July 22, 2023
It is with heavy hearts and a lot of tears that after twelve amazing days together in Costa Rica and Belize it’s time for our group to say our goodbyes and head home. After settling down for our first day of scuba not too long ago, the group took advantage of the lodging amenities and made their way into the pool at the wonderful Royal Rat. This was a spot that became a prominent hangout location throughout our time in Belize. With a big day of scuba diving ahead of us, the group feasted on cheese and pepperoni Pizzas that brought comforting smiles to everyone’s faces. After finishing up the night with an awesome dinner and a few group games, everyone headed to bed with anticipation for the awesome week to come!
With an early wake up call and some great eats for breakfast, the group got sun-screened up ready to attack the day. We headed to Splash Dive Center for a quick refresher and dive debriefing before heading to Laughing Bird Caye to complete the beginners scuba training. The group boarded upon the Splash Scuba boat and got comfortable for our hour and fifteen minute ride to Laughing bird! When we arrived, we had a quick debrief from the park ranger and then we were off! The group did an amazing job leaning on each other to settle the nerves of trying something new, and getting adjusted to spending their day breathing under water. While jumping off the boat after our first dive, the captain of our boat, Princess Alisa, pointed out some shadows basking in the waters before us. Piper, eager as can be, dove in head first to swim with a curious pod of manatees. This was a moment I know will last a lifetime. After wrapping up an amazing day on Laughing Bird training, relaxing, and playing games, the group headed to dinner at the Tipsy Tuna. Favorited by the locals, the Tipsy Tuna is a lively beachfront restaurant in Placencia village surrounded by local small businesses. Walking through town gave the group the opportunity to get a glimpse into village life in Placencia, Belize. Soon after dinner, the group headed to the most delicious Gelato spot, Tutti Fruiti. The kids had a blast trying a new flavor for every stop at Tutti Fruti throughout the week. Ezra, obsessed with every flavor he tried, was adamant that he got seconds, and even thirds on each trip! The group also enjoyed their time watching the local kids dominate a game of pickup on the basketball courts right across from Tutti Fruiti. Following an awesome night spent in the village, it was back to the Royal Rat for Moonup and an early bedtime.
Our next day was our first full day of deep water dives. A beautiful boat ride once again landed us at Laughing Bird Caye, a Belizean oceanic National Park. Elizabeth and Lila always kept the energy high as they sang their hearts out to their favorite tunes the whole way. This dynamic duo was always bursting with positivity, joy, and excitement for the day to come. With anchors down, we put our gear on and jumped straight into the clear ocean blues below us! Not only did we practice our newly mastered skills, but we also got to see some incredible marine life. From Nurse Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Lobsters, to Spotted Eagle Rays, and Crabs; there was never a dull moment on a dive. In between dives we enjoyed a delicious lunch on the beach that included chicken, meatballs, rice, and a crowd favorite fruit punch. Soon after a long day of diving, the kids managed to get in some much needed naps on the boat ride home, no matter how choppy the water was. When we got back, the group was instructed on how to properly clean and disassemble their gear before heading back to the Royal Rat.
The next few days of scuba went by in the blink of an eye! With dives at Laughing Bird, Salt Water, and Silk Caye, the group got to experience some truly amazing oceanic wonders. On our third day in Belize, the group explored the depths of the sea with a dive at Silk Caye. On our first dive of the morning the group was blessed with sights of sharks, hawksbill sea turtles, moray eels, lobsters, spotted rays, and so many more breathtaking species. Stuart and Jack, two of the most enthusiastic divers in the group, treated every dive as an opportunity for adventure. From jumping off the boat before and after dives, playing games 40 feet underwater, or taking in the beautiful ocean environments around them, Jack and Stewart were always having a blast. That afternoon, we ventured to the Sirenian Bay hotel and resort to enjoy an afternoon poolside. It was here that the group played a competitive game of silent submarine. During our time spent at Sirenian Bay, Owen was all smiles ear to ear as he soaked in the rays diving and belly flopping into the cool refreshing pool. The group refueled their energy during an unbelievable dinner and some sweet treats before it was time for a surprise. After dinner the kids took part in an intense game of 18 hole mini-golf. It was here that Elizabeth landed a hole in one! The group was all ecstatic at this moment.
