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Costa Rica Venture : 3 • July 17-July 30, 2016

Goodbye Costa Rica!

July 31, 2016

What an incredible trip! We can’t believe it’s over!

We finished the trip on a very high note. Once we got back to Los Volcanes, our hotel in Alajuela, everyone cleaned up after an epic rafting excursion and prepared for our final dinner together. Some of the girls dressed up in goofy dresses before we walked to Coffee Dreams for banquet. We had one last meal of traditional Costa Rican casado, and headed back to our hotel. The final Moonup was very bittersweet, as everybody was thankful for the times we shared together, yet sad to be leaving the next day. We reminisced on our favorite moments, and eventually decided it was time to get some rest.

This morning, the students checked themselves in, and we said our goodbyes at security. Needless to say, we were very sad to see them go.

The past two weeks have flown by, and it’s tough to see these kids go.

Thank you so much for sharing them with us, and we hope they hold their time with Moondance dearly, as we certainly will. This was a very special group of students, for us especially as they helped to close out our summer on the best note possible. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these amazing people that we were so lucky to call or family.

All of our love and Pura Vida!

Love, Tess, Alex, and Ranny


Hola from Alajuela!!

July 30, 2016

Hola from Alajuela!!


We have just returned, a little sunburnt and much better rafters, from our two-day white water rafting trip on the mighty Rio Pacuare! On Thursday morning, we woke up in beautiful Turialba and met our guides, Steve, Irving, and Leo. After we packed up our bags, we hit the road and headed out for our put-in spot about thirty minutes away from our hotel. After a safety talk and distribution of gear, we were off! The first boat was Lindsey, Lisette, Miles, and Annsley, and the second held Alex, Pax, Phillip, and Cora. Lindy, Megan, Camryn, and Ranny took the third.

The first rapid, aptly named “Welcome to the Pacuare,” set the tone for a good first day of rafting. The first six kilometers of the Pacuare took us through some solid Class 3 rapids and had everyone comfortable with the river. By lunchtime we had made it to our stop for the day. The Pacuare River Lodge, perched just above the river, consists of a bunch of awesome bungalows and a common area with a kitchen, tons of chairs facing the river, and a hammock. After a lunch prepared for us by our guides, Alex, Ranny, Pax and Phillip set off on a quick hike to a waterfall pool. Pax, Alex and Ranny and Philip all took turns jumping off the waterfall and swimming around in the pool. It was a perfect way to cool off in the hot heat of the jungle. Meanwhile, back at camp, Lindsey, Tess and one of our guides was busy preparing a special cake for Phillip’s 18th birthday. Planning ahead with the info we’d given him, he had brought a Dutch oven on the river with him. Our guides really go above and beyond! Lindsey, Lindy, Lisette, Pax, Izzy, Megan and Tess all assisted in the baking process. Throughout the afternoon, everyone enjoyed relaxing in the sun along the river. Cora, Lindsey, Tess, Phillip, Pax and Annsley tried their hand at fishing. The only fishing equipment you need in Costa Rica is a spool, a hook, and some tortilla– who knew it was easy to catch dinner?! Others caught up on some reading and rest. The guys picked up where they left off in their Spades game, with Ranny and Philip mounting a miraculous comeback to level the playing field. As the sun set on the river, we enjoyed another great meal prepared by the guides. After dinner we celebrated Phillip’s extended birthday with some homemade pineapple upside down cake and classic vanilla. A peaceful MoonUp outside brought our first day on the river to a close.


We arose the next morning to the sound of the rushing rapids below. The rafting guides cooked us up a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes, and fruit. We then packed up and prepared for a full day of rafting. We were immediately welcomed back onto the river with a fun Class 3 that woke us right up faster than any caffeine could. It was a perfect day for rafting, with clear skies and a moderate river level. All three boats were tested by the Class 4s and 3s, but they all conquered them with confidence. Ranny, Megan, Lindy, and Camryn’s boat had a little too much fun trying to “surf” a hole, and took a surprising swim which everyone had a good laugh about. After clearing the meat of the rapids, the river led us into one of the most beautiful canyons any of us have ever seen. Many of us jumped into the calm blue waters and even drank from a waterfall that sprayed perfectly clean natural spring water. We then swam over to the bank for lunch. While the guides prepared sandwiches, Annsley, Alex, Phillip, and Pax had another go at fishing. Phillip managed to catch four Machaka! We scarfed down the lunch and got back to rafting. The rest of the trip was easy in comparison to the morning, and we glided all the way to the finish.


