To truly survive in the outdoors, you need more than the right skills. You have to be a true leader as well, equipped with essential training in rescue and wilderness medical care. You will learn about this and more through a fun semester with Outward Bound Costa Rica!

Undergo training in becoming an outdoor professional, helping you acquire necessary leadership skills in the wild. With our Leadership Semester, you will learn to guide rafts down raging rivers, organize rescues, set up belay systems, lead groups through the rainforest, give wilderness medical care, and scuba dive world-class spots. Engage with locals who will teach you about surviving in the Costa Rican jungle.

The program is integrated with certifications, leadership training, and work experience to develop you into a skilled guide or instructor. You will earn up to 10 academic credits upon successful completion.

This is a 65-day course divided into seven distinct phases:

  • Multi-Element Leadership Training
  • Wilderness First Responder Medical Course
  • Surf Instructor Training
  • Whitewater River Guide Training
  • Waterfront Lifeguarding
  • Technical Ropes Rescue
  • Scuba Diving

Program Highlights

  • Experience world-class diving spots in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
  • Learn firsthand about wilderness and outdoor survival from locals.
  • Train to be an outstanding guide or wildlife instructor in two beautiful locations - Costa Rica and Panama!
  • Receive certifications and up to 10 academic credits after completing the course successfully.
  • Engage in exciting outdoor activities, from trekking through the rainforest to scuba diving.


PLEASE NOTE: This is a sample itinerary. Details are subject to change.

Orientation & First Responder Phase: 7-9 Days

Fly to Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría Airport (SJO) where you will be greeted by our staff and be driven to our rainforest base in Tres Ríos, Cartago. Meet your coursemates and newfound friends, instructors, and participate in a “duffle shuffle” to prepare all your essentials for the course. Get to know our rainforest base grounds, staff, and what you will accomplish during our semester course orientation. Begin training to earn your Wilderness First Responder and CPR for the Professional Rescuer (BLS) certification. Nights in furnished dorms.

River Phase: 14-19 Days

Travel to the Pacuare and Sarapiqui Rivers to begin your Whitewater Raft Guide and Whitewater Rescue Technician training. On this course, you will learn the rules of swift water rescue, how to self-rescue and personal safety, hydrology, and river dynamics, equipment, rope rescue skills, medical procedures, and how to respond in high-risk scenarios. You will also learn how to steer a single inflatable kayak and safety guide a full multi-passenger inflatable raft down Class II-III rapids. Overnights in thatched-roof homes along the river. At the end of this phase, you will return back to our San Ramón de Tres Ríos rainforest base to clean gear, relax, repack and prepare for the next phase of course.

Scuba Phase: 7-9 Days

Depart to cross the Panama border and arrive at the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro via boat to your island home and begin earning your Scuba Diver or Advanced Scuba Diver certification. Learn how to dive and discover spectacular tropical coral reefs up close and personal. If you are already certified, earn your advanced certification by participating in special dives including a compass navigation dive and a deep dive. Take your practical and written exam toward earning your scuba diving certification. Enjoy a celebratory night dive—wave your hands and glide through the waters as thousands of magical bioluminescent lights illuminate your path. Between instructional lessons, learn how to wakeboard through the tropical islands of Bocas del Toro and spend an afternoon in Bocas Town perusing the artisan market and local shops. Overnights in the home of our host family on Isla Solarte.

Surf and Lifeguarding Phase: 7-9 Days

Depart to the Pacific Coast and set up camp at a beautiful beach site. Participate in beach school, where you will learn the basics of board selection, waterfront safety, paddling techniques and standing upright on your board. Wake up each morning to the sound of crashing waves! Instructors will teach beginner to advanced surf lessons and you’ll practice your new skills in the water. Your days will also consist of theory sessions or hands-on Lifeguarding with Waterfront Module training. Technical elements of the lifeguarding course will also be taught on the waters of Bocas del Toro, Panama during the scuba phase. Overnights at a beach campsite. At the end of this phase, you will return back to our San Ramón de Tres Ríos rainforest base to clean gear, relax, repack and prepare for the next phase of course.

Recreational Rappel Operator Phase: 3-5 Days

Stay at our San Ramón de Tres Ríos rainforest base and travel to nearby locations to facilitate your Recreation Rappel Operator training in how to lead group rappelling. This course includes knots, technical equipment, anchoring, contingency/releasable anchor systems, belaying, ascending, coaching new rappellers, emergency drills, and risk management.

Hiking Phase: 9-11 Days

Depart early to your “far from the tourist route” trailhead. Journey through the thick tropical rainforest as you hike your way through spectacular valleys, cascading waterfalls, and winding rivers that lead you from campgrounds to homestays. Discover fresh animal tracks, impressive plant life, and rugged trails as you navigate your way. At each homestay, experience true Costa Rican hospitality and enjoy a beautiful open-air, sustainable rainforest home where you will learn to cook traditional meals and share stories with family members. Learn to make corn tortillas from scratch and process sugar using a trapiche—a method to traditionally squeeze juice from freshly harvested sugar cane. Connect with your coursemates on a waterfall rappel where you will make the adrenaline-pumping 80-foot descent down the face of the falls. This challenge also includes a one-day solo reflective experience, where you will take inventory of where your life is, where you want it to be, and to experience pure solitude without distractions and without your group in a controlled environment. This experience is adventurous, rewarding and a world away from the norm! At the end of this phase, you will return back to our San Ramón de Tres Ríos rainforest base to clean gear, relax, repack and prepare for the next phase of course.

Course Wrap-Up: 2 Days

Explore downtown San José on a city tour and to the artisan market. Spend your last evening on base with a course reflection and final traditional dinner. Overnight in furnished dorms. Transfer to the Juan Santamaría Airport (SJO) for departure. Say hasta luego to your friends and coursemates. Nos vemos pronto en Costa Rica!

Community Service

Earn 15 – 20 hours of community service. Community service projects may include painting, recycling, refurbishing recreational equipment, and other community development projects.

Program taught in:
  • English

See 4 more programs offered by Outward Bound Costa Rica »

Last updated May 2, 2019
This course is Campus based
Start Date
1 semester
9,300 USD
$9,300 (Spring semester); $9,532 (Fall semester)
By locations
By date
Start Date
End Date
Application deadline
Start Date
End Date
Nov 24, 2019
Application deadline
Application deadline
End Date
Application deadline
End Date
Nov 24, 2019