On our final day in Belize, the group woke up early and boarded the GoSea Nautical Adventures Catamaran, setting sail to Moho Caye. On the way there, Frances took advantage of the beautiful UV rays and sprawled out on the nets of the boat! Frances always looks forward to spending time with the group on the boat rides that are without fail, nothing short of entertaining. As we approached the island, the crew anchored down, and the group swam to the beautiful white sand shore. The kids took an adventurous route into the water, jumping off the top of the beautiful catamaran. As she jumped into the crystal clear waters, Claire was radiating happiness, taking in all the memories of our last day. Our time on Moho Caye consisted of some very funny games of beach volleyball, swimming with a very friendly stingray, and a beautiful beachfront barbecue. Ty had an especially great time playing beach volleyball with the boys, and laughed as he and Liam spiked it as hard as possible. Our time on the island went by fast, but we enjoyed the amazing ride back as the whole group sipped on pineapple coconut juice while laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
When we got to the mainland, we explored more local shops as the kids walked around looking for souvenirs to commemorate the trip. The group ventured back to our favorite spot, the Tipsy Tuna, for our final banquet meal! Kate was especially excited to get the chicken sandwich she had been waiting for all week! Kate always finds excitement and joy in the little things, a quality that is truly special! After dinner, we obviously had to hit up our favorite ice cream shop, Tutti Fruiti, and devour one last sweet treat! The group took in every last bite of ice cream before having to say their goodbyes to the locals. After our goodbyes, the group headed home to pack up for the travel day ahead. Once the group was packed and showered, we shared one very special final Moonup together led by our LODS Lila and Ezra. With the quote of the night, “don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened”, the group reflected on our time well spent together making memories that we know will last a lifetime. This was a Moonup like no other, and the group continued to share their favorite stories and highlights of the trip. Vivian, once again, had the group in cackling laughter. It is evident from our time spent together that Vivian is a joy maker, and gives the gift of laughter to everyone around her.
As we head to the airport, Liam and I are in awe of the twelve unbelievably amazing kids we have had the pleasure of getting to know and love over the past two weeks. It is crazy to think that this group was strangers just two weeks ago. Every day was spent learning from their kindness, compassion, and strength that reminds us all of the power of living every moment to the fullest.
It’s not a goodbye, just a see you later!
Ava & Liam
July 17, 2023
Hi Moondance Families!!
After a long day of travel we have arrived in Placencia, Belize. The past two days spent on the Pacuare river have been full of adventure and excitement. We started off our rafting journey with a forty-five minute white water rafting session to the Rios Rafting Eco Lodge, located on the river bank of the Pacuare. With some of the most beautiful rapids in Costa Rica, the river offers a deeper look into the country’s luscious ecosystems. Although the group fought some very chilly weather during a brief rainstorm, the kids kept spirits high by reminding themselves of the precious memories they were making. During our rafting session, our river guides taught the students how to practice the recovery position in the event of slipping overboard. Owen, a repeat rafter, was eager to jump into the refreshing water, and was able to quickly get himself back into his raft.
After arriving at the lodge, the group settled in for an afternoon of much needed rest and relaxation. The day was full of card games such as Mao and ERS as well as Connect 4 and some good old exploration. While the girls stayed back to enjoy some peaceful naps in the hammocks, Liam and the boys took advantage of the opportunity to explore the luscious Costa Rican rainforest that surrounds the Pacuare. Ezra was extremely enthusiastic about their adventure hike, and couldn’t wait to share their stories with the rest of the group. Back on the riverbank, the girls spotted some Howler monkeys traveling through the treetops in search of fresh water. In this moment, Kate, Lila, and Elizabeth were quick to race over to the edge of the porch to get another glimpse of the monkeys around us.
Following an amazing time on the riverbank, the group chilled out to their favorite tunes while swinging in the hammocks to the breeze of the river rapids below. During this time, Ty treated some of the students to some pineapple-coconut smoothies which will for sure not be their last! Ty’s kindness towards others does not go unnoticed as he is always there to help his friends and keep the group laughing. As the sun set, the group enjoyed a delicious dinner of steak tacos and veggies followed by a local favorite, chocolate chip rice pudding. With full bellies and happy face’s we continued the night with Moonup. Our riverside Moonup was an awesome bonding experience as the kids were able to share and be vulnerable within the group. It is truly remarkable for Liam and I to see just how close this group has gotten in a short amount of time. After Moonup, we ended the night with an entertaining game of Mafia before heading to bed.
