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Costa Rica: Surf and Service Session 2

Costa Rica: Surf and Service Session 2

Costa Rica: Surf and Service Session 2

Program Type:Smithsonian Open Enrollment iconOpen Enrollment Learn More

Dates: August 1st - August 10th, 2018  |  Tuition: $2,790 Tuition Details

Service Hours: 30 Service hours

SSA Contact: 

Morrison Mast, morrison@walkingtree.org, 202-792-8953

Enroll Now Make a Payment

Dear Families – Welcome to the homepage for the Costa Rica: Surf and Service Program Session 2! 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

Aug 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.Casa Maki
Aug 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. El Tecal
Aug 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.El Tecal
Aug 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.El Tecal
Aug 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 schoolsEl Tecal
Aug 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.El Tecal
Aug 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.El Tecal
Aug 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.El Tecal
Aug 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.Casa Maki
Aug 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: Casa Maki

Uvita: El Tecal 


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

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. 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.


Travel Insurance

While we work hard to ensure the safest experience possible for our travelers while on program, experience has taught us that travel is never without risk. For this reason, we suggest you consider purchasing travel insurance which would cover you in the event your student needs to withdraw before travel due to a covered reason, loses baggage in route or encounters an emergency while traveling, among other unforeseen circumstances. Please see a summary of a plan below and follow the link for a more detailed explanation or to purchase the plan for your traveler.

Trip Cancellation Up to 100% of Trip Cost
Reimburses your prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you must cancel your trip due to a covered reason.
Maximum coverage: $100,000.

Trip Interruption Up to 150% of Trip Cost
Reimburses for the unused, non-refundable portion of your trip and for the increased transportation costs it takes for you to return home or to continue your trip due to a covered reason. Maximum coverage: $150,000.

Missed Connection $1,600
Reimburses for covered expenses resulting from a covered delay that causes you to miss your scheduled flight or cruise.

Travel Delay $1,600
Receive up to $200 per day per person to cover additional accommodation/travel expenses and lost prepaid expenses due to a departure delay of six or more hours.

Medical Protection: 
Emergency Medical and Dental $50,000
-This primary coverage provides reimbursement for expenses incurred during your trip due to covered medical and dental emergencies. No deductible.
-$750 maximum for emergency dental care.

Baggage Protection
Baggage Loss/Damage $2,000
Covers loss, damage or theft of baggage and personal effects.

Baggage Delay $600
Covers the reasonable additional purchase of essential items during your trip if your baggage is delayed or misdirected by a common carrier for 24 hours or more. Receipts for emergency purchases are required.

Assistance Services
Emergency Medical Transportation $1,000,000
Provides medically necessary transportation to the nearest appropriate facility following a covered injury or illness. Also covers the cost of your transportation back home following a covered injury or illness.

24-Hour Hotline Help Included
Help is just a phone call away with Allianz Global Assistance. Our staff of multilingual problem solvers is available to help you with a medical, legal or travel-related emergency.

*Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company (OH, Administrative Office: Oakbrook Terrace, IL), rated “A­” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Co., under BCS Form No. 52.201 series or 52.401 series, or Jefferson Insurance Company (NY, Administrative Office: Richmond, VA), rated “A+” (Superior) by A.M. Best Co., under Jefferson Form No. 101­C series or 101­P series, depending on your state of residence. Plan(s) may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are marks of AGA Service Company or its affiliates. AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of this plan and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson InsuranceCompany. Non­Insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at 800­284­8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or customerservice@allianzassistance.com.

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 the experience, and prepare participants to travel ethically and effectively both on our programs and in the future.

For more information about student learning objectives and format of the curriculum, click on the ‘learn more’ button below.

Learn More About the GLC

To view and complete the Pre-Program Activities, visit Walking Tree’s online portal at the button below.

Pre-Program Activity Portal

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. To learn more about STA as an organization, please check out their website at www.statravel.com.

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.

Open Enrollment participants are responsible for booking and paying for their own international flights. You have two options for making your flight arrangements:

1. (Preferred) Book a seat on the chaperoned international group flight.

Each Open Enrollment program has a suggested, chaperoned, group flight that will depart from a designated departure city in the United States and arrive to the destination country. Participants on these flights will have the support of our on-scene Airport Liaison as well as an accompanying Program Leader, on-flight. The Airport Liaison will help gather, coordinate and direct the arrival and departure of our participants in the airport and the Program Leader will accompany the group to and from the host country while on the flight. The vast majority of our travelers choose this option. 

The following information is for the chaperoned group flights for this program:

Flight: DL325
Date: August 1, 2018
Departs: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 5:50pm
Arrives: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:53pm

Flight: DL902
Date: August 10, 2018
Departs: San Jose, Costa Rica (SJO) at 7:00am
Arrives: Atlanta, Georgia (ATL) at 1:07pm

Here’s how to proceed:

Call our dedicated representative at STA Travel at 800-781-4040 to learn about your booking options.

