2019 Costa Rica 15 Day Service Adventure
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What to Expect
Please read through all of the information below. More details will be added as your departure draws closer.
We work hard to create safe, engaging, and immersive itineraries for our travelers, but given the unpredictable nature of international travel we must remain flexible in our planning. Changes to a schedule are uncommon but if inclement weather pushes us off course or an unexpected opportunity arises which travelers are excited about, we reserve the right to adjust programming in the best interest of the group.
|June 26||USA - San Jose, Costa Rica||Today the group will travel from the USA to Costa Rica. Flights usually arrive in the evening. After arrival, the group will settle into their hotel for the evening and have an orientation meeting where the group will discuss the upcoming trip in detail.||Rosa de America|
|June 27||San Jose - Rama Organica||After breakfast we will head to Rama Organinca, an ecological farm in the heart of the rain forest, about 4 hours south of the capital city. Upon arrival we will tour the farm for an introduction to the bountiful flora and fauna in the area.||Jungalows|
|June 28||Rama Organica||After breakfast we will hike down to Nauyaca waterfall, one of the most beautiful in the entire country. We will spend the morning swimming and relaxing by the riverside and enjoy lunch at the waterfall. After , we will visit a nearby coffee plantation and enjoy a delicious empanada made by yourself. Throughout the program, we'll have the opportunity to interact with community members in Spanish, participate in cultural exchanges, and explore Costa Rican culture. We will be returning to the farm, and will have free time before dinner.||Jungalows|
|June 29||Rama Organica - San Gerardo||Today we will head to the host village to meet our host families. Upon arrival, students will tour the community and learn about our service project. Students will have dinner with their own individual host families this evening.||Host Family|
|June 30||San Gerardo||Our days in the village will consist mainly of working on our community service project. Lunch will be either be on-site or at home with families. In the afternoons and evenings, activities are flexible and will vary, but may include time with host families, excursions around the village, or activities with the local community.||Host Family|
|July 1||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time with host families. Evening activities will vary between soccer matches or mejengas, trout fishing, hiking thorugh the forest, visiting the hotsprings, cooking lessons or checking the local waterfall.||Host Family|
|July 2||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time with host families. Evening activities will vary.||Host Family|
|July 3||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time with host families. Evening activities will vary.||Host Family|
|July 4||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time with host families. Evening activities will vary.||Host Family|
|July 5||San Gerardo||Host Family|
|July 6||San Gerardo||Host Family|
|July 7||San Gerardo||Today we will finish our service project and celebrate with our new friends and family with a fiesta de despedida!||Host Family|
|July 8||San Gerardo - Manuel Antonio||After breakfast and goodbyes, we willl head west to Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast. We will settle into our hotel before heading down to the beach where students can take surf lessons on a stretch of coastline that has a reputation for being great for beginners.||Villas Mymosa|
|July 9||Manuel Antonio - San Jose||Today we will explore Manuel Antonio national park which bursts with wildlife. Inside we will find idyllic beaches and winding trails that lead through dense jungle. Students can relax, swim and do some souvenir shopping. After lunch we willl make the drive back to San Jose for a farewell dinner before our international departure the following morning.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|July 10||San Jose - USA||After breakfast, we will head to the airport for a morning departure back to the USA.||Your own bed!|
Need to Raise Money? We have you covered.
Our travelers are provided with funding opportunities that are easy to implement and fun to take part in. Our flagship fundraiser involves selling fair trade, organic, carbon-neutral coffee from a women’s collective in Peru. There is no limit to the amount you can earn, so get started now by clicking the link below!
In order to provide a safe and memorable experience for travelers, we follow strict guidelines when choosing our accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels which are centrally located, clean, safe and wifi-enabled.
Rosa de America
A beautiful and affordable boutique hotel near the airport yet in a relaxing setting. This hotel is complete with updated rooms, fresh towels and linens, free Wi-Fi, and land lush gardens. Students will be grouped according to gender.
Staying with a host family allows our travelers to truly immerse themselves in the culture of their destination, and to build lasting friendships with local people in the host community.
