Essential Costa Rica | Cultural Exploration

Conservation, Culture, & Outdoor Adventure

Explore topics in conservation, local culture, Spanish language, and service in Costa Rica — Central America’s pioneer in sustainable ecotourism. From your base just down the road from the world-famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, dive into a variety of themes as you rotate through a series of hands-on workshops. End the program with two nights on Costa Rica’s pristine Pacific coastline — surfing by day and strolling the beach at dusk in search of nesting sea turtles.

June 25, 2018  –  July 3, 2018
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
Cultural Exploration
9 days
Typical Group:
40 – 50 students, 8 – 10 leaders
$ 2,690 + airfare


  • Spot sloths and capuchin monkeys in the cloud forest
  • Milk a cow or harvest coffee on a visit to local farms
  • Practice your Spanish during a fútbol game with local youth
  • Participate in beach cleanup efforts to protect sea turtle habitats


Education: Arizona State University, B.A., Spanish Literature, Grand Canyon University, M.Ed., Secondary Education

During college, José spent time in Mérida, Mexico, visiting many Mayan sites including Uxmal, Tulum, and Chichen Itza. Climbing the Mayan pyramids proved good practice… read more

During college, José spent time in Mérida, Mexico, visiting many Mayan sites including Uxmal, Tulum, and Chichen Itza. Climbing the Mayan pyramids proved good practice for his next hiking endeavor, trekking for four days and three nights to complete the Inca Trail at Machu Picchu — an adventure he undertook while spending a semester studying at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After exploring much of Latin America, José volunteered in South Korea as an English teacher. His break between teaching sessions involved a stay at a Buddhist temple. José recently finished his graduate degree in Secondary Education at Grand Canyon University. He is fluent in Spanish. José has led Community Service Costa Rica, Community Service Dominican Republic, Middle School Spain, and has twice led Community Service Peru.


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow students and one or more of your leaders in Miami, and fly together to Liberia, Costa Rica. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Monteverde • 6 days • Settle in to San Luis, a small community located at the southern edge of the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and our base for our Costa Rica exploration. Rotate through a series of hands-on workshops focusing on three program themes: conservation and ecology, sports and culture, and Spanish language and service. With your knowledgeable leaders and local experts as your guides, discover what fascinates you the most about this culturally vibrant and biodiverse country. Explore nocturnal Costa Rica on an expert-guided night hike, spy sloths and coatis in the forest, learn new Spanish vocabulary as you cook traditional staples such as gallo pinto and plátano frito, and play fútbol with local schoolchildren. Swim under the spray of the spectacular San Luis waterfall amid blue morpho butterflies, search for the colorful plumage of the elusive quetzal, glide through the cloud forest canopy on a zip line, and ride horseback deep into the forest to find untouched primary growth.

Students Ziplining on our Costa Rica Travel Program

Playa Grande • 3 days • From the mountains of Monteverde, head west to Costa Rica’s beautiful Pacific coast. Collaborate on a community service project with a local turtle conservation group, and, in the evening, pick up new Spanish vocabulary during a salsa dancing class. Visit a wildlife rehabilitation center, learn to surf on world-renowned waves, and reflect on your time in Costa Rica with your group.

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Liberia, Costa Rica, to Miami with your group and one or more of your leaders, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

A Day in the Life: MONTEVERDE  

Due to the traveling nature of this program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day at our base in Monteverde.

8 AM Breakfast of gallo pinto and eggs at the ecolodge
9 AM Break into small groups for a hike in the cloud forest with local guides
10AM Take a break on your trek to swim under the San Luis waterfall
12 PM Picnic lunch with your group
2 PM Visit a local coffee cooperative and plant trees with a reforestation project
4 PM Return to the ecolodge and join in on a pick-up soccer game
6 PM Dinner with your group
8 PM Night hike with naturalist guides to learn about nocturnal, endemic species
9 PM Group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule

Students play soccer on our cultural exploration program in Costa Rica


What to Expect

Campus Base • Our group is based at the San Luis Ecolodge, situated just down the road from the famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Once a tropical biology research station, the Ecolodge has now opened its doors to travelers eager to explore the cloud forest environment. Resident naturalists lead us on horseback rides through the rolling hills and on night hikes into the forest to spot resident wildlife. The Ecolodge campus hosts open air classrooms, a student recreation center, library, laboratory, and its own organic farm.

Themes • Spend your days in small groups rotating through a series of hands-on workshops. Explore Costa Rica through the lenses of the three program themes: conservation and ecology, sports and culture, and Spanish language and service. Identify endemic species on a hike through the cloud forest, learn to make traditional specialties such as gallo pinto, tamales, and empanadas with local community members, or spend an afternoon planting trees with a reforestation project. Students can expect to complete up to 10 hours of community service work during this program.

Language Practice • Proficiency in Spanish is not required, however students who study Spanish in school will have opportunities to practice while communicating with local people, and during small break-out language sessions. Students who do not speak Spanish will have the opportunity to learn some basic language skills.

Physical Activity This is a physically active program. Hiking, surfing, horseback riding, and community service work are all activities in which you might participate during this program. 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.

Accommodations At our Ecolodge base, students live in cozy bungalows nestled in the trees. A typical room has two bunk beds with four students per room. On the Pacific coast, we stay in simple but comfortable inns. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals Meals consist of delicious, traditional Costa Rican meals prepared by local cooks and served in the campus dining hall. We may also eat picnic lunches while on excursions in the field. On the coast, we eat our meals in restaurants.

Ask Us

Call Ryanne at 802.387.5000 or email

The Cultural Exploration Essential Costa Rica program is directed by Ryanne Fujita-Conrads. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our summer student travel programs, please get in touch!

Ryanne Fujita-Conrads

Reed College, B.A., Sociology

While at Reed College, Ryanne’s love for international travel, education, and exploration began with a summer volunteering in a small Ecuadorian community in the Andes. Before joining the Putney team, Ryanne studied in Barcelona, Spain; worked for an education nonprofit in Mexico; traveled in Patagonia; and lived for a year in rural Thailand. Ryanne has led Putney’s Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Barcelona programs. She is part of the Outreach team and organizes programs in Central and South America. Ryanne enjoys riding her bike, running, hiking, baking, discovering new places, and eating delicious food.