Philosophy Of Travel
Our mission is to inspire the next generation to become global leaders by taking an active interest in the world around them. With a dedication to learning, along with an enduring passion for exploring the world, Walking Tree Travel designs transformative and meaningful travel programs that uncover the authentic culture of each destination and inspire students to take action in their local and global community.
Walking Tree Travel stands for a more open, curious, and compassionate approach to travel. We partner with select schools around the world to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining longterm relationships with our partner communities. If you are interested in our organization and philosophy of travel, click here to learn more about us.
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for our students, teachers, and staff, Program Leaders and Country Directors follow strict guidelines when deciding on lodging, making reservations, and assigning program participants to rooms.
Students will always be grouped in rooms and/or sleeping areas by gender, and will never share rooms with people who are not associated with Walking Tree. Group Organizers and Program Leaders will be roomed separately from each other and from other students. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three star or equivalent hotels that are centrally located, clean, safe and wifi-enabled.
Below are a few examples of our partner hotels. Although these are our preferred providers, they are subject to change based on availability. Your final itinerary will provide complete information on your accommodations in the cities you will be visiting.
San José: Casa Tago and Hotel Juan Santamaria
Jungle locations: Pura Suerte and Diamante Center
Manuel Antonio: Hotel California and Villas Mymosa
Tuition & Fundraising
Baggages fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed in the itinerary.
Tuition is an estimate until dates and itinerary are finalized.
We believe that cost should not prevent enthusiastic students from having the opportunity to join an WTT program. We are pleased to offer opportunities for fundraising and payment plans to help make this goal a reality. Please visit our Tuition and Funding page to find out more about tuition, fundraising, payment options, referral discounts, and more.
Visit Tuition & Funding
Standards of Behavior
WTT provides fun, safe, and meaningful programs for our travelers. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that we create an environment of trust, security and respect. All individuals participating in our programs are required to take responsibility for their actions and adhere to a high standard of behavioral conduct. Any of the following are grounds for early dismissal or in-country consequences at our discretion.
- Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
- Behaving in a way that consistently damages the group dynamic or jeopardizes personal or group safety. This includes consistently displaying a negative attitude, intimidating or excluding other participants, sneaking out, disobeying group leaders, and any other behavior that is not conducive to an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.
GROUNDS FOR DISMISSAL OR IN-COUNTRY CONSEQUENCE
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
- Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
- Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
- Breaking group rules
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of a travel program. Please take the time to review these rules as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them before choosing to travel with WTT.
Passport & Visa Check
Passport must be valid for six months after the final day of your travel program, including one open visa page.
No Visa Requirements for US Citizens traveling to Costa Rica.
NON US CITIZENS OR THOSE TRAVELING FROM A COUNTRY OTHER THAN THE USA
Non US citizens should check with their country’s embassy abroad to verify vaccination and visa requirements.
US citizens traveling from a country other than the United States should check the State Department website (www.travel.state.gov) for more information regarding additional visa or vaccine requirements.
Please contact us for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.
Health and Safety
We strongly recommend visiting the CDC Costa Rica website to get the most updated information on health and vaccination considerations in your destination country. In addition, we encourage you to consult with your personal family physician so you can be as informed as possible when making important decisions about vaccinations and other necessary health-related preparations before travel.
Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. Walking Tree will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.
Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.
We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.
Vaccination information and requirements can change frequently. Because of this, and for more information, we suggest that you consult your local travel clinic and/or family physician for specific details.
Our experience has taught us that international travel can sometimes be unpredictable. As such, WTT will purchase basic secondary travel and medical insurance for all WTT travelers via Travel Insured International. This service provides the following coverage at no additional cost to our participants:
$500 Return Airfare for Trip Interruption
$750 ($150 per day) Trip Delay of six hours or more
$500 (Three or more hours) Missed Connection
$1500 ($250 per article) Baggage/Personal Effects
$300 Baggage Delay – 24 hours
$25,000 Accident & Sickness Medical Expense
$100,000 Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency Assistance Non-insurance Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services Included
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL COVERAGES
The following additional optional coverage upgrades are available upon request for an additional premium charge to the traveler. For further information on the premiums associated with these optional coverage enhancements, please email your inquiry to our travel insurance program administrator, Hayashi Insurance Solutions: email@example.com
– Trip Cancellation Coverage – Reimburses the traveler up to the trip cost insured up to a maximum of $10,000 per person if the trip must be cancelled for unforeseeable life events including but not limited to; medical/health reasons, bereavement, etc.
– Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) – Reimburses the traveler for 75% of the non-refundable trip cost. Cancellation must be made 48 hours or more prior to scheduled departure. Must be purchased at the same time as initial plan purchase and prior to final trip payment. *This benefit is not available to residents of New York State.
The Plan is administered by Hayashi Insurance Solutions (CA DOI 0F61680) a licensed Insurance Agency authorized to transact this insurance under the express authority of Travel Insured International, Inc. and its representatives, and on behalf of Walking Tree Travel, Inc. The Plan contains insurance benefits underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company. Fairmont Specialty and Crum & Forster are registered trademarks of United States Fire Insurance Company. The Crum & Forster group of companies is rated A (Excellent) by AM Best Company 2015. The Plan also contains non insurance Travel Assistance Services that are provided by an independent organization, OnCall International, and not by United States Fire Insurance Company or Travel Insured International. Review the Plan Document for complete terms, including benefits, conditions, limitations and exclusions that apply. Coverages may vary and not all coverage is available in all jurisdictions.
Global Leadership Curriculum
WTT has developed a curriculum that helps each of our travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple, engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame their experience, and prepare them to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future. For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.
Want to learn a new language and be better prepared for your travel program? Duolingo is the easiest, most entertaining way to start learning and using a new language right away! The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to communicate with locals in your host country and help your fellow travelers navigate a foreign environment.
Tap the Duolingo owl to get started, or download the app to your mobile phone.
Group Flight Information
Walking Tree will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the group organizer before departure. Nevertheless travelers will need to check in at the airport and we recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure. For details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure, please contact your teacher/Group Organizer.
DEPARTURE FROM USA
Date: August 21, 2017
Departs: Washington, DC at 11:03am
Arrives: El Salvador, San Salvador at 1:09pm
Date: August 21, 2017
Departs: El Salvador, San Salvador at 2:45pm
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica at 4:05pm
RETURN TO USA
Date: September 1, 2017
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica at 12:20pm
Arrives: El Salvador, San Salvador at 1:40pm
Date: September 1, 2017
Departs: El Salvador, San Salvador at 2:57pm
Arrives: Washington, DC at 9:10pm
A NOTE ON FLIGHTS
Air travel is unpredictable. Although we can ensure that our groups arrive to the airport with ample time and follow all airline instructions, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to weather, mechanical problems, labor strikes, etc. Please note that in such an event WTT is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. That being said, our travelers’ well-being and safety is our number one priority, so please know that should flight delays/cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will do our best to keep family members updated on developments.
WTT is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage. Please also make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
To see more about Avianca’s baggage policies, please click here.
Please confirm with your air travel provider as some airlines may require that travelers under a certain age have completed an unaccompanied minor parental consent form. Please consult the airline website to confirm if this is required on your flight.
WTT will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to this Program Leader, we also have a support staff in our host countries that are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Please read below to see who will be part of the support team on your program. Below you’ll find a list of the Walking Tree staff involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
Emory University – B.A. Sociology and minor in Latin American History
During college, Luke spent a semester living and traveling in rural Mexico. His experience sparked a fascination with Latin America and a commitment to community service that continues to this day. Upon graduating from college, he joined WorldTeach and lived with a local family in a small village in Costa Rica while teaching elementary English. After this experience, he moved to San José, the capital and largest city of Costa Rica, and wrote for The Tico Times newspaper. Luke has since traveled to over 60 countries on five different continents. Now settled in Denver with his family, he continues to crave massive helpings of rice and beans.
Country Operations Manager, Costa Rica Country Director
Earlham College – B.A. Non-Profit and Business Administration, Minor in French
Born and raised in Costa Rica, Esteban has spent the last seven years of his life traveling around the world and fostering his education in the U.S. Esteban has a strong background in cross-cultural education and developing business projects that strive for sustainable and social development. While attending college in Indiana, Esteban spent a semester abroad in France. During his free time Esteban loves reading, playing soccer, surfing, hiking, drinking a good cup of coffee and dancing to Latino rhythms. These days Esteban has moved back to Costa Rica and loves leading awesome SSA programs in his home country!
