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Take the opportunity to understand rural life and indigenous culture in Costa Rica. Paddle and boat to the rural community of a Bribri tribe, close to the border of Panama. You’ll stay in tents in the village and work with community members on small-scale development projects. Learn all about their unique culture and lifestyle. End your trip with a beach day and surfing lessons on the Caribbean coast!

With our No Anxiety Escrow Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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2017 Departures

Departs (USA) Returns (USA) Availability
June 13 June 21 Available
July 11 July 19 Limited
July 18 July 26 Available

Program Profile

Costa Rica
Community Service Component
Community Service Focus
Infrastructure, Economic Development, Education
Get to Know
The People, Nature
Travel Component
Moderate Travel Involved
Live Like a Local

Connecting Programs

Schedule two or more programs in a row to create your ideal Rustic Pathways experience.

This program connects especially well with:

  • Day 1

    Depart United States for San José, Costa Rica. Upon arrival at the San José airport you will be greeted by Rustic Pathways Staff and taken to a hotel.

    Enjoy your first glimpses of this spectacular country. From its rainforests to its volcanic peaks to its two coasts, Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful nations in Central America. Home to some of the most biodiverse swaths of land and sea on the planet, Costa Rica is famed for its natural environment – and it’s commitment to that environment! Costa Ricans – or Ticos, as they’re called here – are intensely proud and protective of their lands, and have put their country on the map as the world leader in eco-tourism and environmental protection.

    In addition to its stunning flora and fauna, Costa Rica is noted for its cultural and ethnic diversity. In addition to Ticos, Costa Rica is home to eight main indigenous groups, one of which is the Bribrí, who you will soon be getting to know!

    Spend the evening meeting other students on the trip and enjoying Costa Rica!

  • Day 2

    After breakfast, grab your paddle, and jump on the majestic Pacuare River. By rafting down the whitewater rapids of the Pacuare you’ll be heading in the direction of the Caribbean Coast. After exiting the river, eat lunch and travel on to the Caribbean town of Cahuita. A beachfront hotel will be your home for the night, before you journey on to the rural community of Yorkin.

  • Day 3

    After breakfast, wake up early for a day of new experiences. In the morning, depart for a 90-minute journey by boat that will carry you to the border of Costa Rica and Panama, and then on to the Yorkin Community. Here, you will be greeted by friendly Bribrí people who will help you settle in and give you an introduction to their unique culture and community.

  • Day 4

    After a fairly early wake up and breakfast, head out to the community service project locations and begin work with local villagers. Projects may include teaching English, assisting in small scale construction work, or other projects to improve local infrastructure. After lunch at the service site, continue working on the different projects, making new friends with the children of the community. Take a break to kick a soccer ball around or learn some new words in the Bribrí language. After dinner back at our comfortable base house in Yorkin, enjoy some down time to hang out and relax.

  • Day 5

    Continue to work on the projects you began yesterday. In your free time, get to know local residents – you’ll have plenty of questions about their day-to-day life, and they’ll probably have some for you too! Return at night to the base house in Yorkin to enjoy a delicious meal and relaxing evening.

  • Day 6

    Take a break from your service work for some cultural activities! Members of this community will show you how they use the cacao plant to make chocolate – one example of industry in this isolated region of Costa Rica. Learn as well about Bribrí´s use of medicinal plants. After, you’ll take a river tour. Return to the community for a delicious dinner and evening activities with your group.

  • Day 7

    After breakfast, say goodbye to the community you’ve come to love and hop on a boat back to the Caribbean Coast. Experience the cool waters and palm trees of the beaches of Puerto Viejo. Take a surfing lesson with some of the most experienced surf instructors of the region – whether you’re a dedicated surfer or a newbie, you’ll be riding the waves in no time!

    Eat lunch at a local restaurant, sampling the best of the Caribbean cuisine. In the afternoon, enjoy some souvenir shopping and relaxation on the palm-lined beaches before heading back to your hotel in Cahuita.

