Immerse yourself in the Costa Rican wilderness and culture to learn about sustainable conservation work and community adaptation to climate change. Take the opportunity to step away from your screen and do hands-on service supporting environmental conservation.

What to Expect

Explore Costa Rica’s natural beauty while learning about environmental conservation initiatives and community adaptation to climate change in the Perez Zeledon region. Surrounded by lush green plants and the chattering of tropical birds, take part in hands-on volunteering at a nature reserve. You’ll get training in leadership, Spanish, cultural humility, design thinking, and project management as you develop a service project to carry out once you return home. Marvel at the biodiversity and landscapes while you take group excursions around the region!


What to Expect

  • Pod of 12–20 students from the U.S. and Costa Rica with three full-time staff
  • 8-week session
  • Communal living on a nature reserve
  • Robust health and safety protocols


What You’ll GET

  • Hands-on training in environmental conservation work
  • Excursions to areas of interest like hot springs, waterfalls, beach, and volcanoes
  • Spanish classes tailored to your level
  • Cross-cultural connection
  • Mentorship through coaching, supervision, and support
  • Networking with social impact professionals and entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their communities in Costa Rica
  • 140+ service hours
  • College credit is available through the Gap Year Association and Portland State University for a fee of $1,700. Email Admissions at [email protected] for more information.


What You’ll Need

  • Age: 17–22
  • 2+ years of high school Spanish or equivalent (option to take pre-departure Spanish class also available); English proficiency
  • Interest in the environment and community service
  • Resident or national of the U.S. or Costa Rica
Join an info session to learn more!


About the Program


Session Dates

Summer: June 23–August 18, 2021
Fall: September 22–November 19, 2021
Spring: February 15–April 12, 2022


How to Apply

Apply now for summer and fall sessions! Start your application here.
Summer session application deadline: May 15, 2021
Fall session application deadline: July 15, 2021


Fees and Financial Assistance

Need-based financial assistance is available! Apply by April 15th (summer session) or May 15th (fall session).


What’s Included

All in-country expenses are covered, including:

-Accommodation, including excursions
-Three meals per day
-Private group transportation throughout the entire program
-Spanish language classes
-Medical supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and cleaning products
-Entrance fees at sites we visit
-24/7 On-Call Safety System

Itinerary (tentative)

This is the tentative itinerary for the gap year program in Costa Rica.

Week 1

Fly to San Jose and spend the night in a small hostel, getting to know the other students in the program. Travel to a more remote site between San Jose and Turrialba. During the first two weeks, the group will isolate together while staff monitor students for symptoms of COVID-19.


Week 2

Explore Turrialba for a few days! Begin orientation to Costa Rica and the AMIGOS Gap Program. Turrialba is a charming small town in the lush and beautiful Central Valley with a national park nearby. Hike to the volcano of the same name for some stunning views!


Week 3

Travel to the nature reserve. Spot some of the 175 species of birds that call the reserve home. Practice speaking Spanish through onsite classes.

Weeks 4–6

Learn about conservation by working to support the efforts of the reserve! In the mornings, take part in activities like trail maintenance, tending to the medicinal garden, and other efforts that help preserve the flora and fauna in the region. In the afternoons, focus on initiatives that cultivate leadership, cultural humility, and service.

Each week, you’ll have one free day and one group excursion day. On group excursions, you’ll get to visit regional attractions like volcanoes, hot springs, the beach, and waterfalls!

Head back to the nature reserve and continue supporting their conservation work. Spend your afternoons hiking and cool off in one of the reserve’s many waterfalls!


Weeks 7–8

Travel to Quepos, a small, booming harbor town on the Pacific coast. Join in debriefing activities and relax on the beach! Explore Manuel Antonio National Park.

From Quepos, you’ll travel to San Jose and fly home.

What makes this experience unique?

Local Perspective

We want you to be immersed in Costa Rican culture as much as possible! The nature reserve where you will be staying is Costa Rican-owned and operated and you’ll get to meet members of the cooperative that manage the area. You’ll get to meet staff at local organizations and small businesses. And at least one AMIGOS staff member and two students in your pod will be from Costa Rica.


Environmental Focus

You’ll get to explore local initiatives to preserve the environment and help communities adapt to climate change. From parks and protected areas to education, explore the ways local communities are supporting conservation.


Continuing Service

Throughout the program, you’ll design a service project that addresses a need in your home community. When you return home, you’ll have a service project ready to implement!