Clear minds and anticipation for the day ahead was evident as the group fueled up on breakfast, prepping for the six category four rapids to come. We loaded into the rafts and set off on our riverside adventure! Although the rapids could be intimidating at times, Vivian stepped up to the plate and conquered the waves as she paddled like her life depended on it. Vivian is always ready to step up to the plate and meet a challenge head on! Halfway through the days three-hour rafting session, the outfitters set up a tasty waterfront lunch of fresh sandwiches, wraps, fruit, and cookies! Piper enthusiastic as always, was quite literally obsessed with the cookies, and smiled as she loaded up her plate. Although the heat continued to beat down on us, the group was all smiles to load up and get back on the water. In between rapids, Frances and Jack showed off their cool tricks as they jumped off the rafts into the frigid waters below. The water may have been cold, but the sun sure was hot. The perfect balance of temperatures made for an awesome afternoon of rafting. After finishing up paddling down the river for the day, we had a quick shower and headed back to San Jose for our last night in Costa Rica.
On our way back, we made a snack stop to reward the groups phenomenal behavior all week. The group has continued to show not only their maturity, but pure joy as they were pushed out of their comfort zones during our time in Costa Rica. Claire kept the whole group laughing as she queued up some group sing-alongs for our journey back to San Jose. Her positively radiant attitude has been constant throughout the whole trip! When then arrived at the Adventure Inn, we said bye to our amazing bus driver, Micheal, who transported us during our time in Costa Rica. The kids all took a special liking to Micheal, who took every opportunity to make our time spent in Costa Rica nothing but special.
After a long day of rafting and driving, the group feasted on a delicious dinner of Pizza, Pasta, or Chicken back at the Adventure Inn. Of course, we had to finish off dinner with a special cake to celebrate and commemorate our last night in Costa Rica. Stuart couldn’t help himself and had to get seconds on the amazing cake. During Moonup that night, the whole group was full of laughter as we reminisced on our favorite moments from the week! With a super early wake-up for airport day the next morning, the group headed to bed dreaming about the adventures to come.
As our alarms went off in the wee hours of the morning, the group woke up surprisingly ready to attack the day. It was during our travel day that the group really showed off their maturity in how they handled not one, not two, but THREE security check lines, THREE customs lines, two flights, and a three-hour bus ride to arrive at our destination in Belize. We are so impressed by this group and the high morale they maintained even as the chaotic travel day took a toll.
Once we got settled, we were finally able to have some much-needed relaxation by the pool and enjoy a delicious pizza dinner. We are ecstatic about our Scuba Diving journey to come, and our fun surprises along the way.
Until next time,
Ava and Liam
July 14, 2023
To pick back up where we left off the group began the third day of our adventure with an early wake up in Uvita! After suiting up for the day we took a brisk walk to meet our surfing instructors at La Play Uvita! Despite the early morning, the group was excited and energized by the beautiful beach. With joyful smiles ear to ear, Piper and Ty were the first to stand up on their boards. Although the group struggled at times while facing the challenges of the strong current, Ezra continued to push through until he caught a great wave that made all the extra hard work totally worth it! It was awesome seeing Stuart shred the waves with the owner of La Playa. Stuart has been surfing for quite some time and had a blast destroying every wave he encountered. At the end of surfing we headed back to the hostel, packed our things, and enjoyed a quick breakfast before loading into the bus for San Isidro! Our breakfast was a highlight of the day as the group got to chow down on some unbelievably delicious Belgian waffles.
On the bus ride to San Isidro we enjoyed the beautiful views while listening to some of the groups favorite tunes and sing-alongs. For lunch, we stopped at Bazooka’s, a must stop spot for locals and tourists. Here we enjoyed a delicious lunch and some tasty frozen drinks. Vivian and Claire were super thrilled to see the frozen treats available on the menu and were very happy with their chocolate milkshakes, enjoying every last sip! After lunch we were off again! We departed from Bazooka’s, met our transfers, and headed for El Brujo, a Costa Rican rain forest oasis. On the drive into El Brujo, the kids packed into the back of blue and green Land Cruisers. This drive is a very special moment for the groups, as they get to appreciate the once in a lifetime views visible while driving into El Brujo. Although the drive was lengthy, Lila and Kate couldn’t help but take in every moment, singing their hearts out to their favorite throwback songs. This was a moment the group continued to talk about during our time in Buenaventura. As we approached our final destination in the clouds, there wasn’t a moment where Elizabeth wasn’t wearing a smile from ear to ear. This is not an uncommon occurrence as Elizabeth is always radiating positivity to the group. Although the ride was bumpy, it was a carefree memory we will never forget.