Juan Pablo Rabanales
Earlham College – B.A. International Studies, Minor in Economics
Born and raised with a big family in Guatemala, JP spent seven years living and studying in the US where he was exposed to highly diverse communities. JP worked as a Wilderness Leader guiding expeditions in the Southwest of the US. After spending two years in New Mexico studying the International Baccalaureate, he moved to Indiana where he spent the next four years at Earlham College. His passion for international affairs brought him to spend a semester in China, and several other Southeast Asian countries. During his time abroad, he spent his summers traveling and backpacking through 15+ different countries, and participating in several service projects. Today JP is based back in his home country where he teaches English to young adults. Juan Pablo also enjoys hosting friends and travelers coming to Guatemala. He’s always down for an exciting road-trip around the country, or even better, around Latin America. A long time art and design enthusiast, and a photography aficionado.
The names below are those travelers who have enrolled on the program and paid at least the deposit. The roster is updated weekly but if you have any questions please contact our Admissions Director Lacey Merkel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Melissa Leiva
- Mia Barbosa
- Daniel Liano-Garcia
- Henry Garcia
- Daniel Guevara
- Jasmine Avery
- Lisbeth Lopez Reyes
- Chelsea Choice
- Kelsy Contreras-Flores
- Cyndy Cordova Ramos
- Ricardo Vasquez
- Samuel Benitez
- Geovani Leiva
- Josephine Bonilla
- Natalie Fernandez
- Jackelyn Cordova-Galdamez
- Jackson Hampton
- Franklin Montenegro
- Rafael Tubilla
- Rachel Harlan
- Abdi De Leon
- Genesis Lopez
- Izaiah Exum
- Kameya Carter
- Luisa Juarez
- Henry Hernandez-Mendez
- Lauren Games
- Julia Gonzalez Cuyas
- Kayla Cabeza Reyes
- Sienna Otero
- Edvin Gonzalez
- Tammany Walker
- Kiah Cook
- Mercer Epps-Stewart
- Juan Valle
- Nyerere Hyacinthe
- Jovelina Paz
- Sophia Elescano
- Selena Talley
- Julio Bonilla Jr.
- Leslie Medina
- Luz Johnson
- Morgan Garnes
- Leonardo Montenegro
- Michael White-Ruffin
- Angie Lemus
- Koi McAfee
- Sofia Dindyal
- Mia Luisa Smith
- Nacye Chavez
- Ariana Gonzalez
- Erik Cervantes
- David Akinsanya
- Osvaldo Duran-Rojas
- Khalihia Evans
Community & Project Details
The DCI group will be broken into three sections of 20 and travel to one of three neighboring communities which are no more than 15 minutes driving from one another:
San Gerardo de Rivas
San Gerardo de Rivas is situated in the misty mountains above San Isidro de General in the province of San Jose, about three hours south of the capital city. This village of 800 people will host a Walking Tree group for a fourth consecutive year. San Gerardo is a friendly community of coffee and agricultural farmers and has proven itself a perfect fit for an energetic group of young volunteers. Unknown to most travelers, San Gerardo is only occasionally home to foreign visitors and thus provides an idyllic example of rural Costa Rican village life. Set at the foot of the mighty Mt. Chirripo, it also happens to be picturesquely beautiful.
The group will be working with the local “escuelita”. They’re going to be helping paint the “gimnasio’s” floor. This will be an add to the work that previous groups have done in there this year. Also, they’re going to be building a cement stairs from the “gimnasio” to the greenhouse at the escuela. Work will include mixing cement, painting, washing the floor, moving sand around with wheelbarrows, digging holes/trenches, and more.
Herradura is a small and very beautiful town situated in a valley near the entrance of Parque Nacional Chirripó, which is home to Costa Rica’s tallest mountain. The nearest sizeable city is San Isidro (Pérez Zeledón), which is located about 20 kilometers, or 45 minutes away. There is a very beautiful river (Rio Blanco) that runs through the center of town and runs parallel of the main road. Walking Tree has been working in Herradura since 2009, and we continue to send groups here because of it’s beautiful scenery, great contacts and creative projects that are proposed. The town has a rustic feel to it, which is amplified by the fact that there is no cell phone service here. Electricity first made its way to Herradura in 1986.
Our project will be to work on a local public park. This is a project that Walking Tree volunteers have been helping on over the past year, and we will be adding to all of that work. The students will be helping give shape to the trails, building a small bridge, and general beautification around the park. This project is extra special because we’ll have the three DC Int groups getting together on Sunday to officially inaugurate the park.
