Friday, April 30, 2010

5 Things you must do in Costa Rica

5. Raft Pacuare River

4. Zipline

3. Eat an IceCream sandwich TRITS

2. Drink some Coffee

1. Keep a Journal

Family Vacation Planning Specialist
Costa Rican Resource

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rawlings Baseball Factory

Costa Rica has so much to see and do from rafting, ziplining, to walking through the rainforest. One area of Costa Rica that you might not know of is a town called Turrialba. This town is home to some of the best rivers in Costa Rica and also the CATIE which is a center for agriculture study. Turrialba is a small town of around 70,000 people. Finding work can be difficult in this town and thanks to one company many people have jobs. If you know anything about baseball then you know about the name Rawlings. It turns out that Rawlings has its factory in the town of Turrialba. This factory is about 2 blocks off the main road and although not open up for tours it is worth taking the route to see the factory on your way to rafting.

The factory is one of the larger buildings in town and is very close to the center of the town of Turrialba. Rawlings chose the country of Costa Rica for its factory due to the lower wages it can pay workers and also the high education level of the Costa Rican people. It is in a beautiful setting surrounded by rivers, mountains, and volcanos.

There are many factorys in Costa Rica some being Intel and Hewlett Packard but for those die hard baseball fans their is nothing like visiting the building where all the homerun balls have been stitched together by hand. So if you are on a family vacation or a student travel trip to Costa Rica just remember that there is much more to see than just erupting volcanos and waterfalls.

Our Company Goal...

This company started out in the small town of Cacao de Alajuela. The town of Alajuala is made up of sugarcane and coffee. Most families in this town are of low income and live paycheck to paycheck (thats if they have a steady job). After living in the town Cacao for 6 months I was paying a monthly rent for room and board and I noticed that the family I was staying with was living off what I was paying them. After about 6 months I became fluent in Spanish and thought to myself what a great exchange. Come live in rural Costa Rica, make the ends meet of a family that needs the money, and leave speaking Spanish. This is when the idea of doing student travel trips to Costa Rica started. The company began with the idea of helping others help others.

After bringing students down to learn Spanish and live in the rural town of Cacao the adventure sport of rafting was often the first request of foreigners. That is how our company started on the Pacuare River which today is what we consider our main office and number one tour of any group of students we bring down. Lets just say we love rafting but in the vision of the company the rafting is used as a way of making our trips look attractive for young students who then come on our trips and are opened up to the many different ways of helping others.

The industry of tourism has billions of dollars being spent every year. More times than not the attractions that tourist visit are surrounded by struggling local communities. The basis of this company is to open up the chance of some of the worlds most beautiful natural beauties and also teach and show the importance of helping others. We want to show our clients that our company helps others directly and indirectly. We direclty help others when we visit the orphanage and exchange gifts with the kids and spend time. We indirectly help others when you see that we operate activities such as a lunch through a small locally owned family resturaunt.

We feel the student travel trips to Costa Rica can help make our goal happen with giving the attention to young kids with the idea of making an impact that will last a lifetime. The utlimate goal of this company is to have small communities and families throughout rural areas live off the activity of tourism that we incorporate into their towns. Wether it is stopping by for lunch with a group of 4 or staying in the town for 5 nights with a group of 30 the goal is for these families to make a living and become a part of this growing and most fortunate activity of tourism in Costa Rica.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Costa Rican Homestay Contreras Quiros

This is a family that is made up of 5 members. This house is located next to the green area of grass and the ranchito which is the ultimate socialize place. The neighbors house students also and there is always plenty people around. This house has the social bench which is just the patio that everyone seems to hang out on.

Erick is the father and works in transporation bringing rafts down to the nearby Pacuare and Pejibaye rivers.

Cindy is the mother and works in a hotel called Hacienda Tayutic.

Paulo is the son of 12 years and is in the 6th grade. He really enjoys playing soccer.

Jose is 10 years old and is in the 4th grade. He loves playing goaling and you will always know who he is because he is walking around with goaly gloves.

Camilia is the 2 yr old and is always happy. She has very cute curls also.

A Costa Rican Family de Esterh, Maryel, y Josue

This home is located in a beautiful area right next to the ranchito with a large grass area for hanging around. The house is very clean and the family is small but one of the best.

Esterh is the mother of the home. She has two small children and she really enjoys visitors. You will be a friend of hers from the moment you walk in the door.

Maryel is the daughter of 9 yrs. She is in 3rd grade and is one of the best dancers in town. She is an amazing soccer player along with many other sports.

