ESE 389: Environmental & sustainable Field Expedition - Costa Rica

"According to the New Economics Foundation, Costa Rica ranks first in the Happy Planet Index and is the "greenest" country in the world." - Wikipedia

Over Spring Break 2017, the School of Earth, Society and Environment will embark on its fifth field expedition to Costa Rica. The course will count as advanced hours in the major (rubric ESE 389, section CR) and will consist of a 9 day trip to Costa Rica over Spring Break with weekly seminars on campus during the regular semester. The course will examine environment and sustainability issues in Costa Rica. Coverage includes: rainforest ecology, land-use issues, sustainable agriculture, developing economies, and geologic features of the landscape (e.g., volcanoes; rivers). Restricted to ESES majors and Unit One residents; non-majors can apply to the waitlist (email

We are partnering with the Instituto Monteverde, a Costa Rican non-profit dedicated to sustainability education. The Monteverde Institute is a community-based organization that supports local educational outreach, a publicly accessible library, research, and community programs.

To get a sense of what to expect, visit their photo gallery.

Planned Itinerary

Details in itinerary are subject to change.

  • Day 1: SAT, March 18th - Arrival and Orientation

    11:45 AM: Arrival at Juan Santamaría Airport
    Lunch: at Soda Tapia
    Afternoon: Check-in at Hotel Tennis 
    6:00 PM Dinner at hotel
    7:30 PM Program orientation; health and safety briefing
    Lodging: Hotel Tennis (1)
    Meals: L, D

  • Day 2: SUN, March 19 - Poas Volcano

    7:00 AM Breakfast and check-out of hotel
    9:00 AM Visit Poás Volcano National Park
    11:30 AM Depart to Finca Luna Nueva, lunch en route
    Afternoon: Relax and enjoy Finca Luna Nueva
    6:00 PM Dinner at Lodge
    Lodging: Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (1)
    Meals: B, L, D

  • Day 3: MON, March 20 - Biodynamic Agriculture and Sacred Seeds

    7:00 AM Breakfast at hotel
    8:00 AM Farm tour (in two groups)
    12:00 PM Lunch at lodge restaurant
    Afternoon: Sacred Seeds tour or Biodynamic Composting Workshop
    6:00 PM Dinner at lodge
    Lodging: Finca Luna Nueva Lodge (2)
    Meals: B, L, D

  • Day 4: TUES, March 21 Costa Rica's Volcanic Geology and Carbon Neutral Strategy, Forest Nightlife

    7:00 AM Breakfast at lodge restaurant, collect lunch
    Morning: Hike in Arenal Volcano National Park (with professors and coordinator)
    Packed lunch in park
    Afternoon: Van-boat-van ride across Arenal Lake to Monteverde. Reference Costa Rica's alternative energy strategy, including hydro, wind & geothermal energy.
    5:30 PM Check in at Cabinas Capulin
    6:00 PM Dinner at hotel
    Lodging: Cabinas Capulin (1)
    Meals: B, L, D

  • Day 5: WED, March 22 - Monteverde: Tropical Cloud Forest, Conservation & Sustainability
  • 7:00 AM: Breakfast at lodging
    8:00 AM: Transfer to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
    8:30 AM: Guided natural history tour and bird watching in local reserve, referencing neotropical migratory birds and connections with Illinois.
    12:00 PM: Packed lunch at the reserve
    Afternoon: Orientation and Tour of the Monteverde Institute; Lecture: Monteverde Institute and Sustainability Issues, by Debra Hamilton, Academic Director
    5:30 PM Dinner at hotel
    Evening: Presentation, Amphibian Declines and Partial Recovery, by Mark Wainwright, naturalist
    Lodging:  Cabinas Capulin (2)
    Meals: B, L, S, D

  • Day 6: THUR, March 23 - Agriculture, Social Change, Bats

    Morning: Tour LIFE Monteverde farm; presentation, Social Change in Changing Times with Guillermo Vargas, LIFE co-owner and manager
    Noon: Lunch on farm
    5:00 PM Transfer to MVI
    5:15 PM: Lecture: Bat Ecology by Richard LaVal
    6:15 PM Refreshments at MVI
    Evening: Bat mist-netting
    Lodging: Cabinas Capulin (3)
    Meals: B, L, S, D

  • Day 7: FRI, March 24 - Quaker History of Monteverde, Organic Coffee Production, Water Issues in the Bellbird Corridor

    Morning:  Breakfast at hotel, tour La Bella Tica organic coffee farm with Oldemar Salazar, owner
    Lunch: Catch your own tilapia
    Afternoon: Visit the Sustainability Demonstration Center in Guacimal – discuss water conflicts in the area (with Veronica Sheehan, owner); cool off in Guacimal River, weather permitting
    Evening: Dinner at hotel
    Lodging: Costa de Pajaros (1)
    Meals: B, L, D

  • Day 8: SAT, March 25 - Coastal Livelihoods, Seafood Sustainability
  • Morning: Breakfast at hotel; Boat tour of Pesca Responsable sustainable fishery program, marine gardens, and mangrove
  • Lunch: Mariposas de Golfo
  • Afternoon: Panel discussion with community members regarding natural resources and economic opportunities in Costa de Pájaros
    Evening: Dinner at hotel
  • Lodging: Costa de Pajaros (2)
    Meals: B, L, D
  • Day 9: SUN, March 26 - Return to Illinois

    7:00 AM: Breakfast and check-out of lodging; transfer to Juan Santamaría Airport for 12:45 PM flight








2014 Student Projects

From Stephanie Meyer and Elena Davis: Hummingbirds of Costa Rica YouTube Video

From Tyler Rotche:

From Joey Moody, Rebecca MacDonald, Lynzie Plumley, and Mackenzie Ehr:
Costa Rican Coffee Production


Photo of Dr. Rob Kanter

Want to know more about the trip?
Talk to the professor: Rob Kanter or call +1217.244.2761


Photo of Laura Haber

Want to know more about the trip?
Talk to the professor: Laura Haber or call +

Student Fees and Costs

The total cost for students will not exceed $2727. College of LAS students may be eligible to receive a $500 study abroad scholarship to defray the costs; check back for more information. Student fees are included as part of the regular University of Illinois tuition, and may be paid for by standard financial aid and other student support.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Does this count for major credit?
    Yes - ESE 389 counts for advanced hours in the major
  2. Are all costs included?
    All costs including accommodation, meals, flights and trips are inclusive.  Optional activities (activities not listed in the itinerary) are not covered by the student fee.
  3. Do I need a visa?
    US citizens do not require a visa, just a valid passport. International University of Illinois students may have other requirements. PRC passport holders do not require a Costa Rican visa if they hold a valid US visa.
  4. How will the course give credit?
    ESE 389 students will receive 3 hours of advanced credit. The course must be taken for grade.