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Costa Rica 3 • July 14-July 27, 2018

A Final Farewell

July 27, 2018

Hello hello hello it’s us one last time from Costa Rica!  Today we sent the girls off their separate ways back to their homes.  Just like any other day on the trip, it was filled with smiles and laughter, however there was the added element of sadness in the air as goodbyes were said.  It was definitely difficult to watch the girls say goodbye to each other as they have formed such strong bonds and friendships in such a short period of time, but also rewarding to see how far the girls had come in just two weeks.


Yesterday, we made our way back to San Jose after leaving the beach.  Unfortunately, we got caught in some traffic but that didn’t stop the bus on the bus.  We passed the time by listening and singing at the top of our lungs to some old Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber songs.  Parents, don’t be surprised when your kids start screaming the lyrics to “Our Song” or “We are Never Getting Back Together” on the next big family road trip.  The time was also passed with difficult riddles, jokes, and reminiscing on different moments from the trip.  There truly was never a dull moment on the ride.  Once we made it back to San Jose it was time for banquet.  We filed into a local restaurant where we were treated to picadillo tacos, fish, pasta, and steak while listening to some traditional Costa Rica music.  After the fantastic dinner we headed to our hotel for one last special Moonup.  Before Moonup, we shared some awards (posted below) we had given to the girls based on each one’s personality and characteristics.  At Moonup the LODs probed the group on why we decided to come to Costa Rica and also what we thought we would take away from our time here which brought out some well-contemplated thoughts from everyone.


We have had such an incredible experience getting to spend this time with your girls. Thank you for sharing them with us and as always… ¡PURA VIDA!



For her high energy, hysterically absurd stories, and ability to bring smiles and laughter to the group…

Most likely to have a hilarious reality tv show about her life … Bailiegh


For her interest in skin care, her persuasive ways, and her appealing smile….

Most likely to be in a commercial for her new famous skincare line… Leah


For her artistic abilities, her determination, and of course, passion for fashion…

Most likely to design celebrities Met Gala outfits… Maeve


For her constant smile, positive attitude, and kind ways…

Least likely to make someone cry… Sophie


For her hilarious impressions, her awareness of pop culture, and her ability to make others listen to what she has to say…

Most likely to have a talk show… Lillian


For her ability to laugh off difficult challenges (especially that slippery mud slide!)

Most likely to take on a tough mudder race… Caroline A


For her love for the water and adventure, and her kind heart (not to mention also kinda looks like one)…

Most likely to become a mermaid… Ava


For her incredible skills on the board, her determination, and her total “beach look”….

Most likely to be a pro surfer… CShep


For her competitive nature and perseverance through any and all obstacles…

Most likely to win American ninja warrior… Jordan


For her “go with the flow” personality, beachy vibes, and easy-going attitude…

Most likely to live in a Hawaiian beach bungalow… AP


For her love of travel and ability to find joy and excitement in each small moment …

Most likely to travel to all 7 continents… Anne Shelton


For her creative perspective, love for music, and professional camera skills…

Most likely to be National Geographic’s GoPro videographer… Sarah


For her outgoing and persistently positive spirit, adventurous energy, and her Moondance pride…

Most likely to be a Moondance leader… Claudia

Surf's up!

July 26, 2018

Hey hey hey it’s us again!  We have spent the last few days shredding the waves and living large on the black sand beaches of Puerto Viejo.  After leaving the Pacuare River in the rear view mirror we headed to the Caribbean Coast.

On the the way to the beach we stopped at the Sloth Sanctuary for a quick tour.  The girls loved learning more about these fascinating animals.  We were lucky to be there while the Sloths were having lunch which provided us with plenty of action compared to their typical immobile state.  After checking in to the hotel we hit the beach in some awesome weather.  The girls ran to the water and spent time enjoying their new surroundings as the sun shined.  Ava and Claudia just could not get enough of the salt water and waves as they spent nearly all afternoon body surfing.  After a full day of fun we were treated to pizzas, something that many of the girls had been craving, for dinner.  That night we had the pleasure of being able to Moonup on the beach where Sophie and CShep, our LOD’s, challenged us to share the time in our life when we were the most scared.

As the sun rose the next morning the girls devoured pancakes, eggs, and fruit for breakfast at the hotel before heading out for the day.  We hopped on the bus and took a short drive to Cahuita National Park.  At the park, we went on a short hike on a trail where Juan Carlos pointed out many sloths, monkeys, and other animals.  Along the way, Caroline won the competition of pointing out the most animals on the trail.  After the short walk some of the girls wanted to take a swim in the ocean that bordered the trail.  We had to practically drag Jordan, Baileigh, Claudia, and Caroline out of the water when it was time to leave as they loved spending time in tranquil water.  After a great beachside lunch of sandwiches prepared by Juan Carlos, we set out on the town of Puerto Viejo in search of some souvenirs.  Sarah, CShep, Lillian, AP, and Maeve were sure to snag some funky headbands in order to commemorate their time in this magical country.  Leah found some great new bracelets too to add to her colorful collection.

