Costa Rica

Summer Community Service Program


Summer Community Service Program — 2019
Jul 9-12, 2019 → Aug 9-12, 2019
  $7,950   Contact Us

*Departure dates may vary within a few days of those listed.


Bring your backpack and your sense of adventure for this life-changing experience in Costa Rica. You’ll get to travel around the country and make friends from all over the world as you participate in volunteer projects. For four weeks you can explore Costa Rican culture while making a difference in the lives of others. Take on rainforest preservation, community development, and sustainable agriculture. For part of the program, you’ll get to live with a local host family to practice your Spanish and become a true member of the community. Then at the end of your four weeks, you can reward yourself with two blissful days at the Punta Leona beach resort—relax, you’ve earned it!

Things to know

Costa Ricans call themselves ticos, and you’ll often hear them demonstrate their national pride by describing something as "muy tico," or "very Costa Rican." Ticos are generally happy and easy-going, so you’re likely to get along with most people you meet. Ticos also tend to be very expressive; you can expect your host family to greet you with enthusiastic hugs and kisses on the cheek. Unlike most other Spanish speakers, people in Costa Rica use the formal version of the word "you" (usted), even when addressing close friends.

Your journey to Costa Rica

Arriving in San José

Your journey to Costa Rica will begin in New York or Miami, where you'll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Together you'll attend an overnight orientation, and then travel to San José where you'll be met by AFS staff and volunteers.

Soon you’ll be ready to head to your first volunteer community. Along the way you might pass volcanic peaks, cosmopolitan cities, or sun-soaked beaches. As you get closer to your destination, you’ll likely feel yourself being drawn in by friendly locals and the country’s general relaxed atmosphere. You might even smell some homemade food wafting out of the local soda, or Costa Rican diner, as the plato del dia (plate of the day) is carefully prepared.

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Where You'll Live

Throughout your four weeks, you’ll stay with other members of your group at a variety of locations like hotels, camps, and hostels. For a portion of the program you’ll get to live with a local host family and experience Costa Rican culture first-hand. Keep in mind that no matter where you go, you’ll likely be surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.

Costa Ricans are usually peaceful, welcoming, and family-oriented; you can expect to share animated meals with your host family as you exchange stories from your different cultures.

See where past AFSers have lived
Costa Rica

Settling into daily life

Your Volunteer Projects

During this program, you’ll volunteer at farms, schools, and wildlife preserves, working on a variety of projects that are designed specifically to help improve local communities. Your first week of service will be in an agro-ecological farm in the province of Cartago in the mountains of central Costa Rica, providing you with the opportunity to learn about sustainable development as you work on reforestation projects and help run the organic farm. Your second and third weeks will be spent in a small town with a host family. There you’ll work on two different projects: the first will be to help improve the facilities of a local school, while the second will likely be focused on environmental conservation. Your fourth and final volunteer project will be at a national park where you can assist park rangers in building and maintaining rainforest trails. All activities will be supported by two program leaders, one who is local to Costa Rica and the other who will travel with you from the US.

Exploring the Area

In addition to volunteering, you’ll get to learn about Costa Rican culture by interacting with your host family and traveling around the country. You can expect to trek through farms, rainforests, wildlife preserves, and small rural communities. Then at the end of the program, you’ll visit the sandy white beaches of Punta Leona. There you and your friends can swim in the Pacific as you relax and look back on all you’ve accomplished.

Foods You’ll Encounter

Meals in Costa Rica usually involve some combination of rice and beans. You can also enjoy fresh, locally grown bananas, mangos, pineapples, papayas, watermelons, and citrus fruits. Your typical breakfast might include gallo pinto (a mixture of rice and black beans), followed by casado (rice, beans, salad, meat, plantains, and sometimes eggs) for lunch. Because beef, chicken, pork, and fish are important parts of Costa Rican cuisine, vegetarianism is not very common. But you can taste some delicious traditional dishes like olla de carne (beef stew with potatoes, onions, and vegetables), empanadas (pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables, or fruit), arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), and gallos (tortillas with meat and vegetable fillings).

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Returning Home

"Life-changing" is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad.
"Transformed" is another one. When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and feel like you can do anything you set your mind to. That transformation isn’t visible only to you, though - others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers, ranging from language fluency to intercultural competence and critical reasoning. "Life-changing" means it’s only the beginning.

Please Note: Travel date ranges are meant to help with general scheduling and are subject to change; please don’t book any travel based on these dates until you’ve received confirmation from AFS. All programs, prices, and travel dates are subject to change without notice.

Meet the people who will be supporting you in Costa Rica

Raul, AFS Costa Rica Staff Raul
Camilo, AFS Costa Rica Volunteer Camilo
Jahel, AFS Costa Rica Volunteer Jahel

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