"A thorough introduction into working and participating in the outdoor industry."
- Kyle J., Outdoor Leader alum
Learn to set up belay systems, organize rescues, provide wilderness medical care, guide rafts down world-class rivers, lead groups through the Costa Rican rainforest and scuba dive in Bocas del Toro. Certifications, work experience and leadership training are integrated into the program to make you a desirable instructor or guide for various organizations throughout the world. Earn up to 10 academic credits
through our partnership with Western State Colorado University
upon successful completion of course.
October 11 - December 14, 2013
January 29 - April 4, 2014
Food, accommodations, equipment, and on-course transportation are included in tuition. Airfare to and from Costa Rica is not included. Read through our Preparing Page
Students must apply to be accepted into this Outdoor Leader Semester. Fill out an enrollment form
to begin the process. We will then send information regarding the application process.
Certifications & Training
Outdoor Leader Semester students will have the opportunity to earn seven internationally-recognized outdoor certifications
Additionally, students will also learn how to incorporate Outward Bound philosophy into the field and will receive the following training issued by Outward Bound Costa Rica:
- Instructor Judgment Training
- Land Instructor Training
Field Internship with Outward Bound Costa Rica
Top-performing Outdoor Leader Semester students who best exemplify the mission of Outward Bound will be offered a paid internship
as a field instructor for Outward Bound Costa Rica's June-August high season, with the possibility of staying on as a year-round instructor.
Hear the story of three Outdoor Leader Semester alumni who are working in the field with us this summer:
This 65-day course is divided into seven distinct phases. Please note that the itinerary may change in sequence, content or duration for all activities depending on group dynamics, staffing, current weather conditions and other factors.
Multi-Element Leadership Training (10-14 days)
Successfully lead multiple day backpacking expeditions using hard and soft skills learned.
- Backpack guiding with camp craft leadership
- Expedition planning and execution
- Instructor judgment training
- Working with adolescents training
- Village homestays and facilitating intercultural exchange
- Costa Rican natural & cultural history for guides
- Soft skills training/group dynamics
During their hike, students have the unique opportunity to experience three types of rainforest first hand as they hike through low, medium, and high elevation rain and cloud forests. Students learn how to identify first, second, and third generation growth rainforests, as well as the stark realities of deforestation. As they hike, students will spend several nights in the Outward Bound Costa Rica homestay region with families in the rural community of Piedras Blancas. The community is very remote – it can only be reached on foot or horseback. Students are encouraged to participate in the families’ daily activities, such as milking cows, making cheese, harvesting corn, rice, beans, sugarcane or pineapples, or helping with whatever activity is taking place at the time. In addition to the many cultural experiences, students engage in exciting adventure activities. These activities require newly acquired technical skills, attention to safety and teamwork. For example, they will rappel down a 60ft waterfall and learn how to safely set up each belay system. These activities are designed to teach students the value of teamwork, overcoming life challenges, and trust. The rainforest is an incredible resource for learning about the natural environment. Our local guides explain about the various medicinal and edible plants that the rainforest has to offer. On all of our courses, we try to give more than we take from the rainforest and the communities that we stay with. The semester course contains several days of environmental and community service projects as a way to contribute to the local communities.
Wilderness First Responder (7-10 days)
Recognize and deal with medical and traumatic injuries in a wilderness setting. Apply skills learned in Costa Rica to any wilderness setting.
- American Red Cross/US DOT standard curriculum for First Responders
- Additional curriculum focusing on wilderness settings with varied scenarios
- ARC CPR/AED for the Professional Rescuer with oxygen administration
Students take an intensive Wilderness First Responder course at the Outward Bound Costa Rica base located in the rainforest, geographically southeast of San Jose.
Surf Instructor Training (3-5 days)
Teach the basics of surfing, regardless of previous experience, to a student.
- Focus on safety information including managing currents, avoiding rips, etc
- Curriculum on surfing basics including reading waves, techniques, types of boards and equipment, etiquette, etc
- Additional information about beach activities and ways to keep students safe, active and engaged when not surfing
Whitewater Raft Guide Training (13-18 days)
Guide a 14-15 foot raft with paddling clients on class II or III whitewater rivers in Costa Rica or abroad.
- 3-4 day Whitewater Rescue Technician certification (Rescue 3 International.)
- 9-15 day river guide training with chance to certify with the International Rafting Federation River reading, paddle navigation, safety training, hours on the river, and quality instruction from veteran river guides equip students to captain a six person raft through class I, II, & III rapids.
Waterfront Lifeguard Training (3-5 days)
Safely assess swimming areas and oversee aquatic activities for groups on lakes, oceans and rivers.
