Costa Rica Summer Program
Costa Rica has been a paradise for the eco-minded for years. In 2015, the country powered its entire energy grid off of renewable energy for a few weeks. Similarly, conservation has been a top priority for decades and Costa Rica is now home to some of the most important biodiversity in Latin America.
In this Sustainable Summer Program…
- You’ll visit indigenous communities and learn traditional agricultural practices
- You’ll learn about the design of small-scale renewable energy and food production systems
- You’ll harvest crops, live sustainably, and practice permaculture at an organic farm
Your Sustainable Summer experience will take you to the rural community of Mastatal, on the edge of Cangreja National Park, one of Costa Rica’s least visited, but most remarkable destinations. There you’ll live sustainably and learn a diverse set of homesteading and design skills as part of a diverse community of people committed to environmental justice.
Our Costa Rica summer program is ideal for high school students with a strong interest in environmental sustainability, and particularly those interested in homesteading skills. 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 the program is more challenging (in a good way) than many Costa Rica travel itineraries.
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
Costa Rica Testimonials
Sustainable Summer was a very significant event in my son’s life. He was particularly moved by the bond that developed between the participants. He is even more passionate about sustainability and driven to make a difference. It was certainly memorable. Overall, I think it was an exceptional experience for my son and I am very […]
Kathy, parent from Pleasanton, CA
Read More Testimonials
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
- Our 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.
- Participants 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.
- Additional 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:
Escort On Outbound Flight Only
San Jose (SJO)
San Jose (SJO)
- Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families – please check your MySummer accountfor more information.
- Not all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
- Students 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
We head south and east, about 2 hours by private bus, winding our way through the mountain valleys to Cangreja National Park, one of Costa Rica’s least visited, but most remarkable destinations.
We’ll spend six nights in total 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 at Mastatal, 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 2 – 7
Leaving Mastatal, we’ll head south towards the coast and the town of Quepos, where we’ll gear up for rafting on the Rio Savegre, a classic romp through Class III whitewater in tropical rainforest.
After rafting, we’ll cruise up the coast highway about 45 minutes to Playa Esterillos, where we’ll spend our final night in Costa Rica in beach cabanas, reflecting on our experience to the sounds of crashing surf.
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 9
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.