Costa Rica: Biodiversity, Ecology, & Sustainability

Sustainability and the Environment

Hike, paddle, and zipline through Costa Rica’s diverse ecosystems. Witness firsthand the country’s environmental conservation programs with sea turtles and other wildlife.


July 2, 2018





Community Service



Water Activity

Outdoor Activity


Program Description

The program begins in the country’s capital, San José, where you learn about Costa Rican history and culture with visits to museums and markets. From there, you will visit nature reserves and national parks, kayak in the Golfo Dulce or along the Osa Peninsula, and take in the splendor of Costa Rica’s coastline. A remote biological station nestled in the rain forest will be your classroom as you learn about Costa Rica’s efforts to protect rare tropical birds, indigenous animals, and plants. After ziplining and hiking your way through the rain forest’s dense canopy, you will visit a cacao farm engaged in sustainable agriculture practices and learn about chocolate production. An expe­rienced Costa Rican naturalist will guide you throughout the program.

You will learn more about Costa Rica’s culture and communities during a two-week homestay with a local host family. There, you will take Spanish language classes, enjoy nature hikes, eat meals of gallo pinto, and partake in other activities, such as a community service project that focuses on rural development and ecological sustainability. Following your homestay, you will visit the Ostional Turtle Lodge to learn about the olive ridley sea turtle conservation effort and sail the Pacific on a catamaran. Your Experiment ends with final exploration and reflection in San José.

At the conclusion of this program, each participant will earn a community service certificate noting the number of hours of community service completed.






July 2, 2018 - July 31, 2018 (4 weeks)

Program Fee:


(does not include airfare)
Group Airfare Cost:


Depart/Return City:



San José, 2–3 days


La Palma, Santa María de Dota, or Palmichal de Acosta,* 12–14 days

Other Accommodations:

Hotels, lodges, cabins

Sample Itinerary

    Days 1–2

    Orientation in San José

    • Learn about the history, culture, and ecology of Costa Rica
    • Go on a walking tour of the city
    • Visit La Sabana Metropolitan Park and its art museum and the National Stadium
    • Visit InBio Park, where four of the country’s major habitats—tropical rainforest, tropical dry forest, premontane forest, and wetlands—are recreated in outdoor gardens
    • Get to know other members of your group during activities
    • Practice your Spanish language skills

    During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

    Days 3–8

    Thematic Focus on the Osa Peninsula

    • Visit a model farm practicing sustainable agriculture and learn about the chocolate culture in the area
    • Go hiking with local naturalists and kayak the calms and deep waters of Golfo Dulce
    • Travel by boat to the Campanario Biological Station and learn about the station’s project to conserve rare and endangered flora and fauna
    • Visit Corcovado National Park and see bat caves, hike trails, and learn about conservation projects in the area
    • Visit a local village

    During this period, you and your group will stay at a farm and biological station.

    Days 9–22


    • Do activities with your host family
    • Practice your Spanish language skills
    • Participate in cultural exchange activities
    • Explore your host community and the surrounding area
    • Learn different skills from people in your host community

    Thematic Focus

    • Work on a community service project such as painting at a school

    During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Pejivaye, Santa Cruz, Santa Maria de Dota, Palmares, Carit

    Days 23–25

    Thematic Focus at a Wildlife Refuge

    • Visit a sea turtle conservation facility and learn about sea turtles and efforts to conserve their habitat and protect their population
    • Patrol the beach and help with habitat rehabilitation (beach cleaning)
    • Work in sea turtle hatcheries
    • Travel by boat to the surrounding area and learn more about the local ecosystem

    During this period, you and your group will stay in a lodge and spend at least one night at the turtle project site.

    Days 26–28

    Program Reflection and Wrap-up at Playa Hermosa and San José

    • Enjoy the ocean views and natural beauty of the bay
    • Go snorkeling
    • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

    During this period, you and your group will stay in centrally located hotels.