- Full certification course with the American Red Cross
- Rescues using surf equipment in open ocean setting
Students spend time in both an enclosed pool and the open ocean to ensure all safety skills and techniques are clearly demonstrated and tested in real world conditions.
Technical Ropes Rescue (4-6 days)
Manage various activities including rappels, climbing walls, rock climbing, and rescues involving ropes systems.
- 4-5 day Rescue 3 International Technical Rope Rescue Operations level course
- Safety systems for expeditions, rappelling, canyoning, climbing and rescue
Scuba Diver Training (7-10 days)
Understand basic skills and information necessary to participate in scuba activities with the guidance of a dive master.
- NAUI Scuba Diver certification course
- Focus on technical theory, oceanography as well as meditative and holistic approaches to the underwater world
Students travel overland from Sixaola to Almirante and then by boat to Bocas del Toro, Panama. Perched on the tip of Isla Colón, Bocas has a population of 3,500 and claims to be the only “wooden town” in Panama, constructed almost exclusively of lumber, with a distinctive colonial architectural style.
- Male & Female, ages 17+
- Typical age range: 18-24
- Average group size: 12
- Commitment to the shared group experience
- Ability to approach leadership, adventure and group activities with maturity
- Interest in pursuing a career in the outdoor industry recommended
Costa Rica is a stable, functioning democracy and generally considered to be a very safe country. Most of the existing crime tends to be opportunistic (pick-pocketing and mugging) and general occurs in the larger cities at night. Students are never left unattended in metropolitan areas and do not carry their valuables during the course, so it is highly unlikely that any student would be a victim of a crime.
Health & Medications
Our staff does everything we can to ensure the that students take all required medications. To help us with this, it is vital that all students complete the medication and medical history sections of the required online enrollment form.
We request that you submit your online enrollment form as early as possible to ensure our team can contact you with additional information or requests for clarification or further details.
All students are asked to bring extra supplies of all prescription medication in the event some is lost or damaged while on course. Instructors hold and distribute students’ oral medication for the duration of the course.
Outward Bound Costa Rica’s only requirement is a Tetanus vaccination. Other than that, there are no required inoculations to enter Costa Rica, but it is a good idea to check with your physician for recommendations of optional inoculations and health precautions.
Food, Water, & Special Diets
All food and water which students access during their course is safe and clean. At our main rainforest base facility it is safe to drink water from the tap. While on course, students are directed to safe water sources by their instructors. All food at our main rainforest base is safely prepared and thoroughly cooked by our cooking staff. On course, students carry food with them and prepare it as a group under the direct supervision of their instructors.
Outward Bound Costa Rica has experience with a variety of dietary requirements including vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerance and nut allergies. All students are asked to disclose ALL dietary restrictions in their online enrollment forms to best ensure their needs are met.
All meals are served family-style, meaning that students will not have options when it comes to what they eat. Thus it is important that all students be prepared to try new foods and accommodate the dietary needs of their coursemates.
Note: Specialty food items geared towards those with dietary restrictions are difficult to find in Costa Rica and surrounding course areas. If you have a very restrictive diet and/or will be attending a course longer than 15 days, you may be asked to bring some food items with you to supplement local products.
With the help of our course instructors, we have compiled comprehensive Packing Lists for each course. Your Packing List will be included in the materials we email to students when they’ve begun the enrollment process. If you have questions about packing and have not submitted an enrollment form, please give us a call 800-676-2018.
A common misconception about Costa Rica is that it is always hot. Our Base Camp and many of the camping spots during the hiking phases of courses are almost one mile above sea level. It can get quite chilly at night. This is why we recommend all students bring at least one light sweater or fleece. Also, while hiking in the rainforest it will generally rain for part of each day (usually in the afternoon). A decent rain jacket with a hood is highly recommended.
There are three ways to pay for the course: Visa Credit Card, personal or cashiers check, or wire transfer. We do NOT accept money orders. For complete payment instructions, please view our Payment Information
Travel insurance is not required to come to Costa Rica or to participate in a Outward Bound Costa Rica course, but it is recommended. Many insurance companies offer short-term policies to cover the specific dates of travel. Most of these policies can be purchased instantly online. In addition to medical expenses, some travel insurance policies cover expenses such as lost luggage or cancelled flights.
We highly recommend that all families contact their insurance company to request information about international coverage. If you do decide to purchase travel insurance, please read the fine print. Many policies do not cover injuries sustained during adventure activities.
Hold your spot on course by submitting a $500 USD deposit
towards the full course tuition. Deposits can be paid with a Visa credit card, wire transfer or by personal check.