At the finish, we bid our goodbyes to our guides and the jungle and headed back to the mountains of Alajuela for one more night together!


Pura Vida!!

Love, Tess, Alex and Ranny

Greetings from Turrialba!

July 28, 2016

We just arrived, much tanner (and maybe a little burnt), at the Turrialtico lodge & hotel for the evening after an awesome time at the beach, and are preparing for our last section of the trip!

After an unforgettable experience in El Brujo, we met back up with our driver, Christian, and headed toward the Pacific Coast. About 6 miles before we arrived at our hotel in Uvita, we drove into a nearby beach town, Dominical for lunch. We ate at Del Mar Taco, a great little taco shop a block from the beach, getting our first taste of being “coastal”. We then checked into Nido del Halcon, our hotel for the next four nights. Once we had settled in, Megan, Lisette, Pax, Phillip and Lindsey all jumped into the pool.  Several games of sharks and minnows were played, but we put off any more until later because we all wanted to catch a beach sunset!  We all headed over to Playa Uvita, where we had our first of many sunset swims. It was truly magical diving through the waves at high tide during a sunset– we all swam with wonder.  We swam until it started to get dark, and then walked back to continue swimming in our hotel pool. After a long day of travel and swimming galore, we ate dinner and had another great MoonUp before hitting the hay.

The next morning, we all slept in til 9 (this is a big deal for us after all of those early mornings!) and then headed off for our first activity- sea kayaking! We met our guides, Diego and David, at the beach and we gazed out and saw where we’d be spending our morning. We would be heading toward the Whale’s Tale, a rocky peninsula in the shape of a whale’s tale that makes Uvita famous. We all got into two-person kayaks, and paddled out boat by boat. The waves were tame, allowing everybody to get out with little trouble. We paddled toward the Whale’s Tale, gliding over the rich blue water. Once we reached it, Diego helped us pull onto the shore by riding mild waves in. Luckily we had no wipeouts, although Cora and Annsley’s kayak caught a wave sideways, barely staying upright! Once everybody was ashore, we put on goggles and prepared to snorkel the reefs of Uvita.  Protected from waves by the front of the Whale’s Tale, we were able to easily swim around and sight lots of fish. Lindsey, our resident snorkeling expert, eagerly put her gear on and swam out into the ocean. She pointed out a starfish and many more colorful creatures, knowing the names of each. Izzy, Tess, Cora, Lindy, Camryn, Lisette, Myles and Pax swam around in the waves for a while. Pax even found a big conch shell he showed us all- there was a giant creature in it! After we’d had our fill of the waves, we headed back onto the beach for a quick snack break before heading back to the main beach area for lunch. After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved pool lounging and card games. Pax, Alex, Ranny and Phillip’s heated game of spades continued; the winner is still TBD. The girls opted to catch up on some reading and catching some rays on the perfect, sunny afternoon. Later in the evening, we headed back down to Playa Uvita for yet another sunset swim. It was the perfect way to cap off an awesome afternoon 🙂

The next morning, the girls and the leaders woke up a little bit early for a special surprise….we had all planned to surprise Phillip for his 18th birthday early in the morning- we were all eager to be the first ones to give him well wishes! So, we blew up balloons and grabbed birthday horns before busting into the boys’ room and waking Phillip up! He was shocked, to say the least! As were his roommates, Myles and Pax! After the initial surprise was over, we wandered over to breakfast and then continued the jollyness all the way over to Playa Uvita for our first morning of surfing. The surf was a little rough but everyone managed to get up. Pax got his rhythm back after three years away from surfing. Exhausted from being out in the ocean all morning everyone enjoyed a good lunch before heading over to neighboring Dominical to do some shopping at the surf shops along the beach and at a beachside market. Everyone was able to find something to help them remember Costa Rica. After shopping everyone headed back to the hotel for a little rest and then another sunset swim at the beach. Becoming a trend. Not letting Phillip forget that it was still his birthday, we surprised him with cake and candles at dinner. We didn’t stop there. Right before MoonUp we set up a piñata to really close out the day. Overall it was an awesome day of celebration. The next morning everyone had the chance to surf on their own. Compared to the first day of surfing, the waves were perfect. The wind was blowing out to sea creating some perfect rolling waves. Alex, Pax, Myles and Ranny ventured out further to catch some of the bigger waves. We packed it in a little earlier and headed to lunch in order to make it to our afternoon zip line tour in time. After driving a ways back up into the mountains everyone strapped up and headed down the line. Cora and Lindsey decided to push themselves and did some of the lines upside down. After nine zip lines, two repel stations and two swinging bridges everyone took a turn on the Tarzan swing. Adrenaline tapped, we all headed back down the mountain enjoying some beautiful views of the Pacific. After a full day of activities everyone appreciated a good dinner. Sleep came quickly after.

