Costa Rica 5-day Wilderness First Responder (7 days all-inclusive)
Join us on the jungle-clad Pacuare River. Stay at two eco-camps nested in tropical nature. Gain skills and knowledge as a Wilderness First Responder and through hands-on practice in a spectacular training location, get the confidence to assess and manage medical problems in remote environments with limited resources.
Lodging, meals, and return transport from San Jose are included
Costa Rica Medical Course Slideshow
Wilderness First Responder (WFR) is the standard for guides, search and rescue team members, and those who travel and play in the backcountry. Often an 8-day course, this program uses the '5-day WFR plus Independent Study' format which requires 25 hours of individual studying and preparation before five full days of onsite training.
Dates & Price
October 2015 dates coming soon. 1,599 USD - All Inclusive
Who is this course for?
This course is for anybody aged 18 and up who is physically active. No previous medical or river experience is necessary. It is important to have the discipline and learning style to complete the independent study component prior to arrival.
Sunday – San Jose pick-up. Beautiful 2 hour drive. Raft to ‘El Nido Del Tigre’ (Eco-camp 1)
Monday to Wednesday – Days 1 through 3 WFR training
Thursday – Day 4 WFR training - Simulations while descending the river to ‘Finca Pacuarito’ (Eco-camp 2)
Friday – Day 5 WFR training
Saturday – Return to San Jose
- Land transport from San Jose to Pacuare River and return
- 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 valid for 3 years
- CPR C (adult, child, infant) certification valid for 3 years
- WMA curriculum materials including text book, lecture notes, workbook, SOAP notes, 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
Gain confidence, skills, and knowledge with a great course
WMA 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.
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 a very special course location and home. Get away from the hustle and bustle and experience tropical nature up close. Our lodgings and setting allow you to at various times choose to relax, or socialize, or explore the rainforest, or focus on course material.
Experience the Rio Pacuare
Considered amongst the top 10 river trips in the world for its fun rapids and spectacular scenery of virgin jungle clad canyon walls and waterfalls pouring in from every direction, we’ll get to raft the first part on day one and then 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.
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 2.5 hour drive past volcanoes, coffee and sugar cane plantations, and small towns.
- Drive down a dirt road into 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.
- Depending on timing, a group can 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
- More course content
- 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
- 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
- Course conclusion and graduation
Day 7 (Saturday) - Return to San Jose
- Return to San Jose. Another beautiful drive. Should arrive in San Jose by midday but traffic or road closures may make it later. It is better to plan transfers or flights out for the following day in case of delays.
- Alternatively, from Finca Pacuarito, you are closest to the Carribean beach towns of Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, and Manzanillo. October is also a mini-dry season on the Carribean side of the country. 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. to discuss your travel plans for before or after the course.
'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.
- Riverside locations
- Delicious home-cooked meals
- 14 hectares of Rainforest
- Spacious platformed 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!
'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'.
NOTE: A packing list is included with your 'Student Information Package'
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. In September and October, average daily high is 28°C / 82.4°F and average nightly low is 19°C / 66.2°F.
Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, and fleece are great as they dry quickly - a must for Costa Rica. Remember to avoid cotton as it dries very slowly and doesn't insulate.
- Undergarments and sports bra
- Comfortable shoes
- Shirts: short sleeve and long sleeve quick drying
- Lightweight comfortable pants
- Medium weight wool or fleece over-sweater
- Lightweight rain jacket and rain pants
- 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
- 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
- Something to sit and lie on outside such as an insulate pad or crazy creek chair
- Watch (for taking vital signs)
- Water bottle
- 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)
- Extra batteries for headlamp, camera, etc.
- Large ziploc bags
- Optional: Binoculars / journal / books
- Optional: Camera
We will provide
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 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.if you'd like suggestions or to discuss your travels before or after the course.
Registration, Cancellation, & Insurance FAQs
Q. How do I register?
Step 1 - Call 1-866-242-9383, fill in the online form, or e-mail [email protected] to join and pay a 200 USD deposit.
Step 2 - Receive a confirmation e-mail with a ‘student information and registration package’
Step 3 - Pay the balance 90 days from the course start date.
Q. What is the cancellation policy?
A. If you cancel prior to or during your course, the following cancellation policy will apply. We highly 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 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 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 but there may be one or two evening sessions scheduled by the instructor on the first day.
Q. What is a typical day on a WMA course like?
A. Mornings usually begin with review as we take up questions from homework, 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. It 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 Works
Students must register at least 2 weeks before the onsite portion begins and all independent work must be completed and submitted before arrival.
Once registered, students receive the main course text book by mail and the WFR Study Guide by e-mail. Students complete reading, assignments, case studies, and online tests at their 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 students arrive already familiar with the theoretical knowledge.
What to Expect for the onsite portion
- Hands-on training sessions, as well as classroom lecture and discussion.
- An intensive and fast-paced course
- Realistic scenarios with stage blood and simulated wounds to prepare students 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 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
Our Costa Rican Partners
Coast to Coast Adventures
For this program, Boreal River Rescue partners with Coast to Coast Adventures, a Costa Rican Company with 17 years of experience organizing travel, adventure races, and experiential education programs in Costa Rica.
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.
"I was hoping for a thorough review of WFR skills and knowledge as well as the interest and enjoyment of a wilderness setting. The course definitely met these expectations: there was plenty of time for thorough review and the setting and facilities were great. The Coast 2 Coast camps are beautiful.
Simulations were great and felt very realistic. I really like the requirement to repeat practicing various skills. This really helped me to reinforce the techniques. The excursions (river swimming etc.) were great! Thank you!
Danny was an excellent instructor, very knowledgeable, professional, and motivating. He maintained a good level of energy for the course by balancing classroom sessions, skills practice, and simulations. Also a great balance of fun “lightheartedness” and a necessary level of seriousness as required for the material."
- John Paul Skinner - Bermuda, USA - Program coordinator, SCUBA instructor, and outdoor educator with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)
2013 Costa Rica WFR-Recertification course
"Thanks for such amazing care and transport to each location. The meals provided were fantastic, the facilities well maintained, 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. All course activities were administered in a very professional manner. 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