2023 Grant Costa Rica 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 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.
|1||USA & Costa Rica||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, enjoy the pool and rest.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|2||Pura Suerte||After breakfast we'll head for Pura Suerte, an ecological farm in the heart of the rain forest, about four hours south of the capital city. Upon arrival we'll settle in our rooms and discuss the upcoming trip in detail.||Pura Suerte|
|3||Pura Suerte||After breakfast we'll tour the farm for an introduction to the bountiful flora and fauna in the area. After lunch we will visit a nearby coffee plantation, learn how to make tortillas and empanadas and enjoy some locally produced coffee or hot chocolate. At night the group will enjoy a delicious dinner made from ingredients sourced directly from the forest.||Pura Suerte|
|4||Pura Suerte & Host Community||We will have a relaxing morning at Finca Pura Suerte to explore the beautiful grounds, hike to neighboring waterfalls and eat breakfast and lunch made from ingredients grown on the farm. In the early afternoon, we will make the short transfer to our nearby host community of San Salvador, where a group from Grant HS visited in 2016. We'll get introduced to our families, take a tour of the community and talk more about our service project which will begin the following day.||Homestays|
|5||Host Community||This morning we will invite our new friends from host communty to hike down to an incredible, three-tiered waterfall tucked deep into the jungle. We will have time to swim, relax and lunch before heading back to the community for a soccer game or more bonding with our homestay families.||Homestays|
|6||Host Community||First full day of service work, usually around six hours a day broken up by a break at lunch and free time in the afternoon/evening. We'll also make time for structured group reflection.||Homestays|
|7||Host Community||Continue service projects, community activities, coffee farm tour.||Homestays|
|8||Host Community||Continue service projects, community activities, coffee farm tour.||Homestays|
|9||Host Community||Last Day of service! Today will put the finishing touches on our service project and enjoy a communal fiesta de despedida to celebrate our wonderful time in host community.||Homestays|
|10||Host Community & Uvita||After breakfast, we'll head south to Uvita where we'll check into our hotel, drop our bags, and get ready for professional surf lessons at the Parque Nacional Ballena, a beautiful beach set on protected coastline along the Pacific Ocean and renowned for it's gradual and consistent break, great for beginning and intermediate surfers. We will discover the rock whale tail like formation that gives the name to the Marino Ballena National Park. After an active morning we'll have time to relax at the hotel, take showers, enojy the pool and have a couple hours rest before dinner later this night.||Hotel El Tecal|
|11||Manuel Antonio & San Jose||After breakfast we'll take the bus and drive to the Sierpe Mangroove Forest, one of the biggest in the whole Pacific Coast of the continent. We will explore the ecosystem on a kayak or a SUP. In the afternoon we'll head back to Uvita for pizza dinner.||Hotel El Tecal|
|12||Uvita - Manuel Antonio - San Jose||Today we will leave Uvita to spend the morning exploring Manuel Antonio National park's shady trails and tranquil beaches. We will have lunch in Manuel Antonio and have some time for souvenir shopping. After lunch we will head back to San José, where we will get some rest before two very exciting days rafting the Pacuare River down.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|13||San Jose & Pacuare River||In the morning we'll be picked up for our two-day white water rafting trip along the Pacuare River. We'll spend the next handful of hours navigating the rapids of one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. We'll stop for lunch at a lodge along the banks of the river where we'll eat lunch and then relax in the afternoon, exploring an impressive network of trails or just relaxing in a hammock with a good book.||Pacuare River Lodge|
|14||Rio Pacuare & San Jose||After breakfast we'll enjoy a full day on the river, traveling back to San Jose around the middle of the afternoon for our final dinner together ahead of our international departure the following morning.||Casa Cielo Grande|
|15||USA||Fly home||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.
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.
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.
This will be the best part of your trip! Staying with a host family immerses you in the language and culture of the destination, and can lead to deep and lasting relationships with your hosts. Initially intimidating but ultimately unforgettable, there’s no better way to begin to truly understand the place you’re visiting.
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.
Pacuare River Lodge
Along a hillside overlooking the Pacuare River, this one-of-a-kind lodge sits amid exotic primary rainforest, indigenous reserves and isolated valleys, and is only accessible by raft, 4X4, or horseback. A collection of rustic yet cozy cabins, each allowing to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding pristine jungles and experience the wilderness. Students will be grouped in their rooms according to gender and availability. Most river lodges have no electricity, wifi and cellphone reception is very limited as it is the case for Pacuare River Lodge. The rafting companies communicate by radio in case of needing any land departure from the lodge or any emergency.
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
Walking Tree’s approach to service is a collaborative one. Staff and community leaders deliberate on project options before jointly deciding how best to use the resources available. Groups will typically complete ~6 hrs of service a day, broken up by a mid-day meal on site.
Generally, the project work entails renovating or replacing existing community infrastructure such as a health clinic, church, or school. Program leaders will work to develop additional opportunities such as interactive time with local school children; picture everyone playing a raucous game of ‘Simón dice’!
Specific details about your work will be available in the lead up to departure.
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.
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, 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)
- 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!
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.
Juan Pablo “JP” Rabanales
Country Director, Country Operations Manager - Costa Rica
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.
Amelia “Ame” Garita Castillo
Country Operations Manager - Costa Rica
University Nacional, Costa Rica. Business Management/Sustainable Tourism
Amelia was born in San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica, close to the highest mountain Cerro Chirripo. While a young girl Ame had the opportunity to climb Cerro Chirripo with her father over 50 times before she turned 18, and fell in love with the outdoors and wilderness. After having these amazing experiences she went on to study tourism and business management in the National University of Costa Rica where she graduated with a bachelors degree. Since then she has worked for the Costa Rican tourism board, before moving on to guiding. She has worked guiding students in outdoor adventure working for Outward Bound Costa Rica, Outward Bound Mexico, and Outward Bound Hong Kong. She also guides wilderness therapy with Pure Life by Aspiro in Costa Rica. She has had the pleasure of traveling in Europe and South America which further confirmed her love for traveling, the outdoors, and guiding. She has traveled to over 14 countries and loves to share her experiences with others and also help them discover their own passion, and worldly views. She speaks fluent Spanish and English, and most enjoys her time by guiding and helping others. She now works for Walking Tree full time as a part of the Country Operations Team in Costa Rica.
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.
Below is a list of the travelers enrolled on the program.
- 1 Adam McCollum
- 2 Alina Mosher
- 3 Alistaire Dills
- 4 Cicely Albright
- 5 Davis Woofter
- 6 Finley Irwin
- 7 Finnegan Miller
- 8 Hope Stanley
- 9 Isabella Marquiss
- 10 Joaquin Kieffer
- 11 Lucia Baughman
- 12 Malina Yuen
- 13 Manuel Caminotti
- 14 Mia Sanders
- 15 Milena Mosher
- 16 Miranda Taylor
- 17 Miriam Tell
- 18 Nicholas Auerbach
- 19 Ripley Dills
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.
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.