Want to make the most out of your Wilderness First Responder course—and experience the Costa Rican rainforest?
Keep reading and you’ll discover why this program is amazing. 😀
Besides learning a ton—and gaining first responder skills—you’ll experience the rainforest up close. You’ll get to raft the Pacuare (which is awesome) and stay at an eco camp (one of our favorite places on earth).
Oh, and did we mention the abundance of Costa Rican coffee? ☕☕
The 7 day program (5-day course, 2 days on the river) includes all transport within Costa Rica from San Jose (map), lodging, meals, rafting, and an incredible course in a spectacular location.
- Grow your skills and knowledge through studying ahead of time 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
Why join the Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder course?
1 – Build your confidence, skills, and knowledge with a great course
Wilderness Medical Associates International (WMA) sets the standard with cutting edge curriculum, great materials, and experienced, professional instructors. You’ll learn through hands-on training with lots of practice and realistic simulations.
2 – Experience ‘the good life’ in a rainforest eco camp
With great fresh food (did we mention the coffee?), spacious lounging areas with hammocks, chairs and tables, platform tents, bathrooms, and showers – all well maintained, sustainably built, and cared for by fantastic local staff – the camp makes for an amazing course location.
3 – Paddle The Pacuare River
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-1 and then, later in the week, descend through ‘Huacas Canyon’ and ‘Dos Montanas’. You’ll be expertly guided by professionals with years of experience on the Pacuare.
- Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
- CPR-Healthcare Provider certification (CPR for adults, children, and infants. Includes AED training)
- Included materials: Textbook, SOAP note booklet, waterproof WMA field guide, case studies workbook, notebook (with WMA lecture notes)
Your certification is valid for 3 years from the date of issue.
You can recertify your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) by taking a 3-day or longer WFR Recert course within 3 years of your last certification.
- 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…
Course format and overview
This program uses the ‘5-day WFR’ format (rather than the standard 8-days). You need to do 25 hours of studying on your own beforehand.
The 5-day WFR isn’t an easier course, it covers the same material and meets the same criteria as the 8-day format (where there isn’t any pre-course work).
The 5-day WFR is a good option for you if you have the time and learning style to study on your own.
How the 5-Day Plus Independent Study format works
You need to register at least 2 weeks before the onsite portion begins and finish all of the independent work before you arrive.
Once you register, registered, we’ll ship you the main text book right away. You’ll get a link to login to the WMA website to download the WFR Study Guide.
You work on the 25+ hours of reading, answering questions, case studies, and an online test at your own pace.
The system will automatically send your online test results to your instructor.
Then, on the 5-day onsite portion, we can focus on practical skills, patient assessment drills, and rescue simulations—because you’ll already be familiar with the theory.
No medical, wilderness, or river experience is necessary.
You need to be in good physical condition and comfortable walking on uneven and steep terrain. Swimming ability is recommended.
Assessment and evaluation for certification
Practical assessment is ongoing. There’s a written test on the last day of the course where you need a grade of 80% or higher to pass.
Instructors will do everything they can to accommodate students with different learning styles and needs. Let us know what we can do to help you succeed.
Day 1 (Sunday) – San Jose pick-up, scenic drive, and raft into El Nido Del Tigre (our riverside eco-camp)
- Meet the group and instructors and get picked up at 8:00am at the Teatro Nacional (Central and Second Avenue) in San Jose by our professional driver
- See volcanoes, coffee and sugar cane plantations, and small towns during the 2 hour drive
- Drive down a dirt road into the Pacuare River valley
- Learn everything you need to know about whitewater rafting during a safety briefing
- Paddle as part of a team of 4 to 6 plus a guide in each raft. We’ll raft a fun class II – III section of the spectacular Pacuare River
- Dig into a riverside picnic lunch, your first of many great meals this week
- 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
- Get to know the group over welcome dinner and introductions
Day 2 to 6 (Monday to Friday) – Wilderness medical training
Gain skills, practice, and certification as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR). Your days will be full of intensive learning. Days include a mixture of classroom sessions, skill workshops, and small group drills and scenarios. As the course progresses we’ll have larger simulations with makeup and stage blood. On Thursday we’ll also combine a rainforest hike with medical simulations and practice evacuations.
