Service, hiking and adventure in welcoming, wonderful Costa Rica.
We have always found a warm welcome in Costa Rica. Our Costa Rican partners have appreciated our energy and enthusiasm, our friendliness and wholesomeness.
Our service work starts in the cloud forests of Monteverde. We’ll head to the cloud forests where we’ll take two half days of Spanish language classes paired with service work at a sustainable coffee farm and day hikes. We’ll be in a beautiful environment, focusing on sustainable farming that supports the local community.
We’ll then travel east to the district of La Fortuna to visit a national park and work at a wildlife refuge. We’ll visit Cerro Chato National Park and go for a full day hike at the base of the inactive volcano, Cerro Chato. The next day, we’ll volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center where we’ll take a tour of the refuge, make toys and build play structures for the animals.
Our environmental stewardship and community engagement will continue to serve and hike on the Limón Province. We’ll hike to a local Indigenous community and immerse ourselves in their culture. We’ll also work at a local school and hike to our accommodations at a beautiful fully-equipped campsite at the edge of the Pacuare River.
Our time in Costa Rica will wrap up with a community outreach project in San Jose. We will make our way back to city, where we’ll spend our last couple of days doing light construction and working with kids in an immigrant community.
Your service and exploration will show you a country and its people in important ways. By exploring off the beaten path, by volunteering and by bonding with your group, you’ll give to Costa Rica, but you’ll take something important away, too. And that is something that will stay with you: a deeper understanding not only of Costa Rica, but of the world, too, of its needs, its beauty, its promise.
The service work was rewarding, and I learned many valuable lessons from both the trip and my leaders.
- Nina Price, Cincinatti, Ohio
Day 1: Trip Start
We will meet in San José and then immediately head to the beautiful cloud forests of Monteverde where we’ll spend the day reviewing our group’s goals and getting to know one another.
Days 2-5: Serve at a Sustainable Farm, Take Spanish Classes & Hike in the Cloud Forests
We’ll spend three mornings volunteering and learning about the environmental impacts of different farming practices at a sustainable coffee farm nestled in a small town surrounded by cloud forests. Service work will include light construction work and general maintenance or painting. The first two afternoons we will take an introductory Spanish class from native speakers at a local language school to become familiar with phrases and expressions that will enhance our time in Costa Rica and allow us to connect better with the people and culture. For the remaining two afternoons, we will hike on beautiful, well-maintained paths in a couple of cloud forest reserves.
Days 6 & 7: Hike Cerro Chato & Volunteer at a Wildlife Refuge
On the weekend, we’ll spend one day hiking the beautiful trails of the Arenal Observatory Lodge where we’ll see hanging bridges, waterfalls and wildlife. The next day, we’ll volunteer at a wildlife refuge that works to rehabilitate a number of species. Our work will include making toys for the animals and building or painting structures for them to play on.
Days 8 & 9: Engage with an Indigenous Community
After an exciting weekend, we’ll hike to an Indigenous community in the province of Limón where we’ll spend time with local school children and learn crafts from the community members. We’ll spend the night at the Indigenous community, and the next day we’ll hike out.
Day 10: Serve at a Local School
Our next stop will be a small town in the Limón Province where we’ll work at a school and hike to our cozy riverside campsite.
Days 11 & 12: Trip End
After a busy start to our week, we’ll return to San José where we’ll spend our final days volunteering in an underprivileged immigrant neighborhood. We’ll do some light construction work and spend time playing with local children. At the end of our time together, we’ll celebrate our hard work and all that we’ve accomplished with a final dinner in San José.
7 nights at hostels in private group rooms with bathroom and showers
3 nights in private group accommodations with bathroom and showers
1 night in private group accommodation with primitive bathroom facility
1 night of frontcountry camping with access to flush toilets and showers
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Be sure to bring comfortable clothes that can get dirty and worn while volunteering.
- Linens and pillows are provided at all accommodations.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) backpack or duffel bag.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Work Pants (1)
Durable and suitable for trail work.
- Pants (1)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- T-Shirt (3)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (2)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
Lightweight for sun protection.
- Shorts (4)
Shorts suitable for daily activities including volunteer work and hiking.
- Swimsuit (1)
- Underwear (7)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (2)
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Bandana (optional)
- Hat with Visor (optional)
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle (a smaller size is acceptable).
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sneakers (pair)
Comfortable shoes to wear on daily activities. Shoes should be supportive and have a good tread on the bottom for traction.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Hiking boots that are low to high cut, depending on your desired ankle support. Choose comfortable boots and make sure to break them in before the start of your trip.
- Sandals (pair) (optional)
Flip flops or Crocs work well
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Unaccompanied Minor Fee Receipt (if applicable)
For students travelling as Unaccompanied Minors, please print a copy of the UAM fee receipt for your child's leaders to keep on file.
- Baggage Fee Receipt (if applicable)
Some airlines allow passengers to input credit card information to cover checked bag service charges when checking in online prior to the trip. To reduce hassle at the airport, we encourage you to pay for checked baggage beforehand and supply your child with a copy of the receipt for his or her leaders to keep on file.
- Leather Work Gloves (pair)
Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work
- Beach Towel
- Small Bath Towel
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Spending Money
$30 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
- Spanish-English Dictionary
Travel-sized to use in class and around town.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Service & Hiking Costa Rica?
The weather on Service & Hiking Costa Rica varies. It is typically warm and sunny with temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s in the morning followed by a period of rain in the afternoons, cooling to the 60s and 70s. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child's trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- What vaccinations and medications does my child need in order to travel abroad with Overland?
Overland strongly recommends that families of students traveling abroad consult their child’s doctor and visit a travel clinic well before the start of the program to discuss options for travel-related vaccinations and medications. These are in addition to your child’s routine vaccinations and regularly prescribed medication.
You and your doctor are encouraged to generally review information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization (WHO) or other sources, in addition to the specifics of your selected program, to consider health issues and determine what, if any, travel-related vaccinations and medications are appropriate for your child. Overland will provide a “Travel Vaccinations & Medications” form to assist with this process.
- Can my child get credit for service hours?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland's service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.
Volunteer in local communities, practice Spanish and hike in Costa Rica's national parks.
Students going on Service & Hiking Costa Rica should prepare for:
- 9 days of hiking with an average of 3-5 miles per day
- 9 days of volunteer service for an average of 4 hours each day
- 2 days of Spanish class for 4 hours each day
- Traveling internationally
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
On Service & Hiking Costa Rica, you will typically hike or experience local culture in the morning and then perform service work in the afternoon. You will hike on well-established trails through a variety of landscapes, traveling over terrain ranging from gentle and rolling to rocky and steep.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
While hiking, the pace of your group will vary. Typically, you will take multiple breaks over the course of the hike - for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
Preparing for Service
Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should prepare for a variety of service projects ranging from working on a sustainable farm and serving underprivileged youth in a neighborhood of San José to volunteering at a nature conservation organization on the Pacific Coast. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community.
Stay active this spring, playing sports, walking and hiking. Once your program starts, commit yourself wholeheartedly to your group and all activities.
Preparing for Class
No prior language experience is required for this trip. At trip start, you will take an introductory course in the country's language, learning specific vocabulary and phrases that pertain to your group's travel in the region. All language levels are welcome as the classes are small. If you have prior experience in the language, your teachers may challenge you with a more specific assignment.
Preparing for International Travel
International travel requires planning and preparation. You must have a valid passport and the necessary visas, travel vaccinations and travel medications. Additional instructions regarding international travel preparation will be provided with the Admissions Review Forms upon applying. More information is also available in the FAQs.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.