Moondance Adventures

Costa Rica Venture 1
Trip UpdatesJune 14 - 27, 2017

Adios, Muchachos!

June 27, 2017

It’s hard to know where to start as we reflect on this trip of a lifetime. Fourteen days ago we greeted 13 timid young women at the San Jose airport. Today, we watched those same young women walk through security hand in hand with tears streaming down their faces as our newly formed family began to go their separate ways. 

Somewhere between the long bus rides, meals at 3 Seeds, strenuous muddy hikes, laugh attacks, ocean swims, and nightly Moonups this group of young women learned to embrace one another for who they truly are and support each other unconditionally. Allowing yourself to be one hundred percent yourself amongst strangers takes courage, and we couldn’t be more proud of how far each of these girls came. 

Emily and Molly were both constantly bursting with excitement and joy, reminding us to always find the positive in all circumstances. So much so, that when the rain started to pour on our first surfing lesson, we all looked at each other and immediately took off running, diving in to the waves with an uncanny excitement for what was to come. 

Viv, an incredibly gregarious gal, never let us forget that ‘everything is fine.’ When storms came, jellyfish attacked, or blisters were formed, she would gently remind us all that we’re going to be okay in-between fits of uncontrollable laughter. 

Trilby, the jokester of the crew, lead the group fearlessly with her uncanny ability to keep everyone laughing. Her jokes boosted moral and her manners kept us all in check when working with outfitters. Caroline Irwin finally got to get in her heated pool last night – we were all so excited for her! Can’t deny we all enjoyed that refreshing hot tub and had a reminiscing moment as we reflected on our funniest moments on the trip under the stars. 

Sam started our final moonup with a beautiful quote that truly summed up our trip. Said by the inspiring Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We all ended up telling our funniest and most joyful moments. 

Mackenzie grew to be confidently independent and constantly inspired others to reflect on their trip. We will definitely miss Hallie’s entertaining personality along with her great music taste that brought us joy and laughter each day. 

Josie and Ellie have a contagious sweet positive nature that brought us all a calming presence with the organized chaos of each day. They always had a smile on their face as they accomplished each adventure throughout the trip. 

Isabel had us in constant hysterics no matter if its funny or not. She laughs when it’s funny and most importantly when it’s not- which we all love her for. Lele was an adventurous soul and always willing to take on the next endeavor and this energy inspired us all. 

Last but certainly not least, Miss Caroline Case was basically the mom of the group. She certainly planned ahead and prepared and always put others first. 

We are so excited to see how these young women continue to thrive at home and bring positivity and a sense of adventure into their everyday life. We are so grateful to have gotten to spend two weeks with each and every one of them and look forward to reconnecting soon! Pure Vida!

Jimmy, Julia, and Maddie

Surf's up!

June 27, 2017

Hola a todos! We are wrapping things up before airport day and we are preparing to say goodbye with heavy hearts. Soaking up every last minute we have together makes each moment even sweeter.

This past Friday we all woke up early for a beautiful day of sea kayaking. The view was stunning as we paddled into the background of a screensaver. We took our time at playa Uvita to paddle out to the rocks that formed a “whale’s tail.” Once we finally got there we excitedly got our kayaks on the beach, grabbed our mask and snorkel, and headed to the reef. Hallie was fully enjoying her time snorkeling as far out as possible to see all types of fish. Caroline C. found a huge conch we were all enamored with and continued to snorkel around to find new treasures of the sea. We went back to the beach to snack on some delicious slimy passion fruit and water. The scene was absolutely incredible. We had to keep reminding ourselves it was real. 

Paddling back to shore posed to be the real challenge but gave us many laughs (as always) when a fearless pelican went after Trilby and Lele’s kayak. Once we surfed our kayaks back to shore we all played in the waves until we were weak from laughter. 

After wrapping up our beach time we headed into town for lunch at our local spot. This reenergized us all, plus a special treat of lollipops from Maykol (our bus driver) who is always going the extra mile. With our bellies full, we headed out for ziplining. The ride up was beautiful as we looked down the valley and out onto the Pacific Ocean. Isabel faced her fear of heights and conquered each zipline like a champ. We all got to go upside down like monkeys while zipping through the canopy of the jungle. At the end we finished up with a Tarzan swing that let us go far out on top of the canopy looking to the oceans horizon. 

We sang songs on our way back down the mountain to meet back up with Jimmy and Maykol who surprised us with ice cream, again! We have been extremely spoiled this whole trip and certainly living pura vida. After ziplining, we headed back to the hotel for some quality down time journaling by the pool while listening to some music. 