    Day 29


    Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above. 

Itinerary is subject to change.

Past Group Leaders

  • Curtis Larsen

    completing a study abroad program in Costa Rica, Curtis decided to pursue his BA in Spanish there. He obtained his degree in Spanish from the Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica, but not before discovering another of his passions: service-learning. Curtis has been privileged to work with university students from the US, Canada, and the UK all around Central America, and he co-founded a nonprofit that still provides volunteer experiences in three countries. Now back in the US, Curtis serves as the director of Academic Travel for Ed-Ventures, helping teachers take their students abroad to destinations around the world.

  • Sarita Upadhyay

    A native of upstate New York, Sarita Upadhyay graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a BS in science of natural and environmental systems. She followed her love of the outdoors to the Amazon in Ecuador, where she coordinated a teaching program, and then to Cuzco, Peru, where she managed logistics and tours for a travel company. She worked on developing green infrastructure projects in Chicago, Illinois, at an urban sustainability-themed think tank before leading The Experiment’s 2014 Costa Rica: Biodiversity, Ecology, and Sustainability program. Currently, Sarita lives in San Francisco, where she studies psychology and works on research in health-related psychological interventions at University of California, San Francisco.

  • Jose Eduardo Huerta

    Jose Eduardo Huerta graduated from the University of California Berkeley in 2011 with a BA in Latin American studies and a minor in education. Since then, he has worked as a career track project coordinator, a substitute teacher, and a graduate research assistant. Eduardo is currently in his second year at the State University of New York Binghamton, pursuing a dual master’s degree in student affairs and public administration.

    As a return leader for The Experiment, Eduardo has led programs to Spain, Chile, and Costa Rica. He began traveling as a junior in college when he spent seven months studying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Most recently, he spent five weeks in China, learning about economic development, sustainability, and innovation. Not only is Eduardo trilingual in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, but he also plans to learn Mandarin in the near future. Eduardo also loves practicing martial arts, being outdoors, trying new foods, meeting new people, and learning from new adventures.

  • Paula Hernandez

    Raised in northern Vermont by a Chilean mother and an American father, Paula grew up bilingual in English and Spanish. She attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she was an American studies major with a concentration in race and ethnicity. During summers throughout college, Paula worked at Farm and Wilderness summer camp as a counselor and trip leader. After obtaining her degree, Paula moved to Valparaíso, Chile, to serve as an elementary school English teacher. Paula herself was an Experimenter in 2007, when she traveled to Turkey for five weeks. Later, in college, she spent a semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. During her time there, she walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage that starts in western France and ends in the westernmost part of Spain. Aside from her love for travel, Paula loves to knit, play basketball, and learn new juggling tricks.

Student Voices

  • This was the craziest, most important, most valuable thing I think I’ve ever done in my life. I loved being an experimenter! I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity! I even feel different now. I understand the way life should be lived: simply, modestly, and to the fullest.

    JoAnna, Carrick high School

Pre-departure Documents

Summer 2018

Congratulations on your upcoming Experiment summer on the Costa Rica: Biodiversity, Ecology & Sustainability program. Visit our pre-departure page for information about our expectations, communications, and travel planning. In early 2018, our summer international information will be published in a secure page, found in the Parent Portal.

In early spring 2018, the following program-specific documents will be linked to this page:

  • Participant Handbook
  • Parent Handbook
  • Health Guidelines
  • Personal Funds Abroad
  • Accident and Sickness Insurance
  • Packing List

Many questions can be answered by reviewing these materials, but please do not hesitate to contact us if further information is required. To submit or update your domestic travel and emergency contact information, please login in to the Parent Portal.

Important Passport and Medical Information

If you do not yet have a passport, or if you have not applied for one, you should do so immediately.

If you have not had a physical with your doctor since June 2017, make an appointment as quickly as possible, as your health form must be filled out based on a current physical.

Please bookmark this web page for easy use in the future.