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Experience small town life in a traditional tico community on this unique service adventure. Immerse yourself in the community and build meaningful relationships with the locals. You’ll live in luxury tents nestled in the Rainforest, allowing you to experience the beauty of nature while still having the modern amenities of a hotel. Whitewater raft and go zip lining before heading home!

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
Economic Development, Infrastructure
Get to Know
The People, Adventure, Nature
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

  • Day 1

    Depart the United States for San José, Costa Rica. All scheduled flights to Costa Rica are non-stop and escorted by a Rustic Pathways flight leader. Upon arrival at the San José Airport, you will be greeted by your Rustic Pathways staff.

    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.

    Costa Rica’s small rural villages – the true heartland of the country – will open your eyes to the country’s nature.

    Head over to the hostel where you will meet the other students on your trip and spend your first night. Good luck and enjoy your stay in beautiful Costa Rica!

  • Day 2

    Rise early to a 6:30 a.m. wake up call this morning. After a delicious breakfast, depart for a three-hour bus ride to Sarapiquí. Once you arrive at the Hacienda Pozo Azul Tent Suites, which will serve as your base house for the week, enjoy a delicious lunch. Settle into your tent, just a short distance from the main lodge. Take a quick tour of your home for the next week and then head out for an afternoon of community service.

    Your service work may consist of small construction projects, community beautification, and other projects benefiting the whole community. After a full day, return to the base for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

  • Day 3

    After a traditional breakfast, get ready for a full day of community service. Once you finish the morning session it will be on to lunch and a siesta at the base before you head out for afternoon service work in the local town. Take breaks to enjoy a soccer game with the local kids and sample some pineapple fresh from a local farm. After dinner take a brief walk to see Costa Rica’s famous red-eyed tree frogs before going to bed.

  • Day 4

    After an early breakfast, set out for a morning of service work. Reconvene with your group at lunch, and you will head out in the afternoon for a tour at a biological reserve to learn about the history and process of making chocolate. There will be samples, and you’ll probably want to buy some chocolate to take home with you!

    After dinner, head into town for a game of soccer with the locals.

  • Day 5

    It’s the weekend! Get ready to raft the Sarapiquí River, known as the most scenic river in Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest. Enjoy the river’s motion and keep your eyes out for some of the many types of wildlife that live in the forest! You may see toucans, monkeys, and even iguanas. A trip to a local waterfall is a great finish to a full day on the river. After dinner, relax by watching a movie in the commons area.

  • Day 6

    Today is another day of adventure! The morning starts with zip lining through the forest canopy. Enjoy a delicious local-style lunch back at a restaurant nearby. After some relaxing downtime, return to the community to continue working on a community service project.

  • Day 7

    Today will be a full day of work dedicated to finishing (or almost finishing) your projects. After all that hard work, unwind by playing one last soccer game with local kids – you’ll start to realize how much you’ll miss them at the end of your program! Enjoy a delicious dinner and the last night as a group while you celebrate your time in this village.

  • Day 8

    After an early breakfast, finish the week’s service projects and return to the base hotel to pack and say goodbye to your new friends in the community. After lunch, it will be time to board the bus and head towards San José.

  • Day 9

    Today you will either catch the group flight back to the United States or continue on to your next 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

  • On Tuesday afternoon students will arrive and stay that night in Alajuela 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, 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 Sarapiqui program, students will briefly pass through the provinces of Alajuela and San Jose during their travel to the Sarapiqui area. The program is located in the Heredia province.

  • 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 will visit a variety of different locations but most of the time, 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 at the Sarapiqui program, students will stay in comfortable tent suites with 2 double beds in each. Boys and girls will sleep in separate tents, 2 students per tent. These are not your typical camping tents, and combine a rustic environment with modern conveniences. There is running water, electricity, and a ceiling fan in each tent. There is also a common room area at the tent suites for hanging out, relaxing, or reading.

  • Students will be eating traditional Costa Rican food prepared by the hotel, and occasionally at a local restaurant. Students may also eat a meal or two prepared by the local school where they are doing service work. The tent suites hotel does a buffet for most meals. Breakfast may include gallo pinto (a mix of rice and beans) with eggs and bread, fruits and cereal. Lunch and dinner will be the traditional “casados” which consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat/seafood dish as well as pasta dishes.

  • There is a bathroom attached to each individual tent. They have running water and American style toilets and showers. Hot water is available, but can be unreliable.

  • Students will have access to internet during the program. They will also be able to purchase international phone cards in Costa Rica from the guides, which can be used to call home from the public phone in town or from the base house phone. All of our guides have cell phones for emergency purposes.

  • Students should pack reasonably for this program. Laundry may be available once a week 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.

  • You can not flush the toilet paper.

  • The drive from San Jose to Sarapiqui is approximately 3 hours depending on weather and other driving conditions. Students are going to spend most of the days in Sarapiqui, the only time that drive out of town is when we go to the Chocolate Tour and that is going to be 20 minutes maximum.

  • Rustic Pathways hires private buses/vans/4×4 SUV to transport our students to different program locations.

  • We are going to have access to healthcare 30 minutes away in all the places that we visit but we would have helicopter support in case of an emergency. We are not in an area where the malaria is present. We do a lot of adventure activities but we frequently check our vendors to make sure that they follow our safety protocols.

  • 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 hospital is 30 minutes away from the places that we visit.

  • 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.

  • We recommend $100 for 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.

  • Students will work with local Spanish speaking communities, however the focus of the program is adventure and service in an incredibly beautiful location. The possibility of practicing conversational Spanish will exist during community service activities. Local children are especially eager to speak Spanish with Rustic Pathways students.

  • No, all our guides are bilingual so they can help you if you need something

  • The Sarapiqui program is appropriate for most physical activity levels. Students should be prepared for light physical activity including short hikes and some manual labor during the service 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)
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Check Luggage

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


  • Socks (3-4)
  • Underwear (6-8)
  • Pants/capris (2)
  • Long shorts*
  • Long skirt
  • Tank Tops (4-5)
  • T-shirts (3-5)
  • Long sleeved shirt (1)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick dry towel
  • bathing suit cover-up/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Sun glasses
  • Hat


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

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


  • Portable games (Bananagrams, 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

    Depart the United States for San José, Costa Rica.

  2. b
    La Virgen

    Once you arrive at the Hacienda Pozo Azul Tent Suites, which will serve as your base house for the week, enjoy a delicious lunch. Settle into your tent, just a short distance from the main lodge.

  3. c
    Tirimbina Biological Reserve

    Reconvene with your group at lunch, and you will head out in the afternoon for a tour at a biological reserve to learn about the history and process of making chocolate.