Saturday morning was our last morning at Uvita and we finished up with a morning surf session. Molly became quite the natural on a board as did Viv. It was great to see everyone out there enjoying the last bit of the ocean time in Costa Rica as the sun began to emerge from behind the clouds. Shortly after, we cleaned up and got on the bus. Next stop: Turrialba for white water rafting! 

On our way, we stopped for a surprise lunch of grilled burgers at the highest point on the pan-american highway. Julia and Maddie led the girls on an excursion while Jimmy and Maykol began preparing the food. We even tried local grilled pork and it was certainly a hit. As we prepared to load back up on the bus, Caroline C. took charge of enforcing the 7 Leave No Trace principles, something we’re sure the Costa Rican people would thank her for. 

When we finally reached Turrialba, our night of rest felt luxurious at Turrialtico, our hotel. We sat atop the mountain in the open air restaurant enjoying an extremely delicious dinner of quesadillas or pasta with a gorgeous view of the city lights in the valley below. Mackenzie reminded us all how lucky we were to be in such a beautiful place with no worries but to wake up to adventure each morning. It was truly a pura vida moment. 

Sunday morning we enjoyed a breakfast buffet before we headed for the Pacuare River! This was an exciting morning since we knew this was our last adventure together. When we were all prepared with our life vests and glamorous helmets, we paddled across the river to a natural swimming pool and splashed and played in the waterfalls. We then rafted a little bit more and worked on our paddling skills until we reached our lodge for the night. The lodge was incredible with our own little open air cabins that looked out onto the river. After lunch, we hiked to another swimming hole where everyone played in the cool water. Isabel and Molly kept us laughing as they made a music video to the song ‘Water’ in front of the waterfall. After our private swim in the jungle we returned to the lodge to hang out and relax in the hammocks while playing cards, writing to each other, and having some more good laughs. 

This morning we got back on rafts and went headstrong into class 2, 3, and 4 rapids! Caroline I. was a good sport even though she had a fear of the rapids. She paddled hard and continued to laugh down the river after each exciting run. Everyone had the time of their lives jumping out and swimming in the calm water between runs, especially in the canyon. Josie particularly enjoyed the view and was soaking everything in before Julia pushed her in. We even had a tasty lunch on the river bank prepared by our guides! Emily couldn’t get enough of the coconut rice krispy treats and kept spirits high throughout lunch as we prepared to paddle the last portion of the river. Blue-green water and stunning greenery made for a spectacular backdrop to our last adventure together.

After changing in to dry clothes, we boarded the bus for our last long drive back to San Jose. Cue the Taylor Swift. Ellie knew the words to every song but couldn’t quite get them all out as she was constantly laughing. Upon arrival at the hotel, we enjoyed a 3 course meal before spending some time reminiscing and playing games in the hot tub. Sam and Trilby led us in our last Moonup, an equally sentimental and funny time as we reflected on the trip as a whole. We’re sad to leave each other and this country we’ve grown to call home, but we know we’ll keep in touch for years to come. 

Hasta Manaña!                                                       

Hiking, Surfing, Exploring, and More!

June 23, 2017

We awoke to our last breakfast from Three Seeds in Buenaventura which was delivered to us via ATV’s. It was delicious and consisted of oatmeal with chocolate, coconut, and the local fruit of course. We said our final sad goodbyes to Salvador, Ocean, Harlow, Tamara and the rest of the Buenaventura crew as we rode back up the mountain in open air taxis. 

Looking back down on the jungle village from the top of the mountain was a surreal moment. The landscapes here are constantly reminding us how lucky we are to be enjoying these once in a life time moments together. 

As we approached our next adventure to hike to the Diamantes waterfall we were anxious about the steep climb. The girls were very hesitant about their capability with the intense incline. Ellie led the group with a steady pace for the first half towards the garden. We were making good timing so we got to stop in the garden and enjoy the guanabana, Costa Rican lime, and magic berries as our snack. We drank the fresh water out of a bamboo shoot as well and day dreamed about our favorite desserts. Trilby, Jimmy and our wonderful guide Diego had the first viper spotting of the trip!

After enjoying our time in the garden we continued on and were able to appreciate the view of the ocean from the side of the mountain. We looked at it excitedly as we pictured ourselves there surfing the next day! 

Once we accomplished the 2 and half hour hike to our destination we were in awe of the incredible falls. They came crashing down to our walk way into the cave that we stayed in for the night. This was by far the highlight of our day. We were amazed this cave was equipped with raised beds, a kitchen, table, candle lit chandeliers, and even toilets! What a luxury! We then enjoyed tacos for lunch and took some well-deserved rest time. 

