2021 South Jersey Costa Rica Service Adventure
|Travel Dates:||June 23, 2021 - July 2, 2021|
|Program Tuition:||$2,790 USD|
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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 do everything possible to run safe, engaging, and immersive programs 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 23||USA - Alajuela||Today the group will travel from the USA to Costa Rica, and flights usually arrive in the evening. After arrival, the group will settle into their hotel for the evening and have an orientation meeting to discuss the upcoming trip in detail.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|June 24||Alajuela - Pura Suerte||After breakfast we will depart for Pura Suerte, an ecological farm in the heart of the rain forest, about four hours drive south of the capital city. Upon arrival we will tour Pura Suerte's organic farm for an introduction to the bountiful flora and fauna in the area, visit a nearby coffee plantation and enjoy a delicious dinner made from ingredients sourced directly from the forest and nearby farms. We will finish our day with an introduction to Costa Rican culture to be better prepared for our next couple days at our host community.||Pura Suerte Jungalows|
|June 25||Pura Suerte - San Gerardo||After breakfast we'll hike down to Nauyaca waterfall, one of the largest and most beautiful in the entire country. Spend the morning swimming and relaxing by the riverside. We will take lunch at the waterfall and then hike back back up to start our drive to our host community. Upon arrival we will meet our host families and have a group activity to break the ice. Students, normally paired, will have dinner with their own individual host families this evening. Throughout the program, we'll have the opportunity to interact with community members in Spanish, participate in cultural exchanges, and explore Costa Rican culture.||Hotel El Descanso|
|June 26||San Gerardo||Our days in the village will consist mainly of working on our community service project. During our stay at our host community students will take turns to help our hosts prepare lunch for our group. We'll eat lunch on-site. In the afternoons and evenings, activities are flexible and will vary, but may include time to explore our host community and interact with locals, excursions around the village, group activties or structured reflections.||Hotel El Descanso|
|June 27||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time at our host community. Evening activities will vary.||Hotel El Descanso|
|June 28||San Gerardo||Today, we will continue working on our service project and spending time at our host community. Evening activities will vary.||Hotel El Descanso|
|June 29||San Gerardo||Today we will finish our service project and celebrate our fiesta de despedida with our hosts and new friends from the host community!||Hotel El Descanso|
|June 30||San Gerardo - Uvita||After breakfast we willl head west to Uvita on the central Pacific coast. We will settle into our hotel and then head to the beach where students can take surf lessons. Never surfed before? No problem! The waves at Uvita are perfect for beginners and almost everyone is able to stand up. In the evening, we will have some down time at the hotel pool to relax and reflect on our experiences in our host community.||Hotel El Tecal|
|July 1||Uvita - Alajuela||We will start making our way back to Alajuela but first we’ll make one last stop where we’ll get to soar through the jungle canopy while ziplining. We will then continue our drive back to Alajuela for a cozy farewell dinner before we prepare for our international departure the following morning.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|July 2||Alajuela - USA||After breakfast, we will head to the airport for a morning departure back to the USA.||Your own bed!|
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In order to provide a safe and memorable experience, we follow strict guidelines when choosing program accommodations. Walking Tree partners with locally-operated, three-star equivalent hotels and guest houses which are centrally located, clean and safe.
Finca Pura Suerte
A grouping of bamboo cabins and impressive communal spaces, this farm is nestled deep in low-land rain forest with views of the Pacific coastline. The accommodations are comfortable, the food fantastic, and the surreal setting provides an ideal introduction to the country’s impressive flora and fauna.
Cabinas El Tecal
Cabinas El Tecal is a locally owned and operated three star hotel close to playa Uvita in the Marino Ballena National Park. Off the beaten path, the hotel comes with modern amenities, a private pool, and great service. It’s the perfect place to relax away from the crowds. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
Hotel Casa Cielo Grande
Casa Cielo Grande is a beautiful property ideally located just twenty minutes from the airport. Close to the city center yet perched high in the mountains, the views of the Central Valley are breathtaking and the new pool is a delightful respite after a hot day. Spotless rooms and friendly staff will make you feel at home the moment you drop your bags.
Hotel El Descanso
This is small but cozy hotel that typically hosts travelers that come to the region to hike Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica’s highest peak. This family owned hotel has great views of the surrounding mountains and is located only a short walk away from the community’s center by The hotel also has its own restaurant where students may get a wide variety of food. Free Wi-Fi access throughout the building keeps everyone feeling connected. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability.
|Type||Carrier Name||Carrier Code||Flight Number||Departure Airport & City||Departure Date and Time||Arrival Airport & City||Arrival Date and Time|
EWR – Newark International Airport, Newark, United States
June 23, 2021 at 03:25 PM
SJO – Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica
June 23, 2021 at 06:42 PM
SJO – Juan Santamaria International Airport, Alajuela, Costa Rica
July 02, 2021 at 12:50 PM
EWR – Newark International Airport, Newark, United States
July 02, 2021 at 08:02 PM
Once your flight has been secured the itinerary will appear here. Walking Tree will secure a seat on the group flight for each participant unless otherwise instructed.
Travelers are responsible for checked baggage fees. Please visit the airline’s baggage webpage to learn if you should expect to pay anything.
We will provide a group manifest – complete with reservation codes and ticket numbers – to the Group Organizer/s before departure, but travelers will need to check in at the airport in order to receive their boarding pass and have documents verified. We recommend arriving no later than three hours prior to the scheduled departure, but contact your Group Organizer for specific details on exactly where and when to meet on the day of departure.