After our time in town, the time had finally come for our long awaited surf lessons! Our awesome surfing instructors gave a quick demonstration then everyone quickly grabbed the boards and headed for the water.  The girls absolutely CRUSHED IT! Sophie was the first to stand up on the board and Sarah even whipped out some cool tricks, switching her feet mid-wave. During our surf competition the next morning, CShep and Lillian took the prize in the race to successfully paddle their own wave and stand up first. Everyone had a blast taking on one wave after another, gliding through these beautiful Costa Rican waters. After lessons, the surf guides cut up some refreshing fruit, some of which we had never even heard of before! Anne Shelton loved the “fruta de mono,” and of course some of our classic favorites like pineapple and mango disappeared in seconds. ¡Delicioso!

We’re off now back to San Jose, where our adventures all began. We’re definitely sad to see the time pass so quickly, but can’t wait to celebrate all of our fun at banquettonight!


Surf's up!

July 24, 2018

We’re back! We have had such an adventure and the girls cannot wait to tell you all about it! Since we last talked, we have successfully completed 30+ miles of hiking, rafted 2 rivers, and eaten the best food in Costa Rica!

After a special night full of entertainment in Mollejones, the group woke up eager to finish up our long journey and get to the river! After our final hike, we finally reached the Pacuare! After a important safety briefing and a delicious American lunch of sandwiches and fries, we boarded our rafts! The afternoon was full of smiles, laughs, and splashes, all we had hoped for after a long, muddy trek. Anne Shelton really loved getting out on the wild rapids, a little different than the man-made ones at North Carolina’s White Water Center! Leah showed her skills as a rafter, ones that she learned on her trip last year.  Amid our river adventures, we pulled up to a beautiful swimming hole hidden within the jungle. Ava could have stayed there for hours, swimming about and enjoying the refreshing break. Caroline A, Maeve, and Baileigh discovered the natural waterfall slide and just could not get enough, climbing up the rocks and slip sliding right on down one time after another.

After a beautiful afternoon on the river, we arrived at complete paradise. Hammocks, coaches, games, fancy showers, and BEDS!! After a relaxing night with an absolutely incredible dinner of mashed potatoes, chicken, grilled veggies, and amazing iced tea made by our guides, we cuddled up in the freshly clean sheets! After a little bit of a sleep in, the girls awoke to the smell of cinnamon pancakes (Jordan ate 10!), scrambled eggs, fruit, toast, and fresh orange juice! Yum!

To our surprise, we had a bit of a change of plans. Early morning the guides let us know that the Pacuare was too high and dangerous to raft today due to the heavy rainfall. With absolutely zero complaints, the girls grabbed their water bottles, put on their swimsuits and Chacos, and hiked out of our paradise campground. The girls were in great spirits the whole 2 mile hike out because it was absolutely GORGEOUS, and of course our rockin LODs Sarah and Claudia did a great job keeping the group motivated and enthusiastic all morning. We first walked along the river and then up through the rainforest where we met our bus driver. The girls hopped on and we traveled an hour away to the Pejibaye river which we were familiar with as it actually runs right by El Humo! Lillian was so excited, looking for our friend Davíd to wave to him as we drove by those familiar houses.

By early morning, we were crusin down another beautiful river in the Costa Rican sunshine. The river was delightful as we winded through the forest.  Each turn provided us with great views and even better rapids.  About half way through, we pulled over for a river lunch of sandwiches and wraps, chips & salsa, cookies, fresh fruit, and more!  We were also treated to a concoction called “river cheesecakes”, which Sophie really enjoyed trying.  With clear eyes and full tummies, we floated through the final rapids while looking at the beautiful scenery.

With sun kissed skin and tired faces, the group enjoyed another absolutely amazing dinner at another super cool river campsite. AP & Cshep crushes their plates of meat, rice, plantains, and a yummy salad! As you can imagine, the girls are ecstatic to hit the beach tomorrow and surf the waves!

This group is awesome and the girls have made friends they will have forever! We are so proud with how the handled the change of plans and it ended up being one of the best experiences! That’s all for now! Surfs up baby and of course, PURA VIDA BABY!

The girls wanted to say a quick hello!