Next we hiked another 45 minutes up an even steeper climb to the very top of the Tiamantes mountain. This was 3,300 ft about sea level. We started at 600 feet around 10 am. At the top were beautiful blue pools for us to swim in and more waterfalls to explore. Everyone was enjoying a nice cool swim after sweating so much that day. It started to pour so we made it back before the waterfall became too large to surpass. It was exciting and once we made it we were all so impressed with ourselves. Jimmy and I let the girls know how extremely proud of them we were. This day took a toll on all of us but in the end gave us great laughs with a huge sense of reward. 

The next morning a few of us took a quick hike to the top of a 700 ft waterfall. Lele expressed to us all that looking down from the top was extremely humbling and reminded her of just how very small we are, and how powerful nature can be. We hiked back to get all of our belongings and headed back down the mountain. Everyone was ecstatic when we made it to the bottom and stepped on to the bus to find Josie, Emily, and Mackenzie had ice cream sandwiches for everyone! A great reward and exciting start to our journey to Uvita. 

Mykol, our bus driver, has truly made each moment a wow moment for us. From dancing, to stopping to see wild animals (sloths and monkeys), and taking us to do laundry, we couldn’t be more grateful for his local knowledge and love of life. 

After checking in to the hotel, we threw on our swim suits, grabbed our towels, and walked down to the beach for our first surfing lesson- in the rain! Our surfing instructors were incredibly patient as we all learned how to become one with the waves. Hallie and Sam took to the waves with ease and Trilby got a lot of practice saying ‘help me’ in Spanish. Everyone was bummed when the lesson came to an end but ecstatic to hear we would be surfing again in the coming days. We decided we weren’t ready to dry off so Caroline Case led us in a game of categories back in the hotel pool.

The next day we found ourselves back on the beach for some much needed relaxation before heading to stand up paddle board through the mangroves. The mangroves proved to be incredibly beautiful as we paddled through intricate root systems and lush greenery. Caroline Irwin became quite the paddler as she frantically tried to evade anyone (okay, mainly Jimmy) who thought about getting her wet. However, it wasn’t long until we were all soaked. 

After paddle boarding, we ventured to yet another beach. This time we were greeted with natural tunnels in the large rock faces and huge waves. Everyone enjoyed playing ‘over, under’ as waves crashed on us. Viv and Molly kept us entertained as they often came up laughing with hair over their faces after being trampled by a wave. The beach was a highlight for everyone and put us all in high spirits for the rest of the night. So it only seemed fitting that we finish the day on the beach as well. After dinner, we walked down to the beach for a meaningful Moonup under the stars led by Isabel and Emily, our two LOD’s. They emphasized joy throughout the night and reminded us all of just how lucky we are to be in this beautiful country together. Needless to say, it was a perfect end to a joyful day. 

Hasta luego!

Costa Rica Livin!

June 20, 2017

Bienvenido a Pura Vida!

After arriving and gathering the group through all the crazy Costa Rican turbulence it was a relief to eat our first meal together at Adventure Inn-Pizza! The bus ride to the hotel was filled with balloons for Ellie’s 15th birthday. The hotel even treated her to a special birthday cake dessert which we enjoyed by the pool and it also where we had our first Moonup. Ellie and Lele were selected as our first leaders of the day (LOD) for the next full day of adventures. 

As we rode in our bus through the jungle, Jimmy gave us fun facts about Costa Rica. He then proceeded to have a dance off with the van of kids in front of us. Jimmy keeps us all very entertained and constantly laughing. Trilby documented the scenery and helped us appreciate our surroundings while keeping us all laughing as well. We sang ‘Sweet Caroline’ twice in honor of both Caroline Case, and Caroline Irwin. Our wonderful bus driver, Maykol has been very appreciative of our beautiful singing voices and humor. We then got into open air taxis and took in the fantastic views along the bumpy roads in the cloud forest; this experience had us all in pure bliss. This two-hour ride allowed us to really bond by asking intimate questions and get to know one another without the normal distractions of our phones. 

Finally arriving at our eco lodge along the river, Buenaventura, our bellies were rumbling and ready for an authentic meal. Across the river on the swinging bridge and through the jungle is a local farm/garden restaurant where we have all our meals. The restaurant is called Three Seeds. All of us are trying everything and anything possible even Mackenzie! Our tour cooled us off in the pouring rain and we got to enjoy all different types of fruit. We tried passion fruit, coconut, mango, oranges, Costa Rican lemon, and starfruit. We expanded our palettes by trying many varieties of new flavors such as cinnamon basil, cacao, and sugar cane. Even the hot peppers were a hit which Hallie, Caroline Irwin, Isabel, and Lele all had priceless reactions when the peppers hit their mouth. We all had a great laugh out of their reactions! 

