We Welcome Your Application to Join Us!
We build each of our groups with care, keeping the groups small (no more than twelve students), and paying close attention to age, grade, gender, and the mix of hometowns and schools. Our goal is to put together great groups — groups where nice kids thrive in a supportive, wholesome, and caring environment. Please note: availability as shown is based on students traveling without a friend; if your child is interested in traveling with a friend, please call our office for availability.
Important Information about Availability
This departure of this trip has good availability. Apply as soon as possible since availability changes quickly.
This departure of this trip has limited availability. Apply as soon as possible, and on receipt of your application, if space is still available, we’ll confirm a spot for you. If all of the spots are taken, we’ll call you to discuss options.
This departure of this trip is currently full — please call us to discuss options.
How to Apply
Apply online using a credit card for the $795 deposit (your card will not be charged until we confirm a spot for you). Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received (we do not hold spots over the phone).
When to Apply
The flow of applications starts in July and peaks in January/February. Some groups fill by the December holidays, and others will have space into the late spring. Our advice? Apply as soon as possible — it only takes a few minutes — and we’ll get to work right away to find a great spot for you.
Call (413.458.9672) or email (email@example.com). We look forward to hearing from you.
Costa Rica Explorer
Immerse yourself in the culture and landscape of Costa Rica with like-minded peers.
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 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.
We’ll continue our environmental stewardship and community engagement while we volunteer and hike in the Limón Province. We’ll hike to a local Indigenous Reserve and gain an understanding of the daily life of community members. 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 José. We will make our way back to the city, where we’ll spend our last couple of days doing light construction work and engaging with kids in the neighborhood of La Carpio, an immigrant community.
Your service, hiking, 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. Something that will stay with you well past the end of your trip: a deeper understanding not only of Costa Rica, but of the world, too, of its needs, its beauty, and its promise.
Teamwork & Leadership
Discovery & Exploration
Fun & Friendship
Engaged & Hard-Working
Off the Beaten Path
Need to Know
Hike and adventure, learn and volunteer — all in welcoming Costa Rica.
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 cloud forest reserves.
Days 6-7: Hike Past Waterfalls & Volunteer at a Wildlife Refuge
Over 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 Reserve in the province of Limón, where we’ll spend two days at a local school and learn crafts from community members.
Day 10: Volunteer 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 spend our final days volunteering alongside the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation in an under-served immigrant neighborhood. We’ll do some light construction work, learn about the history of the neighborhood, 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.
2 nights of frontcountry camping with access to flush toilets and showers.Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
"I loved white water rafting, going to the beach, and volunteering at the school. Meeting all of the kids was an amazing experience. It felt good to make a positive impact on their lives. "
"A wonderful experience for Jillian — she gained independence and leadership. Her leaders were great, and the activities and service work were incredible. Jillian felt close to everyone in her group, too. "
What to PackDownload PDF
Questions about what to pack? Email trip planner Meg Pandiscio.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) backpack or duffel bag.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- T-Shirt (4)
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
- Lightweight Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
- Shorts (4)
Shorts suitable for daily activities including volunteer work and hiking.
- Pants (1)
Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
- Work Pants (1)
Durable and suitable for trail work.
- Underwear (7)
- Athletic Socks (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (2)
- Swimsuit (1)
- Bandana (optional)
- Hat with Visor (optional)
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of pajamas.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- 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), as long as it is comfortable to wear.
Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
- 1-Liter Water Bottle
- Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We recommend either synthetic or treated down material. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or lightweight, backpacking style inflatable pad.
Comfortable shoes with good 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.
- Sport Sandals or Water Shoes
Must have a heel strap (e.g. Chacos, Keens or Tevas).
- Sandals (optional)
Flip flops or Crocs work well.
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Beach Towel
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Leather Work Gloves
Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work.
- Travel-sized Spanish-English Dictionary
- Water-resistant Watch (no Apple watches or any other type of smart watch) (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
Please bring 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.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring cash or a debit card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses. Please note: We have found that pre-paid debit cards do not work internationally.
Things to Know
- Students should bring at least two reusable face masks on their trip.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smartphone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab 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 most group accommodations. Students may choose to use their sleeping bag for additional warmth if necessary.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
If you’re looking to purchase a backpack, fleece layers, etc., for your child, we encourage you to consider borrowing, renting, or purchasing lightly used gear. Especially for children who are still growing, using pre-owned gear can reduce both waste and cost.
