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2017 Costa Rica Venture 3 • July 15-July 28, 2017

Not goodbye, just hasta luego!

July 28, 2017

As we waved goodbye to everyone as they walked through security, Julia, Jimmy, and I couldn’t help but reflect on what a journey it is has been! The last time we were all in the airport, awkward conversations filled the air. But this time, everyone spoke with one another as if they had known each other for years. New, long-lasting friendships were formed and we couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them for overcoming the obstacles they did. 

Robert was a picture of strength throughout the trip whether we were hauling cement or hiking up steep mountains. We know much of his strength came from his experience with the fire department and we look forward to seeing where his service as a fire fighter takes him in the coming years. Emmy’s strength derived from her positive nature and desire to chase adventure in all circumstances. She shared that her favorite word was together, but we think, “Yes” takes the cake as she never turned away from an opportunity. 

Campbell and Alex proved lasting friendships can be formed in a matter of two short weeks. These two shared countless funny moments together and kept the group laughing more times than we can count. Celia also kept the group laughing and taught us all the importance of having a deck of cards close by at all times. Down time would not have been the same without her persistence on teaching everyone Montana Solitaire, Spit, or James Bond. 

Max, a true athlete, conquered each activity with supposed ease. He surfed like a pro, paddled strong, hiked fast, and zip lined/jumped from cliffs without fear. Watching him thrive was fun and reminded us all to try our best. Chandler reminded us of the importance of laughter and love. She laughed in the face of almost everything, even while hiking steep mountains, and found joy in simplicity. 

Liz, wise beyond her years, led with incredible maturity and always had a wise word to share with the group. Most notably, she truly embodied living in the moment and often reminded us all to, “Be where your feet are.” Andrew proved his worth as a budding actor with hilarious nug jug skits while he was LOD. He would also often surprise us with his creativity and quippy comments.

And last but not least, Vinnie and Kathryn brought a sense of unmatched lightheartedness to the group. They both lifted spirits through music, laughter, and countless stories. Our days would not have been as bright without them.

We are lucky to have had each and every one of these students and will miss them greatly as they travel home! We hope they continue to share their strengths with those they surround themselves with and grow daily. This isn’t goodbye, just hasta luego! 


Jimmy, Julia, and Maddie

Sayonara Costa Rica!

July 28, 2017

The Pacuare River has been defeated! We accomplished rafting down class 1-4 rapids safely and with many laughs! We started out by playing in a swimming hole and venturing under waterfalls. Of course, each swimming hole isn’t touched unless we’ve all belly flopped into it creating our best splash. Liz boldly made a great splash and started the encouragement for the group to be brave and swim under the waterfall. Everyone enjoyed the refreshing water and beautiful views as well. 

We started rafting and were lucky to have such strong teams in each raft take us safely down the strong rapids. Our next stop was a jumping rock to swim across to our snacks for. Max and Robert bravely led the way and fought the current to reward themselves to some snacks. After some fueling up we headed towards another swimming hole. Maddie and Celia were lucky enough to see the oldest plant in the world, prehistoric! 

After we finished up our first day of hitting the rapids we made it to our river lodge. Each room has a beautiful view of the river looking into the jungle. Here we saw many toucans and humming birds. Jimmy, Julia, and Emmy went on another waterfall hike soaking up the last full day of adventure in Costa Rica. Many games were played and Andrew taught us a new card game called golf that everyone enjoyed. 

Once night fell our helpful LOD, Vinnie, set up an intricate dinner display of candles, fruit, and flowers. We filled up our bellies and had a fun Moonup of discussing what our inventions would be. This kept us laughing and chatting into the night. Vinnie also showed us a tarantula and viper. We’ve gotten to experience all types of wildlife during our time here! 

This morning we enjoyed our last moments at the lodge by playing games and soaking up the view. Chandler and Kathryn were our last two LOD’s so they were very thoughtful and helped everyone get ready in the morning. We made our way back towards the river and began the last part of the river. 

We had many brave souls on the river ride down rapids on the front. Alex, Celia, Chandler, Emmy, Liz, Robert, and Max all rode the bull! Stopping at our last waterfall Alex probably won the belly flopping contest. Campbell and Alex climbed under the waterfall and slid down only to laugh the whole way. 