Hotel Casa Cielo Grande
Casa Cielo Grande is a beautiful property ideally located twenty minutes away from the airport. Close to the city center yet high in the mountains, the views of the Central Valley are breathtaking and the pool is stunning. Perfect for groups, the house offers clean and fresh rooms that will make you feel at home as soon as you land in Costa Rica. Students will have free Wi-Fi access and will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Hotel Villas Mymosa is a modern 10 room condo hotel located in the peaceful setting of beautiful Manuel Antonio. These spacious rooms are fully equipped to provide you with all the amenities of your own home. Each Villas Mymosa villa has a private terrace or balcony or both. You have the option of peace and quiet at your villa or interacting with other guests around our beautiful large centrally located pool. Free Wi-Fi will keep everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender.
In an effort to make the flight booking process as smooth as possible, we have partnered with STA Travel. This partnership provides our participants with discounted fares through STA’s contracts with the top airlines to help our travelers get the best possible rates.
You have two options for making your flight arrangements, which are outlined below. With either option, we strongly recommend you book with STA, which you can do by calling their dedicated line at 800-781-4040.
1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.
Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option.
The following information is for the chaperoned group flights for this program:
DEPARTURE FROM USA
Date: June 26, 2019
Departs: Houston, TX (IAH) at 6:15PM
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 8:47PM
RETURN TO USA
Date: July 10, 2019
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 6:30AM
Arrives: Houston, TX (IAH) at 11:10AM
Here’s how to proceed:
- Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 800-781-4040 to learn about your booking options.
- Tell the agent you are a Smithsonian Student Adventures participant, the full name of the program you are traveling on and your program travel dates. They will walk you through the details of your flight options.
- Once you know your flight options, you can book directly with STA or on your own to travel to the host country.
Important note: Should you elect not to travel on the suggested, chaperoned, group flight please email your complete flight reservation to flights@SmithsonianSA.com.
Program participants should meet the airpot liaison at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the international flight. If you are traveling on a connecting flight from your home destination, you will meet your flight chaperone at the boarding gate for your international flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please contact Smithsonian Student Adventures at our 24/7 emergency hotline: 303-997-0310.
2. Book your own flight to the host country.
For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or no more than 3 hours earlier than the suggested group flight’s planned arrival. We ask participants not to arrive later than the suggested group flight’s time of arrival. If travelers arrive on their own prior to the rest of the group we will arrange to have the second Program Leader or the Country Director meet them as they land in the host country.
Note: A $100 fee may be charged if you arrive later than the group suggested flight or 3 or more hours before.
With either option, we strongly encourage you to book your flights through STA, but it is not required.
STA operates a full 24/7 emergency line and can support you with issues from date changes, cancellations, or general crisis management support wherever you are in the world. To contact them, please call 800-836-4115.
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 SSA is not financially responsible for unexpected costs incurred by travelers. Our programs officially begin and end in our host countries. Notwithstanding, our travelers’ well-being and safety is always our number one priority in all facets of our operations and programming, so please know that in case flight delays or cancellations occur we will do everything we can to get travelers home in a timely manner and will keep family members updated on developments as we are able.
Important note: Please make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the final day in country.
SSA is not responsible for fees associated with checked baggage or for lost or stolen luggage. We strongly encourage all travelers to pack a carry-on bag if possible, or to at least put all valuables and a change of clothes or two in a carry-on along with all important medications and basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, deodorant, glasses, contacts etc.
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 whether this is required on your flight.
Host Community and Project Details
The host families we partner with are always very excited to receive student groups. It is just as much as an experience for them as it is for our participants. Families are very close knit in Costa Rica, and there is a lot of importance placed on spending time with both immediate and extended family. Although all families are different, a typical host family usually consists of a mother and father and 1-3 kids ranging anywhere from 1-20 years old. About 90% of our host families in Costa Rica have children. Even if a family does not have children they will undoubtedly be surrounded by kids, whether they are extended family members or neighbors. Some of our host families are non-traditional families, meaning they may be single mothers or grandparents raising their grandchildren. Regardless of how your host family is structured, you will be welcomed into your new home and be seen as part of the family.