  • Day 8

    After breakfast, pack up and head to Cahuita National Park to unwind. Cahuita is a chill Caribbean town with a relaxed reggae vibe. You will have opportunities to play in the sand, relax in the warm waters, or stroll through souvenir shops at their funky beachside locations. After lunch in town, start the journey back to San José.

  • Day 9

    If you are heading home, you must say your last goodbyes to your new friends and head off to the airport bright and early in the morning. If you are heading off on another Rustic Pathways adventure in Central America, get ready!

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email costarica@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • On Tuesday afternoon students will depart from the Bribri Village to San Jose. They will have a final dinner with their group on route then sleep in a hostel rented out for Rustic Pathways students in Heredia or Alajuela. Wednesday morning students will meet with their new group and go off on their new program.

  • Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 90 day tourist visa upon entry into Costa Rica. For students traveling on Passports issued in countries other than the United States and Canada, we recommend you contact the Costa Rican embassy in your home country for additional visa details.

  • Yes. All flights between Costa Rica and the USA will have a flight leader starting in both Newark and Houston. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as Newark and Houston. Flights between Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and the Dominican Republic are NOT escorted by a Rustic Pathways staff member.

  • Direct flight from Newark to San Jose takes approximately 5.5 hours.
    Direct flight from Houston to San Jose takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours.

  • It does include international travel time. Fortunately, Costa Rica is located very close to United States so students will arrive the same day they depart the US.

  • During the Bribri Villages Service Project students will briefly pass through provinces of Heredia and Alajuela during their travel to the Bribri village. The majority of their time will be spent in the province of Limon, where the village and the majority of the tribe is located.

  • Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also 
certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.

  • Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.

  • Rustic Pathways uses sterilization techniques to ensure that all drinking water for students is potable and safe to drink. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage. In the majority of the Costa Rican areas you can drink water from the tap, staff will let the students know where is safe to do this. The water in this region particulary is NOT potable, so we purchase gallons of water for students to fill up their water bottles and consume during meals. Students may also purchase bottled water at the local store.

  • Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.

  • Outlets in Costa Rica are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prong if grounded). Students from Europe will need an adapter. (Adapters are very difficult to find in Costa Rica. Don’t forget yours at home!)

  • The Bribri program takes place in the Caribbean coast, a very green, tropical area of the country. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s. When it is sunny it is VERY hot, and when it rains it is VERY wet and humid. Students should be prepared for a mix.

  • On Wednesday and Monday nights, students will stay in a comfortable hotel with a swimming pool, right in front of the beach and close to the Cahuita National Park. From Thursday to Monday, the program is going to be in the Yorkin community, students will stay in one big wooden house, with individual mattresses covered in mosquito nets. Boys and girls will sleep on separate floors of the house. The lodge is rustic and simple, but comfortable, safe and immersed in nature.

  • Students will be eating traditional Costa Rican food prepared by local Bri Bri people, and eating these meals in an outdoor dining shelter at the base house. Breakfast may include gallo pinto (a mix of rice and beans) with eggs and bread. Lunch and dinner will be the traditional “casados” which consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat/seafood dish. Students will also experience specialty dishes from the Caribbean which are known for their distinctive coconut and curry flavors.

  • The bathroom facilities are located in a separate building directly next to the students’ rooms. They have running water and American style toilets and showers; however hot water is unreliable. During the overnight trip to Yorkin the bathroom facilities are very basic, and hot water is not available.

  • Students will have access to internet once during their stay in Bri Bri, at an internet café in Puerto Viejo. Phone cards can be purchased from the Rustic Pathways guides and used at the public phone in the Bri Bri lodge.

  • Students should pack enough clothes and personal items to last through the end of the Bribri Villages program. Laundry is not easily available in the Bribri village, but has been done in the past by the local staff at the lodge.

  • There are typically more girls than boys however the exact numbers vary from week to week.

  • There is not hot water during our time in Yorkin. The boat ride to the community is totally safe. You can not flush the toilet paper.

