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If you love working with children, this is the perfect program for you! Begin your trip with an adventurous whitewater rafting trip down the Pacuare River, then spend three days training in leadership and planning a creative summer day camp experience for local Costa Rican children. After this amazing bonding experience, work together to run the summer camp where you will develop meaningful connections with your campers through fun, engaging, and educational activities. Enjoy zip lining, a coffee demonstration and relaxing in natural hot springs throughout the week. Wrap up your experience with boat trip to an tropical island  to relax in paradise before you head 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
Get to Know
The People, The Language
Settle in at the Base, Relax at Hotels
Travel Component
Moderate Travel Involved

  • Day 1

    Welcome to Costa Rica

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

    Head to your lodgings for the night and spend the first evening 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 - 3

    Raft the Pacuare

    Start the trip with an exciting whitewater rafting challenge on the Pacuare River. During this two-day trip, get to know your group and leaders with activities at the river lodge at night.

    Enjoy your first glimpses of this spectacular country along the Pacuare River. From its rainforests to its volcanic peaks and 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 country’s natural beauty, and have put their country on the map as the world leader in ecotourism 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 will be sampling in the days to come!

  • Day 4 - 5

    Set Up Camp

    When you reach the river’s end, drive to Sarapiqui for a three night stay beautiful property of what previously was a traditional ranch house. Set on the banks of the Sarapiqui and San Rafael Rivers, the stay including three meals a day and amazing access the surrounding nature.

    Spend the mornings and afternoons learning about camp structure, partaking in intensive leadership training and planning the camp schedule for the next week with all activities that will make the summer camp a success! There will also be a hike to a nearby waterfall and a traditional horse show amongst other exciting activities.

  • Day 6

    Home Base

    Today you’ll leave your home on the Ranch and move to the base camp in Arenal, where you’ll stay for the duration of the camp you run. First, head to a converted rural mansion for a cultural demonstration. Learn about Costa Rica’s rich history and traditions, and take part in cooking your own traditional lunch. Then head into town for some brief exploration before finally arriving at the base house to settle into our home for the next week. It is also your last day of planning, and in the evening you will decorate camp and put the final touches on the camp plan.

  • Day 7 - 12

    Camp Time

    The next six days will be a dream come true for the Costa Rican children joining what for some may be their first ever summer camp. Wake up early and have breakfast with your fellow counselors, before receiving the Tico kids every day at around 9:00 a.m. Spend the day with the children, running various games and activities, coordinating lunch and snack times, and then saying goodbye to them at around 3 p.m. each afternoon. You’ll build special relationships with these energetic and warm-hearted kids, and put your leadership skills into practice.

    On some days after the camp, you may have the chance to participate in different adventure activities in the La Fortuna area. These activities include zip-lining through the rainforest near the volcano. You will also have the opportunity to visit the natural hot springs.

    In the evenings, you will evaluate the day with your team and prepare for the next one. Eat dinner together and enjoy a relaxing evening.

  • Day 13

    Explore the Arenal Region

    Today, move out of the Base House and into a local hotel close to town. Today is about adventure! Kayak the beautiful Lake Arenal right at the foot of the volcano. Then head take a small hike to the local yet impressive waterfall. Have the rest of the afternoon/evening relaxing in town and debriefing camp.

  • Day 14

    Riches of Costa Rica

    Costa Rica is most famous for a couple of its resources… its wildlife and coffee. Get ready to indulge in both! After packing to leave the hotel, spend the morning at a coffee tour/demonstration of some of the country’s finest! Learn all about what makes this lucrative crop so delicious, and some of the history behind it.

    Then take a bus ride towards the coast, stopping at a rescue center for some of Costa Rica’s most interesting and allusive animals. Spend a guided couple hours learning about Costa Rica’s incredibly diverse wildlife before leaving for your hotel on the coast where we will spend one night prepping for our beach adventure and returning to San José.

  • Day 15

    Vamos a La Playa

    Welcome to the Pacific Coast!. Today will give you a chance to enjoy down time, take in some sun, play beach volleyball or soccer, eat great food and enjoy a beautiful Pacific sunset. Reminisce about the camp you’ve just completed, and spend time enjoying the company of your team.

    This is also the last full day with the program, and after our time on the beach, we head back to the capital. You will spend your last night at the Rustic Pathways base hotel in San José.

  • Day 16


    Depart for home or join another Rustic 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 night students will have a final group dinner and stay the night in Heredia at the 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.

  • 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.

  • Yes, trip length includes travel time. Fortunately, Costa Rica is located very close to the United States and students will arrive on the same day they depart the US.