- Sleep until breakfast or get up early to watch the birdlife and the river valley awake
- Get a good start with coffee, tea, and a hearty breakfast
- Typically class starts at 8:00am. Mornings usually begin with review as we take up questions, go over case studies, or write a quiz. Learn and hone your skills through a combination of practical drills, presentations, discussions, review exercises and simulations.
- Get moving and take in the rainforest on a short hiking or swimming adventure
- More course content and awesome learning
- As you gain confidence with the material, we’ll do more extended simulations.
- On day 4, we’ll go on a longer hike in the rainforest and do simulations along the way—including treatment, evacuation plans, and transport
- Dinner – all meals are big spreads including local dishes and they are always accompanied by fresh and delicious tropical fruit and vegetables
- Enjoy your evening and relax with your classmates over candlelight and sounds of the rainforest.
- * The instructor may schedule 1 or 2 evening sessions during the week
Day 7 (Saturday) – Return to San Jose
- Start rafting after breakfast in guided rafts
- Paddle and work as a team to navigate fun class III and IV rapids and float through the awe-inspiring ‘Huacas’ and ‘Dos Montanas’ canyons
- Arrive at the ‘take-out’ at Pacuarito (near the town of Siquirres)
- Return to San Jose via another beautiful drive through Braulio Carrillo National Park. We should arrive in San Jose by late afternoon but it is better to plan transfers or flights out for the following day in case of delays
- Alternatively, if you’d like to continue your travels to the Caribbean coast, which is closer to where the course ends, instead of going back to San Jose, you can leave from our river trip end-point at ‘Finca Pacuarito’ or the nearby town of Siquirres by 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.
- Round-trip land transport between San Jose and the course
- Jungle camp lodging in a tent (includes bedding and pillow)—each person gets their own tent
- All delicious meals and snacks from day-1 lunch to day-7 lunch. Feast on tropical fruit and local dishes like ‘Casados’ and ‘Gallo Pinto’
- Professional guide staff are always available
- Certification from Wilderness Medical Associates International (WMA) valid for 3 years
- CPR Healthcare Provider level (adult, child, infant) certification valid for 3 years
WMA 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
What to pack
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 rainforest 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
- Comfortable shoes
- Shirts: short sleeve and long sleeve quick-drying
- Lightweight comfortable pants
- 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
- A backpack that you can carry during simulations to carry extra food, water, clothing, equipment, etc.
- A stuff sack, book bag, or drybag for you to store your books
- The WMA textbook 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
- Sunscreen, 30+ SPF
- Lip protection
- Bug repellent
- Sunglasses (UVA and UVB resistant) with ‘keeper’ strap
- Optional: Waterproof paper and ‘space pen’ or grease pencil
Personal and travel items
- Passport and travel documents
- Duffel bag – please no hard luggage as it won’t fit into a drybag for rafting
- 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
- Large drybag for transporting your items during the rafting descent
Lodging and our local hosts
Our Costa Rican partners – Coast to Coast Adventures
For this program, we partner with Coast to Coast Adventures, a Costa Rican company with 20 years of experience organizing travel, adventure races, and experiential education programs in Costa Rica. While we at Boreal River are the course organizers and instructors, Coast to Coast provides logistical support, transport, and lodging for this program.
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’ – Your riverside lodging
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, spacious platform tents
- Delicious home-cooked meals
- 14 hectares of rainforest
- Ropes course
- Rainforest trails
- Lawned recreation area
- Nearby waterfalls and natural swimming holes
- Fully managed by local staff
From the 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!
Travel and medical Insurance recommendation
You need to have travel medical insurance to take this course. It should cover you for all emergency medical expenses, emergency transport within Costa Rica, and emergency transport back to your home state or province. We’ll ask you to send us a copy (fax, scan, or clear photo) of your policy 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.
We also recommended that you look into purchasing trip cancellation insurance as Boreal River Rescue does not refund or credit course tuition if you have to leave the program early or cancel at the last minute.
