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Learn to surf or take your skills to the next level during this one-week program. Live at our base house and soak in the laid-back culture of beach town life. When you’re not surfing, work directly with local families helping to improve their homes and standard of living. You’ll also have the chance to go whitewater rafting!

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 Component
Community Service Focus
Infrastructure, Environment
Get to Know
Adventure, Nature, The People
Settle in at the Base
Travel Component
Stationary Program

  • 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.

    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 ecotourism and environmental protection.

    In addition to its stunning flora and fauna, Costa Rica is also world-renowned for its adventure activities and fantastic surfing conditions, both of which you’ll be sampling in the days to come!

    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

    Wake up for an early breakfast before departing with your group on a 4-5 hours bus ride to the Pacific Surf town of Playa Grande. After settling into the Playa Grande Surf and Service Base house and taking in the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, head to the beach for your first introduction to the region’s famous waves.

    In the evening, return for a delicious dinner at The Base and enjoy a relaxing evening with your new friends.

  • Day 3

    Wake up early to start the day with service on a local community project helping out on construction projects to improve the community infrastructure. In the afternoon, ride the waves during another surf lesson. Relax in the sun, explore the famous beach of Playa Grande, play soccer or volleyball with your new friends. In the evening, hang out at The Base. Relax with a game of ping pong or foosball, strum a guitar, or take a nap in a hammock.

  • Day 4

    This morning you’ll continue your service work on a local community project. In the afternoon, surf the Pacific waves.

  • Day 5

    Enjoy a day-long whitewater rafting trip on the Tenorio River, one of the most gorgeous rivers in Costa Rica. Spot wildlife as you glide down the flat water parts of the river and paddle hard through the rapids. Thrilling and exhilarating, rafting is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

  • Day 6

    Enjoy a delicious breakfast before heading off to surf lessons this morning. Then walk back to the Base, have lunch and get ready to take a private Catamaran tour. Discover secluded beaches, sunbathe or just float in the water where you will have the opportunity to snorkel in one of the most beautiful areas of Costa Rica.

  • Day 7

    Have breakfast and go back to your last community service session, then have lunch and get ready to catch more waves in the afternoon, by now you should be a pro. Visit Tamarindo town for the sunset and souvenir shopping.

  • Day 8

    After breakfast, take one last opportunity to surf before its time to say goodbye to your new friends. After lunch, it’s time to head back to San José for your last night in Costa Rica.

  • Day 9

    Depart early for home or more onto another great adventure with Rustic Pathways!

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 Service and Surf program, students will spend the majority of time in the Guanacaste province. They will spend their first and last night in 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 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.

  • Students will be staying at a comfortable beachfront Base House in Playa Grande.

  • Students will be eating meals prepared by our local cook, the food will vary between traditional Costa Rican food (rice, beans, meat dishes and salads) and occasional American and international selections.

  • All the places where we stay have bathroom facilities with running water, American style toilets and showers.

  • Students will have limited access to internet during their program when they visit towns with internet cafes. Students 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 our leaders phones. It is important to note that they will also be spending time in some more remote areas, where there will not be public phone or internet access. 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.

  • Students will drive 4-5 hours to Playa Grande and back to San José at the beginning and end of the program. We will spend most of the days in Playa Grande. The only time we drive out of town is when we go whitewater rafting and that is going to be 2 hours 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 contactcostarica@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.

  • The recommended allowance is $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.

  • Surfboards will be provided. However advanced surfers may prefer to bring their own as Rustic does not have any shortboards to use.

  • You don’t need to have experience surfing.

  • 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

  • Yes you can.

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
  • 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

Checked Luggage

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


  • Socks (3-5)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Shorts (2-3)
  • T-shirts (5-7)
  • Tank tops (2-3)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit (2-3)
  • Rain jacket
  • Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
  • Sneakers
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Quick dry towel
  • A towel to use in the house
  • A beach towel/sarong
  • Rash guard


(travel sized in ziplock 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

  • *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
    Playa Grande

    This pristine place will be your house for the week. Be ready for surfing and working!