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Stay for one week or more at our Volcano and Rainforest Service Base outside of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This program provides a great introduction to tico culture and service in rural communities. Participate in a variety of projects, from improving schools, to planting trees, to teaching English. Outside of service you’ll have the opportunity to visit natural hot springs, zip line, and go whitewater rafting. Make friends with students from around the world on this popular base program.

Dates listed reflect travel time departing from and returning to the USA. International clients click here.

With our No-Stress Travel 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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Program Profile

Costa Rica
Community Service Focus
Infrastructure, Environment, Education
Community Service Component
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

Service Projects at the Volcano Base

Students staying at our Volcano & Rainforest Base will have the opportunity to participate in a range of community initiatives that we support in the La Fortuna area. These projects are designed in close collaboration with our local partners to support community goals. Students are assigned to project teams and will rotate through the initiatives outlined based on the needs of each project during their program.

Language Exchange & Cultural Immersion Program

We work with local community schools that incorporate English as a second language into their curriculum. This project aims to create an intercultural experience for the Costa Rican students and our Rustic students. The Language Exchange and Cultural Immersion (LECI) program promotes cultural awareness by creating a forum where Costa Rican and Rustic students alike can exchange their cultures, values, and perspectives in a safe and open environment through different activities that focus on teamwork, communication, citizenship, and intercultural competence.

Green Communities

Costa Rica is world-renowned for its dedication to environmental protection and we support a number of local initiatives working to protect the natural environment and promote sustainability. Reforest farms in support of the national Bandera Azul program; assist in creating self-sufficient schools by planting gardens; support local artisans who transform trash into art and create awareness in our new generation.

School Improvement Project

We partner with schools in two districts around La Fortuna to support infrastructure improvements that create brighter learning environments for students. Schools receive limited funding from the government and communities work hard to provide additional support to boost their children’s educations. You will work on small scale construction projects that in the past have included building new classrooms, installing tile floors and windows or adding a fresh coat of paint.

Community Infrastructure Project

Residents in communities outside of the touristic town of La Fortuna rely heavily on agriculture as a source of income and have limited resources to support their priorities for community development. We have partnered with several rural communities to support these goals and you will work alongside community leaders to undertake building projects. In the past these have included initiatives such as construction of a tilapia fish farm to generate additional funds for the community and a kitchen for a community center to support local events.

  • Day 1

    Depart the US en route to San José, Costa Rica. Upon your arrival, Rustic Pathways Staff will greet you at the airport.

    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 also world-renowned for its adventure activities, some of which you may be sampling in the days to come!

    Head to your night’s lodgings. Spend the first night meeting new friends and mingling about with students preparing for our many enriching programs. Good luck and enjoy your stay in beautiful Costa Rica!

  • Day 2

    Wake up early for breakfast before departing with your group to La Fortuna, one of Costa Rica’s most scenic towns. After a beautiful three-hour drive, arrive at the Volcano and Rainforest Service Base in time for a fresh Tico lunch. There will be time to settle into rooms and get to know The Base before going to a cultural presentation at a nearby school. In the evening get to know your new friends and enjoy games, good music, and new stories.

  • Day 3

    In the morning after breakfast, get with your respective work group and leave the Base to work on one of the exciting and rewarding projects in the surrounding communities. Work will be divided into community improvement projects, educational facility development, and green initiative projects.

    After a productive morning, return to The Base for a fantastic lunch. Take a siesta or jump in the pool for a quick swim before leaving again to work on a different afternoon service project. After dinner you will prepare for Language Exchange and Cultural Immersion with a local school.

  • Day 4

    Wake up for an early breakfast, and then have another significant and productive day with different community service projects. After dinner, head into town for local souvenir shop and a chance to use the Internet!

  • Day 5

    After a nice breakfast, get ready for a day full of scenic beauty and head out to the zip line through the rainforest canopy where you can observe the magnificent Arenal Volcano and the artificial lake that runs dam for hydroelectric power in the country. After Lunch you will go to the nearby waterfall of La Fortuna and spend time to enjoy the beauty of the waterfall and swim in the river. After this prepare for a trip that will take you through the roots of Costa Rican culture, with typical activities, music and Costa Rican cuisine that you’re going to love.

  • Day 6

    After breakfast, get ready for an intense day of adventure! You will be off to go whitewater rafting on the famous Sarapiquí River (class III & IV). Those who do not wish to join the tour can spend the day relaxing at The Base or shopping in La Fortuna. Return to The Base. At night you will have an activity at the base house with the entire group that you’ll have fun.

  • Day 7

    Wake up for an early breakfast, and then head out to work in your community service projects. At night enjoy a relaxing visit to the hot springs after a week of hard work!

  • Day 8

    After breakfast you will work on your last day of community service. Return to the Base for lunch and then pack up for the return to San Jose, stopping along the way for last-minute souvenir shopping.

  • Day 9

    It’s time to say adiós to Costa Rica and head home or on to another exciting Rustic Pathways adventure!

