Sustainable Development in Costa Rica

4 weeks of service learning and leadership development in the world's eco-tourism capital

At the forefront of a sustainable future

Though small in size and population, this Central American nation holds great significance on the global stage. About 5% of the world’s biodiversity resides in Costa Rica, making it a critical site for conservation efforts. Its ecological richness and natural beauty draw adventurers and nature-lovers from around the world, who flock to its mist-enshrouded volcanoes, abundant waterfalls, and lush cloud forests containing flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet.

A central tenet of Costa Rican culture is the idea of pura vida (“pure life”). It’s a phrase that encapsulates the wholesome, easygoing way of life embraced by so many locals, and helps to explain why Costa Rica is often cited as one of the happiest countries in the world. Yet, Costa Rica is not without its problems, facing rising poverty levels and the compounding effects of environmental degradation. Collaborate with local organizations as they tackle these issues on the ground, and learn how you can apply these lessons to your own life as a leader in your community.

Program Highlights
  • Immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture and learn about the social, economic and historical context around its structural issues.
  • Collaborate with an after school program, assist with sea turtle conservation and coastal management, and promote sustainable community development in partnership with local NGOs.
  • Learn about positive leadership, design your own life plan, and receive a certificate from the University for Peace.
  • Explore the Santa Elena Cloud Forest—a rainforest canopy teeming with rare tropical flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth.

Program Itinerary

Program dates: July 1, 2021 to July 30, 2021 and June 30, 2022 to July 29, 2022

Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to availability and local conditions at the time of departure.

Costa Rica Immersion Itinerary 4 Weeks


2 nights San José

Your program kicks off with a brief orientation, where you'll meet your fellow travelers and get to know San José.

Guided Excursion: Arenal Region

2 nights Arenal

Head north on winding, mountainous roads to the Arenal Region. The journey offers many scenic vistas with stunning volcanic backdrops. Visit stunning waterfalls and hot springs, and zip-line through rainforest canopies.

Service Learning: Youth Education

6 nights San José

Collaborate with a non-profit that seeks to lift up local youth through education. Activities could include playing with children, helping with homework, teaching English, and facilitating project work.

Explore San José

2 nights San José

Get to understand this region better and embark on a coffee tour. You'll also have the option to join an optional whitewater rafting excursion.

Service Learning: Sea Turtle Conservation

6 nights Corcovado National Park

Partner with a local foundation to assist sea turtle conservation efforts and learn about why these endangered animals are so important. Contribute to their conservation by supporting the marine biologists in their research and assisting with mangrove restoration efforts.

Service Learning: Sustainable Community Development

4 nights Corcovado

Work with a community-based project that leverages sustainable tourism for ecological restoration and community outreach efforts.

Explore Manuel Antonio National Park + Beach Time

2 Nights Manuel Antonio National Park

Head to one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful and celebrated national parks. Enjoy the pristine white-sand beaches and take a guided hike through the adjacent rainforest, where you'll find breathtaking biodiversity. See if you can spot (or hear) the scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, and capuchins in their natural habitat.

Leadership Academy

5 nights University for Peace, San José

Reflect on your experiences and how you can apply what you’ve learned to your future. Hone your global leadership skills through speaker-led workshops. Sessions will focus on self- and global-awareness, influencing others, and executing on your personal goals.

Earn College Credit

You could earn three semester hours of credit through our educational partnership with Southern New Hampshire University. Enroll in the corresponding course at SNHU to receive credit for your participation in our program:

Civil Service in Modern Society
View Syllabus

Learn more
Program Fee

Tuition for this 4-week program is $6,900, and payment plans are available. Tuition includes:

  • Airfare & Transportation

    Round-trip flights and local transfers to each stop in your itinerary

  • Room & Board

    Your accommodations and some of your meals on the trip

  • Activities & Service Projects

    Guided excursions and service opportunities with partner organizations

  • Global Support Network

    One-on-one mentorship and travel support before and during your program

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about our program? Explore our FAQs, or get in touch with an EF Gap Year Consultant.

Who is this program for?

Our Sustainable Development in Costa Rica program is for anyone between the ages of 18 and 22 with an interest in sustainability, service, and cultural exchange. Students who are curious, open-minded, and collaborative will be best suited to this program.

Both current college students as well as rising college freshman are welcome. You also do not need to be currently enrolled in school in order to participate.

How do I apply?

To apply for this program, submit an application here. You’ll be asked to provide some basic information, as well as a few questions about your goals for this program. After you submit your application, an EF Gap Year Consultant will get in touch with you shortly regarding next steps.

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline for this program is May 1st, 2021. However, we accept students on a rolling basis, and recommend that you apply as soon as possible to secure your spot on the program!

Do I have to know Spanish in order to participate in this program?

No, you do not need to know Spanish in order to participate in this program! While having a familiarity with the language will certainly help, all of our programming will be conducted in English.

Risk-free cancellation means you can book with confidence.

Thinking about traveling in the coming year? Our flexible booking policies and risk-free cancellation options mean that you can book your gap experience with confidence. For more details, speak to one of our EF Gap Year Advisors, or see our full booking conditions here.

Learn More

Get started

Our Gap Year Consultants are ready to answer any questions you have and to help find the perfect program for your family.

By submitting your information, you agree to allow EF to process your personal information in accordance with EF’s Privacy Policy and to allow the use of your data for direct marketing purposes. By entering your mobile number, you agree to receive recurring text messages about upcoming offers from EF Gap Year at the number provided and you understand that consent to receive marketing text messages is not a condition of purchase. You agree to all EF Texting Terms and Conditions.