We arrived to El Brujo and were greeted by Harlow, our guide during our time in Costa Rica, and the owner of Buenaventura. In order the reach the property, the group crossed a bridge that stretches far and wide over the white water rapids. Here, the group showed off their bravery as they took their first few steps over the rushing water, each step with more excitement than the one before. From there we split into teams for our volunteering section of the trip. The group spent the next hour mixing fertilizer and planting seeds to harvest Cacao. The group had an especially good time tasting the fruit where chocolate comes from! Ty absolutely loved trying a new fruit and continued to go back for seconds! After rinsing off in a refreshing cold shower, we headed to Harlow’s house to cook Papusas, a delicacy of his home land, El Salvador. Jack was a great sous chef as he filled his corn meal dough with handfuls of fresh monetary jack cheese. Not only were they delicious, but it was also quite entertaining to watch. The Papusas were a crowd favorite and were served with unbelievably tasty veggies, beans, and rice!
The next morning we started the day early with breakfast, followed by a forty-five minute hike to the local village. Upon arrival we enjoyed snacks of fresh fruit, cookies, and juice to fuel up for the afternoon activities ahead. After our snack, we proceeded to excavate rocks from the river and transport them for pickup. These rocks and stones will be used to build a water filtration system for the village of El Brujo. Of course we had to finish up the days hard work with an intense round of soccer! Owen was an absolute baller and was a serious competitor in the game as he showed off his soccer skills. While returning to El Brujo, we wandered across a natural spring and couldn’t help but jump in to escape the Costa Rican heat! Frances was especially excited and immediately submerged herself in the ice cold waters. Frances is a joy maker, and is always ready to make everyone smile. Our day in El Brujo was more than we could ever have asked for. The kids had a blast immersing themselves into the environment as they learned new skills from the culture around us. We finished our last night in Buenaventura with a chocolate making class taught by our fearless leader Harlow. During the class, Kate was quick to help the group crack open all the extra cacao seeds laying around. Kate is always quick to offer a helping hand and assist those around her.
We woke up the next morning full of anticipation for the Blue Clay Avatar Waterfall adventure! In order to reach the waterfall, the group hiked another 45 minutes up the mountainside. While the hike was steep, and at times very challenging, the morale of the group remained high. The waterfall was a great way to cool off and relax as the kids played in the water and covered themselves head-to-toe in the magical blue clay. Lila presented herself as the artist of the group as she painted fun designs on herself and those around her! The day created memories that will for sure last a lifetime.
As we finish our time in Buenaventura we are excited for what is next! We are currently on our way to Turrialba, getting ready for the beautiful day of rafting to come. We obviously had to surprise the group with an ice cream stop on the way. Piper helped out the group by ordering ice cream for everyone in Spanish! Piper is always there with a helping hand no matter what (especially to offer help with her amazing Spanish speaking skills).
With rafting and scuba diving ahead of us, we have so much to look forward to! Liam and I have had such an amazing time getting to know such an awesome group of kids and cannot wait for the rest.
Ava and Liam
Kate: hey mom and dad!! It has been so much fun and I miss y’all! We are having a great time and everyone here is so nice!! I hope y’all are having so much fun in Charleviox with Andrew! Love y’all, YTBMADITWEUTIL❤️
Piper: hey guys!! Hope bram is having an amazing time in Ecuador! Thank you guys for letting me go it is soooooooo much fun I can’t even tell u!! Love u guys ❤️❤️
Jack: yo waddup guys! How y’all doin, I’m pretty good. I’m having fun here, the most fun I’ve had was zip line and surfing 🏄♂️! Gotta go now goodbye, love y’all! ❤️🤠🦖
Frances: Hey Mom! I miss you all so much, but I’m so glad I decided to stick it out! Hug LeLe, Sam, and Googie extra tight! I love you all so much and we’re having so much fun! Can’t wait to tell you all about it
Vivian: heyyyy mom and dad!! Hope you guys are having fun at home🤗 I had so much fun ziplining and surfing!! I miss you guys so much and tell eda I miss her when she gets home from camp!! Love you, can’t wait for Cali💗
Claire: Hiii! I miss you guys. We are having so much fun here and the food is amazing ☺️ I hope you’re having a great time on your trip!!!! Love you, Claire ZT🥰
Stuart: what’s up guys, the trip has been awesome, tomorrow we are going rafting. We all got to go surfing one day at some beach and the waves were pretty fun it was like couple feet overhead and I long boarded, but love you guys ❤️
Owen: what up. It has been a great trip so far with a lot of laughs and Liam and the instructors have been great. Love you guys see you soon.
