Take your Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course in Costa Rica—and build your medical skills through hands-on training.
We’ll raft the Pacuare River to an eco-camp where we base out of for the week—the perfect place to immerse yourself in learning—free of distractions and with a great group of people and professional guides and instructors.
The 7 day program includes:
- all transport within Costa Rica from San Jose onwards
- comfortable lodging (a platform tent to yourself)
- eco camp facilities including hammock lounges, private bathrooms with flush toilets and showers, and acres of gardens and trails
- great meals
- guided rafting and side hikes
- instruction, training materials, and certification from Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA) International
- 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-C 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. 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 we can’t refund your 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.
Upcoming Costa Rica WFR courses
Costa Rica student reviews
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,... read moreThis 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. read lessTodd Frein - Arizona, USA - Wilderness guideCosta Rica WFR 201511/12/2018
Costa Rica Wilderness First Responder Course - 2015 I took the Wilderness First Responder Course back in 2015 and the fact that I'm writing this review 4 years later as soon as Boreal River Adventures had a Trip Advisor should indicate to you... read moreI took the Wilderness First Responder Course back in 2015 and the fact that I'm writing this review 4 years later as soon as Boreal River Adventures had a Trip Advisor should indicate to you how great the experience was.kfox148 4/19/2019
The course was well-planned with great communication from the company as to what to expect. Traveling alone to another country, this was very important to me.
In terms of the actual course content and instruction. This was an absolutely fabulous experience. The instructor, Danny, was knowledgeable, able to clearly provide instructions for more hands-on lessons and great fun to be around - he kept the group interacting and having a great time. The lodging was perfect and the scenery beautiful. Just rugged enough to feel adventurous but not too far out of anyone's comfort zone - there was running water, food prepared for you, raised tents, etc. The course went at a great pace and I really enjoyed the practical components. We even practiced what we'd learned while in the raft, which was awesome!
What originally drew me to this course was the white water rafting, but what makes me excited to take another course is the quality of the instruction and Danny's commitment to ensuring your experience is not only educational but also incredibly fun. Compared to other WFR courses I have taken, this is the tops for sure - I definitely recommend it. read less
Amazing Opportunity I completed the wilderness first responder course in San Jose in February of 2018. This was an amazing opportunity to do some introspection while your deep in the jungle. This week long trip taught me... read moreI completed the wilderness first responder course in San Jose in February of 2018. This was an amazing opportunity to do some introspection while your deep in the jungle. This week long trip taught me more than anything about teamwork. I learned about our native surroundings, how to be a Woofer, and how to raft plus so much more. The camping was comfortable and the food delicious! Bring rain gear and warm clothes. I highly recommend this trip to anyone, especially those who are adventurous! read lessChloeClark77 4/01/2019
Exceptional knowledge and skill in Wilderness Medicine and RescueRob Whaley - Huntsville, Ontario, Canada - Doctor and organizes wilderness adventures with family and friendsCosta Rica WFR 201711/12/2018
Excellent teaching methods. Intense and relaxed atmosphere at the same time.Pipo Damiano - Vancouver Island, Canada - Registered massage therapist and avid kayakerCosta Rica WFR 201711/12/2018
Amazing location, very unique setting, great food and instruction.Carly Klassen - Guelph, Canada - Entrepreneur and avid travellerCosta Rica WFR 201711/12/2018
Wilderness First Responder Course I took the wilderness first responder course with Boreal River a few years ago and it was fantastic! The site is gorgeous. We got to spend an entire week by the river and taking classes... read moreI took the wilderness first responder course with Boreal River a few years ago and it was fantastic! The site is gorgeous. We got to spend an entire week by the river and taking classes in an outdoor classroom. The hand-on demos were so good and the instructor, Danny is super knowledgeable. I have since taken another WFR course through a different company and was sorely disappointed. Nothing could live up to the experience with Boreal River between the amazing setting and the superb instruction.dsadorf 3/31/2019
Even though this course wasn’t specifically tied to rafting, we had an awesome couple of days out on the river as well. These guys are great raft guides! Really safe, caring and considerate. I recommend Boreal River to anyone who is visiting Costa Rica! read less
5 day WFR course This was one of my top trips of all time. In Feb of 2017 I decided to throw caution to the wind and take this 5 day WFR course in an exciting location instead... read moreThis was one of my top trips of all time. In Feb of 2017 I decided to throw caution to the wind and take this 5 day WFR course in an exciting location instead of a 7 day one in the US. It was easy as a solo traveler to get to the right spots, and from the moment I got picked up, every single detail was taken care of and I learned a ton.whenaliciatravels 3/31/2019
The class itself was fantastic. Danny, the instructor, was a great teacher and able to put details in context so I had a real framework for thinking through an emergency. Our time was split between classroom (more like beautiful treehouse) instruction and applying it in short and long rescue scenarios. It was an incredibly engaging and efficient way to learn...plus getting to play the victim is a great time.
The campsite was beautiful. We slept in our own tents on platforms under tarps. The grounds were landscaped with flowers and grass and pathways. Bathrooms were plumbed and the showers were incorporated into the jungle rocks. At night everything was illuminated by candles. Food was delicious. The whole thing was fantastic! And by the end I had friends to explore San Jose with before I went home. read less
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... read moreDanny 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. read lessGlo Chitwood - Colorado, USA - Outdoor educator and guideCosta Rica WFR 201811/12/2018
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... read moreDanny 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. read lessMatthew McArthur - Dominican Republic - Adventure company owner and canyoning guideCosta Rica WFR 201511/12/2018
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