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Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Wildlife Conservation + National Parks

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Costa Rica's Volunteering Road Trip

Join our 4 week off-grid adventure

Welcome to our dynamic off grid road trip around Costa Rica, reaching places, people and wildlife that are way of the backpacking route, allowing you to hit the ground the running and experience local life.

Your journey starts in Quepos, close to Manuel Antonio National Park where you will combine community contribution with jungle adventure - heading into the park to see the wildlife, jungle and waterfalls.

Next up is a turtle conservation phase at a very remote sanctuary - to give you the desert island feeling combined with a spot of surfing and yoga at Samara beach, before heading into a wildlife sanctuary for your third week. Here you will spend a week developing their infastructure, whilst feeding and cleaning the animals. The last phase will be spent in Monteverde - the famous cloud forest where you will trek, explore and possibly zip wire through the canopy.

So, backpacks at the ready, you are off to embrace the Pura Vida of Costa Rica.

This is what we have planned…

Venture out to Costa Rica to experience a unique mix of wildlife conservation, community development and National Parks.


Costa Rica's Program Itinerary

Welcome to our Costa Rican road trip of exploration and contribution across contrasting locations.

The following is a sample itinerary. The program encompasses 4 phases: community, wildlife, turtles and cloud forest. It depends on the weather and best turtle action as to which beach you'll be at.

Day 1

San Jose Arrival

Welcome to Costa Rica

Day 1
You will all be picked up at San Jose Airport and taken to the Rosa of America hotel to decompress after your flight. There is a little pool here, cute little bungalows and surround sound jungle noise so you will instantly feel the tropical vibe of this stunning country.

Accommodation

Rosa of America. 20 mins from the airport, cute bungalows, surrounding a little pool.

Food

Supper included.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
Day 2 - 7

Manuel Antonio National Park Explore National Park + Reforestation

Explore and community contribution

You’ll be up early (because of the jet lag and noisy birds), so after breakfast and a quick swim you’ll start the journey to reach the vast and iconic Antonio National Park, where you will spend 5ish nights living in a private finca on the outskirts of the park.

Your time here will be a mix of exploring the rainforest and helping refurb a community centre in a little fishing village called Quepos. While you are here you will help with upkeep of the centre, teach basic English classes, clean the beach, make signs to encourage the locals to clear up the litter and not drop plastic and make beach furniture with old tyres.

Accommodation

The finca comes with a pool, football pitch, badminton and volleyball – so lots to do and you’ll sleep to the noise of capuchin and howler monkeys. Take your ear plugs.

Single sex dorms, with bunk beds, western style WC and showers with hot and cold water.

Food

All meals included apart from on the 2 x hiking days when you will grab something on the journey.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
Day 8 - 13

Natuwa Wildlife Santuary OR Wild Sun Rescue Wildlife Conservation

Saving the Animals

Here you have 2 options which will be chosen depending on your departure month and the weather. You will either go to Natuwa OR Wild Sun Rescue.

Natuwa: This is one of those very special places which had been on the brink of collapse through lockdown as they rely heavily on volunteer income to feed the animals and employ staff. The work here is varied and dependent on the weather, it is hot sweaty and features early starts to feed the wildlife. It is a challenge but that is all part of the fun.

The wildlife is spectacular and the work you will do is invaluable. Expect to see more tropical birds, panthers, jaguars, sloths, than you can shake a stick at, you name it ...it’s here.

Here we plan for you all to be split up into smaller groups to tackle:

  • Daily feeding of the wildlife
  • Daily cleaning out the cages
  • Basic renovations

Wild Sun Rescue: The other option is Wild Sun Rescue which is a primate rescue centre. Their main ethos is to rescue, rehabilitate and rewild their wildlife, so you will see satisfying process in action, whilst enjoying guided beach walks, clean ups, and waterfall hikes on your day off.

They are delighted to have you all to stay and have lots of jobs for you to help with such as:

  • Sanctuary renovations and maintenance such as creating a rewilding area for monkeys to rehabilitate in before they are released back into their natural environment.
  • Here you are more focused on the landscaping and improving the environment for the animals rather than working alongside the animals.

Accommodation

Natuwa:
You will be living in their volunteer accommodation which consists of a long house style bungalow, with a communal hang out area. It is rustic, remote but very special. It is a non- smoking, no alcohol policy on site.

Wild Sun Rescue:
Really lovely cabana style accommodation with bunk beds, dotted around a little pool and hangout area.

