Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder 

Combine your training with travel—7 days (5-day course)

Explore Costa Rica's tropical rainforest and get skills and certification as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR). 

Stay at two riverside eco-camps. Paddle the Rio Pacuare—one of the world's best rafting trips. The seven day program includes return transport from San Jose, lodging, meals, rafting, and an incredible course in an awesome location.

Course format: 5-days onsite + pre-course prep

While many Wilderness First Responder courses include 8 days of onsite training, this program uses the '5-day + pre-course prep' format. We'll mail you the text book and send you online materials to do the 25+ hours of independent studying in advance.

What to expect of the training

  • Get hands-on practice
  • Grow your skills and knowledge through advanced prep at your own pace followed by an intensive and well-run course
  • Increase your confidence and gain experience through realistic scenarios with stage blood and simulated wounds to prepare you for backcountry emergencies
  • Challenge yourself with the guidance of professional, dynamic, and fun instructors who deliver a course that will be one of the best you’ll ever experience

Dates & Price

February 18th to 24th, 2018 - 1,399 USD

Who is this course for?

This course is taught in English. It is for anybody aged 18 and up who is physically active. You don't need any medical or river experience.


Sunday - Meet and get picked up in San Jose. Drive for 2 hours through beautiful countryside. Paddle fun rapids by raft. Stop for sidehikes to waterfalls and swimming holes on your way to ‘El Nido Del Tigre’ (camp 1)
Monday to Wednesday - WFR Training
Thursday - WFR training. Raft non-stop whitewater through deep gorges and primary rainforest. Stop for simulations and training on your way to 'Finca Pacuarito' (camp 2)
Friday - WFR training
Saturday - Return to San Jose or continue your travels...

What’s included?

  • Round-trip land transport between San Jose and the course
  • Jungle camp lodging in a tent (includes bedding and pillow)
  • All delicious meals and snacks from Day 1 lunch to Day 7 breakfast. Feast on tropical fruit and local dishes like ‘Casados’ and ‘Gallo Pinto’
  • Professional guide and camp staff always available
  • Certification from Wilderness Medical Associates International (WMAI) valid for 3 years
  • CPR Healthcare Provider level (adult, child, infant) certification valid for 3 years
  • WMAI curriculum materials including textbook (mailed to you in advance), lecture notes, workbook, SOAP notes (for documenting incidents), and waterproof field guide
  • Medical and rescue training equipment
  • Guided rafting and all river equipment including PFD & helmet

What's not included?

  • Flights to and from Costa Rica
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Personal items such as outdoor clothing and day pack


1 - Gain confidence, skills, and knowledge with a great course
WMAI sets the international standard with cutting edge curriculum, great materials, and experienced, professional instructors. The training is intensive and hands-on with many drills, realistic simulations, and lots of practice.

2 - Relax and enjoy the eco-camps
With great fresh food, spacious lounging areas with hammocks, comfy chairs and tables, platform tents, bathrooms, and showers - all well maintained, sustainably built, and cared for by fantastic local staff - the camps make for very special course locations. Our lodgings and setting allow you to, at various times, choose to relax, socialize, explore the rainforest, or focus on course material.

3 - Experience the Rio Pacuare
Considered amongst the top 10 river trips in the world for its fun rapids and spectacular scenery, we’ll get to raft the first part on day one and then, later in the week, descend through ‘Huacas Canyon’ and ‘Dos Montanas’ while stopping for medical simulations along the way. Rafts are guided by professional river guides with years of experience on the Pacuare.


Our Costa Rican partners - Coast to Coast Adventures

For this program, we partner with Coast to Coast Adventures, a Costa Rican company with 18 years of experience organizing travel, adventure races, and experiential education programs in Costa Rica. While we at Boreal River are the main organizers and instructors, Coast to Coast provides logistical support, transport, and lodging.

With a team of 20 Costa Rican guides, logistics coordinators, and administrators, Coast to Coast operates an office in San Jose and two camps on the Pacuare River. Coast to Coast has a reputation for running excellent programs and endeavors to deliver sustainable and ethical adventures. Many of their staff have been with them for over a decade, giving them a depth of knowledge and experience that is essential for the delivery of memorable programs with the highest levels of security and organization.

'El Nido Del Tigre' - nights 1 to 4

Staying here is sure to be one of the highlights of your experience in Costa Rica.

From your comfortable tent, you can listen to the river and see the morning mist rising through lush tropical greenery. Outside of class time, enjoy relaxing in the 'Rancho' or lying in a hammock.

Watch toucans glide between rain forest trees and spot giant blue butterflies, sloths, and a myriad of beautiful flowers.