WTT/SSA groups have the unique opportunity to live and work together with the local host community. The service project depends completely on the needs of each community and can vary greatly from year to year. Service projects are planned together with our Country Director and community liaisons. The project will always benefit the entire community and is chosen and approved by community leaders. Projects are always proposed by local community leaders as they are most in tune with the needs of the community.
Service projects are intended to be both challenging and rewarding for participants and community members. Generally, the work entails renovating or replacing an existing structures (health clinic, community center, school, etc.) that needs work. Usually there are little or no funds available to complete these projects, so our groups plays an important role in the community. Some past projects include renovating health clinics, constructing bathrooms, building sidewalks, repairing decaying retaining walls, and constructing a soccer stadium.
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.
“Less is more” is a packing tip we encourage for all our travelers. The below list should cover everything you would need, but we frequently hear that travelers feel “overpacked” if they follow all of our suggestions. Know yourself and what you are comfortable traveling with. We suggest bringing only as much as you would be able to carry on your own.
Please consult the 10-day weather forecast in https://weather.com and enter the cities listed in your itinerary if you desire a more detailed look at the weather you might encounter. Most importantly, be sure to remember your PASSPORT and STUDENT ID.
CLOTHES (quantities depend on your trip length) :
- Socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
- T-shirts (some quick dry)
- Long sleeve shirt
- Lightweight sweater (especially if doing service work in the communities of San Gerardo de Rivas, Herradura de Rivas, Canaán or Chimirol)
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
- 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)
- Durable athletic/hiking shoes with good grip
- Sandals (Chaco/Teva/Keen/Merrel sandals are great to have for water activities)
- Work gloves – required for service work
- Bandana for work site (optional)
- A hat that can protect your neck
- Swimming suit, for surf classes a rash guard is recommended for sensitive skins
TOILETRIES: BRING THE BASIC TOILETRIES YOU NEED PLUS:
- Sunscreen (You will use a lot. Natural products/lotions are preferred over aerosol, especially for the beach)
- Mosquito repellent (non-deet/lotions are preferred to reduce environmental impact)
- Band Aids and Neosporin
- Hand Sanitizer
- 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 number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
- Durable water bottle
- 1 quick-dry towel
- Deck of cards or other portable games
- Host family gift
- Spanish/English Dictionary
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!
WTT/SSA will send a minimum of one experienced Program Leader on every program. In addition to the Program Leader(s), we also have support staff in our host countries and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado who are available to the group for additional help when necessary. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program. Meet your support team!
Country Director - Costa Rica & Panama
Universidad de Costa Rica – B.Sc. Geography
Proudly born a ”tica” with a British father and a Panamanian mother, Sara was raised in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sara started traveling the world at a young age and has visited 4 continents. Passionate about conservation, sustainable development and education Sara spent her college years volunteering in different communities during mid-term vacations and later found herself sharing some of her interests with US students and volunteers traveling all over Central America. Nowadays, Sara is finishing her master’s degree in Planning with an emphasis on Socioeconomic Project Management.
Admissions Director - Denver, CO
University of Arizona – B.S. in Spanish and Portuguese, Minor in Business
Lacey is originally from Flagstaff, Arizona but has been spending her summers in Denver since she was a kid. Originally a business major, she decided to spend her sophomore year studying in Viña Del Mar, Chile. This is where she truly found her passion for travel and learning about other cultures. When she returned to Arizona, she changed her focus to learning Spanish and Portuguese and decided to pursue her TEFL certificate. After graduation, Lacey moved to Fortaleza, Brazil and taught English to high school students, pilots and doctors. She then moved to Denver and continued teaching English. In her free time she enjoys live music, snowboarding, traveling and of course eating amazing “hole-in-the-wall” food.
Universidad de Costa Rica – B.A. in Art History
New York University – M.A. in Art Education
Growing up in Costa Rica, Sofía developed an early passion for nature and the outdoors. She originally wanted to be a biologist but ended up going into the arts instead, specializing in Art Education in New York City where she lived and worked for over eight years. Having mostly worked in non-formal education settings like museums and community spaces, her work focuses on generating transformative learning experiences beyond subjects or settings.
