Field Studies Costa Rica

Immerse yourself in the culture and landscape of Costa Rica with like-minded teens on this summer field studies trip. Mentor children and volunteer at an organic farm; partner with local communities to protect ecosystems. See the rainforest and hike to the Arenal Volcano.

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go


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.

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 and working 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. 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.

Questions? Contact us!

Each Overland trip seems to get better, and the Overland staff is responsive, knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.

- Laura Lester, Arlington, Virginia

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 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.

Day 8: 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 the day at a local school and learn crafts from the community members.

Days 9 & 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 return to San José where we’ll spend our final days volunteering alongside the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation in an underserved 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.
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We travel light at Overland.


  • 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 (2)
    Suitable for day hikes, travel or walks through towns and cities.
  • Work Pants (2)
    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.

Outer Layers

  • 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)

General Gear

  • 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
    Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
  • 1-Liter Water Bottle


  • Sneakers
    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
  • Small Bath Towel
  • Beach Towel
  • Sunglasses
  • 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
  • Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
    A digital or disposable camera.
  • Personal Journal or Book (optional)

Important Documents

  • Health Insurance Card
    Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
  • Passport
    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

  • Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
    Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Some prepaid cards do not work internationally (notably, Visa); please ensure you purchase one that does. 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 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.

Things to know

  • We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on this list.
  • Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
  • Please do not bring your smart phone (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 all accommodations.
  • There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
    Please schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.

Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.

  • What is the weather like on Field Studies Costa Rica?

    You can expect typical summery weather with lots of sunshine, some rain, warm days and cool nights.

  • 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 trip.

  • Please tell me about the currency on this trip.

    Costa Rica uses the Costa Rican Colón. Some US banks may be able to order Colones. At various airports within the US, it is possible to exchange dollars for Colones. Students can also exchange money in airports throughout the US, or leaders can help students withdraw Colones using a debit card or exchange US dollars upon arrival in Costa Rica.

  • 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 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 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 where each group member feels welcomed and valued.

  • Please tell me about Overland's admissions process.

    When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.

    4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.

    5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.

Volunteer in local communities, practice Spanish and hike in Costa Rica's national parks.

Students going on Field Studies Costa Rica 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 Field Studies Costa Rica, 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.

Pre-trip Training:

  • 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.