Summer Camp Leadership

Develop leadership skills while running a summer camp for rural Costa Rican youth

Help turn a dream into a reality for dozens of children from rural villages in Costa Rica. Travel to a base camp hidden deep in the tropical Costa Rican countryside where you will lead a summer camp for deserving children. They can’t wait for their week of soccer, arts and crafts, dance, games, songs and English lessons with their new counselors-in-training. Become part of a team, learn how to be a leader, and help enrich the lives of these kids.

Become Part of a Dream

The Costa Rica Summer Camp Leadership Program offers proactive, motivated and positive students the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children and youth from rural Costa Rican communities. These children live in villages on the outskirts of La Fortuna and have never been to an educational and engaging summer camp like this, and they can’t wait for the fun to begin.

Spark Your Creativity

Your experience will start with nothing less than an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip in order to set the tone of excitement for the rest of the journey. You’ll have to work as a team to conquer the class III and IV rapids of the world-famous Pacuare River. By the end of the trip, you’ll have learned to depend on each other and to work together effectively – essential skills in the coming weeks.

Next, travel to your base in La Fortuna to visit the community and the children you will be working with and also start on planning activities and preparing for the exciting week ahead. Brace yourself for the arrival of an entire bus full of very excited Costa Rican kids and put your recently honed leadership skills to the test. Throughout the rest of the trip, you’ll help with some English lessons through dynamic games and organize and lead sports, arts and crafts, and other recreational activities for these children. You’ll need to work closely with your teammates, and your leadership skills will blossom over the course of the week. We ask that you bring the best of your summer camp memories to help recreate that experience for these children, who have no idea what great fun awaits them!

An Opportunity for Adventure

The Summer Camp Leadership Program is about creating an unforgettable experience for local children and strengthening your leadership skills, but no trip to Costa Rica is complete without taking advantage of the country’s diverse natural wonders. In the afternoons, once the children have gone home for the day, you can enjoy a few optional activities. Zip line over the jungle canopy, ride a horse through the jungle, or visit the area’s famed natural hot springs.

**These are optional adventure activities that come at an additional cost.

Reflection on the Beach

After saying goodbye to the children of La Fortuna, you will embark on a relaxing sailing trip to the picturesque Isla Tortuga, a palm-fringed island that is the perfect destination for some well-deserved rest and reflection. As you lounge on the beach reminiscing about the experiences you have shared, you’ll realize that you’ve grown as a leader, improved your Spanish skills, and made a real difference in the lives of others. 

Who Should Come?

The Costa Rica Summer Camp Leadership Program requires exceptionally motivated, hardworking and mature participants who are ready to create a truly unforgettable experience for themselves and for the lucky Costa Rican children chosen to attend the program. While the program states that up to 70 hours of community service can be awarded, please know that you will need to work for those hours, they are not a given. Please come with the intention to earn all 70 hours.


Day 1 (Tuesday)

Depart United States for San Jose, Costa Rica Upon arrival at the San Jose airport you will be greeted by your Rustic Pathways Staff. From here you will head over to the hotel rented out by Rustic Pathways where you will meet the other students on your trip and spend your first night. Enjoy your stay in beautiful Costa Rica!

Day 2 (Wednesday): Get wet rafting the Pacuare

Start the trip with an exciting whitewater rafting challenge. During the two-day trip, get to know your team and work on your teamwork skills with activities at the river lodge at night.

Day 3 (Thursday): Get through the class IV and get planning

Raft the second part of the river in the morning and then spend the night at a nature lodge in Guapiles halfway down the road to the base camp. Start learning about the camp structure and schedule.

Day 4 (Friday): Set up camp

Head to your base camp in the region of Arenal and start planning your activities. After breakfast, the group will participate in intensive training sessions which will give you strategies and ideas for working together and turning your ideas into a real summer camp for Costa Rican children. You will then spend the afternoon working to plan the agenda for the next week and creating the itinerary and activities that will make this summer camp a success!

Day 5 (Saturday): Meet little Ticos from the community

Meet some of the rural communities and get your first taste of the energy of the little Tico kids. Give your minds a little break and spend the afternoon horseback riding.

Day 6 (Sunday): Be a camper for a day

Last day of planning. Experience the camp as one of the camper as your guides lead the day of activities for you to show you how to run things on your own and give you more ideas of games and activities. Think of this as a dress rehearsal for the next week.

Day 7 - Day 13 (Monday - Sunday): Camp time

The next seven 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 8:30am. Spend the day with the children, running various games and activities, coordinating lunch and snack times, and then saying goodbye to them at around 3:00pm each afternoon. On some days, after the camp, adventurous students may have the chance to participate in different optional activities in the La Fortuna area. In the evenings, the group will evaluate the day and prepare for the next one. Eat dinner together and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Day 14 (Monday): Vamos a la playa

After fun filled, challenging week of running a summer camp for Costa Rican children, the group of Rustic Pathways students will take off for the beautiful and peaceful beaches of the Costa Rican Pacific. These next 24 hours will give everyone a chance to enjoy the down time, take in some sun, play beach volleyball or soccer, eat seafood and enjoy a beautiful Pacific sunset. The group will stay in a hotel near the beach and will eat at local restaurants.

Day 15 (Tuesday): Head back to San José

The last full day with the program, the group will have a chance to sleep in, relax in the morning then head back to the capital. You will spend you last night at the Rustic Pathways base hotel in San Jose.