Camp facilities

  • Riverside locations
  • Delicious home-cooked meals
  • 14 hectares of rainforest
  • Spacious platform tents
  • Ropes course
  • Rainforest trails
  • Lawned recreation area
  • Nearby waterfalls and natural swimming holes
  • Fully managed by local staff


From Coast to Coast Adventures website:

El Nido del Tigre or The Tiger's Nest, is an evolving dream for Coast to Coast Adventures. Its name comes from the giant patches of ginger plants which fall and create the shape of a tiger’s nest. From the center of the nest, trails radiate throughout the rainforest and along the river.

Our camp has a dual personality. At times it is a hive of activity perhaps with a soccer or Frisbee game, or teams frantically hurrying into the camp to record their finish time in a racing challenge. While at other times it is a peaceful, tranquil and relaxing environment following a day on the rapids.

Sustainability is a key word at El Nido del Tigre as we strive to achieve the perfect harmony between rainforest and tourism. The camp has captured the imagination of the local people, many of whom we thank for their assistance and patience in building this unusual environment and a number of them who remain with us on our continuing journey to develop the dream.

Spacious tents on fixed platforms co-mingle with the forest and border the river. Our team love to welcome clients – a stay at El Nido del Tigre promises a unique experience - so come and join us!

41Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder Certification Training Course with Wilderness Medical Associates and Boreal River Rescue

Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder Certification Training Course with Wilderness Medical Associates and Boreal River Rescue

'Finca Pacuarito' - nights 5 & 6

As the Pacuare River levels and the rapids give way to the gentle current of the beckoning Caribbean Ocean, Finca Pacuarito sits on the side of the river nestled amongst banana plants. 

This camp has bigger tent platforms and spacious tents that can accommodate two or more people.

There is also electricity and wifi so that students can start arranging their travel plans and transitioning back to 'civilization'.


Day 1 (Sunday) - San Jose pick-up, scenic drive, and raft into El Nido Del Tigre (Eco-Camp 1)

  • 8:00am pick up at the Gran Hotel in central San Jose by our professional driver in a passenger van
  • Beautiful 2 hour drive past volcanoes, coffee and sugar cane plantations, and small towns
  • Drive down a dirt road into the Pacuare River valley
  • Safety briefing and whitewater raft (class II – III) a section of the spectacular Pacuare River and have a riverside lunch along the way
  • Arrive at camp and get shown around by staff and explore your lodgings
  • Go for an optional hike to a swimming hole or just relax, enjoy the surroundings, and settle in for your first night in the jungle
  • Welcome dinner and introductions

Day 2 to 4 (Monday to Wednesday) – Wilderness Medical Training

  • Sleep until breakfast or get up early to watch the birdlife and the river valley awake
  • Coffee, tea, and hearty breakfast
  • Class will generally start at 8:00am
  • Combination of practical drills, presentations, discussions, review exercises, and simulations
  • Lunch
  • More course content
  • Supper
  • Most evenings are for relaxing though the instructor may schedule one or two evening sessions 

Day 5 (Thursday) – Raft, simulations, arrive at Finca Pacuarito (Eco-Camp 2)

  • Pack-up and load the boats
  • Start rafting after breakfast in guided rafts
  • WFR simulations while heading downstream and on side-hikes
  • Paddle and float through the spectacular 'Huacas' and 'Dos Montanas' canyons 
  • Arrive at Finca Pacuarito, our home for the next two nights

Day 6 (Friday) – WFR training continued

  • Final topics covered
  • Written exam
  • Simulations
  • Course conclusion and graduation 

Day 7 (Saturday) - Return to San Jose

  • Breakfast
  • Return to San Jose via another beautiful drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park. Should arrive in San Jose by midday but it is better to plan transfers or flights out for the following day in case of delays
  • Alternatively, from Finca Pacuarito (Eco-camp 2), you are closest to the Carribean beach towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. So, instead of San Jose, if you have time to travel, you can arrange transport to the coast by public bus, Interbus (shuttle service for travellers), taxi, or rental car

    Contact us anytime to discuss your travel plans and explore options for before or after the course.

Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder slideshow

Use the arrows to toggle through the photos or click on the photo for full screen.


NOTE: A packing list is included with your 'Student Information Package' (emailed to you when you register)

The Pacuare River Camp is in the tropical rain forest on the Caribbean side of the continental divide. Being so close to the equator, temperatures don't fluctuate too much throughout the year. The average daily high is 28°C / 82.4°F and the average nightly low is 19°C / 66.2°F.

Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and fleece are great as they dry quickly.