  • It is our transportation media, first and last day are going to be a quarter of the day.

  • Rustic Pathways hires private buses/vans to transport our students to different program locations. To Yorkin and back to the hotel, transportation is going to be by boat, it is a one hour and 30 minutes ride over the Yorkin river.

  • This program visits the most remote community of our programs in Costa Rica, however, the nearest clinic is located one hour from the base house and the hospital is one hour and 10 minutes from this clinic.

  • Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the HX Global and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.

  • HX Global is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to HX Global benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.

    As a member you will have access to HX Global’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our HX Global webpage.

  • The nearest clinic is located one hour from the base house and the hospital is one hour and 10 minutes from this clinic.

  • Rustic Pathways can cater to most dietary needs on this program. There will be ample access to fruits, vegetables, rice, beans, and grains for those who are vegetarian. Vegan diets can be accommodated, but with a little more foresight and planning as this is not a diet commonly encountered in Costa Rica. Please know that while we are happy to accommodate alternative diets, many of the special diets common in the United States are not common in other parts of the world and travelers must be patient and understanding in having these needs be met. Please contact costarica@rusticpathways.com with any questions regarding special diets or allergies.

  • Yes, there are bugs. It isn’t unbearable, but we do require students to wear bug spray, preferably containing DEET, and to bring light layers to cover up during dawn and dusk.

  • Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

  • Surf class $50. Please note that add-on activities are subject to change. Occasionally Rustic Pathways staff identify new opportunities throughout the summer that we feel will enhance the students overall experience. Add-on activities may also be canceled.

  • We recommend $250 for add-on activities, souvenir shopping and snacks.

  • Please refer to our Community Service Hour Awards webpage for more information on how service hours are awarded.

  • Rustic Pathways works with local community leaders and organizations to identify and prioritize the needs of each community.

  • This program is not a language based program, however, you have the chance to practice your Spanish skills with local people.

  • This is a cultural immersion program, you will be staying in an indigenous village, with their own culture and traditions, the most important thing is to respect their culture. Our staff are bilingual so you don’t need to worry about the language barrier. This program has a high level of physical community service work; keep that in mind. You can also bring your instrument and play music with the group.

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.


A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

  • Passport
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet/money
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Ear buds
  • Change of clothes
  • Water bottle
  • Medication
  • Additional community service forms
  • Visa documentation (if applicable)
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal. Please avoid wheeled suitcases.


  • Socks (3-4)
  • Underwear (6-8)
  • Pants/capris (2)
  • Jeans (1)
  • Long Shorts*
  • T-shirt (3-5)
  • Tank tops (4-5)
  • Long sleeve shirt (1)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Rain jacket
  • Fleece/hoodie
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Sunglasses
  • Rubber boots
  • Hat
  • Work gloves
  • Quick dry towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Headlamp/flashlight


(travel sized in ziplock bags, biodegradable toiletries are highly recommended)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts
  • Contact solution
  • Foam earplugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant
  • Wet Wipes
  • Razor/shaving cream


  • Portable games (Bananagrams, playing cards, etc

Important Reminders

  • *Community Service Appropriate Attire includes T-shirts and tank tops with no visible undergarments and shorts with a 3” or more inseam.
  • Don’t forget the Big Five: Water Bottle, Sunscreen, Bug spray, Rain jacket, Closed-toe shoes.
  1. a
    San Jose

    Welcome to Costa Rica! You will meet your group and program leaders in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

  2. b

    After an amazing whitewater rafting in the Pacuare river, be ready for your first immersion in the caribbean side of the country, stay in a hotel beachfront and relax.

  3. c

    Take a boat to the community of Yorkin in the border of Costa Rica and Panama, immerse into the bríbrí culture and enjoy the community service project.

  4. d
    Puerto Viejo

    Relax at the Puerto Viejo town, be ready for surf the caribbean waves and try an excellent cousine from the locals.