Day 16 (Wednesday): Departure

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.

Packing List

In addition to the general Costa Rica packing list available at all students should review the following information specific to the Summer Camp Leadership Program:

  • Any arts & crafts tools, indoor and outdoor camp activity tools are welcome to widen the choices of activities available for campers and to make this experience more culturally immersive.

Please email with questions and concerns.

Important Notes About Your Luggage

  1. Please try your best to pack light and fit everything into one MEDIUM size duffle bag or a backpack. We strongly recommend that you DO NOT use wheeled bags.
  2. Do not forget to bring a small backpack that you can use to fit your daily gear; a school backpack would make a great carry-on.
  3. Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the new carry-on regulations of the TSA

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the flight to this country?

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.

Will there be a flight leader to this country?

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.

Do we need to get visas for this program?

Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 90 day tourist visa upon entry into Costa Rica.

What Costa Rican province(s) does this program pass through?

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.

What immunizations do we need to get for this trip?

Rustic Pathways does not make recommendations regarding immunizations. We strongly suggest that you consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for medical recommendations based on the area where the student will be traveling (as listed above). You can also check the Center for Disease Control website at for more information. Yellow fever vaccinations may be required to enter Costa Rica if you have traveled to some international destinations including Peru prior to your trip to Costa Rica. Please check the Center for Disease control website for more information.

How does this program connect to other programs?

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.

How long is the drive from San Jose to this program?

There will be several road trips during the two weeks of the program. It will start with a 2 hours ride to the rafting entrance of the Pacuare River. On the third day there will be an approximately 2 hour long drive to a nature lodge in Guapiles where students will do part of their training. The next day they will drive 2 hours and settle down at their 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. Then 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. Finally it will be time to drive another 2 hours to return to San Jose for the last night.

What is the climate in the region where this program takes place?

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.

Is this a good program for students interested in practicing their Spanish?

This program focuses mainly on leadership skills however; students will be in close contact with Costa Rican children who will only be able to speak in Spanish, making the program an excellent opportunity to practice Spanish conversational skills.

What service projects will I work on and how are the projects identified?

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 an 8 days long session for the kids. Overall this program is truly one of the most rewarding yet the hardest service work we have in Costa Rica.

How physically strenuous is this program?

The Summer Camp Leadership program is appropriate for most physical activity levels. Students should be prepared to actively facilitate games and sports with Costa Rican children.

What costs are not included on this trip?

There will be several optional activities during the time of the summer camp that students can choose to participate in, however these activities are not essential to complete an excellent experience.

What are the optional activities available at an additional cost on this program?

Optional activities are:

Ziplining: $65
Horseback riding: $45
Hotsprings: $35

Please note that these optional activities are subject to change. Occasionally Rustic Pathways staff identify new opportunities throughout the summer that we feel will enhance the students overall experience. Optional activities may also be canceled.

What kind of food will we be eating? Where?

For the most part 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.

Can we cater to specific diets?

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 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with any questions regarding special diets or allergies.

Will the kids be drinking bottled water?

Costa Rica water is generally potable, so students should feel comfortable drinking tap water unless otherwise advised. They can also purchase bottles of water in the local grocery stores.

What will the accommodations on this trip be like?

For the majority of the Summer Camp Leadership program, students will be living in comfortable cabins at the base outside the town of La Fortuna. The cabins are furnished and equipped with basic commodities such as running water (hot & cold), bed sheets, pillows etc. During the white water rafting trip, they will also stay in a rustic jungle lodge along the river (tents, mattress, sheets will be provided). All other accommodations when students are on trips outside of la Fortuna will be clean and comfortable hotels.

What are the bathroom facilities?

The cabins have running water, American style toilets and showers. Hot water may not always be available.

How many girls and boys are usually on this trip?

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

What is the ratio of guides to students?

Rustic Pathways generally strives to maintain a ratio of approximately 1 guide for every 5 students. Our guides go through a rigorous selection process including interviews with our program managers and a full background check.

Is your staff qualified in First Aid?

Because safety is our number one priority, all of our programs have guides that are certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.

How often (if at all) will students be able to do laundry on this program and what will it cost?

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 will have access to another laundry service in San Jose at the end of their program for a cost of approximately $10-$15.

How often will they have access to phone and internet?

Students will have limited access to internet during their program when they visit the town of La Fortuna. They 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 the public phones in La Fortuna.

Contact Us: For more information about Summer Camp Leadership, email


  • Become a leader as you learn new group activities and teambuilding exercises that will help you organize and guide a summer camp full of young Costa Rican children.
  • Enhance your leadership skills as you work with a motivated and diverse team of positive Rustic Pathways students to give Costa Rican kids an unforgettable summer.
  • Improve your Spanish skills through direct interaction and cultural exchange with children and youth from rural communities.
  • Raft down the famous whitewater of the Pacuare River.
  • Experience some of the optional adventure activities in the Arenal area, such as zip lining and horseback riding.
  • Bask in the warmth of the sun on a white-sand beach and reflect on your accomplishments with your new friends.

Program Details

Ages: 13 to 18 years old

Length: 16 days from the USA

Hours: Up to 70 hours awarded

Cost: $2,795 + $1,500 Estimated International Flight Cost

Departures: For more information on airfare, see our Costa Rica Travel Desk.


Departs Tue Returns Wed Availability
17 Jun 2 Jul Available

Dates shown are inclusive of travel time from the United States.

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