This morning came early, we were all up before six to grab a quick breakfast before we headed to the mangroves to do some SUPing. Ranny and Lisette lead the way, weaving through the mangrove forest, making our way out to the Turralba River. Cora, stuck with the smallest paddle board, had to fight with her balance at first but quickly got her feel for it. After making a quick loop and seeing some cool wildlife we were off the river. We headed back to the hotel to grab our things and begin the drive to Turrialba, our next stop.

We are here in beautiful Turialba, looking at the volcanoes in the distance, anxiously awaiting for our white water rafting adventure. It will be the perfect way to cap off our trip!

Until next time, Pura Vida!

Love Tess, Alex and Ranny

Adventures in the Jungle!

July 24, 2016

Hola from sunny Uvita!

We just completed our 5 night stay in lush and beautiful Buenaventura and were anxiously awaiting our next series of adventures. Last Sunday, we all met at the San Jose airport. The SJO airport is busy and chaotic, so we were all glad when our bus picked us up and delivered us to a little suburb just outside the city, Alajuela. After we dropped our bags, we headed over to Jalepeños, a local restaurant, to get some much needed lunch. After lunch, Tess headed back to the airport to greet the last member of our group— Cora! Once we were all back in Alajuela, the group quickly settled in for some much needed chatter and getting to know each other conversations. We had an early dinner at Coffee Dreams followed by our first MoonUp, where Izzy serenaded us with some music. After a long day of travel, we hit the hay early, ready to rest before our long day the next day.

Monday morning, we awoke and had a lovely breakfast in the courtyard of our hotel, Los Volcanes. After eating our fill, we piled back into the bus for the drive to Buenaventura, the home we would be staying in for the next 5 nights. Buenaventura is situated in the El Brujo community, about an hour’s drive outside the city of San Isidro. We arrived at Buenaventura around lunch time and met our host, Harlow. Harlow hails from San Francisco and followed his sister, Tamara, down to El Brujo in order to fulfill his dream of living in the jungle. Harlow and Tamara are both landowners in the Savegre River Valley, the most biodiverse area in Costa Rica where they’ve integrated their lives and businesses into El Brujo. For lunch, we headed across the river to Three Seeds, where Harlow’s sister, Tamara, greeted us at her restaurant and home. After a delicious lunch, we got a tour of her farm where we were able to taste the variety of fruits and vegetables that she grows. Always a highlight of the tour, everyone took turns having a taste of some of the hottest peppers out there. Without even realizing it, Megan took the largest bite out of a particularly spicy one, thinking it was a sweet pepper. She quickly realized otherwise. After our tour we settled into our homes down on Harlow’s property before closing the day out with one of Tamara’s best dishes, lasagna, followed by a fun MoonUp. The next morning was our first day of community service. After breakfast, we took off on our 2.5 mile walk down to the center of the El Brujo community. Our project for this trip would be aiding in making some much needed upgrades to the local church. Everyone started out by making quick work of a fresh coat of paint on the church’s exterior, avoiding the inconveniently placed bee hives…Lindy substituted as a ladder, working on some of the hard to reach spots. Then we set to work sanding down the neglected church pews and adding a fresh coat of varnish. After some hard work in the sun we all took to the soccer field. Having rained the previous day, everyone slipped around in the mud and took some pretty awesome falls, laughing through it all. Lisette proved that she is easily the best player in our group…and an asset to her team! Somewhat reluctantly, we headed back to Three Seeds for lunch and a chocolate making lesson from Tamara. All took turns grinding the chocolate, then turning it into brownies! Tamara also surprised us all with hot chocolate, which was loved by all. After a packed morning and afternoon, Alex, Ranny, Camryn, Megan, Lisette, Lindy, Pax, Annsley, Myles and Lindsey all cooled off in an awesome swimming hole protected from the rapids of the Savegre River. A chill afternoon gave way to another great dinner and MoonUp followed by a good nights sleep. The next day, we picked up right where we left off at the church, putting in hard work making all the church pews look like new. Megan even helped pour some concrete, El Brujo style. She stepped nto the holes where the columns would be built and mixed the concrete with her feet! The sun took it’s toll on everyone, but we all managed to fit another soccer game in. Since we hadn’t already gotten enough exercise everyone hit a jog back to Three Seeds to really earn their lunch– or maybe it was just hunger driving us there quickly. That afternoon Tamara taught us all how to make Salvadorian pupusas, a traditional dish from El Salvador, where she and Harlow grew up. The whole group took turns grinding the corn meal, but Myles truly let his strength shine as he ground out cornmeal the fastest.  Cora and Annsley did an awesome job cooking everyone’s papusas and fried plantains– much appreciated by all! Hard to believe, the next morning was our last of day community service. Before closing out our project, we all had the chance to stop by the school and meet the kids in the El Brujo community. Everyone took turns introducing themselves in Spanish, Lisette helping those who didn’t know any. Afterwards we all exchanged gifts and played a quick game of soccer before they had to return to their school day. We finished our community service project before saying our goodbyes to those we wouldn’t get a chance to see again. Afterwards, we trekked back to Three Seeds one more time for a big lunch to prepare us for an afternoon hike up to our campsite for the night.