Needless to say, everyone had a blast today together! We all made the most of each adventure and sang our way back to San Jose. Tonight we will have a banquet dinner and reminisce on all the good times and memories we’ve made thanks to Costa Rica! The Pacuare River has been defeated! We accomplished rafting down class 1-4 rapids safely and with many laughs! We started out by playing in a swimming hole and venturing under waterfalls. Of course, each swimming hole isn’t touched unless we’ve all belly flopped into it creating our best splash. Liz boldly made a great splash and started the encouragement for the group to be brave and swim under the waterfall. Everyone enjoyed the refreshing water and beautiful views as well. 

Beach Vibes in Costa Rica!

July 26, 2017

Well, the tides have turned (quite literally) and we have now had the chance to sea kayak, snorkel, surf and more! Sea kayaking turned out to be an incredible adventure. Our day started with pouring rain and clouds, which are normal during the rainy season here, so, of course, we embraced and danced in it. We all jumped in the ocean before our journey out to the “whale’s tail” of Uvita beach. The coral rocks that make up the beach form the shape of the whale’s tail when the tide is low. The view can really only be seen from above, hence where it got the name. Kayaking posed a fun challenge to get through the waves. Once out in the open ocean, to our surprise, the sun came out and the clouds cleared up. This revealed the beautiful mountains and surrounding islands beyond the horizon of the ocean. We were stunned by the view and the beautiful turquoise water. 

Once we paddled out to the whale’s tail, we got our snorkel gear on and headed for the reef. We lucked out on the weather once it stopped raining because the water was clear and calm. We saw all sorts of wildlife on the reef. Campbell found a shrimp hole and showed it to the group. Robert saw many starfish and pointed them out as well. There were parrot fish, angel fish, sea urchins, and the list goes on. Once the tide started to come back up, we hopped in our kayaks and headed back to the beach. Celia and Chandler gave us all a laugh when their kayak flipped on their way back into the ocean. They recovered fine, but looking back, all we saw was their legs in the air and the kayak flipped over. They quickly hopped aboard and paddled up to us. We then had lunch and prepared for an afternoon just enjoying the amazing coastline of this country.

After snorkeling, the group took a break and then headed out for an afternoon of fun at a local beach, Las Ventanas.  We were fortunate to arrive during high tide, which allowed for body surfing and wave jumping.  Alex, Vinnie, and Andrew were able to catch a couple of big waves, riding all the way into the shore, impressing the local beach goers! 

The next morning, we woke up to our first surfing session! Kathryn made surfing look easy for her first time by standing up and riding a wave all the way in with Julia. Everyone was having a blast out there getting pummeled by the waves. It was refreshing to get the chance to splash in the waves with everyone early in the morning. We all had a chance at standing up a few times and then headed in for lunch. After lunch, we were ready to zip through the jungle! 

Max bravely led the way on the zip-line tour while running across each Tarzan bridge as well. Liz definitely had a blast, even though she was a little hesitant on the dangling bridge, but she made it. Emmy, an adventurous spirit, was excited to push the limits of safety and danger on each zipline. She flipped upside down and sped through the canopy. 

This morning we had our second surf session. Needless to say, it was a blast. Emmy caught a great wave to shore which was super rewarding to see her pure bliss of excitement. Everyone enjoyed paddling out to the biggest wave they could take and ride in on party waves together. The sun was out and the beach was an incredible last memory of the Pacific Ocean down in Costa Rica. 

Waterfalls, Hikes, and More!

July 24, 2017

After another adventurous ride in the open air taxis, we took to the mountain for an afternoon hike. We gained over 2,500 feet in under 2 miles. It was an intense hike that we all look back on as an amazing accomplishment. Once we made it to the top, we soaked in the grandeur of the cave and waterfalls. The group then laid down for a quick nap before taking on another hike to a natural pool and waterfall. Campbell, Alex, and Andrew kept up with our guide as he pushed us up the mountain. The three boys were also the first to boldly jump off the 20 foot waterfall into the cold pool below and we all followed suit shortly after. Max didn’t hesitate to jump and even added a 180 twist on his third jump. It was clear he was a natural. Vinnie even jumped in with her clothes on as she decided she couldn’t pass up such a fun activity. The water was rather frigid but we all jumped several times anyway. After we got our adrenaline fill we hiked back down the mountain. On the way, Emmy eagerly ate a termite and reported it tasted like a carrot. She then encouraged us down the mountain after hearing cookies were waiting for us at the bottom. We were all excited to devour dessert after a day’s worth of hard work. As the night went on, we gathered around for card games, jam sessions, and connect four. Liz and Campbell offered to help the guides make dinner and executed their duties perfectly. They helped make garlic bread and tomato sauce for a delicious spaghetti dinner, which we all ate with delight. 