  • Undergarments and sports bra
  • Socks
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Shirts: short sleeve and long sleeve quick-drying
  • Lightweight comfortable pants
  • Shorts
  • Medium weight wool or fleece over-sweater
  • Sun hat, visor, or baseball cap
  • Swimwear - Great swimming holes nearby
  • A set of clothing that can be stained and cut during simulations (expect to throw these away)
  • Optional: Sandals
  • Optional: Sarong

Clothing for rafting and side hikes

  • Closed-toe shoes - These are to be worn on the river while rafting and on side hikes. The ideal river shoe has a grippy sole, is lightweight and drains well, and has enough support and protection to walk on rocks and uneven terrain. Trail-running shoes work well.
  • Synthetic undergarments / swimwear / sports bra
  • Swim shorts / surf shorts
  • Synthetic t-shirt

Course items

  • A backpack that you can carry during simulations to carry extra food, water, clothing, equipment, etc.
  • A stuff sac, book bag, or drybag for you to store your books
  • The WMA textbooks that will be mailed to you before the course
  • Something to sit and lie on outside such as an insulite pad or Crazy Creek chair
  • Watch (for taking vital signs)
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Sunscreen, 30+ SPF
  • Lip protection
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunglasses (UVA and UVB resistant) with 'keeper' strap
  • Optional: Any outdoor equipment that you normally have with you in the backcountry that you would like to practice with or try out for improvised splinting, patient packaging, patient carries, shelter, etc.
  • Optional: Waterproof paper and 'space pen' or grease pencil

Personal and travel items

  • Passport and travel documents
  • Duffel bag
  • Camp towel (quick drying)
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Personal medications
  • Prescription glasses or contacts (bring an extra pair of glasses & a copy of your eyeglass prescription)
  • Headlamp
  • Extra batteries for headlamp, camera, etc.
  • Large ziploc bags
  • Optional: Binoculars / journal / books
  • Optional: Camera

We will provide

  • Tent
  • Mattress
  • Bedding
  • Pillow
  • Large drybag for transporting your items during the rafting descent

Travel planning FAQs

Q. Where do we meet?

A. Gran Hotel (Central and Second Ave.) San Jose, Costa Rica.

Q. What is the meeting time?

A. Day 1, 8:00am.

Q. When will we get back?

A. Day 7 at midday. You will be dropped back off in San Jose at the Gran Hotel.

It is better to not book flights or plan transfers for this afternoon or evening in case of delay and instead, book your flights for the following day (Sunday).

If you'd like to continue your travels to the Carribean coast, which is closer to where the course ends, instead of going back to San Jose, you can leave right from our lodgings at 'Finca Pacuarito' or the nearby town of Siquirres by bus, Interbus (shuttle service for travellers), taxi, or rental car. Contact us anytime if you'd like suggestions or to discuss your travel plans for before or after the course.

Registration, cancellation, & insurance FAQs

Q. How do I register?

Step 1 - Fill out the registration form (on this web page) or call us anytime at 1-866-242-9383. Follow the instructions to pay by credit card, email transfer, or cheque.

Step 2 - Receive a confirmation e-mail with a ‘student information package’, your course receipt, and links to fill out your 'contact and medical form'

Q. What is the cancellation policy?

A. If you cancel prior to or during your course, the following cancellation policy will apply. We recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance, which will reimburse you for trip and course costs in the event that you need to cancel or leave early.

The numbers below refer to the number of days before the trip start date that cancellation takes place.

150+ days: full refund less 50 USD  

90 to 149 days: full refund less 200 USD

60 to 89 days: full refund less 50% of trip cost

Less than 60 days: no refunds available

Q. What kind of insurance do I need?

A. You must have adequate travel medical insurance in order to participate in our Costa Rica courses. This will cover you for all emergency medical expenses, emergency transport within Costa Rica, and emergency transport back to your state or province of residence. A copy (fax, scan, or clear photo) of your policy must be sent to Boreal River Rescue before your departure. Please carry a copy of your policy including the name, number, and emergency contact/claims number of the insurance provider with you in Costa Rica.

While not necessary, it is recommended that you look into purchasing trip cancellation insurance as Boreal River Rescue does not refund or credit course tuition if a student has to leave the program early or cancel at the last minute.

Program and course FAQs

Q. What type of experience do I need?

A. No medical, wilderness, or river experience is necessary.

Q. What type of physical condition should I be in?

A. You need to be in good physical condition and comfortable walking on uneven and steep terrain. Swimming ability is recommended. 

Q. What is the daily schedule like on a WMA course in Costa Rica?

A. Typically class starts at 8:00am and goes to 5:00pm. Evenings are for relaxing though the instructor may schedule one or two evening sessions during the week.

Q. What is a typical day on a WMA course like?

A. Mornings usually begin with review as we take up questions, go over case studies, or write a quiz. Days include a mixture of classroom sessions, skill workshops, and small group drills and scenarios.

As the course progresses we will have larger simulations with makeup and stage blood.