Ty: hey guys, have been having more fun than expected. Love you guys, and I can’t wait to see y’all.
Elizabeth: hey!! I have had SO much fun on the trip so far!! I had the best time Ziplining and surfing. I have met the sweetest people and Liam and Ava are the best! Tell everyone I miss them so much and love them!! I love y’all so very much!! Love you, Elizabeth!
Lila: Hey guys!!! I have had so much fun on the trip so far. Ava and Liam are the best leaders ever!!! We have done so many great things and I can’t wait to tell y’all when I get home! Tell Bosco I said hi! Love you guys and miss you soooo much! Love, Lila
Ezra: “Hi mom and dad I am having the best time in Costa Rica. We just got off the rafts and are now heading back to the first hotel we stayed at. I’ll tell you more about the trip when we get home. Love Ezra”
July 11, 2023
We have had an amazing first two days exploring Costa Rica! After landing in the SJO airport, the kids spent some time getting to know each other while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. After the group was whole, we boarded our bus and headed for the Adventure Inn. An afternoon of rest and relaxation was just what the group needed after a long day of traveling. The group spent the afternoon enjoying the pool with group games and poolside nachos that left smiles on everyone’s faces. After swimming the group hit the showers and got ready for our first dinner of the trip! Dinner ended with the most amazing ice cream sundaes that was the cherry on top of a truly amazing first day together! At our first Moonup that night, we discussed expectations, good behavior, and the structure of Moondance leadership, specifically Leaders of the Day (LODS). Our first two LODs Stuart and Vivian were selected for their unbelievably positive attitudes during our first day together.
We arose early the next day to a delicious breakfast of Eggs, French toast, or Pancakes which Piper was especially excited for. We loved seeing Pipers energy and joy throughout the start of our the trip! We hopped back onto the bus and jammed out to some of our favorite tunes while traveling to our first activity, Zip-lining! On the way we of course had to make a stop at El Jardin souvenir store, the Bucee’s of Costa Rica. From bucket hats, to stickers, to wooden figurines, Owen and Jack were ecstatic as they discovered some of Costa Rica’s coolest merchandise. We then traveled to the Crocodile bridge for a quick look at some of the largest crocodiles in the region. Ty and Ezra were so enthusiastic about watching the crocodiles “play fighting” in the water below. Once again, we were off! We loaded up onto the bus and headed to our first activity of the trip, Ziplining through the treetops of Los Sueños! With smiles from ear-to-ear, Elizabeth and Lila couldn’t keep their excitement at bay. Being up in the trees was an experience like no other. Out of 10 separate zip lines at the Adventure Park, zip-line 6 allowed for students to take on an upside-down Spider-Man pose, that really got the heart racing! Kate and Frances showed off their Bravery as they were first to let loose hundreds of feet in the air. Our experience of zip-lining was truly unforgettable.
After enjoying a delicious buffet lunch, we hopped back on the bus and travel to Uvita, surfing destination for the day! Once we arrived at El Tecal, the group suited up and headed over to meet our surfing instructors! On our second day together, the group was able to hang 10 and ride the waves on some of the largest waves Uvita has seen in months! It’s hard to imagine that Claire was just a beginner on our first day in Uvita, as she was quick to master her newly learned surfing skills. Claire and many others conquered every wave they approached, and the whole group improved greatly throughout the day. Stuart really showed off his surfing skills as he swam out with an instructor to surf the massive waves that lurked behind us. Stuart has been surfing since a very young age and was super helpful in teaching the group some of the basics! Afterwards, the group was able to relax at the pool and enjoy games of categories and “whirlpool” making. We enjoyed another delicious dinner of pasta, burgers, and nachos with an ice cream sundae to top it all off. After a great Moonup of laughter and smiles, the group headed off to bed with dreams of the huge waves to come in the morning.
We love how close this group has gotten in such a short amount of time! We can’t wait to see them grow even closer together during our cultural immersion section of the trip, and are looking forward to the rest of our adventure to come!
Ava and Liam
July 9, 2023
Hello Belize + Costa Rica Families!
We heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in San Jose! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures!
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!