Please note that some items wear out over time, and are best to purchase new (for example, a GORE-TEX raincoat). As with any gear, please make sure the items fit your child well. If you have any questions, please give us a call (413-458-9672) or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here are a few reliable places where you can purchase used items:
How challenging are Overland's hiking trips?
We offer a wide range of hiking trips to ensure we have something for all of our students.
Our Explorer trips, designed for students in middle school or early high school, offer a range of day hikes, an introduction to backpacking, and activities off the trail, such as rafting and kayaking. Expedition trips are a step up in difficulty. These trips have longer backpacking sections and activities off the trail include rafting, rock climbing, and mountaineering. We offer a range of levels and locations so students can find a trip that’s a good match for their interests.
If you have questions about our trips or would like our help selecting the trip that’s the right fit for you, please email us at email@example.com.
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 their interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific trip 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 in which each member feels welcomed and valued.
What is Overland's Covid-19 policy?
What are meals like at Overland? Can Overland accommodate allergies and intolerances?
Meals at Overland
Good food (and plenty of it!), excellent nutrition, and fun are the goals of Overland’s meals. Each group buys, prepares, and eats all of its meals together. Our students, with their leaders’ supervision, prepare all meals. A typical breakfast has cereal, milk, juice, and fruit; most lunches are sandwiches (or wraps) with a variety of fillings, plus chips, and fruit; dinners reflect easily prepared group meals like pasta, burritos, and stir-frys (all of which will typically have a selection of sauces and fillings). At Overland, meals are a group experience, an important way to foster connection with and consideration for other group members.
Allergies & Intolerances
We recognize there are many young people with food allergies or intolerances. We welcome these young people’s interest in joining us, and we ask parents of a prospective Overland student with an allergy/intolerance to please consider the following important information.
Most meals at Overland are prepared in basic kitchens (or outdoors), and groceries are typically purchased from small stores with limited choices. As a result, meals are prepared and served in what may be allergen-contaminated environments, and on many trips allergen-free/gluten-free foods are not readily available. While we cannot guarantee allergen-free meal settings, we will do what is reasonable to provide allergen-free/gluten-free foods on those trips where available.
In all things, our top priority is to help maintain all students’ well-being; to this end, all Overland leaders are trained to recognize and respond to allergic reactions, including administering antihistamines and epinephrine (both are carried in every trip’s first aid kit); leaders carry cell phones, and in some cases, satellite phones, so that should the need arise, emergency personnel can be contacted and their services requested. It is important for all prospective parents to understand that many groups travel in remote areas where emergency services may not be easily or readily accessible.
Our Admissions Process is Collaborative
During our admissions process, we will review all submitted Allergy Questionnaires to understand the applicant’s allergy/intolerance. We will then consider whether or not the applicant’s allergy/intolerance may be reasonably accommodated. If our admissions team has any concerns, they will contact the parent. In this conversation, we will seek to learn more about the allergy/intolerance, and we will discuss the available grocery stores, emergency services, and medical facilities on the applied-for trip. These conversations generally have one of three outcomes:
- The applicant is placed on the applied-for trip if the applicant otherwise qualifies.
- We offer a different trip if the applicant otherwise qualifies.
- We recommend waiting a year and re-applying.
Managing Food Allergies/Intolerances is a Partnership
Our commitment is to the health and well-being of each of our campers. Our goal is to partner with parents and campers—a partnership in which:
- We clearly describe our trips and policies;
- Parents clearly describe their child’s allergies or intolerances and their child’s maturity level and capability to self-manage their allergy or intolerance.
- We work together with parents in a collaborative and interactive process to determine if there are reasonable accommodations that can be made so that otherwise qualified applicants can participate in our trips.
- Students on an Overland trip take an active role in managing their allergies, including reading food labels as needed, eating only those foods with known ingredients, and seeking a leader if a reaction is suspected.
