Costa Rica Summer Program
Costa Rica has been the model for sustainable economic development in Latin America for a generation. On this program, you’ll spend most of your time living in or alongside some of Costa Rica’s most important biological reserves while learning about integrated sustainability initiatives to protect these valuable resources.
In this Sustainable Summer Program…
tYou’ll visit an indigenous community and learn traditional agricultural practices
tYou’ll learn about the implementation of renewable energy at a variety of scales
tYou’ll harvest crops and practice permaculture at an organic farm
tYou’ll develop homesteading skills such as fermentation and soap-making
tYou’ll learn about natural building and work with natural building materials and techniques
Your Sustainable Summer experience will span from Costa Rica’s legendary Pacific beaches to the mist shrouded slopes of the Central Highlands to the tropical rainforest. Our Costa Rica summer program is ideal for high school students with a strong interest in environmental sustainability, and particularly renewable energy and agriculture. Costa Rica is widely considered an ‘easy’ place to travel by developing country standards, and we think this program is also a good choice for students that are looking to get their first taste of ‘adventure travel’ and life in a ‘developing’ country, although we caution that our itinerary is more challenging (in a good way) than many Costa Rica travel itineraries.
Picture yourself living on an organic farm on the edge of a national park, where you’ll help produce the food that sustains the local community. Or on a guided night hike through Costa Rica’s virgin rainforest, when the jungle really comes alive. You’ll feel the rush of rafting Costa Rica’s world famous whitewater, play soccer with local kids, and come to understand why the essential Costa Rican phrase – pura vida – is the perfect embodiment of this beautiful place and the Tico people that call it home.Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.
how sustainable energy and agriculture solutions are designed
tropical rainforests, hidden valleys, and pristine beaches
horseback to a towering waterfall in Cangreja National Park and raft Costa Rica’s legendary whitewater
2016 Facilitators *
Costa Rica Testimonials
Thank you so much for creating and running this amazing program!! I’m so grateful for all that you’ve done to make this organization so awesome!! Jess, student from Boca Raton, FL
Read More Testimonials
Costa Rica 9-Day Photos
By Sustainable Summer // September 16, 2015
Costa Rica 21-Day Photos
By Sustainable Summer // September 16, 2015
Costa Rica Student Essay
By Rafael Robert // September 8, 2015
Costa Rican Transformation
By Lily Antunez // September 1, 2015
Costa Rica Student Essay
By Amber Heldreth Miller // September 1, 2015
Costa Rica Student Essay
By Own Shain // September 1, 2015
Costa Rica Student Essay
By Miriam Wahid // September 1, 2015
Costa Rica Student Photo Essay
By Jess Kian // August 16, 2015
Core Curriculum & Program Components
Much More Than A Tour
Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
How do “small” and “local” provide a blueprint for a sustainable future? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in Costa Rica. Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (83% of tuition), or scholarship (as low as 15% of tuition).HOW IT WORKS
tOur standard course fee, which represents the actual cost of operating our programs, including the administrative costs that are necessary to sustain our organization in the long-term. This is the suggested rate for families living in high cost of living areas with household net assets of greater than $650,000 and/or annual household income of greater than $180,000.
tParticipants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families – no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 720 – 3355
tAdditional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to an 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.
in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments
3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.
Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.
Dynamic Learning Opportunities
Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.
Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!
2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators
Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.
Pre-Program Materials and Support
Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.
Tuition does not include airfare, $95 InternationalSOS membership (required), or personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals. A $29 Costa Rica exit fee, payable at the SJO airport on departure, is also not included.
We designate a recommended group flight for students. Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment.Our designated round trip group flight:
CHECK THE CURRENT PRICE
Escort on Both Outbound and Return Flight
San Jose (SJO)
San Jose (SJO)
tDo not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families – please check your MySummer accountfor more information.