  • During the Summer Camp Leadership program, students will remain in the Alajuela province near the town of La Fortuna. They will stay in the Heredia province for a very short period of time when they first arrive in country and the night before they depart Costa Rica. They will also visit the San Jose, Cartago and Puntarenas provinces for short periods of time.

  • 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.

  • The water in Costa Rica is safe to drink. 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! )

  • The Summer Camp Leadership program takes place in the rainforest area, a very green, humid, and “wet” area in the country. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day, and the daily rain shower.

  • Throughout the program students will stay at various types of locations including a jungle lodge, a self sustaining ranch, a base house (where they will be running camp!) and a hotel . The jungle lodge is our most rustic location, while the hotel that students stay at in Puntarenas is considerably comfortable accommodations.

  • For the most of the program students will be eating at the base camp’s restaurant where traditional Costa Rican food will be offered daily such as rice & beans with beef, fish, chicken, pork and other local specialties (expect a lot of rice and beans!!!). When away from camp they will be eating at local restaurants and will have a variety of meals to choose from.

  • The bathroom facilities are American standard in Costa Rica. Hot water may not always be available.

  • Students will be taken to a wifi zone or internet cafe at least once a week on this program.

  • Students should pack reasonably for this program. Laundry is available once a week and the cost is $5-$10 depending on the amount of clothes. Those that will be connecting to another program may have access to another laundry service in San Jose at the end of their program for a cost of approximately $10-$15.

  • The maximum number of students on this program is 20. There are typically more girls than boys however the exact numbers vary from week to week.

  • You cannot flush the toilet paper in Costa Rica.

  • There will be several road trips during the two weeks of the program. It will start with a 2 hour ride to the rafting entrance of the Pacuare River. On the third day there will be an approximately 5 hour long drive to a sustainable ranch in Castillo where students will do part of their training. From there, we will drive 45 minutes to settle into our base camp in the surrounding of Fortuna for the next 10 nights. During the time of the camp itself there will be daily short 20-30 minute drives to town and to optional activities in the area. At the end of the trip the group will take a 3 hour ride to the town of Puntarenas to get on the Isla de Tortuga ferry and spend the last day relaxing. On the final day of the program the group will drive another 2 hours to return to San Jose for the last night.

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

  • 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 theInternational 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 toInternational 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.

  • Students will be within an hour and a half of healthcare facilities at all times. However, the majority of the program the students will be in the La Fortuna area. There are two private medical clinics in this town which are about 15 minutes away from the base.

  • 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, and in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.

  • This program recommends students bring $300-350 for spending money.

  • Yes, up to 70 hours are awarded on Summer Leadership Camp.

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


  • The main service work is based on creating a summer day camp for Costa Rican rural children. The first part of the trip will focus on the actual set up of the camp, planning the logistics and details of the camp. Then the main work will come by making the camp come true and running a 7 day long session for the kids.

    When you are not working with the local children you will also spend a few hours being an environmental leader, working on different environmental sustainability projects to improve the impact of tourism in La Fortuna and Costa Rica. You may also have a chance to work on improving some local facilities for children in town. Overall this program is truly one of the most rewarding yet the hardest service work we have in Costa Rica.

  • In Costa Rica we enforce a “Big 5” Rule for all community service. Students are required to have: 1. Full water bottle 2. Sunscreen 3. Bug spray 4. Closed-toed shoes 5. Rain jacket

  • Students will have the opportunity to practice their Spanish with the Tico campers.

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)
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Check Luggage

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


  • Socks (5-8)
  • Underwear (6-8)
  • Pants/capris (3-4)
  • Service shorts (3-4) (Must be appropriate to work with children)
  • Tank Tops (3-4)
  • T-shirts (5-7)
  • Long sleeved shirt (2-4)
  • Fleece/hoodie
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick dry towel
  • Beach towel/sarong
  • Rain jacket
  • Sandals
  • Water shoes that strap on (like Tevas, Chacos, or close toed water shoes. Must attach to foot!)
  • Sneakers/ Hiking boots (Closed-toe comfortable shoes)
  • Sun glasses
  • Hat (for sun)


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth paste
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts
  • Contact 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 long shorts that go to the knee.
  • Don’t forget the Big Five: Water bottle, Sunscreen, Bug spray, Rain jacket, Closed-toe shoes.
  • Students will have a chance to do laundry on this trip.
  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
    Pacuare River

    Raft through the jungle and stay the night in a lodge on the bank of the Pacuare River.

  3. c
    Sueño Azul

    Plan Summer Camp and spend free time hiking, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful Puerto Viejo and San Rafael rivers.

  4. d
    La Fortuna

    Operate Summer Camp near this town that sits in the shadow of Arenal Volcano.

  5. e
    Isla Tortuga

    Relax for a day on the beautiful beaches of Isla Tortuga.