Trek to Learn

Boulder, CO

June 6-17, 2014 Costa Rican Adventure

(Dates subject to change)

Trek to Learn Itinerary



Themes of the Day

Every day focuses on an inspiring person or idea that will leave a lasting impact on us. The people you meet will share their unique stories about involvement with important ecological, social, cultural, and economic issues, allowing you to make meaningful connections and reach deeper levels of understanding.


Day 1:  Owning your Experience; San Jose Area

You will be challenged to take charge your experience over the next 12 days in Costa Rica, encouraged to engage in active learning and personal growth and to have open minds to make the most of this incredible opportunity.


Pura Vida! Welcome to San Jose and to the experiential learning adventure of a lifetime.  Your bilingual naturalist guides will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel to settle in. Share a delicious tropical dinner as your guides set the tone for students owning their experience with active and engaged learning.


Important Themes:

–          Your guides will introduce the Story Approach and the teaching themes that will cohesively link together the incredible wealth of information you will learn on the trip.

–          Our first nightly circle and bandana ceremony will reinforce the Expedition Mentality and set the tone for the best possible experiential learning trip.

Overnight: San Jose Area



Day 2Ecotourism in Action; Pacuare River to Puerto Viejo

Today you experience Ecotourism at its best, taking part in an activity that helps protect fragile ecosystems while providing jobs for locals and enjoyment and learning for participants

Early this morning you head straight to the banks of the Pacuare River for an unforgettable day of white water rafting. This most scenic river slices through primary rainforest and plunges through mountain gorges, with Class III & IV rapids. Beautiful waterfalls drop into the river right alongside your raft. You will stop along the river to enjoy waterfalls and a delicious lunch. After rafting, we drive to the southern Caribbean coast.

Important Themes:

– Conservation Areas

– Eco-tourism and economic alternatives to deforestation

– Involving locals in an international economy

Overnight: Puerto Viejo Area



Day 3: Tino: Cultural Ambassador; Puerto Viejo Area

Tino is a wonderful institution in the colorful Caribbean town of Manzanillo who loves to share stories and his vast knowledge of his rainforest “back yard” with unmatched humor and enthusiasm


Today we take a trip to the town at the end of the road, Manzanillo, a small town that hugs the crystalline water and is touched by Primary Rainforest.  Here we have the opportunity to meet Tino and hike with him in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.  Along the way, we travel from the beach path into the jungle, where the diversity of flora and fauna is beautiful and abundant.  Tino will explain the medicinal, culinary and other uses of many of the trees, fruits and plants along the way. In the afternoon, we meet up with local fishermen to learn all about fishing and its role in the local economy and culture.  We have the opportunity to create freshly made ceviche, a local treat!


Important Themes:

–          History of Costa Rican Caribbean Culture and its influences

–          Cultural differences throughout Costa Rica

–          Medicinal and practical uses of rainforest plants

Overnight: Puerto Viejo Area


Day 4: Lucas: Indigenous Keeper of Stories; Puerto Viejo Area

Lucas is an elder of the Bri-bri tribe and a spellbinding storyteller who works to keep his rich cultural heritage alive and well

In the morning, we visit the KekoLdi Indigenous Reserve where we hike with our native guide Lucas Chavez, learning about the culture and customs of the Bribri people. We begin with a visit to the Iguana Farm that has reintroduced over 10,000 green iguanas back into the surrounding forest over the past ten years.  Then, on a two-hour hike through secondary rainforest, we are introduced to the forest from the Bribri perspective, learning about the plants that have provided food, medicine, clothing, and shelter for thousands of years.  A native lunch is served with many ingredients harvested from their understory gardens. In the afternoon we visit one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica for the opportunity to learn the art of jewelry making from local artisans, utilizing many local seeds and materials the are found along the beaches. Punta Uva is a magical spot where the forest meets the sea and monkeys are often spotted eating sea grapes on the point.


Important themes:

-Indigenous Cultures and Oral Traditions

– Species Reintroduction

– Different cultural perspectives on nature and its uses

–          Local economies:  how strong local economies play a significant role in long-term sustainability- environmentally, culturally, economically

Overnight: Puerto Viejo Area



Day 5:  Food & Culture; Puerto Viejo Area to Las Horquetas

Today we learn the secrets to the Caribbean kitchen

This morning we join local chef, Stash, in the kitchen to learn all about curry spices and sauce making. In the afternoon, we fly through the canopy on SkyTrek, an amazing way to experience the rainforest.  Expert guides assist you safely through the zipline course.  This is not just an adventure activity, but an opportunity to see the layers of the rainforest and its canopy.  Afterwards, we head to the town of Las Horquetas where we are introduced to our homestay families.