Partnered with Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA)
For our medical courses, we partner with Wilderness Medical Associates. WMA has set the standard in wilderness medicine and rescue training for over 30 years. The cutting-edge curriculum is constantly updated by a group of healthcare professionals, has been taught on all 7 continents, and is recognized around the world.
A glimpse into the course – Mikaela’s blog
Mikaela Ferguson became a Wilderness First Responder in Costa Rica in 2017.
“I cannot recommend this course enough!” Read her story
Upcoming Costa Rica WFR courses
Costa Rica student reviews
Excellent teaching methods. Intense and relaxed atmosphere at the same time.Pipo Damiano - Vancouver Island, Canada - Registered massage therapist and avid kayakerCosta Rica WFR 2017
Exceptional knowledge and skill in Wilderness Medicine and RescueRob Whaley - Huntsville, Ontario, Canada - Doctor and organizes wilderness adventures with family and friendsCosta Rica WFR 2017
Danny was engaging, presented the material in a way that was clear, understandable,and revisited topics so that we could feel we completely understood. Pre-course communication was awesome. Housing was absolutely perfect, food was awesome! Perfect settings conducive to learning.Matthew McArthur - Dominican Republic - Adventure company owner and canyoning guideCosta Rica WFR 2015
My expectations were exceeded! The food was amazing and I'm eating better here in Costa Rica than in the States. The course was a great hands on way to learn. It kept me interested the entire time. Danny is a great instructor. He's able to make everyone comfortable and keep us interested. He also knows so much about medicine and techniques. I couldn't have asked for a better instructor/raft guide!Chloe Clark - Oregon, USA - Traveller and outdoor enthusiastCosta Rica WFR 2018
Amazing location, very unique setting, great food and instruction.Carly Klassen - Guelph, Canada - Entrepreneur and avid travellerCosta Rica WFR 2017
Danny is a great teacher! All of the exercises and activities really drove home important points. Awesome simulations. Awesome course. Would definitely recommend it to anyone.Adam White - Virginia, USA - FarmerCosta Rica WFR 2017
Danny is a great leader who makes sure everyone is seen. I strive to be like him as an outdoor educator. Thank you my friend! This is one of my favourite things I've ever gotten to do.Glo Chitwood - Colorado, USA - Outdoor educator and guideCosta Rica WFR 2018
This was absolutely the best experience I could imagine for a WFR class. I had no idea what to expect other than my willingness to learn. Danny was an amazing instructor and very professional. Honestly, the only area of improvement would be for WMA to offer more camping/hiking/rafting + WFR packages as this setting was not only amazing but more realistic for scenarios.Todd Frein - Arizona, USA - Wilderness guideCosta Rica WFR 2015
Wonderfully taught, so much fun and really gives you skills to let you feel comfortable in most any back country emergency. The best! Incredibly knowledgeable, clear, engaging. Course was organized to allow us to practice and learn new info in such a thoughtful way. So impressed/ happy to have done this course.Alicia Dantzker - California, USA - High school teacherCosta Rica WFR 2017
I thought he (instructor Danny) was great, very knowledgeable and approachable. Great course with lots of simulations that really taught me how to act under pressure.Brian Joe Lapcevic - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Traveller and outdoor enthusiastCosta Rica WFR 2015
The food and facilities were awesome. The white water rafting was a great add to the class. Awesome content and location was amazing. Danny was engaging and knowledgeable. Really learned skills that will be useful in all my outdoor adventures.Jeff Wooldridge - Florida, USA - Jazz musician and outdoor enthusiastCosta Rica WFR 2015
Just wrapped up a WFR-Bridge course run by Boreal River Rescue at the beautiful "Barn" near Wakefield, Quebec.Led by Danny... read more and Mike, two talented, enthusiastic and passionate instructors, the course was loads of fun and hard work. The material is challenging but Danny and Mike bring it to life with amazing scenario work and role playing. Thanks for putting together and running such a great course! read lessBen Gunn 10 Dec 2018
The team at Boreal River is an outstanding group of exceptional individuals who are not only passionate about what they... read more do, but truly expert in their field. I've taken part in their 5-day @[80455872483:Wilderness Medical Associates] WFR course and I have been truly blown away by the expertise and professionalism of the trainers. A++ read lessLouis-Philippe Champagne 27 Nov 2016