After a hearty lunch, we headed up the mountain to our home for the evening. Phillip led the group up the trail and soon enough we were at our campsite. We were blessed with beautiful weather, and all of us caught the sunset on the clear evening. Lucky for us, we have a Boy Scout in our presence!! Pax was able to build a campfire for us, and after dinner we roasted marshmallows and made delicious s’mores. After an evening of laughter and ghost stories, we turned in to our tents and curled up for a long nights sleep.

We awoke the next morning to coffee and pancakes, which was the perfect breakfast to give us strength before our waterfall hike. After we’d packed up our camp, we headed downhill towards a beautiful waterfall. We swam around the pools, with Ranny, Pax, Alex, Myles and Cora discovering new ones in our midst. Harlow brought over a bag of clue clay and we began our transition to “avatars”. Camryn and Myles really took the avatar transformation to heart and covered their entire bodies in the clay.  We all had fun swimming and playing in the clay and after we’d had enough fun for the morning, we headed back down for a delicious lunch.  After lunch, the rainy afternoon was filled with card games, board games and lots of book reading. It was the perfect, relaxed afternoon after a long few days chocked full of activity.

This morning, we said our goodbyes to our Buenaventura and Three Seeds friends and traded in our rain gear for swimsuits.  Beach, here we come!

Til next time  Pura Vida!!

Love, Tess, Alex and Ranny


Camryn: Mom and Dad- I’m having a great time. Miss you guys, see you soon!

Megan: Mother- I really hope you’re having a good time in ATL and I hope everything is going well. See y’all in a week! Xo- Megs

Izzy: everything is cool. Hope you guys are well. See y’all soon.

Philip: everything is good, see you soon.

Annsley: so far so good. Kinda missing Memphis surprisingly. I will see y’all soon! Love you guys!

Lindsey: everything is awesome! Costa Rica is beautiful. See y’all soon.

Cora: thank you guys soo much for giving me the opportunity to come to Costa Rica! I love it here. We have to come back here. Hope everything is well at home. Love you guys and miss you guys so much! See you soon.

Pax: Dad- can’t wait for our trip when I get back. Hopefully get a few rounds in and drive. Mom- missing you and hope you’re enjoying your summer. Miles- love you little brother, missing you the most.

Lisette: hey mom and dad, Costa Rica is awesome! Today we got to the beach and left “El Brujo” where we were doing community service. I miss y’all and hope you are having fun at the beach! See y’all soon! Xoxo

Lindy: hey mom, dad, bailey, and Jack, hope the beach was good. Love and miss y’all. See ya soon.

Myles: Costa Rica is awesome, see y’all soon.