Important Themes:

–          Cooking & food and its role in Costa Rican Culture

–          Layers of life in the rainforest and its canopy

–          Life in a Rural Costa Rican village:  What to expect

Overnight:  Las Horquetas Homestays


Home stays are stepping stones to learning about the country and culture you are visiting.  Students and individuals stay with rural “Tico” (Costa Rican) families in their homes for several days or more. This unique experience not only exposes the student to a different lifestyle and culture, it allows individuals to practice and enhance their language skills and make new friends.  All of our families go through a lengthy selection process and are approved by our local community contact, Raphael Montenegro, whose enthusiasm and hospitality are truly remarkable.



Day 6:  The Solis Family:  Small Town Community Leaders; Las Horquetas                    

Don Jose and his family are the heart and soul of the rural village of Las Horquetas; warm-hearted leaders who work tirelessly to help their community and make visitors feel at home


We spend the day with a group of local students who have been working to create sustainable programs to help out their community.  We will start out with a tour of the Solis family’s frog conservation project called, Frog’s Heaven.  Frog’s Heaven is visited by biologists around the world and works at creating consciousness in the local community and beyond.


Important Themes:

–       Frogs and their role as an “indicator species”

–       Cultural Traditions and values in Las Horquetas

–       Comparing/contrasting daily life to ours at home

Overnight:  Homestays, Las Horquetas






Day 7: Community Service:  Leaving a Positive Trace; Las Horquetas

Today we have the chance to give back to the community of Las Horquetas by participating in a service project, working hand in hand with the locals to make a positive impact on a local school in need


Today we work together with the Las Horquetas Community to execute a service project that meets local needs.  Projects include working with local schools on construction and repair, installing gravity water systems, setting up gardens, building sidewalks, reforestation projects and many other sustainable ventures.   Projects may also include intercultural exchange with local school students.  After dinner, we take a bat tour with a local biologist, learning about the natural history, diversity, adaptations, and threats to these amazing mammals.  We have the opportunity to observe bats up close and see bat research in action.

Important Themes:

–       Comparing educational opportunities and methods

–       What makes a successful service project?  Who benefits?

–       What would you share with students visiting your hometown and school?

Overnight:  Homestays, Las Horquetas


Day 8: Cultural Connections; Las Horquetas to Seelye Farm

Today we have a final morning to soak in the cultural experience of living in Las Horquetas as we visit a local school to share in class time with the students


This morning we accompany our homestay brothers and sisters to school, experiencing what it is like to be a student in small-town Costa Rica.  Afterwards, we say goodbye to our homestay families and head back through San Jose and up into the misty cloud forests.  Settle into your off-the grid, family run eco-lodge, and meet one of our favorite visionaries – the Maxine Seelye.  Share a delicious home-cooked meal and hear the amazing story of this resilient and inspiring family.


Important Themes:

-Education in developing countries

– Comparing educational opportunities and methods from home

– Reflecting on the homestay experience

Overnight: Seelye Family Lodge, Santa Maria de Dota













Day 9: Arturo, Visionary Coffee Grower and Indigenous Service Project Catalyst for Change; Santa Maria de Dota Highlands

Arturo is a passionate spokesman and model for socially and environmentally conscious coffee production who works in innovative ways to help communities of coffee workers


This morning enjoy time on the farm, learning about pioneering strategies for sustainable living. After breakfast, head down the road to take a tour of an award winning organic, shade grown coffee plantation.  Meet with Arturo, the charismatic owner of the plantation and learn about the steps he is taking to support his community and environmentally friendly coffee.  In the afternoon, return to the Seelye farm and participate in making a fabulous dinner.  Tonight we go on a magical night hike, led by one of your hosts who has walked this forest for over 20 years.


Important Themes:

–          Economic, Environmental, and Social Impact of Coffee Production

–          Monoculture vs. Sustainable Farming

–          Strategies for improving social conditions of coffee workers (while reducing environmental impact)

–          Endemic species and unique ecosystems of the Paramo Forest

Overnight: Seelye Family Lodge, Santa Maria de Dota



Day 10:  Life in the Cloudforest;  Santa Maria de Dota Highlands

Today we explore life in the clou dforest- from living on a sustainable farm to the adaptations of plants and animals for living in this unique environment.


This morning we learn about life on an off-the grid farm- helping to milk cows, gathering eggs from the chickens, feeding trout, and discovering the many strategies for sustainable living that the Seelye’s employ. We help to make local staples, such as butter or jam.  In the afternoon, we take a breathtaking hike in this spectacular forest, hoping to glimpse a resplendent Quetzal.  On our hike we learn about the highland forest and see many unique species of plants, trees, and birds that are endemic to this area. We have a chance to climb the magical Castle Tree, a redwood relative that is believed to be 1000 years old.  In the evening, relax, soak up the views, and enjoy a delicious home- cooked meal.