I recently finished the 5 day WFR course with Danny and Kelly as instructors. What an unbelievable experience. Extremely engaging... read more instructors with a vast knowledge in wilderness first aid. Added intensity with realistic simulations adding stress to students, which is a good thing to help keep your head on straight in a real situation. This course content and delivery went way beyond my expectations and I highly recommend this course to anyone who spends time in the back country or are involved in SAR. Expertly done Boreal... read lessStephane McDermott 01 Dec 2016
I learned a lot from the 5-day course that I can apply in many aspects of my professional life. For... read more instance, learning how to safely roll someone onto their back or side, even if they are much larger then you are, which can be applied to any first aid situation. The course was intense but provided the support needed for people to be able to succeed, and the course flowed from the lessons in the workbook to hands-on simulations. The instructors were approachable for questions but also kept the lessons focused. I plan to use this training for deployment to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, however I would recommend it to anyone who lives and works in rural areas, such as my friends at Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming. read lessEdwina Wall 24 Nov 2015
I took the 5-day WFR course in December 2015. Both the course material and the instruction were terrific. ... read more The intensity of the 5-day format adds a lot to the experience. I found the pre-course studying somewhat nervewracking but also very helpful during the course itself. Studying in advance also let me learn all the material twice over a period of about 3 weeks, which is in general a more effective procedure than being exposed to new material just once. Danny and Matt (from Missinaibi Headwaters Outfitters) were both superlative instructors, and as a teacher myself I felt I had lots to learn from them. The simulation and Patient Assessment scenarios were imaginative and compelling. It was interesting to note the change in my own performance as the course progressed; Danny and Matt quickly helped all of us to overcome any shyness or reticence and to participate fully in the playacting element of the course -- and when I acted in a rescuer role, the patient's willingness to pretend made a real difference in my experience. In particular, I found I learned a lot from making diagnostic mistakes and practical errors. I don't think I would have learned nearly so much with less skilled instructors. There are probably other great instructors out there, but I would be inclined to come back to these guys every time. This was one of the best courses I've ever taken; I hope I have more chances to learn in the same way. read lessMatt Price 05 Jan 2016
5 day WFR course in La Peche (Wakefield) was TOP NOTCH. Incredibly knowledgeable and personable instructor, Danny, made this intensive... read more (exhausting) course engaging and an ideal learning environment from start to finish. His limitless patience, professionalism, and ability to intuit the energy of the group kept us in balance (THANK YOU for supporting our needs for frequent snacks and movement!). Nothing like nerve-wracking experiential learning to build confidence. 10 out of 5 stars!!! read lessElyse Quann 21 Dec 2018
Re: Boreal's Wilderness First Responder 3-day recert course: Danny & Trevor did an AMAZING job... TRULY. Hard... read more work, hands on, creative, challenging, and highly recommended. I always feel well trained and competent after being through Boreal's courses. read lessLynette Chubb 07 Nov 2018
I was fortunate to join a wilderness first responder first aid course last winter and was so impressed with the... read more attention to detail and intensive training that I vowed to take Boreal's Whitewater Rescue Technician course this year. Mission accomplished in September ( a great time to take this course as the water is still warm), it was an intensive re-cert course at Boreal's base camp on the Upper Gatineau River. I walked, or should I say swam away from the course with the knowledge and motivation to keep practicing these skills until my next re-cert. read lessPaul Mason 13 Sep 2018
Just finished the 5 day WFR course in Wakefield with Danny. Loved every minute of it. The course is really... read more well organized. We covered tons of material and we had lots of opportunity to apply the material during the simulations...that’s where you really find out what you’ve learned. Thanks so much to Danny and everyone at Boreal River. I look forward to more training with you in the near future... read lessBill Gadzos 11 Apr 2018