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Learn all about turtle conservation and work to protect native sea turtles on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. Spend the days both enjoying the beach and working to keep it clean. Help protect the turtles during evening patrols looking for nests to relocate to safety. Carry out beach cleanups with park rangers and work daily shifts in the hatchery. Experienced conservationists will lead you through service and teach you about the many ongoing efforts to save sea turtles. There will also be time to snorkel, surf, and bask in the beauty of Costa Rica’s gorgeous Pacific beaches.

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

You must enroll in a program at least 8 days prior to the scheduled departure date. For help choosing an alternate date or location, please contact us to speak with a program expert.

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 Component
Community Service Focus
Get to Know
Nature, Adventure
Relax at hotels
Travel Component
Stationary Program

  • Day 1

    Upon arrival at the San José, Costa Rica, airport you will be greeted by your Rustic Pathways Staff. Head over to your lodgings for the night where you will meet the other students on your trip and spend your first evening.

    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. By joining the Nicoya Turtle Expedition, you’ve become part of this special community.

  • Day 2

    Wake up at 7:00 a.m. for a good breakfast before departing for the Nicoya Peninsula. After a beautiful four-hour drive over mountains and along the coast, arrive at Camaronal Wildlife Refuge. Spend some time getting to know the other students on the trip, and receive an introduction to the week’s service project with the turtles.

    In the evening, prepare to start your expedition with a night walk along the beach looking for turtles. If you are lucky, you will be able to observe how lots of turtles are laying eggs on the beach!

  • Day 3 - 9

    Enjoy the next several days working with the local park rangers on various conservation projects to protect the turtles nesting on Camaronal Beach. These might include working at the turtle hatchery, participating in beach clean-ups, and going on nightly turtle walks.

    In your spare time, enjoy the natural beauty of the area with fun activities such as hikes through the Wildlife Refuge, walks through the rainforest to a river, soccer games on the beach, and trips to the neighboring beach towns. You will also get to go on an adventurous trip along dirt roads to visit a local women’s group and learn cool woodworking and traditional skills during an art class.

  • Day 10 - 14

    After breakfast, head to Carrillo where you will be staying in a comfortable hotel. Here, you will have the chance to try adventurous activities such as surfing, river kayaking, sea kayaking and snorkeling.

    You also get the chance to take a day trip to the nearby town of Nosara and go on a zip-lining adventure that will give you an entirely different perspective of the Pacific ocean.

  • Day 15

    After a morning in the swimming pool, a good breakfast and saying goodbye to your friends from Carrillo, depart to San José for a final dinner with your group and a good night rest.

  • Day 16

    Depart for the airport early in the morning in order to fly home or continue on with another of our Rustic Pathways programs!

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 arrive and stay that night in San Jose in a base hotel. Wednesday morning students will meet with their new group and guides at the same hotel where they stayed 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, 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.

  • Yes, it includes the first and last day of international traveling for the students.

  • During the Nicoya Turtle Expedition program, students will spend the majority of time in the Guanacaste province, specifically in Camaronal Wildlife Refuge and Carrillo. They will spend their first and last night in the country at a hotel located in San José, close to the airport.

  • 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 an adapter. (Adapters are very difficult to find in Costa Rica. Don’t forget yours at home!)

  • Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80’s and 90’s during the day with a daily afternoon rain shower.

  • During their time in Camaronal, students will be staying in a Wildlife Refuge where conditions will be somewhat similar to a hotel with a more rustic touch. While they are in Carrillo, students will stay at a comfortable hotel. Each room of four students will have its own bathroom, running water, modern toilets and showers.

  • Students will be eating meals prepared by local catering groups and at restaurants in the area. The food will vary between traditional Costa Rican food and occasional American and international selections.

  • Hotels all have bathroom facilities with running water, American style toilets and showers. Camaronal Wildlife Refuge, where students stay the first week does not have hot water.

  • Students will have limited access to internet during their program when they visit Samara, where they can go to internet cafes. 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.

  • Students should pack reasonably for this program. Laundry is available once in Samara and the cost is $10-$15 depending on the amount of clothes.

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

  • Students are not going to have hot water in the Wildlife Refuge Cabins for the first 8 days.

    In addition, night patrols can happen at any time at night or the early morning when high tide occurs. During this time, turtles are more likely to come out of the water and onto the beach to lay their eggs. Since tides are dependent on the moon, the timing is not something we can control. However, in order to be as environmentally conscious as possible, we respect the natural habitat and behaviors of the sea turtles and conduct night patrols when we’ll have the best chance of helping a turtle’s nest survive.

  • To go from San Jose to Camaronal and back the bus ride takes from 4.5 to 5 hours depending on road and weather conditions. They are going to stop to have lunch either way.

  • From San Jose to Nicoya and back, students are going to be transported in a comfortable bus. Once in Camaronal and Carrillo students will be transported in regular vans.

  • Access to healthcare in Costa Rica is really good. Students are going to be doing zip lining, surfing and sea kayaking on this program. The vendors we use for these tours have very good safety policies.

  • 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 Center 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 the International SOS webpage.

  • The closest hospital is in Nicoya that is 1.5 hours away from Camaronal, but there is a clinic in Samara which is 30 minutes away from Camaronal and 10 minutes away from Carrillo.

  • 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, laundry, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

  • All adventure activities are included in the program’s cost.


  • We recommend students to bring from $200 to $250.

  • Yes

  • 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.

  • Students doing the Nicoya Turtle Expedition must bring with them a flashlight or headlamp with a red light setting in order to do turtle watching and night patrols.

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
  • 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

Check Luggage

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


  • Socks (8-10, at least 2 long socks)
  • Underwear (12-14)
  • Pants/capris (2, preferably dark color for night walk)
  • Long shorts* (2-3)
  • Long skirt (1)
  • Tank Tops (5-6)
  • T-shirts (5-6)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, preferably dark color for night walk)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick dry towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers Two pairs, one for work)
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth paste
  • Sunscreen (Reef safe)
  • Bug spray (Biodegradable)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts
  • Contacts solution
  • Foam earplugs
  • Personal med kit
  • Deodorant
  • Wet Wipes
  • Razor/shaving cream
  • Miscellaneous
  • Headlamp (with a red light setting)


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
    Camanoral Wildlife Refuge

    Stay right next to the beach where the turtles come out to lay eggs.

  3. c
    Nosara/Playa Guiones

    Go zip-lining in the forest with awesome views of the Pacific ocean. Then relax at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Nicoya peninsula.

  4. d
    Puerto Carrillo

    Enjoy 5 days of relaxation at the beach and adventure activities after 8 days of hard work with the turtles.