Live and volunteer in a rural Costa Rican village and work side-by-side with local people on this community service program for high school students. Wake each morning to sounds of howler monkeys and exotic birds and spend your day helping with community projects, teaching English, or running a camp for local kids.
- Volunteer with friends from town to build a community center or school classroom.
- Teach English classes to local children and adults.
- Shadow a farmer for a day as you learn to milk a cow or harvest coffee beans, papayas, or plantains.
- Trek through Costa Rica’s many diverse ecosystems — visit volcanoes, rain forests, hot springs, and untouched beaches.
- Learn about permaculture and sustainability at an eco-lodge nestled in the jungle canopy.
Village Life and Service
Immerse yourself in the rhythm of life in a small mountain village in Central America as you work with warm and welcoming Costa Rican people to undertake several important and much-needed volunteer projects. Work hand-in-hand with enthusiastic friends from our host village on municipal and environmental initiatives identified by town leaders. After a day’s volunteer work, spend late afternoons and evenings relaxing with Tico friends, hiking to a hidden swimming hole, learning new songs on the guitar, playing games of fútbol in the town plaza, and attending local fiestas.Participants in Putney’s 31-day Costa Rica programs can expect to complete 80 – 100 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in Putney’s 24-day Costa Rica programs can expect to complete 60 – 80 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in Putney’s 15-day program can expect to complete 30 – 50 hours of community service work.
We work on several different types of volunteer projects during our time in our host village — light construction projects where we learn to mix cement and lay blocks, environmental projects such as planting seedlings or helping control erosion, and educational projects such as teaching health, environmental education, or English to local children and adults. Each morning, we form cooking crews to help local cooks prepare meals of rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains, and a delicious array of fruits and vegetables such as yucca, papaya, mango, and pineapple.
Each student chooses and designs an independent project to focus on over the course of the program — past projects have included learning to cook gallo pinto, interviewing local girls and women about their roles in the community, organizing a community soccer tournament, and more.
On weekends, we take excursions from our host village to explore Costa Rica’s many natural wonders. With eco-lodges, bungalows, and family-run inns as our bases, we hike volcanoes, relax in natural hot springs and mud baths, surf and snorkel off pristine beaches, ride horseback, or search for monkeys, toucans, and other wildlife in Costa Rica’s ecologically rich national parks. Trek to a vista overlooking Costa Rica’s gorgeous Pacific coastline, zip-line through the cloud forest canopy, interview a wildlife guide to learn about howler monkeys or three-toed sloths, or learn to surf at world-renowned beaches.
During our final days in Costa Rica, we undertake one last challenge together — a whitewater rafting trip. With professional guides to teach us the basics, dive in and paddle through breathtaking, virgin rainforest, enjoying one final moment together with your group to reflect on all our experiences in Costa Rica.
Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. Our living accommodations in Costa Rica are very simple. We live together as a group in a community building or school, with boys and girls in separate sleeping areas. We sleep on camping pads and use simple bathrooms and showers. The leaders reside together with the students. During overnight trips and excursions, we stay in simple, clean eco-lodges, bungalows, and family-run inns where you will sleep in beds, have hot showers, and share a room with other students in your group.
Physical Challenge Level
Our programs are physically active. Days are filled with movement — playing with local children, learning to surf, working on a community service project, swimming, or going on a hike. In the afternoons, students can play pick-up games of soccer, frisbee, or basketball. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities. On excursions there may be opportunities to hike, bike, ride horseback, zipline, swim, raft, and more.
A Typical Day
7 AM — Breakfast
8 AM – 12 PM — Work on project sites
12 PM – 2 PM — Lunch and rest
2 PM – 4 PM — Work on project sites
4 PM – 6 PM — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 PM — Dinner
8 PM — Group Meeting and/or group activity
Instead of alarm clocks, the sounds of roosters signal the start of a new day! During the week, we wake up between 6 – 7 AM, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8 AM –12 PM. Work may include mixing cement, painting, participating in a local harvest, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research. After a group dinner together, students participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Hike to a nearby peak, zipline through the rain forest, raft down a gorgeous river, snorkel and swim off a pristine beach, or ride horseback with local guides.