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Work alongside health care professionals on high-impact public health projects across the Dominican Republic. Explore the diverse regions of this beautiful Caribbean island while immersing yourself in local culture and practicing your Spanish in a healthcare setting. Identify health needs of rural, urban, wealthy, and impoverished communities and help develop meaningful public service initiatives. Earn your Wilderness First Aid certification and apply your new skills to helping communities in need.

Components of a Critical Issues Program

  1. Deliberate Focus: Students explore specific global issues as they exist in communities around the world.
  2. Pre-Travel Engagement: Prior to their arrival in the program’s base country, students build an understanding of the issue their program focuses on through readings, film screenings, and various learning opportunities.
  3. Program Content and Discussion: Students progress through a curriculum comprised of activities, discussions, and debriefs designed to expand their understanding and exploration of key topics.
  4. Program Staff: Program Leaders on Critical Issues programs have intimate local knowledge and an academic or professional background in the focus area.
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

Dominican Republic
Community Service Component
Next Level
Community Service Focus
Community Health, Education, Infrastructure
Get to Know
The People, The Language
Travel Component
Stationary Program

  • Day 1

    Travel Day

    Depart the United States for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Your Rustic Pathways staff will greet you upon arrival and take you to the nearby hotel for the night to get some sleep before the real adventure begins.

  • Day 2 - 3

    Learning About the Issues

    After breakfast, your group will receive an introduction to your program, and go over some of the major public health topics you will learn about in the next two weeks. Here you will also learn about public health initiatives that are taking place in the capital. The Dominican Republic has some of the greatest disparities between rich and poor in the region; these disparities can be seen very clearly in Santo Domingo, which is one of the largest cities in the Caribbean.

    You will then hear from some resident experts how the health care system works in the Dominican Republic and introduce you to some of the biggest health problems the country is facing, visiting both public and private health facilities in addition to visiting NGOs (non-governmental organizations). In the evenings, watch a documentary and have group discussions about public health in Latin America to contextualize your experience and prepare for your community service projects. At the end of Day 3, you will travel east to the province of San Pedro, where you will begin community service and your first aid training.

  • Day 4

    Meet the Community

    Today you will learn more about the communities where you will be working. Spend today working on infrastructure projects focused on improving sanitation in batey communities in the area. You will have a chance to speak with local members about some of the most pressing issues for them and their families. Have dinner at the base house and prepare to begin two full days of Wilderness First Aid training in the morning.

  • Day 5 - 6

    Wilderness First Aid Training

    Wilderness First Aid Training Today, you will officially begin your Wilderness First Aid training. Our expert medical staff will provide you with the information you need to develop your skills in first aid, CPR, and emergency response. Spend a full two days training in situation assessment, determining appropriate response in an emergency, providing basic first aid and CPR, and caring for wounds. You’ll take some time while not in a classroom setting to get to know the communities you’ll be serving, including a visit a local government-operated health care center in the batey. You will have the chance to learn about some of the health issues faced in a rural context.

  • Day 7

    Spend the morning wrapping up your WFA training before heading out to a well-deserved day of fun. Spend the day swimming in the serene Caribbean waters and soaking in the sun on the beach. After a full day at the beach, head back to your base in the province of San Pedro. This province is home to los bateyes, communities of sugar cane workers, who have some of the lowest standards of living in the country and are often unable to access health care and education due to their documentation status. Spend the evening watching a film and having a discussion that will give you some background on the situation in this part of the island, and then get a good night’s sleep before you continue community service in the morning.

  • Day 8 - 10

    Community Service!

    After three days of invigorating learning, look forward to giving back. You will make progress on much needed infrastructure projects that will improve sanitation and living conditions for people living in underserved areas. After breakfast each day, you’ll head into our partner communities to work on sanitation-related construction projects. You’ll break for lunch and then continue working hard in the afternoon. See how these basic necessities drastically impact health and some of the major challenges facing a rural agricultural community.

  • Day 11 - 12

    Health Camp!

    Health Camp! You will use what you have learned in your certification and during your time visiting health professionals to provide health workshops to local school children. You’ll get to teach various important subjects such as sanitation and healthy living habits. You will also learn more about the process of producing sugar, including what a typical day looks like for a bracero, or cane cutter. You’ll even get to try some freshly cut sugar cane, which is one of the foods that sustain many braceros on their long days of work. After your final day of workshops, say your last goodbyes as you pack for the beach in the evening.

  • Day 13 - 14

    Beach Time

    Take a break from service and spend the last two days enjoying the Dominican coast. Travel to the beautiful, beachy province of Samaná where you will wrap-up your program. Enjoy the stunning views and waterfalls and discuss what you’ve learned over the last two weeks. You’ll have a much greater understanding of global health challenges now that you’ve seen some of the realities on the ground in the Dominican context.

  • Day 15

    Head back to the capital for a tour of the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the first university, cathedral and hospital in the Americas. Take a tour of the walled city and learn about the deep history of the first European settlement in the Americas. After touring the Colonial Zone, head over to a special dinner and dance show at a typical Dominican restaurant.

  • Day 16

    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 to another Rustic Pathways program in Latin America, get ready for more 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 dominican@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

  • Students will return to Santo Domingo on Tuesday afternoon. They will spend that night in Santo Domingo at a hotel near the airport. On Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, students transferring to other programs in Latin America can catch a flight to Costa Rica, Cuba, or Peru. Students connecting to other programs in the Dominican Republic will join their new trip on Wednesday morning.

  • Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 30-day tourist visa upon entry into the Dominican Republic for the cost of $10. STUDENTS MUST HAVE $10 UPON ENTRY TO PAY FOR THE TOURIST CARD.

  • Yes. All flights between the Dominican Republic and the USA will have a flight leader starting in Miami. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as Miami. Flights from the Dominican Republic to Costa Rica, Cuba, and Peru will not be escorted.

  • Direct flight from Miami to Santo Domingo takes approximately 2-3 hours.

  • Yes.

  • During this trip, students will visit the areas of Santo Domingo, Hato Mayor, San Pedro, and Samana.

  • 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, and/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 purified bottled water on all Dominican Republic Programs. 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.

  • None.

  • Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day with occasional rain showers. At night the weather will be in the 70s and 80s.

  • Students will stay in a few different places throughout their time in the Dominican Republic. In Santo Domingo, we will stay at a hotel near the airport and at another hotel in a nice part of town. In San Pedro, we will be staying in a rented base house private for our group, with 2-6 students per room. Students will also stay at a small hotel in a beach town on the country’s northern coast for two nights during the program.

  • Students will be eating traditional Dominican food prepared by local cooks and restaurants. Breakfast may include plantains or toast with eggs, fruits, and cereal. Lunch and dinner will be typical dishes, which consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat/seafood dish or veggie dishes.

  • The bathrooms are located at the facilities and will either be right in the room shared with another student, or be communal bathrooms shared with other Rustic Pathways students of the same gender. They will all have running water and American-style toilets. Showers are rustic, so hot water may not be available.

  • Students will have limited to no access to Internet during the program. They will be able to use guide’s local phones to call home. We will facilitate at least one call a week to parents.

  • Laundry during the program is not guaranteed, so students should bring enough clothes to last through the program. Students may use laundry machines at the Quality Hotel on the night of arrival (or last night of program if connecting to another DR program). The machines at Quality Hotel are coin operated.

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

  • Students should not flush toilet paper down the toilet and cannot drink tap water.

  • There is a medium amount of travel in this program. The longest bus ride students will experience is 3 hours when traveling between Samana and Santo Domingo.

  • Students travel between sites and locations via small private buses.

  • While there is an inherent risk in travel, we control that risk very well. All of our programs are run in locations that we feel comfortable traveling to with students. Students will be supervised by our staff from the moment of arrival in the Dominican Republic airport. Students are never left alone in any place, and the communities we are working with are very responsible.

    All staff have at least first aid and CPR certifications and some are also Wilderness First Responders. We employ local staff that know the areas that we visit well.

    We also have risk management plans in place for all of our programs, and close relations with local communities. We hire local staff that know the lay of the land, and can spot risky situations. We monitor weather, crime, and government notices, and also have a partnership with International SOS. We keep our hand on the pulse of what’s going in the country.

    Parents should consult the CDC website and International SOS for information on Malaria and Dengue, which are both present in the Dominican Republic.

  • 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’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 International SOS webpage.

  • The nearest clinic is about 15 minutes away, nearest hospital is about 40 minutes away.

  • 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 the Dominican Republic. 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 met.

  • Moderate mosquitoes, buggy at times. Students should bring DEET repellent and may wish to wear light long sleeved shirts and pants.

  • 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.

  • $250

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

  • Rustic Pathways has partnered with local communities and organizations to help identify important public health needs. You will be working on projects related to health education, clean water, sanitation or nutrition.

  • Rain Jacket and work gloves.

  • This program does not include formal Spanish language instruction; however, students will have multiple opportunities to practice Spanish with their guides and the local community, as well as participate in informal vocabulary lessons that will apply to what you will encounter on your program.

  • On this program you will learn about the various issues that both urban and rural communities face and how these issues play an important role in health. Learn about how the health system is structured and some of the challenges faced in a developing country.

    Prepare to get your hands dirty as you and your group work together on small construction and education projects in one of our partner communities. You will also have time to interact and befriend the locals as you help teach health workshops to community members. Remember to pack clothes that are culturally appropriate and that you don’t mind getting dirty! This means longer shorts or pants for service and good shoes, and clothes you will be comfortable walking around and visiting NGOs and clinics in.

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
  • Two photocopies 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.


  • Socks (15)
  • Underwear (15)
  • Pants/capris (2)
  • Jeans (1)
  • Collared shirt*
  • Long shorts (2-3)
  • Long skirt
  • T-shirts (8-12)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1-2, lightweight)
  • Fleece/hoodie
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick dry towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Light jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Hiking boots
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat (for sun)
  • Work gloves
  • Headlamp/flashlight


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • 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

Important Reminders

  • *On the program we will be visiting NGO offices so please make sure to bring a collared shirt (a polo shirt or a button down shirt is fine) that you can wear with jeans to these meetings.
  • Shorts should be knee length—think Bermuda or basketball shorts—to be respectful to the local culture and traditions.
  • Please bring $10 USD to pay for your tourist card upon arrival.
  1. a
    Santo Domingo

    Welcome to the Dominican Republic! You will arrive in Santo Domingo and begin your journey.

  2. b
    San Pedro

    The town where you will be based for WFA and community service.

  3. c

    Here, you will stay in an eco hotel and explore the beautiful beaches of the north coast of the island.