tNot all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
tStudents NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries
Most students will arrive on our chaperoned group flight into the international airport outside San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital city. It’s a short drive by private transport from the airport to our hostel in Alajuela, where we will begin our orientation period.Day 1
Orientation at Rancho Margot
The next morning, after breakfast we’ll travel north to Rancho Margot, a stunning eco-lodge on the shores of Lake Arenal. Rancho Margot is the perfect destination to become acquainted with Costa Rica and your fellow students. It is fully self-sufficient, yet at a truly impressive scale – two different micro-hydro turbines provide all their energy needs; chickens, pigs, and cows number in the hundreds, yet exist in healthy, environmentally sustainable way; and the entire property of several hundred hectares has been reforested in the last decade.During orientation, we’ll become familiar with local customs, health and safety protocols, and share our individual and mutual goals for the program.We also will begin our investigation of sustainability as a subject of inquiry, as we learn about the various sustainability initiatives on the farm and consider how the systems and philosophies in place at Margot can inform a shift to more sustainable communities elsewhere in the world. No visit to the beautiful Arenal would be complete without some dedicated to exploring the surrounding countryside. We’ll have some time for a short hike in the area, as well as kayaking on Lago Arenal.Days 2 & 3
We’ll then move on to the Sarapaqui region, one of Costa Rica’s most important biospheres. We’ll be staying at an eco-lodge on the edge of Costa Rica’s largest National Park, Braulio Carrillo. The surrounding jungle is primary rainforest that serves as a critical ecological corridor. Much important research has been and continues to be conducted in the area. Conservation efforts have maintained the native forest on the southern side of the Rio Sarapiqui, although the numerous pineapple farms that dot the northern side serve as a constant reminder of the threat of development.During our five nights in the area, we’ll conduct biodiversity research with a local scientific organization; take an ethnobotany course from a local expert; go whitewater rafting on the Rio Sarapaqui; and go for a guided night hike through the tropical jungle. It’s not all adventure and sustainability, though. We’ll also take in some with local culture. You’ll learn to make the perfect gallo pinto and friend plantains in a cooking class and polish your Merengue, Salsa, and Cha-Cha skills in a Latin dance class, too.Days 4 – 8
The Cloud Forest
Leaving Sarapaqui, we’ll travel south and up in elevation to Paraiso Quetzal, a beautiful cloud forest lodge situated on a ridge overlooking Costa Rica’s southern valley. After lunch, we’ll have an afternoon hike in search of the elusive Quetzal, seen rarely throughout Costa Rica, but living in abundance in this area.While in this area, we’ll visit a cooperatively owned wind power facility and hydroelectric project and learn how the projects are producing clean energy at fair rates for rural communities that previously had no access to the grid. This segment of the program encourages reflection on the sources, uses, and economics of renewable energy. One of the principle questions we will consider is the size and scope of a project, which we will continue to explore later in the program.We’ll also visit a flower exporter and a coffee cooperative in an effort to better understand both the global supply chain as well as issues of equity and social justice associated with agricultural production and consumption.Days 9 & 10
Winding our way through the craggy, jungle clad valleys of the central mountains, our next destination is Mastatal and Cangreja National Park, one of Costa Rica’s least visited, but most remarkable destinations.We’ll spend a little over a week at Rancho Mastatal, an environmental learning center and eco-lodge situated on the park’s boundary. Rancho Mastatal is a sustainability pioneer that practices natural construction techniques (locally harvested woods and bamboo, earthen structures, etc), sustainable food production, and renewable energy generation.The American operators work closely with the surrounding community on conservation initiatives to help preserve and protect the last remaining virgin rainforest in this region of Costa Rica. Sustainability education of both local and foreign students is an important part of Mastatal’s mission.During our time there, we’ll study many of the initiatives that make Mastatal a stunning example of sustainability, from their use of biodigesters and rainwater catchments to traditional agricultural production methods and reforestation efforts.We’ll visit the Zapaton Indigenous Reserve, play soccer with the local kids, and fill our minds with knowledge about the principles of permaculture, tropical ecology, and other remarkable subjects that are being practiced every day at Mastatal.Days 11 – 18
Our final days of the program will be at the beaches of Playa Esterillos, where we’ll reflect on our time in Costa Rica, share our Sustainability Action Plans, and prepare to say farewell.Days 19 & 20
We’ll wake up for breakfast and perhaps a final swim in the Pacific and then it’s about 90 minutes driving by bus back to the airport in Alajuela for an early afternoon flight back to the US.Day 21
An Important Note About Itinerary Changes
Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.