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

  • This program starts and ends in San Jose, like all other Costa Rica programs, providing a smooth transition assisted by our summer guides. Students interested in connecting with programs in the Dominican Republic and Peru can also be accommodated.

  • 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.

  • There are flight leaders on our flights in and out of Costa Rica via Houston and Newark.

  • 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

  • This program stays in the La Fortuna area of San Carlos, in the province Alajuela.

  • 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.

  • 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 the adapters which are hard to find in Costa Rica, so if necessary, bring your own.

  • The Volcano and Rainforest program takes place in the rainforest area, a very green, humid, and wet area of the country. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day, and a daily rain shower. The rainy season does not slow us down, so bring a good raincoat and be prepared to work hard!

  • Students will be staying in two fully equipped base houses located 15 minutes away from the town of Fortuna. This program offers one of the most comfortable accommodations among the Costa Rican Programs with all commodities that compensate the hard work they do during the day including a fresh water outdoor pool, soccer field and a volley-ball net with many other amenities that make this trip an amazing one. Between 4– 8 students will share a big room with bunk beds and a private bathroom (number of students per room depends on number of girls and boys).

  • Students will be eating a good variety of food during the buffet style meals served at the Volcano base. Breakfast usually includes fresh fruits, cereal, milk and juice. Lunch and dinner will vary and in the past has included chicken, steak and fish dishes, rice, black beans, potatoes, plantains, salads, and pasta. Our Volcano base chef does his best to incorporate both traditional Costa Rican dishes as well as more familiar flavors.

  • Every room has a private bathroom with running water and American style toilets and showers. Hot water is available.

  • Students will have access to internet during their visit to the town of La Fortuna twice or three times a week. Phones are not available at the base house but they will be able to call home during their visit to town. They will be able to purchase international phone cards in Costa Rica from the guides or at local convenience stores which can be used to call home from the public phones in La Fortuna.

  • Students should pack reasonably for this program. Laundry is available once a week and the cost is $4 per kilo.

  • We expect a good mix between genders, however the exact numbers vary from week to week.

  • You cannot flush the toilet paper. Instead, trash cans are always located in the bathrooms and are changed daily.

  • This program is located a 3 hour drive from San Jose. Aside from this, students will be traveling only short distances (10-30mins) to get to different activities and community service projects. If students are interested in doing white water rafting, they will be driving about an hour. But, this program stays in one location the whole trip.

  • Rustic Pathways hires private buses/vans to transport our students to different program locations

  • This program has access to nearby clinics and day-to-day has a low safety risk. Students can choose to do a couple optional activities, but we check all safety and risk assessment procedures of these companies. Due to the proximity of this program to the rainforest, we require students to wear bug spray and ask for them to stay away from any animals and reptiles.

  • 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 International SOS 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.

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

    As a member you will have access to International SOS 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 International SOS webpage.

  • The nearest private and public clinics are about 15-20 mins from the base house in the town of La Fortuna.

  • There will be access to vegetarian choices in the buffets. Vegan diets can be accommodated. 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. We are able to accommodate a nut-free environment as well. 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.

  • There are no add-on activities.

  • Students should bring $200-250 in order to allow them to do participate in add-on activities, should they choose to, and have some money to do souvenir shopping.

  • 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.

  • A rain jacket and closed toe shoes are required.

  • The Volcano Program does not include formal Spanish language instruction; however students will have multiple opportunities to practice Spanish with the local students and other locals involve in the community service projects.

  • The Volcano and Rainforest program service projects are appropriate for most physical activity levels. Students should be prepared for moderate physical activity including lifting heavy material, shoveling, digging, mixing cement, wood work, and other manual labor during the construction projects. Everyone is expected to come ready to work, and donate their valued manual labor towards the completion of the summer projects.

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 or similar sized bag is ideal.

  • 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)
  • Camera
  • Ear buds
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.


  • Socks (4-5)
  • Underwear (6-8)
  • Pants/capris (2)
  • Long shorts* (5-6)
  • Tank Tops (3-4)
  • T-shirts (6-8)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1)
  • Rash guard (Suggested for rafting)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Bathing suit cover-up/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Sandals for water (like Tevas or Chacos or water shoes for rafting)
  • Sneakers (Closed-toed comfortable shoes)
  • Sun glasses
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Rubber boots (Suggested for service, or you may bring an extra $15-$20 if you wish to buy them in country)


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

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


Portable games–Bananagrams, playing cards, Frisbee
Flash Light or headlamp (suggested)

Important Reminders

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

    Depart the US en route to San José, Costa Rica. Upon your arrival, Rustic Pathways Staff will greet you at the airport.

  2. b
    La Fortuna

    Wake up early for breakfast before departing with your group to La Fortuna, one of Costa Rica’s most scenic towns. After a beautiful three-hour drive, arrive at the Volcano and Rainforest Service Base in time for a fresh Tico lunch. There will be time to settle into rooms and get to know The Base before going to a cultural presentation at a nearby school.