Food

All meals included apart from lunch on the beach day.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
Days 14 - 18

Monteverde Cloud Forest adventure

Set on top of the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, Monteverde is a world above the coastal towns that dot the country's famous shoreline. It is a place of cloud forests, coffee plantations, monkeys, mist, and friendly locals. The town of Santa Elena is small and quaint, filled with tasty restaurants and folksy artisan shops, while the nearby rainforest hosts a remarkable amount of biodiversity.

Due to its high altitude – some 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level – Monteverde is privileged to receive a steady supply of clouds and the life-giving moisture that they contain. This moisture, often in the form of fog, catches on the branches of the tallest trees and drips down to the other organisms below. This helps to support a complex and far-reaching ecosystem, one that harbours over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, 420 of which are orchids alone.

Trek and Zip Wire Under The Canopy
You will have the chance to explore this internationally recognised environment from trails and trams, along canopy tours or inside museums.

On a daily basis you will walk and explore this amazing location - 2 guided half day hikes are included on day 2 and 3. There are also some amazing optional extra activities like their famous zip wire, horse riding and a coffee tour

Accommodation

Guest house in dorm style rooms. Bathrooms, with hot showers.

Food

Breakfast and lunch only.

Dinner will be extra in one of the local restaurants.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
Days 19 - 28

Samara + Turtle Conservation Turtle conservation + Surfing + Yoga

Beach Time

Now it's time to chill out on Samara Beach. What we have planned here is to stay beach side for the last 10 days but within this time you will nip off for 3 nights to live and work in the Bueno Vista Turtle Sanctuary. They can only take 12 at a time so you will split into two teams and head out back to back.

Whilst you’re at the beach – you will have some down time, 2 x surf lessons and 1 yoga lesson included also.

AVSO is one of Costa Rica’s main wildlife conservation NGO’s. Their Bueno Vista base is focused on turtle conservation who need our help to protect the eggs and hatchlings of Olive Ridley, Black Turtle, Hawksbill and Leatherback species, who visit this ‘semi-intensive’ nesting beach at night to nest.

The principle objective is to protect adult female turtles and their nests, from human predators and wildlife, natural events such as beach erosion and flooding due to high amounts of rainfall in nesting season. This is achieved by the construction of a ‘hatchery’.

Here you will work between 4 and 6 hours per day with occasional night shifts.

Typical jobs will include; maintenance of infrastructure and surroundings, beach cleaning, night patrols to look for nesting female turtles (in season), transport of food and water, collection of data and releasing baby turtles into the ocean.

Accommodation

Samara beach – hip little beach side house.
Bueno Vista – you’ll live in a very rustic bungalow – one large mixed dorm, with basic showers and WC. Rustic but functional!



Food

Santa Teresa – Breakfast and lunch included. Supper will be extra in one of the beachside cafes.


Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
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Covid Protocol Responsible and safe travel

On arrival the team will talk you through the camp and town rules, so you know what is expected of you, so you stay safe and limit the chance of infection or transmission to you or others.

If at any point you feel unwell with any covid symptoms (flu like feelings, loss of taste/smell, new continuous cough etc) you need to let the staff know immediately so they can take the necessary action, get you tested and isolated in accomodation if required.

As you know there is always a risk of catching covid, which the FCDO advice highlights, but by following these instructions you minimise the risk to yourself and others in your team. Respectful teamwork with regard following covid protocol has never been so important, to protect you and others, in order to also avoid covid disrupting your or anyone else’s program.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program
Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Add on Independent Travel

Combine with Guatemala and Mexico

What we are finding is that our teams never want to come home post program and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - certainly making the most of their gap year. We can easily support this through our Leap VIP travel resource which every leaper has access to.

Costa Rica is the perfect spring board for travelling on to Guatemala or Mexico with flights being reasonable and readily available. If you fancy heading slightly further afield you can head on down to South America to complete your gap year in Peru, Ecuador or Colombia to name a few. Please give us a shout and we can tell you more.

A team of volunteers exploring Monte Verde Cloud forest hanging bridges while on their gap year.
Volunteers helping at the animal sanctuary on their gap year in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Leapers painting in the community centre.
Team of Leapers enjoying a sunset hike in Costa Rica on their gap year travels.
Volunteering at the children's community club in Cocal Beach, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica's Details & Costs

This program is lead by our experienced Costa Rican team and is hugely popular as it is dynamic, challenging and fun. Max team size of 22 per departure.

