Costa RicaConservation & Cultural Landscapes

Journey to Costa Rica this summer and explore some of the country’s highest peaks, densest forests, and most remote natural reserves while immersing yourself in the region’s rich cultural landscapes. Choose your On Assignment theme—either Photography or Anthropology, Culture, & Tradition—and delve into your focus area. Photograph sweeping vistas, lush landscapes, and endemic wildlife as you travel from the cloud forest to the Pacific coast. Along the way, meet with artisans and communities to learn their perspectives on Costa Rica as a leader in conservation and explore the sustained significance of traditions in modern life—from makers of folk masks in Barva and oxcart painters in Sarchí to the communities that live among the stone spheres left by Mesoamerican populations in the Diquís Delta.


June 22–July 7, 2024June 27–July 12, 2024
16 days
$ 7,990 + airfare
Departs from Miami
16–18 students, 2 leaders


  • Explore the Osa Peninsula, one of Costa Rica’s most biodiverse regions
  • Meet with artisans of traditional masks and painted oxcart wheels in the Central Valley
  • Learn about the modern Costa Rican approach to environmental sustainability
  • Investigate Mesoamerican sites on the Pacific to a chorus of howler monkey calls

Meet the Expert

Explorer bio coming soon!


This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

  • Departure
  • Travel Day

Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Miami, and fly together to San Jose, Costa Rica.

  • Monteverde
  • 3 days

Begin your program and get to know your group in a field station perched atop a mountain that overlooks the Nicoya Peninsula. Meet with educators at the nonprofit Monteverde Institute and learn about their innovative initiatives and sustainability practices in their outdoor education space. Explore the Bosque Eterno de los Niños and try to spot the elusive quetzal or the endemic bell bird. Learn how the government and farmers are working to widen and strengthen the natural corridors for these diminishing species.

  • Central Valley
  • 4 days

Make a mountain lodge your home base while you interact with artists specializing in painted oxcart wheels and working to preserve this traditional art form. Travel by private bus over mountain roads while you explore four distinct communities, each with their own stories. Photograph stunning natural vistas and hike to hidden waterfalls in the forest.

  • Cerro ChirripĂł
  • 2 days

Visit the highest mountain in Costa Rica where an expert wildlife illustrator and photographer will join your group. Together, explore the Cerro ChirripĂł National Park in search of endemic species of birds, trees, and other flora and fauna.

  • Osa Peninsula
  • 3 days

Head to one of the southernmost tips of Costa Rica’s Pacific coast by river taxi. The Osa Peninsula is home to Corcovado National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Take a guided hike through the park and scout for tapirs, toucans, and other native and endemic wildlife.

  • Uvita
  • 3 days

Conclude your program at a beachside lodge in Uvita, located on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast and home of Ballena National Marine Park. Enjoy a secluded beach at low tide and try to spot whales in the distance. Start the day to the sounds of howler monkeys in the rainforest canopy, and take a day trip to the Sierpe River for a guided exploration by kayak. Photograph the Diquís Spheres at sunset, ancient stone spheres remnants of Mesoamerican times. Put the finishing touches on your On Assignment project, then present it to your group.

  • EscazĂş
  • 1 day

Enjoy a final celebratory dinner with your group near the capital city of San Jose, and reflect on your experiences together.

  • Return
  • Travel Day

Fly from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Miami with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination.

A Day in the Life: Monteverde

Due to the traveling nature of this program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Monteverde.

  •  Enjoy breakfast outside at the field station
  •  Attend an interactive workshop at the Monteverde Institute
  •  Take lunch at a small soda, or family-run restaurant
  •  Visit the local aqueduct to see how the municipality provides clean water to community members
  • Watch for monkeys and agoutis on a trek on the field station’s property
  • Enjoy a traditional Costa Rican dinner cooked by your hosts
  • Group meeting to discuss the day
  • Go to sleep while a chorus of frogs and insects fills the air

What to Expect

  • On Assignment Themes

Choose either the Photography or Anthropology, Culture, & Tradition On Assignment theme, and break into teams to delve further into your area of focus.

Photography: Capture sweeping tropical vistas from atop some of Costa Rica’s most mountainous communities, while also getting a glimpse of life in the Central Valley. Continue on to photograph diverse wildlife in the country’s coastal rainforest and protected reserves. Record how artists today preserve traditional art forms specific to the communities you visit. Review your images with your peers, leader, and the National Geographic Explorer as you create a portfolio that tells the story of your travels.

Anthropology, Culture, & Tradition: Dive into Costa Rica’s status as a leader in sustainability and renewable energy, while also preserving and sustaining its region’s rich traditions. Discuss these shared cultural values as you meet with folk artists, community leaders, and guides from all over Costa Rica. Gain a big-picture understanding of the country’s cultural landscape and learn about strides being made toward a sustainable existence, from green energy to laws aimed at ecological preservation.

  • Language

Students who do not speak Spanish will have the opportunity to learn some basic Spanish language skills during the program.

  • Physical Activity

This is an outdoor-focused, active summer travel program. We are outside much of each day. It is important that you have a desire to be active, and that you are interested in trying all activities, including hiking and surfing.

  • Altitude

This program visits high altitude destinations—Cerro Chirripó has a maximum elevation of ~12,000 feet above sea level.

  • Lodging

In Monteverde our accommodations are comfortable bunk rooms with our field station hosts. We stay in a scenic mountain lodge near the Central Valley, and enjoy a beachside lodge while in Uvita. On the Osa Peninsula, the group stays in bunk accommodations deep in the jungle.

  • Meals

We enjoy traditional Costa Rican fare prepared and served at our accommodations for most of the program. Occasionally we eat lunch and dinner in local restaurants. The group may also purchase supplies for picnic lunches.

Please call our office with any questions about the physical nature of this program or to discuss specific accessibility and accommodation questions.

Explore the Destination

Watch Program Webinar

Next Steps

If you have questions or would like to talk further about this program, please get in touch!

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