Important Themes:

–          Strategies for living sustainably- “off the grid” or in your hometown

–          How people live with (or removed from) nature

–          Farm products, from field to plate

Overnight: Seelye Family Lodge, Santa Maria de Dota









Day 11:  Positive Solutions; San Jose Area

Today we build upon our experiences throughout the trip to focus on strategies for sustainability and supporting conservation in our communities at home, successful approaches to conservation worldwide, and how local and global efforts connect


We say farewell to the Seelye Farm after breakfast, and head into the capital city of San Jose.  After settling into our lodge, we meet up with a local chef and learn the ropes of the Central Market, where you can buy anything from spices and produce to coffee socks and leather handicrafts.   We each purchase something unknown to us at the market, and try to find out its name and use so that we can share it with the group.

Dinner is served at an Art Gallery/Café, one of our favorite spots in the city.  Kalu is a space that combines great cooking, art and design. Take a look at the gallery and gift shop, you may find something interesting to take home with you (most of these are made of recycled materials) and at the same time support the Costa Rican artisans and artists.


Important Themes:

–          Urban involvement- participating in conservation and living sustainably far away from the forest

–          Global vs. Local: who should be involved in conservation, and where?

Overnight: San Jose Area


Day 12:  Home with Inspiration!  

On our final day together we’ll enjoy a last group breakfast, head to the airport, bid our guides a fond farewell and return home with memories of our Costa Rican Adventure that will last a lifetime!  We hope to inspire all those who travel with us to gain a greater appreciation for the many natural treasures Costa Rica has to offer, and reflect upon the choices we all make at home to help preserve this precious culture and environment. Pura vida!
























Trip DatesJune 6-17, 2014



Non-refundable Deposit: $500



Total Land Cost: $3295 per person


Airfare: flights will run about $750.

*Land Package Cancellation Policy: While we require a $500 per person non-refundable deposit early in the planning process, this is because that money is used to pay vendors to secure reservations. If a traveler cancels, we will refund a percentage of the remaining cost according to the following schedule:



Date of Cancellation Amount refunded
98 days or more prior to departure Full refund of remaining land cost (less deposit)
70-97 days prior to departure 75% of remaining land cost (after forfeited deposit)
42-69 days prior to departure 25% of remaining land cost (after forfeited deposit)
Within 42 days of departure No refund *see note about exchange







Make all payments to:



1220 Berea Dr.

Boulder, CO 80305


Frequently Asked Questions




What does “all-inclusive” include?

Our version of “all-inclusive” includes just that– all food, lodging, activity costs, guide/s, all land transportation, and even medical insurance.


What about medical facilities?

Safety is our first priority. Throughout the trip we are rarely far from a clinic or Red Cross station, and we have an on-call doctor for consultations in case of emergencies. Our guides are trained in Wilderness First Aid and they carry a first aid kit with them at all times. Additionally, they have experience in a wide array of typical travel -medical issues and are prepared to think on their feet.


Where do we stay?

We stay in family-run eco-hotels and sustainability-centered lodges in spectacular natural surroundings, including comfortable cottages and bungalows built from local materials. Whenever possible, we stay in smaller, rural settings and off-the-beaten-path locations. The number of students per room varies from 2 to 4, and sometimes is dormitory-style. Students may be required to share double beds with travel-mates, which is typical in some lodges.


What do we eat?

We view food as an obvious (and delicious) connection to both the Earth and to the people who live in the region. Most of our meals are taken at local restaurants featuring fresh regional specialties. A Costa Rican Adventure is a wonderful opportunity to learn about where food comes from and about its impact on performance and health. We make a special effort to taste tropical fruits and vegetables that are not readily available in North America. At all meals, you will have a choice of a main entree (usually chicken, fish or vegetarian) with a set menu of side dishes. Delicious rice and beans (gallo pinto) cooked with a special Costa Rican flavor is often one of the options, as it is a staple of all Costa Ricans’ diets. While American fast food options are sometimes available in Costa Rica, our aim is to provide a more authentic (and healthier) experience. We will collaborate with you on how you wish to explore educational opportunities such as the choice between eating beef or not, the choice between fresh fruit snacks or processed snacks, fresh juices versus soda, and so-on.


How do we get around?

When we are not hiking, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, white water rafting, and exploring the abundant marvels of this jewel of a nation, we are moving from activity to activity on our own air-conditioned bus with a professional driver. Every bus has a radio so we can listen to local tunes. But feel free to bring your own music to share with the group. If you have an Ipod or MP3, be sure to bring the necessary hook-ups. On some itineraries, an in-country flight rather than a long bus ride makes sense, which of course would be worked out with you as we collaborate on your itinerary.


What are the hikes like?

What better way to get to know a place than by walking through it with a knowledgeable local guide? You will be astonished at what a difference having a guide makes, in terms of seeing wildlife and gaining context for the terrain you experience. None of the hikes are too difficult for anyone in good health and moderate physical shape. We will collaborate with you to create the best balance of fun, physical challenge, and educational emphasis on each hike, so that it is congruent with your group’s interests and ability. We stop often along the way to rehydrate, take pictures and to check out the amazing plant and animal life our guides are so skilled at spotting and explaining!  The hikes we can offer feature dramatically varied terrain and ecosystems. We will never be hiking simply to get from Point A to Point B, but rather to experience the beauty and wonder of the places we visit with an educational mission in mind.


Do we need to know Spanish?

No! Though it can only add to your experience and help you to get to know the people better, it is not essential that you speak any Spanish at all. Many of our Tico (Costa Rican) collaborators speak at least some English. All of our guides and staff are bilingual and will help you with any communication issues.


This trip does provide you with a unique opportunity to learn some Spanish, even if you have never taken a Spanish class. Many of our students who arrive not knowing any Spanish leave eager to learn. For the students who have taken a Spanish course at any level, there will be plenty of opportunities to use the language in a meaningful way, allowing a genuine interaction with the local people. For the more advanced Spanish students, the CE/CRA guides encourage a leadership role by translating from Spanish to English or executing a specific task in Spanish during activities, restaurants, and hotel stays. Costa Ricans enjoy helping students learn Spanish.


Do we have free time?

While we aim to make the most of your carefully planned itinerary, we are very conscious of the pace of the journey and the need for a balance of activity, reflection, and downtime, and we plan with you accordingly. Furthermore, we “read” the group dynamic each day on expedition and work with you to make appropriate adjustments as the journey proceeds. In the planning process we calibrate the amount of free time you feel would best suit your group.


Can I workout at some point?

Of course most of our itineraries feature ample opportunity for physical exertion, but some of our students and teachers do enjoy extra opportunities to train or workout. Many of our guides are fine athletes themselves and will actually workout with you if you wish, or they’d be glad to point out opportunities to do so when and where you can.


Can we drink the water?

While the water in Costa Rica is generally safe to drink, we prefer to take the extra precaution of drinking bottled water. Of course, hydration is important in the tropics, so we provide large containers of purified bottled water for you to refill your personal water bottle or camelback device. There is always such a container on the bus and at our lodges for your use.


Do we need any shots?

We do recommend that each traveler consult with a physician before his or her trip to decide which prophylaxis is best for you. Several US governmental organizations recommend certain prophylaxis, including precautions for malaria and traveler’s diarrhea. We view health as a very personal issue, yet it is essential that we are aware of each student’s medical issues ahead of time, so we ask for such important information on the confidential online registration form.

(FYI: Center For Disease Control website:


Do I need a passport?

According to the Costa Rican Embassy, ( if you are a US citizen you should travel with a valid passport that will not expire within 90 days of your travel date. Please contact our office with specific questions regarding travel documents or consult the Passport Agency website. ( If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please consult with the Costa Rican consulate nearest you to determine whether you require a visa to enter the country. We would be happy to help you with this procedure.



What about tipping?

Tipping is customary for most service-based jobs, including guiding and bus driving in Costa Rica. We have included tips in your total land cost.


How much spending money do I need to bring?

The only spending money each participant will need is for any treats or souvenirs desired. $200-$250 has been more than enough for most past participants on a typical 12-day adventure. We recommend bringing cash — bills in small denominations (no larger than $20 and in good condition). These will be easier to exchange. In case of emergencies, some villages have ATMs. Virtually all places accept US dollars, but there will also be an opportunity to change money into Costa Rican colones  ($1 =~500 colones; exchange rates vary). To get a current rate, check:



How can I call home?

Calling home is a snap! You can purchase very reasonably priced calling cards in Costa Rica at almost any corner store.  Ask your guide to stop at a spot where you can buy the cards and use the phone. Calling cards purchased in the States or Canada rarely work when calling internationally from Costa Rica. We recommend against making collect calls or using credit card activated phones, as they are extremely expensive. Of course, in an emergency, we can get you to a phone quickly if the guide’s cell phone is not in service.


A note about cell phones/internet:

While we understand the desire to stay connected via phone/internet while traveling, we do not recommend bringing your cell phone to Costa Rica. However, it is ultimately your choice.  Not only is there the potential for your cell phone to get lost or damaged in the high humidity and rain, but calls made from cell phones are very expensive (and may not be a nice reminder of your trip when you receive the bill!).  Keep in mind that traveling by its very nature requires that we step out of our comfort zones and focus our attention and energy on the present experience. As hard as it may be to forego the frequent communication with friends and family we have all grown accustomed to, we highly encourage limiting phone calls in general to a short check-in/safe arrival/departure call made from a hotel phone using a calling card. When appropriate, there are opportunities to go online at some lodges and in some towns.