Cannan de Rivas
Cannan de Rivas is situated in the misty mountains above San Isidro de General in the province of San Jose, about three hours south of the capital city. This village of 800 people will host a Walking Tree group for a fourth consecutive year. San Gerardo is a friendly community of coffee and agricultural farmers and has proven itself a perfect fit for an energetic group of young volunteers. Unknown to most travelers, Cannan is only occasionally home to foreign visitors and thus provides an idyllic example of rural Costa Rican village life. Set at the foot of the mighty Mt. Chirripo, it also happens to be picturesquely beautiful.
At Canaan de Rivas we’ll be working with the local church. We will be adding work to finish the project that the 10 Day Service group previously started. The work consist on laying a cement floor for the main entrance to the church. There will be also a side project building a small shop for the church to fundraise by selling ice cream, pop corn, and drinks after mass, and during community gatherings. The students can expect to mix cement, place cinder blocks, paint, move rocks, use well barrels to bring sand and dirt for the project.
The heart and soul of our Costa Rica programs is the time in the host village. For the duration of our time in the community, students will live with homestay families where they will significantly improve their Spanish and experience firsthand an intimate snapshot of Costa Rican family life. While we understand the thought of living with another family can be intimidating, we believe that homestays are extremely rewarding. Walking Tree has carefully selected each host family to ensure a safe, nurturing and enriching environment.
Typical homes that are constructed nowadays are made of concrete and cinder blocks with tin roofing. They are made this way in order to withstand earthquakes. Traditionally, houses were made of wood with clay tile roofing. In rural areas, it is much more common to see traditional style housing whereas in the city it is very hard to find. Generally, homes are sized modestly with a living area, kitchen area, cuarto de pilas (utility room) and 2-3 bedrooms. Generally, parents will share a private bedroom, but depending on the size of the family and income, kids may share a bedroom with parents. Kids will often share a bedroom, especially when they are younger. It is considered normal to live with your parents until you get married, meaning that it is not strange for someone in their late twenties or early thirties to live with their parents. It also may be common for elderly family members to live with their children if they cannot take care of themselves. You will find that in small towns, family members will construct their houses very close to their other family members, which creates a greater sense of family within the community.
Kitchens are generally very basic in small towns. Gas or electric countertop stoves are most common nowadays, but you may find that some families still stick to the traditional wood burning stoves. The kitchen will almost always be found within the home unless a wood-burning stove is used. In this case, the kitchen may be partially outside the home. Ovens, toasters and dishwashers are not common in Costa Rican kitchens. All dishes are hand washed. All houses are equipped with electricity, running water and indoor plumbing, but it is important to note that you should not flush toilet paper or other paper products down the toilet. This will clog the toilets and can eventually cause the overflow of septic tanks.
Communication & Blog
The easiest way for students to keep in touch with family and friends at home while traveling will be using Wifi (available at most hotels and some restaurants) via Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.
WTT tries to keep families and friends updated as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, they should direct all general inquiries to info@WalkingTree.org. We are always checking this email inbox and will respond promptly to inquiries. You can also reach us by dialing 303-242-8541 from the U.S.
Click here to access your program’s blog page.
What follows is a sample packing list, which will be updated for each program. We recommend you bring a larger piece of luggage like a roller, duffel bag, or backpack, as well as a smaller backpack that you can bring on hikes, weekend excursions and shorter activities.
Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
Costa Rica Packing List
6 pairs of underwear
6 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
4 t-shirts (some quick dry)
2 long sleeve shirts
1 rain jacket
2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
2 pairs of comfortable/hiking/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
1 pair of sandals (Chaco/Teva/Merril sandals are great to have for water activities)
1 pair of work gloves – required for service work
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
Band Aids and Neosporin
Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container, as customs officials have the right to confiscate it otherwise.
Journal and pen
Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
Alarm Clock and watch
Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
Durable water bottle
1 quick-dry towel
Deck of cards or other portable games
Host family gift
Travelers often contact us regarding what an appropriate gift might be for their student’s host family. Host families are often curious about where our students come from and their families in the U.S. As such, we recommend a simple gift that describes, represents or depicts your home. Well-received gifts in the past have included calendars or picture/coffee table books from your city or state, a framed picture of your family, paraphernalia from a local sports team, toys, soccer balls, school supplies, or something produced or grown in your hometown, like chocolate, local candy, t-shirts, etc. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to worry about this… Anything, no matter its value, will be well received!