Health and Safety

Health and safety has always been our number one priority, but in today’s world, this takes on a deeper meaning. A Health and Safety Coordinator will stay onsite with the group throughout the program. Our 24/7 On-Call Safety System is in place the entire time students are in the field. Our On-Call team includes medical and mental health professionals.


Cultural Exchange

At least two spots on this program are reserved for Costa Rican students and at least one staff member will be from Costa Rica. You’ll take Spanish classes upon arrival in order to build your language skills.


Join an online info session!


Spanish Classes

AMIGOS partners with Casa Xalteva Spanish School in Nicaragua to provide virtual private lessons before the program begins. If students don’t meet this program’s Spanish requirement (2 years of high school Spanish or equivalent), they can take a 25-hour course arranged by AMIGOS to meet our eligibility requirements. The private course costs $450.

Students who do meet the Spanish requirement may opt to take this course as well if they are interested. Please email Admissions if you would like to sign up.

Program Pillars


Explore your sense of purpose and start to establish your personal goals and values through introspection and inquiry.

Cultural Humility

Gain understanding of cultural bias, the role of language in culture, fostering intercultural appropriation, global citizenship, and the role of conservation in culture.


In addition to volunteer work on the nature reserve, you’ll get support developing a service project meant to address an issue in your home community. Develop project management and design thinking skills, get an introduction to risk analysis and budgeting.

Length Training
Ages Application
Costa Rica Gap Program 8 weeks

In-country training

Summer: June 23–Aug 18, 2021
Fall: Sep 22–Nov 19, 2021
Spring: Feb 15–Apr 12, 2022

17–22 Summer session: May 15; fall session: July 15


Financial assistance is available! Apply by April 15 (summer session) or May 15 (fall session).

  • Costa Rica Gap Program
  • Length
    8 weeks
  • Training Dates

    In-country training

  • In-Country Dates

    Summer: June 23–Aug 18, 2021
    Fall: Sep 22–Nov 19, 2021
    Spring: Feb 15–Apr 12, 2022

  • Ages
  • Application Deadline
    Summer session: May 15; fall session: July 15
  • Price


    Financial assistance is available! Apply by April 15 (summer session) or May 15 (fall session).


What are the accommodations like?

Students will be staying on a nature reserve in dorm-style accommodations.

How do I apply for financial assistance?

Apply for financial assistance by checking a box on your application and submitting proof of income. Financial assistance will be determined based on availability of funds. Note on your application that you are applying for financial assistance. You will need to submit your most recent 1040 tax form or another form of income verification. The deadline to apply for financial assistance is April 15, 2021 for the summer session and May 15, 2021 for the fall session.

Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions about financial assistance. Click here for more information about fees and financial assistance.

What level of Spanish do I need to have?

The Spanish requirement for this program is 2 years of high school Spanish or the equivalent. We want students to have a baseline understanding of the language so they can communicate with the Costa Rican students on the program and have a more meaningful experience. You also have the option to take a pre-departure Spanish class – reach out to our Admissions team at [email protected] for more details! Students will take group Spanish classes based on their level at the start of the program.

What precautions are you taking in light of COVID-19?

Students on this program should self-isolate for two weeks before departure and must show a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, the pod will isolate together and receive another COVID-19 test within the first few days. A Health and Safety Coordinator is onsite. Students will have minimal contact with anyone outside the pod.

See other questions related to COVID-19 here.


If these FAQs don’t answer your questions, we’d be happy to chat. Click here to set up a call.

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Project Director: Nicol Chinchilla

Originally from Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica, Nicol considers herself a change-maker, passionate about contributing to the development of rural communities while also helping to preserve their essence of traditional living. In 2016, Nicol received her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Business & Nonprofit Management from Earlham College, with focuses in Environmental Politics and Women’s Empowerment. During her time at Earlham, Nicol had the opportunity to attend Semester at Sea, a 4-months program that travels to 12 countries around the world.

Nicol began with AMIGOS as a Project Supervisor in Chimborazo, Ecuador. For the last two years, Nicol has worked with indigenous and farming community-based organizations in Central America providing capacity-building training. Nicol is also committed to social entrepreneurship and during her free time enjoys working with women entrepreneurs guiding them towards their own paths of leadership.

“The things you will learn and experience and the relationships you will build will remain with you through the rest of your life.”

—Emma, AMIGOS Gap Volunteer

Program Requirements
  • Age: 17–22
  • 2+ years of high school Spanish or equivalent (option to take pre-departure Spanish class also available); English proficiency
  • Interest in Latin America and community service
  • Resident or national of the U.S. or Costa Rica

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