Costa Rica Prep: A Sneak Peek at What’s in Store for Students
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Costa Rica Prep: A Sneak Peek at What’s in Store for Students

Our country team in Costa Rica has been busy lining up venues and getting everything  ready for the arrival of students this spring and summer. To give families a better feel about what to expect, staff members have taken hundreds of photos and videos of lodging facilities, dining venues, service projects, activity locations and more.

In the first of several articles, we are sharing some of these photos. To begin, details about traveling to the program sites are below, along with photos of some of the lodging facilities that will house students in each program location.

Travel Details

In the United States, Rustic’s hub airport for all its trips to Costa Rica is Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Rustic’s Costa Rica flights page has more details.

A direct flight from Newark to Costa Rica’s capital San Jose is about five hours.

-Arrival in Costa Rica

For most programs, the students will fly in and out of San Jose. The exception is the spring break program, which will utilize the airport in Liberia.

In San Jose, they’ll stay in a local hotel before departing for their program location via motorcoach. When the students arrive in the country, it’ll usually be pretty late, so they’ll be taken to the hotel and given snacks, such as wraps, fruit, water or juice and veggies. The next morning they’ll have a breakfast buffet before departing for their program location.

From San Jose, the students will travel to the following areas shown on the map below:

Pura Vida Service  and Summer Camp Leadership– Northwest to La Fortuna near Arenal
Surf and Service and Spring Break Surf and Adventure – Northwest to Playa Grande on the Nicoya Peninsula near Tamarindo
Turtle Conservation Project – Farther south on the Nicoya Peninsula to Camaronal and the National Wildlife Refuge
Heart of the Jungle – South to Uvita near Dominical
Soccer and Service and Spanish Language Immersion – East to Turrialba


Five of Rustic’s Costa Rican programs are primarily centered around basecamps. This includes:

  • Pura Vida Service
  • Surf and Service
  • Spring Break Surf and Adventure
  • Turtle Conservation Project
  • Summer Camp Leadership

Here are details on each:

Pura Vida Service:

Most of this program occurs in the scenic town of La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano. There are two locations this year at the Volcano and Rainforest Service Base. Students will be randomly assigned to one of these. One is a large house with a pool and a view of the Arenal Volcano.

The other base has smaller houses next to each other with two bedrooms each. These houses also have a pool.

Surf and Service

This program is based at a new “glamping” site in the hills above Playa Grande. As the name suggests, students will camp here in glamorous style with bathrooms and other amenities. The site includes:

  • Large tents with bunk beds (bunk beds will be added for the summer)
  • A small workshop with arts and crafts
  • A large outdoor lounge area
  • Two pools, plus a jacuzzi-sized water spot on the tent deck

Turtle Conservation Project

Students in this program will stay in simple and close-to-nature housing at the Camaronal National Wildlife Refuge. They will have bunk beds, shared bathrooms and lots of beach time.

Summer Camp Leadership

Students in this program will stay in several locations. This includes the summer camp site near Arenal pictured below. Before they reach this site, they stay in a river eco-lodge during a rafting trip and at another beautiful property for camp planning. Later the students stay in hotels as they explore other regions of Costa Rica.

Our other programs in Costa Rica primarily have accommodations at hotels or homestays. Here are the lodging facilities for those programs:

 Heart of the Jungle

Students travel to several locations in southern Costa Rica during this program with stays scheduled at a number of different hotels. Two of them are pictured below. These hotels in the town of Uvita will be homebase for the students for five days of the program. During this time, students will do some service work, enjoy surf lessons, and go rappelling, ziplining and white water rafting.


Soccer and Service & Spanish Language Immersion

The Soccer and Service program includes both basecamp housing and homestays with local families. The Spanish Language Immersion program utilizes homestays.

The staff conducts thorough site visits for homes where students stay. Homes need to meet the following guidelines. They must have:

  • Private areas for students separated from the rest of the home by a door or divider
  • Access to a clean toilet and handwashing station in or near the home
  • No signs of animal infestation, and maintain basic cleanliness standards
  • Filtered and clean water for cooking and consumption.

More information about homestays can be found here.

Back to San Jose

When the students are ready to wrap up their trips, they are expected to stay at another hotel in San Jose.

All of these accommodations have been vetted for safety and are wonderful spots from which students can explore everything that Costa Rica has to offer. In future blogs, we’ll share more photos and information about what that exploration will entail. This includes pictures from service sites and adventure activity locations, along with some thoughts from the leaders and instructors who will be working with the students this coming summer. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.