FLIGHT INTERRUPTION DELAY OR CANCELLATION
Air travel is unpredictable, especially in a pandemic. Regardless of proper planning, there may still be instances when a flight is delayed or cancelled due to staffing shortages, weather, mechanical problems, etc. Please note that in such an event, Walking Tree Travel (WTT) is not financially responsible for unanticipated costs incurred by travelers en route. Our programs officially begin and end in the destination country, and because our staff doesn’t fly with the group, Group Organizers (the traveling faculty member/s) become the front-line advocate for the group in the event of a delay. In most cases of cancellations or delays, the airline will be the one who re-books travel or possibly arranges a hotel and food the night. Our primary role will be to keep families updated and provide support to the Group Organizer to reach a quick and effective resolution.
Host Community and Project Details
The host communities 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. San Gerardo is a very caring and enthusiastic community that loves hosting foreigners. This community has been awarded the Bandera Azul, which is a special recognition for communities that set the standard for environmental sustainability. San Gerardo is also an important tourist destination in Costa Rica because the entrance to the Parque Nacional Chirripó, where the country’s tallest mountain is located. The entrance to climb the mountain is located about 1Km from the center of town. Walking Tree has been sending groups to San Gerardo since 2008
Even though this year we are not staying with host families you may get in contact with several of them. 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.
Weather: Normally, the mornings start off a bit chilly, but around 8:00 the temperature begins to rise. Mornings are hot and sunny. Many students are comfortable in shorts and t-shirts or tank tops. Around 2:00-4:00, the rain will roll through. Expect rain about five days a week. It may last just an hour or during the entire afternoon, but there is no way to predict how the weather will act. After the rain, temperatures will cool down. A light raincoat or sweater should suffice after the rain. In the evenings, temperatures will cool down once again, enough for a big sweatshirt or coat. can get pretty cold at night!
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. 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.
Even thought this year access to community buildings is limited to due to sanitary restrictions the community association has requested our group to help with the maintenance of the health clinic. One of our main tasks will be to paint the exterior of the building but other smaller tasks may be requested as we are working.
What follows is a sample packing list that is provided as a guideline. Feel free to augment as you feel necessary. 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 list below should cover everything you would need, but 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.
Finally, we recommend consulting a weather forecast for your destination.
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, 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/s
- In addition to the basics…
- 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)
- Basic first aid supplies
- Hand Sanitizer
- Medication in properly marked original container. It’s important that medication travel in its original container
- Journal and pen
- Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on number of desired snacks, souvenirs, extra items etc.)
- Durable water bottle
- 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!
At a minimum, one experienced Program Leader will travel on every trip. In addition to this full time leadership presence, Walking Tree has additional support staff in all destinations and 24/7 support from our headquarters in Denver, Colorado. Below you’ll find a list of the team members involved in the planning, organizing, and leadership of your program.
Co-Founder of Walking Tree Travel and Business Lead - Denver, CO
Colby College – B.A. International Relations and Government
While at Colby, Gabriel spent a semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca studying contemporary Spanish politics and Spanish language. He also lettered for four-years on Colby’s lacrosse team and earned All-American honors. After graduating, Gabriel hit the road. He fished commercially in Alaska, taught in Chile and China, led programs for students in Spain and Costa Rica, and traveled to over 50 countries and all 50 states in the USA. Regardless of where Gabriel is located, he is constantly haunted by his naive faith and unconditional love for Denver sports teams.
Juan Pablo “JP” Rabanales
Global Country Operations Manager
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 in Costa Rica where he works full time with the Walking Tree team. Juan Pablo also enjoys hosting friends and travelers coming to visit. He’s always down for an exciting road-trip around the country, or even better, around Latin America. He is a long time art and design enthusiast, and a photography aficionado.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
- 1 Anna Geubtner
- 2 Emma King
- 3 Hadley Kronemeyer
- 4 Isabella Perez
- 5 James Kronemeyer
- 6 Joseph Dib
- 7 Julia Reynolds
- 8 Julianna Evinski
- 9 Leslie Kronemeyer
- 10 Madeline Falk
- 11 Marley Kronemeyer
- 12 Preston Bean
- 13 Rian Heal
- 14 Sarah Thomas
- 15 Sienna Carroccia
Blog and Communication
During travel we will work hard to keep families updated as frequently as possible with blogs and photos, giving you peace of mind that your traveler is safe and thriving on their program. Students regularly contribute to these posts, giving parents a great way to vicariously track the progress of the trip. You will receive an email notification when the first blog is posted, after which we recommend you check in regularly via the black “Program Blog” button at the top of this page.
Beyond this proactive approach to communication during the trip, most destinations are wired enough to allow participants semi-regular access to WiFi so you can also expect to communicate with your traveler directly. Ask your Walking Tree representative about the degree of connectivity on your program.
Walking Tree has developed a curriculum of activities meant to help travelers get the most out of their trip before departure, during travel and after they return home. These simple and engaging activities are meant to spark discussion, frame experiences, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on this trip and on future adventures.
For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.
To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit our online portal at the button below.
Standards of Behavior
In order to run a safe and successful program, 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.
- 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
- Failure to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
- Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials.
- Possessing weapons.
- Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle.
- Getting a piercing or tattoo.
- Being out after curfew.
- Breaking group rules.
These standards of behavior are essential for the successful completion of your program. Please take the time to review these as a family and make sure everyone understands and agrees to them.
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 on program, experience teaches that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we recommend that all travelers consider a travel insurance policy with two additional provisions: Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) and Bed Rest. Detailed explanations of both provisions can be found on the link below.
To provide families with a quality option, Walking Tree has partnered with Travel Insured International, one of the most respected providers in the industry. Begin by getting a quote here.
IMPORTANT NOTE: in order to secure coverage with CFAR included, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your deposit/first payment. You must also insure 100% of your trip cost, so program tuition + flight.