Hi Mom, I’m still alive! Haha I’m having so much fun and I can’t wait to see you!  xoxo maeve ❤❤


Hey family, I saw a sloth, and I’m having so much fun here! I cannot wait to see you guys in a couple days – Sophie


Hey Mom and Dad, I am having so much fun and I can’t wait to see y’all !!! – Caroline s


Hey Mom and Dad, I miss y’all! I hope you have fun! Baileigh


Hey mom and dad, I miss y’all but I am having fun, can’t wait to see y’all-Caroline Atkins


Hey mom, dad, William and Patrick! I miss y’all so much and I’m having so much fun, everyone here is so nice. Love y’all so much!! – Lillian????????❤❤????????


Hi family, I am having a great time and seeing lots of awesome things! Miss y’all, tell Ruby I say hi!!! love, claudia????????


Hey mom, dad, and Macon… love and miss y’all…. I’m having a blast and can’t wait to see you!!! – asp


Hi mom dad & Hannah!!!! I miss y’all so much! I am having so much fun and I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it! See y’all soon! —Sarah ❤


Hey family! It’s ap! I’m having a great time Costa Rica is amazing and everyone here is so amazing. See y’all in a few days????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????hi Martha ❤❤❤❤❤❤ – Anna Parker


Hey family, I am having so much fun in Costa Rica! I miss you all so much and am excited to tell you guys about everything we are doing! Can’t wait to see you all in a couple of days! Love you 🙂 —Ava ps. I love Costa Rica bananas, who knew!


Hey mom, dad, and Colin!  I miss you guys but I’m having so much fun here!  I’ll see you soon!  — Jordan❤❤


HEY! Survived hiking yet again…not without being eaten alive though!! Having fun, love and see you soon:) xoxo Leah

WOW, What an Adventure Hiking in Costa Rica!

July 22, 2018

Hola from the mountains of Mollejones! Wow have things changed since we last talked. We are stronger, dirtier, and a whole lot closer as a group! We have hiked up, down, and all around the beautiful jungle of Costa Rica!


Day 1 we said goodbye to our van as we began our journey with water bottles, rain jackets, sunscreen, and a whole lot of excitement. Majority of our trek was spent alongside the beautiful Pacuare River which provided amazing views and thrilling river crossings. As we were making our way along the trail we ran into a beautiful man-made home alongside the river… home to a couple from Oregon, Paul and Lisa. There, we were able to put down our packs, kick off our shoes, and enjoy a delicious lunch of jelly croissants, crackers, apples, and cookies. Yum! Claudia snagged the hammock quickly as she kicked back and relaxed with an afternoon nap. The rest of the afternoon was spent telling riddles, jokes, and stories as we made our way to our first campsite above the clouds. Baileigh even taught us how to talk with our mouths closed, crazy stuff! After some much-needed rest, we enjoyed some delicious pork chops and mashed potatoes to fuel us for the next day’s trek. Just when we thought the day was done, Juan Carlos threw in an extra little surprise… hot chocolate! The perfect post hiking treat.


After a morning stretch, some delicious scrambled eggs, and a dance performance put on by local students, the girls were ready for day 2. Man was this day an adventure to remember! To say we were muddy would be a complete understatement. All day we were slippin’, slidin’, and laughing down the jungle mudslide. We enjoyed lunch by a refreshing swimming hole where Lillian and Maeve were first to jump in. By the end of the day Caroline A and AP were voted “muddiest hiker”, Ava was voted “best at saving a fall”, and Baileigh was voted “most entertaining fall”. The day was celebrated with some much needed and deserved showers and a surprise desert of crepes with ice cream and Nutella!!


The following morning, we were awoken to sunshine and moo-ing cows. After a little bit of a sleep-in and a big bowl of oatmeal the girls were ready to go! LODs (Caroline A and Ava) led the crew with a steady pace. Today was a day of gorgeous views and amazing wildlife. Once again lunch was spent by the river with some PB & Js and everyone’s new favorite candy, Yipees! Our afternoon brought quite the challenge, hiking the steep incline up from the river to our new mountain top home for the night (not to mention that crazy Costa Rican rain!) but these girls absolutely crushed it. CShep cruised along at the front of the pack, not letting any obstacle get in her way, and Sophie helped us keep spirits high, making the hike go even faster as we chatted about our dream places to live. Upon reaching our final destination, we kicked off those muddy boots and enjoyed some delicious hot chocolate and Oreos to celebrate another big accomplishment.