The next morning, we awoke to the sun shining in the cave and a lizard above Kathryn’s head! She laughed about it for quite some time. Her squeals also helped wake everyone up so we could all get ready for a morning hike to the top of a 600 foot waterfall. The views were vast and simply beautiful as we looked out over a valley. We could even see the ocean! We then said, ‘see ya soon’ to the waves and prepared ourselves to hike back down the mountain. Celia and Chandler brought up the caboose and sang and danced the whole way down. Those two have a way of brightening any activity and making us all laugh when we need it most. 

Maykol, our amazing bus driver, met us at the bottom of the mountain and surprised us with Tritz,Costa Rican ice cream sandwiches! We were all thrilled and could not have been more grateful for a refreshing snack after a long hike. They also helped carry us all over to lunch which everyone devoured as soon as we arrived in Uvita! On our way to lunch, we saw a sloth and a howler monkey! Jimmy howled at the monkey and it responded which left us all in a fit of laughter. 

An afternoon of paddle boarding atop clear river water followed after lunch. The river led to the beach which got everyone excited for the days to come. As everyone paddled back, Robert climbed up a tree on the bank and took a leap into the water. We all cheered and watched as Max, Campbell, and Alex followed suit. Our group has a way of adding a little extra spice to each adventure and it definitely keeps us all on our toes and excited for what is to come. Up next, we’ll be sea kayaking, surfing, and zip-lining! We’re more excited than ever and can’t wait to report back about our time in the ocean and canopy! Hasta luego!

Service Success

July 21, 2017

Bienvenido a Pura Vida!

We have survived and thrived in the jungle over the past week and could not be more excited to clue you in on all the happenings!

We began our journey with pizza in the San Jose airport as we waited for everyone to arrive. Everyone trickled in and we headed to our first stay. Getting to know each other by taking over the pool was a fun start to our journey so far. The first Moonup was out at the pool where we discussed why we were all here. Vinnie and Andrew were selected as the first LOD’s (leaders of the day) since they both arrived with open and inviting attitudes for everyone to relate to.

The next day was our first full day together heading towards El Brujo for the community service section of our trip. We curved our way through the Pan-American highway where we stopped at the highest point. We listened to music and watched bikers race along the highway as well which was an interesting cultural experience. Finally, we got to our open air taxis and sang our way into the jungle village at Buenaventura where we have been staying at our welcoming eco-lodge. Even the bugs give us a friendly welcome into their abode. It is certainly impossible to forget you are living in the dense jungle while there are large frogs, lizards, birds, cows, ants, and mosquitos among our sleeping arrangements. Vinnie was our first hero to help a large frog out of the patio area. He was the size of her head but she fearlessly let him back into his yard while we laughed and shrieked at his exotic size. 

We enjoyed a local fresh lunch at our personal restaurant called three seeds. Everything from the salad to the beans and fresh juice is all made from the garden on the property. We took a tour of everything and sampled all her exotic plants. Max enjoyed the hot peppers with no problem while Campbell ate them while yelling and fighting back tears. We all certainly got a good laugh and no doubt some good footage of this experience. After the tour, we squeezed sugar cane into juice which was fun to try as well. 

The next day was our first day of community service. We took a long walk down to the community center where we help out the locals with some projects. The walk is on a dirt road which allows us to chat and bond while admiring the views of the jungle with a beautiful blue raging river beside us. We worked on building a wheelchair bathroom ramp for the church in the village. This entailed some hard work which everyone gave their all while also communicating in Spanish with the locals. Chandler didn’t hesitate to practice her Spanish. Even though the accent wasn’t quite there, everyone enjoyed and was impressed with her efforts. Robert really cracked down and basically led the group with his skills in construction. After putting in some hard work we enjoyed a soccer game with the kids. The soccer field isn’t like any soccer field, it’s an incredibly breathtaking view of rolling hills in the jungle and, lucky for us, clear blue skies. Payson showed off her soccer skills as the goalie and gave everyone a run for their shot at MVP. The first day was fun and exhausting but we finished it up with some chocolate making. We can’t think of a more delicious way to end the day! The chocolate for the brownies was made from the local cocoa plants and sends your taste buds to cloud nine. 

Our second day of community service was definitely the most physically challenging. We mixed and poured cement to build the wheelchair ramp. Hard work has never felt so good knowing those in the community will use it every week. The sweat even paid off as we were able to jump in the river after lunch for a good swim. Everyone enjoyed jumping in the current and letting it carry them down river a few feet. As the evening went on we all took a much-needed rest before our next cooking class. This time, we made traditional Salvadorian pupusas! Emmy lead the charge by grinding corn, forming the pupusas, and cooking each and every one on the 200-year old wood burning stove. We were thankful for Emmy’s hard work as we devoured the pupusas for dinner shortly after. 