  • Tell the agent you are a Smithsonian Student Adventures participant, the full name of the program you are traveling on and your program travel dates. They will walk you through the details of your flight options.
  • Once you know your flight options, you can book directly with STA or on your own to travel to the host country.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: Should you elect not to travel on the suggested, chaperoned, group flight please email your complete flight reservation to flights@SmithsonianSA.com

Program participants should meet the airpot liaison at the below airline check-in counter three hours before the international flight. If you are traveling on a connecting flight from your home destination, you will meet your flight chaperone at the boarding gate for your international flight. If you have trouble locating the group, please contact Smithsonian Student Adventures at our 24/7 emergency hotline: 303-997-0310.

2. Book your own flight to the host country.

For this option we require travelers to arrive at the same time, or 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 for either a Program Leader or the Country Director meet them when they land in the host country. If a participant arrives more than three hours before the group chaperoned flight, we will have in-country staff pick them up, but a $100 fee will apply.

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 800-781-4040.

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.

  • Carlos Hidalgo
    Carlos Hidalgo Assistant Costa Rica Country Director

    Born and raised in Costa Rica, Carlos is still going after his studies in computer science at UNED and Nursing at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Carlos has been working with Walking Tree Travel since the beginning of 2018, planning and doing logistics for all Costa Rica programs during the summer. During his free time Carlos enjoys reading, researching on new technology and nature, and planning his next trip to a different country. Carlos loves to travel and is passionate about big cities, he has visited Mexico, New York and Panama. These days Carlos is still focused in his studies, technology and giving his best in which ever project comes his way.

    • Sara Lavell
      Sara Lavell Costa Rica Country Director

      Universidad de Costa Rica – B.Sc. Geography

      Proudly born a ”tica” with a British father and a Panamanian mother, Sara was raised in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sara started traveling the world at a young age and has visited 4 continents. Passionate about conservation, sustainable development and education Sara spent her college years volunteering in different communities during mid-term vacations and later found herself sharing some of her interests with US students and volunteers traveling all over Central America. Nowadays, Sara is finishing her master’s degree in Planning with an emphasis on Socioeconomic Project Management. When she is not busy you can find her spending time outdoors, reading, laughing with her friends or cooking with her family.

      • Carlos Andres Hidalgo Sanchez Program Leader
        • Laura Schroeder Program Leader

          Lewis & Clark College, B.A. Sociology/Anthropology; minor in Environmental Studies

          A trip to Costa Rica with classmates as an 8th grader marked the beginning of a love affair with the Spanish language and Latin American culture for Laura. Since then, she has traveled throughout the Americas. She moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon to attend school at Lewis & Clark College. While at Lewis & Clark, she took courses in both Spanish and Mandarin and participated in a language intensive study abroad program in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. While abroad, she interned at a fair wage garment factory and taught English and technology courses in a rural village. Last summer, she planned and led a 3 week volunteer trip to Oropesa, Peru in collaboration with the National Registration Center for Study Abroad (NRCSA), where she and fellow volunteers from across the United States built an outdoor oven and tutored at a children’s home. For the past year, Laura has worked at a university in Tunja, Colombia through a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant. When she is not traveling or learning about other cultures, Laura enjoys trail running, hiking, and collaging. She is excited to embark on another trip with Walking Tree to Costa Rica this summer!

          Group Roster

          Please have all travelers check to ensure that their name is spelled correctly. If you have any questions or edits please contact Lacey Merkel at lacey@walkingtree.org.

          1. Luc Mollard
          2. Miles Hickey
          3. Grace Bandercan
          4. James Andrade
          5. Emma DeHaven
          6. America Porras Baquera
          7. Victoria Dullingham
          8. Julia Kisslinger
          9. Katherine Grisham (Junior Leader)
          10. Walker Smith

          Community & Project Details

          Student will be working with the local National Park authorities to assist in current projects.  These may include, but are not limited to: beach cleanup, signage creation, trail maintenance, and construction.

          Communication & Blog

          Travelers will be able to keep in touch with family and friends at home by using Wifi (when available at hotels and restaurants) via Whatsapp, Skype, and Wechat for free.

          During the program we keep families and friends updated on the group’s adventures as frequently as possible with text and photo blogs. If parents would like updates regarding the group beyond these blog posts and email updates, please 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. In case of an emergency, please dial 303-997-0310.

          To access the group’s blog, click here.

          Photos which appear in the blog will become available after the program ends. We will send out a link to the photo gallery, where you will have access to view and download as many of the photos as you like!

          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


          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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