Book Now

Request more information

Options and costs

We are fully booked for June and July 2022, email zoe@theleap.co.uk if you would like to be put on the waiting list.

Whats included?

National Park

Live in one of the most iconic National Parks in the world.

Social Life

Team of 24 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

Wildlife

Help save the wildlife center.

Environments

Three different environments to explore.

Free time

You will have free time interwoven into your 4 week.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Downtime in one the local yoga retreat.
  • Surfing.
  • Kayaking & Snorkelling.
  • Zip wiring through the National Park.
Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Jungle Surf Camp - it's so much more.

This program is run by the dynamic Chris Patterson who has been our Costa Rican partner for over 10 years.

Chris has run travel and Spanish courses since the 1990’s and has become increasingly passionate about the crisis of plastic waste in our waters and the damage it is doing. Seeing dolphins and turtles time and time again, washed up on the shoreline wrapped up in discarded fishing nets was enough to break him into action.

So, Chris now welcomes volunteers into his home, lovingly named the Jungle Surf Camp, who will set about learning Spanish with the aim to get out into the community to bang the drum about plastic. Backed by the Oceans of Plastic campaign and documentaries he wants our leapers to teach, explain and steer changing attitudes.

In addition to the above Chris has planned this adventure for us, in response to the demand of gap year students who want to travel responsibly.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

Costa Rica Adventure Gap Year Program

Watch our videos

Costa Rica Adventure

Community + wildife conservation + turtles

"Safe, organised gap year travel"

What an amazing organisation. From the minute we first rang to enquire about projects to today (my daughter arriving home from Tanzania this morning) I just can't fault anybody. Emily has had the most amazing time in Tanzania and all the staff have been wonderful at keeping me informed when there were problems (nothing serious thankfully).

I would have no hesitation in recommending the company for safe, organised Gap Year travel. Emily will have wonderful memories for life and I'm so proud of her and grateful for the support given by The Leap. Thank you so much

- Tracey Talbut

"What an amazing time "

After just arriving back from our boat trip i wanted to mention what an amazing time we experienced during outreach and the dedication and support of the leaders was more than any of us could have asked for.

We really couldn’t have asked for a better itinerary and we are so grateful for the unwavering enthusiasm and encouragment from both Will and Renne our leaders. The food was incredible and the leaders were always willing to make sure all our needs were met, we genuinely couldn’t have asked for a better time.

- Thea Cottrell

"Confidence and reassurance"

Thank you Milly and team for all you have done in giving Gemma the experience of a lifetime. I don't underestimate the complications and issues that you have overcome in getting the group onto this amazing programme during a global pandemic. The confidence you have give Gemma and the reassurance that we have received has been immense and we are recommending you to anyone who will listen!

- Suze Raby

"I can’t think of a better company"

Clementine has just finished her Costa Rican adventure with you and has absolutely loved it. She says it was fantastic from start to finish and the group couldn’t have asked for a better team looking after them led by Chris. The same applies to you too. You have been brilliant from the get-go and nothing seems to have daunted you – ever! Getting the children out there was no mean feat and your ability to switch the programme to Costa Rica from Cuba at such short notice was very impressive. The photo at the beginning was a great touch and you have been incredibly responsive to every query however small. Thank you both for everything, I can’t think of a better company to have used for Clementine’s trip.

- Tania ( mum )

"How fantastic you all are"

We really can’t thank you enough for everything you have done to make this amazing adventure happen, and for all the hand holding for Mimi and us along the way! It’s incredible that they have managed to have as close to normal a gap year as it must be possible to have right now and we are enormously enormously grateful to you and everyone at The Leap who has helped make this happen. Thank you. We have been spreading the good word about how fantastic you all are!

- Selina ( mum )

"Change the course of their lives"

I am filled with admiration at all the trouble you have taken over every detail, so much appreciated when filling in all those damn forms! And it was brilliant that you kept us all (in our case 3 generations!) involved and informed about the changing situation every day. It has been so difficult for this group of 18 year olds unable to do their A levels properly and with all the attendant problems of the pandemic. I think the programmes you are offering may well change the course of their lives not only for the future of the planet but also by giving them opportunities to work hard together at the same time as having fun. Huge thanks and congratulations, I’m telling everyone how fantastic you are!

- Caromy (Grandmother)

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