The next day was our first day of community service in El Brujo village. After some delicious corn pancakes to fuel our day we approached our first endeavor in the village eagerly. We had a nice long 45 min walk there which allowed us to admire the community and rolling hills of the rain forest. We crossed rivers while waving to cows, pigs, horses, and locals. Everyone helped knock down the walls of a bathroom we are renovating within the community center. Molly and Sam really helped with hauling debris which propelled the group into being able to complete a majority of the project. After diligently working for hour everyone then played soccer with the local kids where Caroline Case and Sam really showed everyone their MVP status for each team. We finished the day off with a chocolate making class (with fresh cacao from the farm!) which gave everyone incredible amounts of energy for the rest of the night. Everyone was consistently laughing loudly and enjoying each others company while eating homemade brownies. 

On Saturday our LOD’s Emily and Viv kept spirits high as we headed back to our long yet meaningful walks. Each of them have truly exemplified what it means to be a leader by constantly thinking of others and helping in any way possible. We continued helping out with cleaning, renovating and making signs for El Brujo Village. Josie and Trilby led games with the kids and everyone enjoyed watching them become kids themselves. Lots of new friendships and connections have been made within the village and our Moondance group. Josie helped paint a big sign to direct people where to go in the village. Trilby let the kids have a photo shoot with her and her camera.

We finished this day off with a pupusa making class. These are very delicious corn tortillas filled with beef and cheese. Everyone was in heaven for dinner especially after a delicious lunch of homemade lasagna. Needless to say we have been eating like Kings and Queens.  

On Sunday we were sad that it was our last day helping the village. We are grateful for the new friendships and memories made with the El Brujo community. After gifts were distributed to the children, we packed up our backpacks and powered up a mountain for a night of camping in the jungle. Sam and Caroline Case helped build a fire while Emily led the crew in a game of Mafia. The night was topped off with celebratory s’mores and a lot of pillow talk within the 10 person tents as Samantha lead the group in discussion. 

Today, we’re busy soaking up our last day in Buenaventura by hiking to waterfalls and transforming into Avatars with the help of natural blue clay! We’ll enjoy our last meals at 3 Seeds and enjoy a well deserved night of relaxation. Tomorrow we’re off to chase some more waterfalls before heading to the beach! Stay tuned for more and we will be in touch soon! 

Fathers Day Shoutouts:

Mackenzie – Happy Fathers Day, Dad! I miss you so much. You’d be so proud if you saw me now. I love you!

Viv – Happy Fathers Day, Dad! I hope you have the best day and that everything is great at home! Love you!

Caroline Irwin – Happy Fathers Day! I love and miss you and mom and the dogs. Please bring my computer charger and new bikinis coming in the mail to the beach!

Samantha – Happy Fathers Day Dad and Papi! I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see you when I get back. I hope all is well. Love y’all!

Isabel – Happy late birthday and Fathers Day, Dad!! I wish I could have been with you but at least I remembered. 🙂 Miss you and mom so much! Love y’all!

Josie – Happy Father’s Day! Miss you and Lu and Clover!

Lele – Happy Fathers Day Andy P. Miss you,Mmom, and Duval. Tell Char Happy Birthday! Having a blast! Love y’all!

Ellie – Happy Fathers Day! I hope you got my gift and I love and you miss you, Mom, Will, and the pets! (:

Caroline Case – Happy Fathers Day, Dad! Thanks for letting me use all your Boy Scout gear in Costa Rica! Love and miss you!

Molly – Happy Fathers Day, Blair! Thank you so much for all you do and love you!!! Love and miss you mom, dad, Jack, and Andy.

Emily – Happy Fathers Day and early birthday to Dad! Love the whole fam tons and I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!

Trilby – Hi! HFD! Moondance is fun thanks for this opportunity! Love you!

Hallie – Hi Dad!!!! I miss you, mom, Hayden, and the pups. Happy Fathers Day! You are the best Dad ever. I am having an amazing time. Love you!!! 🙂

Touched Down, Costa Rica!

June 14, 2017

Hi Costa Rica Venture Families,

We’ve spoken with the leaders, and the group has safely arrived in Costa Rica. We’re excited for the adventure to begin! Stay tuned! 

-The Moondance Administrative Team