The fun didn’t stop there though! The kind people of Mollejones welcomed us with open arms, telling us all about the history of the village and then preparing us a delicious meal of rice, chicken, beans, and pico de gallo. Everyone was going back for seconds, thirds, and even fourths! Afterwards, some of the children performed traditional dances of the village, then handed their colorful skirts over to us to give the dance a try ourselves! Anne Shelton and Leah were quick to volunteer for the first dance, “Soy Tico,” excited to twirl about as the local girls had just done. Sarah and Jordan jumped in next for “Torito”, swooshing the skirts in every which way, and even throwing in some of their own fun improv moves, having a blast dancing alongside the girls of Mollejones.


With many wild and crazy miles of trail time behind us, we’re now off to the next big excitement… rafting the Pacuare! Catch ya on the flip side of those rapids!




Embracing the Pura Vida Culture!

July 20, 2018

!Hola from El Humo!  Wow have we been having a time! Where do we begin??

Our adventure kicked off in the bustling city of San Jose. We started the day with delicious pancakes and fresh fruit. We then journeyed up and down “Avenida Central,” checking out local markets, shops, and historical buildings. After some great exploring, we capped off our city time with a delicious Costa Rican lunch at a local restaurant (fun fact: they’ve been open over 100 years!). Claudia could not get over how delicious and different the rice and beans tasted in comparison to ours in the states. Our lunch was topped off with some refreshing ice cream, then we hit the road for a beautifully scenic van ride to our soon to be home, El Humo!

These past few days in El Humo, we’ve been working to renovate the homes of two local families. Everyone jumped straight into this service project with determination and enthusiasm. Ava and Sophie worked diligently to build a kitchen window, mastering their sawing and hammering skills… Maeve patiently took on the daunting cementing project, patching up holes in the house’s foundation… Anne Shelton and Sarah painted on the final coats of pink, green, and gray, making these houses some of the most vibrant on the street… C-Shep (Caroline S.) helped build a brand new gate door for the entrance to one of the homes… no task was too difficult for these tough gals!

After that first morning of construction, we were all so excited to get to visit the local school, dropping off all of the girls’ donations of toys, clothes, books, and so much more. There, everyone played one round after another of “Pato Pato Ganzo” (Duck Duck Goose) with all of the children. Jordan and Claudia even put their Spanish to the test, chatting with the students and learning all about their lives here in Costa Rica. After then handing out gifts to each student in the school, we parted ways, exchanging hugs with the many new friends we had just made that afternoon.

While staying in El Humo we’ve loved experiencing this incredible and interesting new culture. With sugar being one of Costa Rica’s biggest exports, we are surrounded by many sugar cane factories (or trapiches) and even visited one and saw the whole sugar production process in action! Baileigh could not get enough of the fresh sugar samples, making plans to buy her own block to bring home and make her cinnamon toast even more delicious! Ready for more fun after that sugar rush, we took a refreshing swim in the nearby river. That water sure was chilly but it felt so great to jump in after a hard day’s work! Lillian and Leah had a blast floating down the natural water slide created by the river’s current.

Our final day was spent working hard in order to complete the finishing touches on the two houses. Though there was plenty to do, these girls crushed it all! We tidied up some last minute paint jobs, put in a new shower door, finished building the kitchen window, and did everything we could to leave the families with new and improved homes!

After our hard work and delicious lunch of a local pasta dish, plantains, and fruit, the girls were excited to return back to the school to see their new friends! The students put on a traditional Costa Rican dance, a recorder performance to the Titantic theme song, and provided a delicious treat of arroz con leche. It was a perfect way to end our time in El Humo!

Our last night was a night to remember! To celebrate our hard work and new connections with the locals in El Humo, we had a fiesta! Music, a disco ball, tacos, ice cream, and Zumba…a perfect “Costa Rican Prom” as we liked to call it. Caroline A. and AP (Anna Parker) were quick to jump on the dance floor with our new best friend Davíd (the little boy who lives in the home we are working on)! We slept like angels after a long day of working, dancing, and eating!

After a long night of sleep, we packed our bags, took down our tents, and took off for our next adventure! Although it was hard to say bye to the lovely folks in El Humo, we cannot wait to see what the jungle trails have in store! Catch you guys at the end of the trek! PURA VIDA BABY!

Safe Arrival in Costa Rica!

July 14, 2018

Hello Costa Rica Families!

We have heard from our leaders, and all students have landed safely in San Jose. The trip is off to a great start. Stay tuned for more news from their adventures.

  • Moondance HQ


  • Caroline
  • Sarah
  • Sophie
  • Leah
  • Baileigh
  • Anna Parker
  • Ava
  • Claudia
  • Jordan
  • Anne
  • Caroline
  • Maeve
  • Lillian