We woke up to another beautiful day in the jungle for our last day of service. After making the 45-minute trek for the last time, we arrived to fun tasks such as painting, planting a few bushes, and playing soccer with the kids. We left our mark in the community center by painting a big, bold ‘Pura Vida’ on the bathroom wall. Jack took point on spicing it up with some 3D effects and helped add a world with the Moondance logo in the middle. Everyone then gathered around and left their handprints in a circle around the world. The final product was a real piece of art left the community with smiles on their face. Alex bonded with many of the children and played a few games of soccer with each. Hearing a little voice call for Alex became the norm after a while. Before we left, the community surprised us with some ice cream that we all devoured. After a few thank yous and good byes we walked back to Buenaventura with some pep in our step knowing we left a lasting impact and new journeys were ahead. Lunch and a surprise soccer game at 3 Seeds followed which lifted everyone in to high spirits. Back at the house, Celia taught Emmy, Jimmy, and Maddie how to play the card game Montana Solitaire which became a big hit. Cards were flying everywhere for the next few hours as everyone took a rest and played some Uno before dinner. Best of all, dinner was brought to the house and followed by s’mores and a campfire. Needless to say, s’more quickly became a highlight despite the attack by a cicada gone wild. Everyone was in hysterics and laughed for quite some time.

Our last day at Buenaventura was an adventurous one. After a slow start, we threw on our bathing suits and hiked up the mountain in our backyard to a natural pool and waterfall. We splashed around for a while before transforming in to Avatars with natural blue clay. Kathryn and Liz took to the clay without hesitation and were completely blue within minutes. Once the clay was dry, we rubbed it off to completely exfoliate our skin and feel refreshed for the hike back. The rest of the day was consumed with soccer, playing with the local kids, dance parties, and cards. It was a sweet, sweet day of lasts and saying goodbye to new lifelong friends. 

Now we’re hopping back in the open air taxis to make our way to Diamantes Falls! Check back soon for updates on our adventures up the mountain!



Payson — Hey Mom, Dad, Nina, Paul, sisters, and Jimmy! I miss you all so much, can’t wait to see you! I love you all so much. OA

Kathryn — Hey Mom, Marty, and Henry! I can’t wait to see y’all and miss y’all so much. I can’t wait to tell y’all all the stories. Love y’all so much and see you in a week. 

Vinnie — Hey Mommy and Dad, miss you guys so much! Hope everyone is safe, I have met so many new people and can’t wait to see you guys. Love y’all!

Liz — Love and miss y’all!! Kt I hope you’re reading this.

Emmy — Hi Mom, Dad, Jimmy, and Dani! Love y’all and miss y’all!! I’m having so much fun here and I can’t wait to see you! Happy Birthday Dani! I hope 13 feels great! Love y’all!

Celia — Hey Mom, Dad, Abbie, and Gia! I miss y’all so much but I’m having a ton of fun. See y’all soon!

Campbell — Hey Mom, Dad, MP, Finlay, Sawyer, Thomas, and John! I’m having a lot of fun and hope you all are as well. I’ve made a bunch of friends and am really happy you got me to go on this trip. Love and miss you all!

Robert — Hey Mom, Dad, Jacquí, and Grace! Hope all of y’all are safe. Miss and love y’all! See you soon.

Max — Hey Mom, having fun! Miss you!

Alex — Hey Mom, Dad, Anna, and Sandy! I have been having a great time and looking forward to more activities in the upcoming week. Miss you and can’t wait to see you guys soon.

Jack — Dear Mom and Dad, I’m happy to see you soon!

Andrew — Dear Mom, Dad, and Nonnie, I’m having a great time here in Costa Rica and looking forward to the rest of the trip! Can’t wait to see all of you soon!

Chandler — Dear Mom and Dad, we have a ton of wonderful people here! Miss y’all so much and love you a ton! See you soon! 

Safe Arrival!

July 15, 2017

Hi Costa Rica Venture Families!

 The group arrived safely in San Jose, Costa Rica this afternoon and are eager to start the adventure that lies ahead. Stay tuned for more updates!

-The Moondance Team


  • Kathryn
  • Chandler
  • Max
  • Andrew
  • Emmy
  • Robert
  • Celia
  • Liz
  • Vinnie
  • Campbell
  • Alex