She is passionate about critical pedagogy, community development, multicultural perspectives, and conservation efforts. She has traveled extensively (over 25 countries in 3 continents) believing that there’s nothing like traveling to expand your mindset and allow for growth and connection to new spaces, people, cultures and oneself. She currently lives in San José, Costa Rica, and among her favorite things to do are hiking, whale watching (when possible), eating delicious food, dancing and enjoying quality time with friends and family.
Fort Lewis College- B.A. in Adventure Education
Emiliano first really got the bug for traveling when he first moved down to Nicaragua when he was 10 to get to know his father’s side of the family. Since then he has gone to college in Northern California and Southwestern Colorado to end up with degree in Adventure Education. While getting his degree Emiliano built a very strong philosophy based on learning and building skills through stepping out of our comfort zones and he still lives by that today. The best part of his leading his first walking tree trip was when we swam with a sea turtle in Belize in 2018. During the offseason Emiliano teaches 2nd grade to Spanish speaking students in Denver, Colorado and he loves to toss frisbees on his down time.
See below for a list of travelers enrolled on the program.
- 1 Cooper Fallon
- 2 Ellen Han
- 3 Emilie Chau
- 4 Jackson Darre
- 5 Kaelen Moehs
- 6 Louis Salfi
Blog and CommunicationThe 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 apps such as Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free. We do our best to keep families and friends updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, they should direct all general inquiries to email@example.com. For any general program inquiries, please refer to the WTT/SSA representative listed on your program webpage, or email firstname.lastname@example.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. Guardians, Participants, and Group Organizers will receive a program-specific blog link leading up to your departure date, and an email notification each time a new blog is posted for the program.
We have developed a curriculum of activities designed to help each of our travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple and engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.
Standards of Behavior
Walking Tree 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 us.
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.
While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers while on program, experience has taught us that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we suggest you consider purchasing Premier travel insurance which would cover you in the event your student needs to withdraw before travel due to a covered reason or loses baggage in route or encounters an emergency while traveling, among other unforeseen circumstances. While most travelers have opted in for us to purchase basic travel insurance on their behalf during the enrollment process, this plan does not cover trip interruption or trip cancellation. Please see a summary of a plan below and follow the link for a more detailed explanation or to purchase the plan for your traveler.
-Recommended Travel Insurance-
Trip Cancellation Up to 100% of Trip Cost
Reimburses your prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you must cancel your trip due to a covered reason.
Maximum coverage: $100,000.
Trip Interruption Up to 150% of Trip Cost
Reimburses for the unused, non-refundable portion of your trip and for the increased transportation costs it takes for you to return home or to continue your trip due to a covered reason. Maximum coverage: $150,000.
Missed Connection $1,600
Reimburses for covered expenses resulting from a covered delay that causes you to miss your scheduled flight or cruise.
Travel Delay $1,600
Receive up to $200 per day per person to cover additional accommodation/travel expenses and lost prepaid expenses due to a departure delay of six or more hours.
Emergency Medical and Dental $50,000
-This primary coverage provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during your trip due to covered medical and dental emergencies. No deductible.
-$750 maximum for emergency dental care.
Baggage Loss/Damage $2,000
Covers loss, damage or theft of baggage and personal effects.
Baggage Delay $600
Covers the reasonable additional purchase of essential items during your trip if your baggage is delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for 24 hours or more. Receipts for emergency purchases are required.
Emergency Medical Transportation $1,000,000
Provides medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate facility following a covered injury or illness. Also covers the cost of your transportation back home following a covered injury or illness.
24-Hour Hotline Help Included
Help is just a phone call away with Allianz Global Assistance. Our staff of multilingual problem solvers is available to help you with a medical, legal or travel-related emergency.
*Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company (OH, Administrative Office: Oakbrook Terrace, IL), rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Co., under BCS Form No. 52.201 series or 52.401 series, or Jefferson Insurance Company (NY, Administrative Office: Richmond, VA), rated “A+” (Superior) by A.M. Best Co., under Jefferson Form No. 101C series or 101P series, depending on your state of residence. Plan(s) may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are marks of AGA Service Company or its affiliates. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of this plan and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson InsuranceCompany. Non Insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at 800-284-8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or email@example.com.