Outdoor Leader Semester



DATES:  Spring 2018: February 2 – April 8

Fall 2018: October 11 – December 15

TUITION & FEES: Spring 2018: $9,125

Fall 2018: $9,300

COLLEGE CREDIT: 10 credits available through WSCU or an independent study



  • Instructor Judgment Training
  • Land Instructor Training

COURSE REGIONS: Costa Rica (All Provinces); Panama (Bocas del Toro Province);

ADDITIONAL ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS: Phone conference with lead course instructor (Information is sent after student has reserved his/her place on course).


Outdoor Leader Semester Details

  • Develop leadership skills as you delve into field of outdoor education through both technical & soft-skill training
  • Gain self-awareness through Outward Bound’s holistic approach to experiential education
  • Get experience in the field with an instructor internship during our high season (Offered to top alumni)

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 Caribbean waters during this comprehensive introduction to the outdoor industry. Seven internationally-recognized certifications and an in-depth study of the Outward Bound educational model are integrated into the program to make you a desirable instructor or guide for various organizations throughout the world.


Spend ten days trekking through both high-altitude cloud forests and mid-elevation rainforests as you learn about leadership within the field of outdoor education. Put the Outward Bound teaching philosophy to the test as you alternate roles throughout the journey. Set up camp and tarp shelters along the trail, where nightly meetings will consist of discussions of leadership and the challenges that each day has presented. After trekking through the rainforest, you will stay in the family homes that comprise the remote community of Piedras Blancas. During your homestay experience, learn about the community’s local practices, and test your tenacity with an 80-foot jungle waterfall rappel.


During your hiking expedition, gain some insight into yourself and alter your view of the external world during this period of self-reflection. For 24 hours you will be on your own, taking time to disconnect from the rest of the world in a safe, wilderness setting.


Become an outdoor leader by earning the single most important certification needed to work in the industry: Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Nearly every employer ranging from river rafting companies to outdoor education organizations require their staff to have this vital training, though the skills learned are practical for any outdoor enthusiast. Study alongside your course mates during our nine day intensive WFR program, with classroom sessions and practical reviews. Put your knowledge to the test with a final rescue scenario that will have you and your course mates working together to properly attend to real “victims” in a remote wilderness setting.


Take your learning to the river where you’ll train for your Whitewater Rescue Technician certification, issued by Rescue 3 International, the world leader in swift water rescue. Essential for future whitewater river professionals and guides across the world, complete your training along the Río Pejibaye, a gorgeous class II-III river in the mountains of Costa Rica. Learn how to perform rescues in whitewater whiling gaining knowledge on river elements including currents, obstacles, rapids, and holes. to learn the basics of whitewater rescue and safety.


Put your WRT training into practice by learning to guide and captain rafts. Spend two weeks navigating world-famous rivers as a raft guide, each river challenging your developing skills in different ways. Discover how teamwork and proper communication with your coursemates are the key to successful raft captaining. Instructors evaluate your abilities every time you guide and put you through drills that simulate the physical strains of a real emergency situation. Depending on your skill level at the end of the phase, you will eligible to earn a certification through the International Rafting Federation (IRF) for either class II or III rapids.


Master your craftsmanship and self-reliance by learning how to set up rappel and belay systems. Issued by Rescue 3 International, this covers how to lead group rappeling (abseiling) activities in a recreational context. It includes knots, environmental care, rope physics, technical equipment, anchoring, rappeling, contingency/releasable anchor systems, belaying, top-roping, coaching new rappellers, emergency drills, ascending, risk management and site management.


Surf world-class waves along Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast while working toward your Waterfront Lifeguard certification. Issued by the American Safety and Health Institute, this is a vital certification for surf instructors as well as anyone interested in working in water sports or around rivers, lakes, pools, and beaches. This five-day phase, although short, is physically demanding due to the certification’s extensive swim requirements. The location of each training session will progress from a swimming pool to a flat water beach to a surf beach, increasing the difficulty of rescue scenarios as your skills improve.


Venture to the remote Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama, where you’ll train to become a certified NAUI Scuba Diver. With this lifelong certification, you will be able to go anywhere in the world and rent or buy Scuba equipment to perform dives within your skill level. Participate in several dives at varying depths as your instructors teach you about the tropical marine life and ecology of the region. If you are already scuba certified, study for your advanced certification and participate various dives including a night dive and deep dive.


Continue in Panama with a multi-day sea kayaking expedition through the islands of Bocas del Toro, using sea kayaks or indigenous Panamanian canoes known as cayucos. Throughout the journey, you and your course mates will paddle past tropical mangroves and spot hundreds of tropical fish in the clear waters. Engage with the local indigenous population by setting up camp and delving into service projects in local communities.


Alumni of our Outdoor Leader Semester who best exemplify what it takes to become an Outward Bound educator are typically offered a paid internship as a field instructor for Outward Bound Costa Rica’s high season, with the possibility of staying on as a year-round instructor.

Hear the story of Outdoor Leader Semester alumni who reflect on their course experience and how it led to an instructor role in the field:


Once you have decided what courses you are interested in, begin your enrollment here:


Semester students are eligible for academic credit either through independent study or through our partnership with Western State Colorado University. Discounts and scholarships available to those who qualify.


Inquire below for more information on the course details and the Outward Bound semester experience. We can assist in deciding which of our gap year and semester programs best meets your personal objectives.

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“Not only have I expanded my knowledge and career options through terrific certifications, but I have made huge strides in my physical and mental strength. I can really see myself as a leader now too , and Outward Bound Costa Rica has set me up for a really amazing future.”

– Luna, 17 –

“Outward Bound Costa Rica made me a stronger, more courageous individual and gave me the skills to live a more meaningful life.”

– Beth, 18 –

“Seeing an untouched part of Costa Rica and learning about daily life at the homestays was an amazing experience.”

– Ilia, 19 –

“The certifications and hard skills I’ve learned in this course have absolutely met my expectations and I know I will use them and build off them in the future.”

– Rachel, 24 –

“I learned that I am capable of more than I thought and that I have been limiting myself. I know that I can do anything and be anything and that life is mine for the taking.”

– Rachel, 24 –

“I learned to find joy in the hardest tasks and how to be in the constant pursuit of knowledge.”

– Luna, 17 –

“Hiking was truly life changing. The 24-hour solo brought me closer to myself and my world.”

– Luna, 17 –