Q. Are there any prerequisites?

A. Students must be 18 years of age. 

Q. How are students assessed and evaluated for certification?

A. Practical assessment is ongoing. There will be a written test on the last day of the course on which students must receive a grade of 80% or higher.

Instructors will do everything they can to accommodate students with different learning styles and needs. Please let us know what we can do to help you succeed.

Q. Is attendance mandatory?

A. Attendance for 100% of class time is mandatory. If you cannot make a session you must get permission from the instructor in advance. Students who miss a section of the course without pre-approval may be asked to leave the course for the sake and safety of the other students.

Q. How long is certification valid for?

A. Your certification is valid for three years from the date of issue.

Q. Is CPR certification included in the course?

A. Yes, students on WFR receive CPR-C (adult, child, infant) certification from WMA.

Q. How do I recertify my Wilderness First Responder (WFR)?

A. You can recertify your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) by taking a 3-day or longer WFR Recert course within three years of your last certification.


Topics covered in Wilderness First Responder

  • General concepts of wilderness medicine and the Patient Assessment System
  • CPR (adult, child, and infant), AED, and basic life support skills
  • Anatomy and major problems of the respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems
  • Musculoskeletal injury assessment and splinting
  • Spine injury assessment and management
  • Allergies and anaphylaxis
  • Medical emergencies such as stroke and diabetes
  • Severe asthma wilderness protocol
  • Wound and burn management
  • Wilderness protocol for reducing shoulder dislocations
  • Environmental problems such as hypothermia, heat illnesses, lightning, and drowning
  • Backcountry medicine and toxins, bites, and stings
  • Litters, improvised litters and patient carries
  • Evacuations, decision making, and leadership
  • Medical legal issues
  • And more…

'8-Day' vs. '5-Day Plus Independent Study'

The 5-day format includes 25 hours of independent study prior to a 5-day onsite portion. The '5-day WFR' is not an easier course or a shortcut, it covers the same material and meets the same criteria as the 8-day format (where all of the material is covered within 8 days and there is no pre-course work). The 5-day WFR is a good option for those who have the time, discipline, and learning style to study on thir own.

How the 5-Day Plus Independent Study format works

You must register at least 2 weeks before the onsite portion begins and all independent work must be completed and submitted before arrival.

Once registered, you'll receive the main course textbook by mail and the WFR Study Guide by e-mail. You can complete the reading, assignments, case studies, and online tests at your own pace.

Online test results are immediately sent to the course instructor and a WMA faculty member for review and feedback.

The 5-day onsite portion can then focus on practical skills, patient assessment drills, and rescue simulations because you'll arrive already familiar with the theoretical knowledge.

What to expect for the onsite portion

  • Hands-on training sessions, as well as demos and discussion.
  • An intensive and fast-paced course
  • Realistic scenarios with stage blood and simulated wounds to prepare you for backcountry emergencies
  • Professional, dynamic, and fun instructors who deliver a course that will be one of the best you’ll ever experience

Wilderness Medical Associates InternationalWilderness Medical Associates International is dedicated to the development of remote and practical medicine around the globe. We are medical rescue professionals, researchers, experienced educators, and advocates for healthcare in wilderness contexts. Our curriculum, overseen and continually revised by a committee of medical practitioners and academics, has been taught on all seven continents.

The core curriculum is designed to provide the skills and insight needed to improvise, adapt, and exercise reasonable judgment at any level of medical training. Although the company's roots are in the mountains, deserts, and oceans as the name implies, the training philosophy has proven effective in any setting where access to definitive care is delayed or impossible. The term wilderness context applies just as well to a city whose infrastructure has been destroyed as to a fishing boat off the coast of Alaska.​

Wilderness Medical Associates International annually trains over 8,000 medically and non-medically trained students around the world. Our participants include colleges and universities, medical schools, camps, outdoor adventure companies, rural ambulance services, private industry, and government entities. Wilderness Medical Associates International will train the responders and practitioners needed for medical care in low resource settings, anywhere in the world.

Source: Wilderness Medical Associates International website


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1Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder Certification Training Course with Wilderness Medical Associates and Boreal River Rescue

"The simulations felt very realistic. This really helped me to reinforce the techniques. The setting and facilities were great. The Coast 2 Coast camps are beautiful. Thank you!"

- John Paul Skinner - Bermuda, USA - Program coordinator & SCUBA instructor with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)

2013 Costa Rica WFR course

"Thanks for such amazing care and transport to each location. The meals provided were fantastic and the staff really put in a great effort to make sure that we were all comfortable."

- Candace Leenheer - California, USA - Teacher

2013 Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder and Whitewater Rescue Technician

"My expectations were exceeded by this course. The instruction was comprehensive. It was evident that the instructor is passionate about teaching this subject matter."

- Geoffrey Sorrell - Alabama, USA - Land Steward, The Nature Conservancy

2014 Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder