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2017 Costa Rica 10 Day Surf & Service Program

2017 Costa Rica 10 Day Surf & Service Program

2017 Costa Rica 10 Day Surf & Service Program

Program Type:Smithsonian Open Enrollment iconOpen Enrollment Learn More

Dates: July 6 - July 16, 2017  |  Tuition: $2,699 Tuition Details

Service Hours: 20

Enroll Now Make a Payment

Dear Families – Welcome to the homepage for the 2017 Costa Rica 10-Day Surf and Service Program! If this is your first time on this page, please read through the categories under Pre-Enrollment to learn more about this unique travel opportunity, or peruse the other categories as you like. Once you have enrolled, please check out the Post-Enrollment information. Around one month before departure, we will post the remaining information under Program Prep to review on a call with the entire group. We hope you will join us on the adventure of a lifetime in Costa Rica!

Program Highlights

  • Learn to surf from local professionals
  • Practice your Spanish language skills with locals
  • Contribute towards an environmental service project
View Full Itinerary

Smithsonian Student Adventures was created through a collaboration of the Smithsonian Institution and Walking Tree Travel. Although this video is branded as Walking Tree Travel, it encapsulates the mission and spirit that is present in all SSA programming.

Important Program Details

Click on the sections above to learn more

Program Itinerary

1USA-San JoséToday the group will travel from the USA to Costa Rica. Upon arrival, the group will settle into their hotel in San José for the evening.Pacandé
2San José-UvitaAfter a good night of rest, we'll have our first taste of Costa Rican food for breakfast. Then, we'll have our big orientation meeting to discuss the upcoming days in detail. We'll then pack our bags and head down to the beautiful Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. We'll settle into our beach hotel, watch the sunset on the beach, and have dinner at the hotel. Located a short walk from "Marino Ballena" National Park, the hotel will be our surf base for the next week. We'll be learning everything there is to know about surfing with our local friends. Tekal
3Uvita-Bahia BallenaToday we will be starting our service project in the morning. We will be working together with the Parque Nacional Marino Ballena and the local community to organize a project that will benefit both the park and the local community. Within the national park, students may work on reforestation efforts or trail maintenance. In the local community, we may work with the local school or community center. After our first morning of work, we will have our first surf lesson this afternoon. Never surfed before? No problem! Lessons will be tailored based on each student's surfing level. Tonight we'll have our first guest speaker who wil give us a lecture on local, and national wildlife conservation efforts. Our guest will show us the kind of research he/she conducts at the reserve with mammals such as monkeys, river otters, and kinkajous, and sloths. We'll take some time to reflect on our days before heading to bed.Tekal
4Uvita-Bahia BallenaToday we'll surf in the morning, and then continue working on our service project in the afternoon. In the evening, we will talk about the sport of surf in a global context learning about global competitions and how surfing varies around the world.Tekal
5Uvita-Bahia BallenaToday we will be doing service work in the morning, and then surfing in the afternoon. By evening, we will enjoy the sunset on the beach and take a private yoga class before dinner. Tonight we'll have our second guest speaker from Reserva Playa Tortuga who will introduce us to their environmental education campaings the reserve conducts yearlong with local schoolsTekal
6Uvita-Bahia BallenaAfter breakfast, we'll hike thorugh the forest to a nearby waterfall. In the afternoon. We will be able to relax, take a swim and eat lunch at the waterfall. This afternoon, we'll continue our service work in the community. Tonight we'll have our third guest speaker who will speak about sustainable development , and how tourism effects the local environment and economy in both positive and negative ways.Tekal
7Uvita-Bahia BallenaToday we'll wake up at sunrise and meet our local friends for an early morning surf session . In the afternoon, we'll have a relaxing day at the beach or on the pool of the hotel. We will also have a private Spanish lesson tonight combined with a scavenger hunt in town to put our language skills to use.Tekal
8Uvita-Bahia BallenaToday we'll be kayaking at the National Park to visit the famous whale-tail rock formation at the far end of the beach. During low tide, a natural rock formation which looks like a giant whale tail becomes visible. Its one of just a handfull of places in the world where such a phenomenon occurs. Once in there, we'll also have a chance to snorkel in the beautiful Pacific waters around us. In the afternoon we'll finish our service work in time for a farewell fiesta with our surf instructors and members of the comunity.Tekal
9Uvita-San JoséToday we say good-bye to all of our local friends and make our way along the coast back to San José. In the evening we'll have a farewell dinner before our international departure the following morning.Tekal
10San José-USAFly homeHome

Philosophy Of Travel

Our mission is to inspire the next generation to become global leaders by taking an active interest in the world around them. With a dedication to learning, along with an enduring passion for exploring the world, Smithsonian Student Adventures designs transformative and meaningful travel programs that uncover the authentic culture of each destination and inspire students to take action in their local and global community.

Smithsonian Student Adventures stands for a more open, curious, and compassionate approach to travel. We partner with select schools around the world to provide memorable small-group experiences, and invest in cultivating and maintaining longterm relationships with our partner communities. If you are interested in our organization and philosophy of travel, click here to learn more about us.


San José: www.hotelpacande.com


Camping and Cabinas Tekal: http://tripadvisor.com/tekal


Standards of Behavior

SSA 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.


  1. Possessing, consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  2. Associating with participants while they are in possession of or are consuming or distributing alcohol or illegal drugs
  3. 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.


  1. Getting a piercing or tattoo
  2. Stealing, or deliberately damaging or defacing any personal property, buildings or materials
  3. Threatening with or using weapons such as firearms, knives, explosives, etc.
  4. Riding mopeds, motorcycles, or any other type of unauthorized vehicle
  5. Being out of designated area or accommodations after curfew
  6. 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 SSA.

Tuition & Fundraising

Tuition Includes:
all accommodations, basic travel insurance, 3 meals per day, drinking water, ground transportation, group activity and entry fees, full time leadership team and taxes and tips.

Tuition Excludes:
International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.

We believe that cost should not prevent enthusiastic students from having the opportunity to join an SSA program. We are pleased to offer opportunities for fundraising and payment plans to help make this goal a reality. Please visit our Tuition and Funding page to find out more about tuition, fundraising, payment options, referral discounts, and more.

Passport & Visa Check

Passport must be valid for six months after the final day of your travel program, including one open visa page.
No Visa Requirements for US Citizens traveling to Costa Rica.

Non US citizens should check with their country’s embassy abroad to verify vaccination and visa requirements.
US citizens traveling from a country other than the United States should check the State Department website (www.travel.state.gov) for more information regarding additional visa or vaccine requirements.

Please contact us for further information regarding vaccination and visa requirements.

Health and Safety

Our in-country staff prepare meticulously for all programs. SSA will register our programs and travelers with the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in case of emergency. In country staff also verify the safety records of our partner organizations, vendors, and transportation providers, thoroughly vet homestay families via in depth interviews and home visits, and keep up on important current events in the region.

Program Leaders are seasoned travelers who are CPR and First Aid certified, undergo thorough training in crisis management, and participate in a multi-day leadership training retreat. We do our best to prepare for any eventuality and have detailed emergency protocols for our leaders, in-country staff and U.S.-based staff.

We receive medical disclosures from all participants to ensure we are able to meet every students’ needs during the program. Please inform us immediately of any additional health issues that you did not list during your initial registration process. Program Leaders will also hold an online information session before your departure, as well as an arrival orientation in-country, in order to give participants important instructions on food safety, hygiene and preventing injury and illness. Leaders and in-country staff always respond immediately to any mental, physical or emotional health issues and follow comprehensive emergency protocols.

Vaccination information and requirements can change frequently. Because of this, and for more information, we suggest that you consult your local travel clinic and/or family physician for specific details.

Travel Insurance

Our experience has taught us that international travel can sometimes be unpredictable. As such, SSA will purchase basic secondary travel and medical insurance for all SSA travelers via Travel Insured International. This service provides the following coverage at no additional cost to our participants:


$500 Return Airfare for Trip Interruption
$750 ($150 per day) Trip Delay of six hours or more
$500 (Three or more hours) Missed Connection
$1500 ($250 per article) Baggage/Personal Effects
$300 Baggage Delay – 24 hours
$25,000 Accident & Sickness Medical Expense
$100,000 Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation
Emergency Assistance Non-insurance Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services Included

Once you have been accepted onto your program, SSA will be in touch regarding this insurance and other additional options (see below).


The following additional optional coverage upgrades are available upon request for an additional premium charge to the traveler. For further information on the premiums associated with these optional coverage enhancements, please email your inquiry to our travel insurance program administrator, Hayashi Insurance Solutions: travelinsurance@jshinsurance.com

– Trip Cancellation Coverage – Reimburses the traveler up to the trip cost insured up to a maximum of $10,000 per person if the trip must be cancelled for unforeseeable life events including but not limited to; medical/health reasons, bereavement, etc.

– Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) – Reimburses the traveler for 75% of the non-refundable trip cost. Cancellation must be made 48 hours or more prior to scheduled departure. Must be purchased at the same time as initial plan purchase and prior to final trip payment. *This benefit is not available to residents of New York State.

The Plan is administered by Hayashi Insurance Solutions (CA DOI 0F61680) a licensed Insurance Agency authorized to transact this insurance under the express authority of Travel Insured International, Inc. and its representatives, and on behalf of Walking Tree Travel, Inc. The Plan contains insurance benefits underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company. Fairmont Specialty and Crum & Forster are registered trademarks of United States Fire Insurance Company. The Crum & Forster group of companies is rated A (Excellent) by AM Best Company 2015. The Plan also contains non insurance Travel Assistance Services that are provided by an independent organization, OnCall International, and not by United States Fire Insurance Company or Travel Insured International. Review the Plan Document for complete terms, including benefits, conditions, limitations and exclusions that apply. Coverages may vary and not all coverage is available in all jurisdictions.

Global Leadership Curriculum

Walking Tree Travel has developed a curriculum that helps SSA travelers mature as global leaders before, during, and after their travel program. These simple, engaging tools are meant to spark discussion, frame their experience, and prepare them to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future. For more information about student learning objectives and the format of the Walking Tree Travel Global Leadership Curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More

Language Resources


Want to learn a new language and be better prepared for your travel program? Duolingo is the easiest, most entertaining way to start learning and using a new language right away! The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to communicate with locals in your host country and help your fellow travelers navigate a foreign environment.

Tap the Duolingo owl to get started, or download the app to your mobile phone.

duolingo owl logo

Group Flight Information

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.

STA Travel will help our families and travelers book their round trip travel between their home city and our host countries. We are excited to offer this premium service to our participants so that we can focus on what we do best – providing meaningful adventures around the world, and STA can focus on helping our 

Open Enrollment participants are responsible for booking and paying for their own international flights. 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 877-777-8717. 

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. 

Here’s how to proceed:

Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 877-777-8717 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 info@SmithsonianSA.com
  • Enjoy the support and ease that comes with this new partnership!

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 Delta 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.

                                                  -CHAPERONED GROUP FLIGHT INFORMATION-

Airline: Delta
Flight: 325
Date: July 6, 2017
Departs: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 5:45pm
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:40pm

Airline: Delta
Flight: 902
Date: July 16, 2017
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:20am
Arrives: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 1:18pm

2. Book your own flight to the host country.

For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or earlier (no more than 3 hours), 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. 

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.

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.

Leader Profile

SSA will send a minimum of two experienced Program Leaders on every Open Enrollment Program. In addition to these Program Leaders, we also have an Airport Liaison who will be in the departure city airport to gather the group and help with any flight delays, as well as various staff (including a Country Director) in our host country and in our headquarters in Denver, Colorado that are standing by 24/7 to support the group as needed. Please check out the below bios of some of the people on your programs support team.

  • Esteban Arguedas Country Operations, Costa Rica Operations

    Earlham College – B.A. Non-Profit and Business Administration, Minor in French

    Born and raised in Costa Rica, Esteban has spent the last seven years of his life traveling around the world and fostering his education in the U.S. Esteban has a strong background in cross-cultural education and developing business projects that strive for sustainable and social development. While attending college in Indiana, Esteban spent a semester abroad in France. During his free time Esteban loves reading, playing soccer, surfing, hiking, drinking a good cup of coffee, and dancing to Latino rhythms. These days Esteban has moved back to Costa Rica and loves leading awesome SSA programs in his home country!

    • Juan Pablo Rabanales Lau Program Leader

      Born and raised with a big family in Guatemala, JP spent seven years living and studying in the US where he was exposed to highly diverse communities. JP worked as a Wilderness Leader guiding expeditions in the Southwest of the US. After spending two years in New Mexico studying the International Baccalaureate, he moved to Indiana where he spent the next four years at Earlham College. His passion for international affairs brought him to spend a semester in China, and several other Southeast Asian countries. During his time abroad, he spent his summers traveling and backpacking through 15+ different countries, and participating in several service projects. Today JP is based back in his home country where he teaches English to young adults. Juan Pablo also enjoys hosting friends and travelers coming to Guatemala. He’s always down for an exciting road-trip around the country, or even better, around Latin America. A long time art and design enthusiast, and a photography aficionado.

      • Stephanie Collens Program Leader

        Drake University, B.S in International Business,
        Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), M.A in International Education

        Steph’s passion for traveling, adventure, studying languages and learning about other cultures
        began when she graduated high school. Steph grew up in New York City, was always an adventurous
        outdoors kid, worked as a lifeguard during the summers, and foreign language was always her best subject in school. She decided to save the money earned from high school lifeguarding and go study Spanish in Costa Rica for one month as a high school graduation present to herself. From there she was hooked! In college she studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for 8 months and Morocco for 4 months. Graduating in 2008 with a hurting US economy, Steph decided to try her luck abroad. She spent 8 months living in Israel working on a Kibbutz. The backpacking culture of Israel is contagious, and after her stay she followed some Israeli friends to India, where she spent 6 months backpacking throughout the entire subcontinent of India, all by bus and train! Nearly 5 years later, the backpacking bug caught Steph again, as she picked up to spend 6 months on a backpacking loop through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. Professionally, all of Steph’s work experience is in the field of International
        Education in some way or another. She feels this is the perfect place for her – in this field she is able to
        share her love of travel, languages, culture exploration and understanding with others all while working! She has worked extensively with the University of California San Diego and the educational travel company EF Education First. In her free time, she likes to surf, hike, rock climb, camp, travel, and listen to live music.

        • Zulia Daly Airport Liaison

          University of Georgia – MMEd – Music Education
          Zuly Diaz, a first generation Cuban-American, has been an avid traveler and musician since an early age. After completing undergraduate work at Berry College, Zuly began working as a corporate travel agent and children’s theatre coach. This experience sparked the desire to work with students full time leading her to earn her master’s at UGA. Since 2009, Zuly has worked with low-income students to make music and create dramas. In addition to her work in the public school, she has volunteered as a teacher leader traveling with students from all over the world in student leadership experiences. Zuly has traveled herself to over two dozen countries. These travels have allowed her to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities including singing at Carnegie Hall.

          Group Roster

          Please have all travelers check below to ensure their name appears below and is spelled correctly. For edits, email lacey@SmithsonianSA.com.

          1. Diego Zertuche
          2. Briana Ballard
          3. Ruby Jarvis
          4. Taylor Gull
          5. Carter Thomas
          6. Kelsey Midgett
          7. Keyeion Ashley
          8. Nicholas Wright
          9. Joseph Berke
          10. Steven DeVoe
          11. Madison LaBrec
          12. Laura Menon
          13. Blake Edwards
          14. Kera Paul
          15. Elise Lambert

          Community & Project Details

          This is where your host community information will appear, along with your community project, if applicable to your program.

          Communication & Blog

          The easiest way for students to keep in touch with family and friends at home while traveling will be using Wifi (available at most hotels and some restaurants) via Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.

          SSA tries to keep families and friends updated as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, they should direct all general inquiries to info@SmithsonianSA.com. 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.

          Here is the link to your blog: https://smithsonianstudentadventures.com/2017-costa-rica-10-day-surf-service-program/

          Packing List

          10 pairs of underwear
          10 pairs of socks (a mixture of good hiking socks and casual socks)
          5 t-shirts (some quick dry)
          2 long sleeve shirts
          1-2 rash-guards
          1-2 swimsuits
          1 sweater
          1 rain jacket or plastic poncho
          2-3 pairs of travel/athletic shorts that are breathable and light
          2 pairs of comfortable/light/everyday pants (NOT all jeans)
          1 nice shirt/top to be worn to more formal dinners (girls might want a skirt or something a little nicer for such occasions, boys may want to opt for a polo shirt or button up shirt with jeans)
          1 pair of durable athletic/hiking shoes
          1 pair of sandals (Chaco/Teva/Merril sandals are great to have for water activities)
          1 pair of work gloves – required for service work
          1 hat

          Sunscreen (you will use a lot)
          Mosquito repellent
          Band Aids and Neosporin
          Icy Hot Ointment
          Hand Sanitizer
          Small, personal/travel-size first-aid kit (Program Leader will have large, fully stocked kit).
          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.

          Plastic trash bag to separate wet clothes from dry
          Journal and pen
          Camera (digital, disposable, waterproof)
          Alarm Clock and watch
          Debit card/US Dollars (we recommend about $50-$150, depending on amount of desired souvenirs, extra items etc.)
          Durable water bottle (absolutely mandatory!)
          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!

          Tuition Details

          Tuition Includes:
          all accommodations, basic travel insurance, 3 meals per day, drinking water, ground transportation, group activity and entry fees, full time leadership team and taxes and tips.

          Tuition Excludes:
           International airfare, baggage fees, airline minor fees, personal shopping, passport or visa fees, and activities not listed on the itinerary.

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