Meals: Vegetarians & Specialized Diets
Every summer there are many vegetarians who join our groups and who enjoy meat-free meals. We are happy to welcome these students as long as they understand they will share in the group’s meals but will simply have the meat portion withheld. For example: sandwiches at lunch with hummus, lettuce, tomato, and cheese (while the rest of the group has sandwiches with sliced turkey or ham); pasta at dinner with a tomato sauce (while the rest of the group has pasta with a meat sauce). We sometimes have requests from applicants with specialized diets—vegans, for example—to provide separate, specialized meals. As much as we might like to accommodate these applicants, the limitations of our kitchens, the size of available grocery stores, and the importance of group meals make it impractical to provide separate, specialized meals.
How often will there be access to showers and laundry? Will my child have to bring quarters and detergent for laundry?
Staying clean and comfortable is important at Overland!
Most trips have frequent access to hot showers. This ranges from nearly every night on some of our Introductory trips and our shorter biking trips, to every couple of days on many hiking trips, to longer stretches–three to five days, sometimes a little longer–on some of our more challenging trips. The goal on every trip, however, is to take showers when they are available!
In general, on every trip we do laundry once a week— this is typically in a laundromat with funds and detergent provided by Overland (and it’s usually a lot of fun!).
My child doesn't have experience being away from bathroom facilities. Will Overland's leaders teach and support the group?
Yes. We want each of our students to feel completely supported.
Every one of our trips will spend some of their time in areas with access to bathroom facilities, many of which include flush toilets, running water, and trash receptacles. Our youngest students, and most of our bike trips, will spend most of their time in settings like these.
All of our hiking trips will spend time away from areas with bathroom facilities. In preparation for a day hike away from facilities, or for a longer backpacking section, our leaders will teach the group about backcountry bathroom practices. In most cases, this will include digging a cat hole (a shallow six-inch hole) in a private location away from water sources. Leaders will also provide every group member a small bag to pack out toilet paper (and other paper products, e.g., pads and tampons).
Our leaders will also make sure that group members are supported with menstruation information, needs, and supplies (i.e., pads, tampons). We recommend sending your child with a supply of these items. If your child needs additional pads or tampons, the leaders can provide them.
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. 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 an expensive smartphone. Instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft, or loss, 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).
Communication: We’ll Be In Touch With You If Needed
Our leaders in the field check in 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 other 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.
Can I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card, or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting.
Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to a traditional camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and sometimes even when it does, post offices, campgrounds, and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups.
For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards, or postcards only. If mail is late, lost, or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx, or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
My child’s birthday is during the trip — can I send a gift?
We recommend that you send a letter, card, or postcard instead and save the gift for when your child returns home at the end of the trip (and, don’t worry; your child’s trip leaders will make sure there is a celebration!).
Can I send my child a care package during the trip?
We recommend letters, cards, or postcards instead of care packages. If, however, you send a care package, bear in mind that many don’t make it to the intended recipient (because we’re moving), and that many aren’t returned to the sender.
Where does this trip start and end?
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 trip.
Can my child receive 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 the service work.
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.
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 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 since the 1980s.
Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
What is Overland's admissions process?
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will:
(1) call you to thank you for your application,
(2) send you an email with a link to our enrollment forms, and
(3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card.
If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss options.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
Before you Go
Volunteer in local communities, practice Spanish, and hike in Costa Rica's national parks.
Students going on Costa Rica Explorer should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- 8 days of volunteer service for an average of 4 hours each day
- 2 days of Spanish class for 4 hours each day
- A fun, supportive, and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Costa Rica Explorer, you will typically perform service work in the morning and then hike or experience local culture 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. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you—and for everyone in your group.
- 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 90-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 1 week before your trip: take three 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
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 to light construction work to working alongside youth in an underserved neighborhood of San José. The projects your group will 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 trip 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 an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. 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. 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 trip.
This summer, we are asking all of our students
- To be vaccinated for Covid-19, and, if eligible, to be boosted.
- To test before their trips. The test can be a clinic-based PCR or rapid antigen test, or a home test. Please note: (a) We will not require families to upload the results of these tests (unless the family has received an exemption or exception to our vaccine or booster requirement); (b) If your child has had (and fully recovered from) Covid-19 within 90 days of their trip start, there is no need to do a pre-trip test.
- To mask up when traveling to your trip. In airports and on planes, please mask up. This could help keep you—and everyone in your group—healthy for the duration of your trip.
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Overland offers introductory, hiking, biking, language, writing, service and field studies programs domestically and abroad for students in 4th through 12th grade.