try my new favorite fruit, chinola, proved to directly relate to and symbolize my Dominican Republic trip. Before I boarded the plane to the Santo Domingo airport, I was apprehensive and skeptical about stepping out of my comfort zone and attending a trip to a foreign country. Although, the result of my decision to participate in the service program ended up being beneficial since the Dominican Republic ended up becoming one of my favorite places. The moral of my trip and story is to step out of your comfort zone, and you will discover your favorite things in the entire world.

How can this program be improved?
Despite the spectacular trip I endured while in the Dominican Republic, the only improvement that could have been made was the duration of the trip. I believe that next time I attend a program that travels overseas, I would prefer to have a longer duration of time experiencing and immersing myself into the culture and atmosphere.d
Yes, I recommend this program
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Samantha
10/10

Most amazing trip!

My trip to the DR with Rustic last summer was so incredible. By far the best week of my life. I met so many amazing people, did some great community service and had the best time ever! Thank you so much to Rustic and I highly recommend going to the DR with rustic! I loved it so much I am going back next summer on a different program :)

How can this program be improved?
Longer trip!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Cory
10/10

Wonderful company

My daughter went to the Dominican Republic with Rustic Pathways and we could not have been more happy. She loved it and I felt like she was in good hands. Would totally recommend this company to anyone interested in sending their child on a trip abroad.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jess
9/10

DR Public Heath

Overall this program was amazing. The staff was very aware of safety while at the same time letting us explore. In all honesty, the DR ended up not being my favorite place. But my experience with Rustic Pathways was near flawless. I didn't sign up for the trip with friends, I choose to go alone and I was so glad that I did. The program was set up in a way that everyone got to know each other quickly and deeply. I met some great people on my trip.

I found the service on this trip to have been very meaningful. Rustic really emphasized the importance of making a lasting difference, instead of participating in voluntourism.

I'm signed up for another one of their Australia programs in summer 2016, because I love how Rustic runs them.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Abigail
10/10

Intro to Public Health-DR was amazing

My experience with rustic pathways was great. I was apart of the Intro to Public Health trip with around 15-16 kids and 4 counselors. All of us bonded immediately even the counselors and we all got along extremely well, even though most of us didn't know each other before. The first days of the trip were spent in Santo Domingo touring hospitals and listening to NGO's privately speak to us which was so interesting. Then we went to Hator Mayor and spent the majority of the time there traveling 45 minutes each day to Batey Botecito to do community service. There we were able to bond with the kids and adults while building latrines and cement floors and talking in Spanish. After two days of service we took a beach break and then 3 days of Wilderness First Aid Classes that prepared us to create health lessons for the kids in Botecito. The next two days we hosted workshops for the kids teaching them hand washing, wound care, trash clean up and built them a DIY sink. It was very life changing and i would love to go back again. The way of life in the bateys is so different from my life at home and opened up my eyes. After all community service (30 hours) was completed we took a ferry to Samana and hiked to El Limon Cascada which was beautiful and then the next day we spent time at an island beach. The flight from JFK is not bad at all and is a great way to meet new people.

How can this program be improved?
I did not like the Ferry ride, it was uncomfortable and hot, but once we saw land it was pretty and interesting to see.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Carmen
10/10

Life in the Bateyes

This was the best two weeks of my life. I met some amazing people and the experience was so eye opening. The leaders were super friendly and it being my first trip like that and going alone I felt very comfortable. I felt safe and I felt I made an impact on the people that we met there. The service was hard so be prepared to work but it's worth it.The friends I met I still talk to every day. I would 100% recommend to anyone who loves helping people.

How can this program be improved?
I think the packing list let me come a bit underprepared.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Angela
8/10

Mountain Air - Good Experience Overall

Mountain Air and Village Service in the DR was an overall good experience. It's a pretty basic and introductory program so it's perfect for first time travelers and for people who just want to get their feet wet. The councelors were really cool and gave us a lot of freedom. The only part of the program I wasn't crazy about was the fact that some of the people can be very exclusive and cliquey really fast. Obviously this depends on the people on each program, although since it is a very introductory program, a lot of students' parents made them go so they may not be the most passionate people that want to get to know you. This varys because there were plenty of cool people on my trip as well. Otherwise, it's a good time and a good experience to have. It would help to know a little bit of Spanish beforehand but you don't need to. I came in knowing nothing and learned as I went but learned so much. I would recommend this program to anyone.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Ali
10/10

Mountain Air Service

I had been impressed with the experience from our initial decision to send our daughter. She was signing up with a friend who had previously been on a Rustic pathways trip. Me, being the nervous mother, packed many items to insure that they would be comfortable. Aleve, pepto bismal, tums, etc. However, four days in to the trip my daughter started to have an allergic reaction on her face that she occasionally gets during seasonal allergies. I didn't think to pack that medicine. I was able to text my daughter the name of the prescription and they had it for her within an hour. It would have taken me longer to get that prescription here. I was very impressed.

How can this program be improved?
Tell the girls to bring a pair of leggings to cover their entire legs for walking in the tall grass. Packing and not knowing exactly the activity didn't prepare my daughter to have her legs protected from the bugs and poison ivy type leaves. We were at the dr as soon as she returned.
Yes, I recommend this program

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