Josue is the little guy on the block. He is 1 year and 5 months and enjoys baby stuff.

Again this is a small family which is nice because it makes it personalized. This home is right next door to the home of Roxane and the home of Eric and Cindy. The kids in this home are amazing.

A Costa Rican Family Contreros Sandoval

This is one of the families we use for our homestay program. They have a beautiful house right off the main road of Sitio de Mata. When I say main road that means mabye 10 cars pass by each day. The family is made up of 5 members and they have always lived in the community of Sitio de Mata.

Juan Carlos Contreras Sandoval is 40 years old. He is a husband and a father. He has two jobs from 6 in the morning until 8pm at night. In the morning he works in the municiple office and in the afternoon at the Firestone factory (Firestone Tire Factory). He works as a cook in the factory. He also takes care of the pigs and cows near his house.

Roxana Sandoval Leandro is 41 years old. She is a wife and a mother. She dedicates her time of being a stay home mom taking care of things around the house. She loves to cook and her specialty are desserts. She also takes care of a little girl of 5 years old for a little extra income.

Estefanie Contreras Sandoval is 18 years old. She is studying in the University of Costa Rica in Turrialba. She enjoys helping her mom in the house and sometimes taking care of the little girl. She also works sometimes in a restaurant in the community. She likes to try her English and she is taking classes to learn more.

Catherin Contreras Sandoval is 13 years old. She is in her second year of high school in Turrialba and she enjoys hearing music and playing with her friends. She also likes to dance and play soccer. She is also taking English classes.

Juan Diego Contreras Sandoval is 12 years old. He is in the 6th grade in the school close to our home. He loves the sport of soccer and hopes to play one day in Barcelona. He also enjoys roping cattle and even owns his own little cow with his grandfather. He also owns his own horse which his grandfather gave to him.

Student Travel Homestays

During many trips to Costa Rica more and more people are looking for the rural experience. The student travel trips to Costa Rica often want the chance to live with a local family. The Costa Rican's are a perfect match for this type of tourism. The Tico's are some of the kindest people and always enjoy having visitors. We operate many of our tours with a village called Sitio de Mata. This is a village located in the mountains of Turrialba very close to the famous Pacuare River. We have developed a relationship with the ladies of the community who put on an experience of culture, food, song, and dance.

Most groups will stay between 2 and 3 nights just long enough to take part in the activities of the town. This is a low economic area and the mothers who take part in this project make their living off the visitors they recieve. The homes are simple but filled with smiles and good times from start to finish. The average house is made out of wood with a concrete floor. Most of the houses only have cold water and waking up in the morning with the cool mountain air makes for a chilly experience.

We always try to offer the homestay experience for a few nights and we have taken student travel trips to all parts of Costa Rica and it is funny to see how the highlight always is the homestays. If you have the chance to bring a student group to Costa Rica we highly suggest taking on the experience of living with the Costa Rican's for a few nights.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Rappel

Taking student groups all over Costa Rica and rappeling different waterfalls in the country it is must to do the rappel to perfection. All groups have to be operated at a level of perfection when it comes to rappel but extra special attention when dealing with student travel. The sport of rappel is an adventure sport that should always be extremely safe. It is a sport that has become popular in Costa Rica and walking off the side of a waterfall is not something you can say you do everyday. The training to become a rappel guide has to take you through some courses but the ability to do the rappel as part of a tour is a short class going through the basics. This next blog is going to take you through the steps you need to make your first rappel a perfect one.

First of all you want to have the right gear. This should include adventure sandals, or shoes that will not fall off. You want to wear clothing that will protect you from the harnass and also without a hat because you will be wearing a helmet. When it comes to jewelery and things you dont need anything and the less things that have a chance of getting caught the better. Finally if you have long hair you want to have the hair tied up. This prevents your hair from getting caught in the equipment.

On our student travel to Costa Rica we deal with two types of rappel. The first being just simply walking down the side of the mountain or wall. The second type of rappel is the free rappel. You can see in the pictures the different between the two. The next list is the basic things you need to do when rappeling:

1. Keep feet shoulder width apart.
2. Extend your legs
3. Don not lean forward. Allow equipment to hold your body weight.
4. Feed rope from the back.
5. The hand above the equipment is only used as a guider and do not try and hold your body weight with this hand.
6. Take it slow.

These are the basic steps to getting you down the side of the mountain. The way it works is that your equipment works as friction and your body weight ultimately gets you down the side of the mountain. Our studnet travel trips always have two lines one as a safetey line just incase you decide to not follow one of these steps we are always there to make the ride a little smoother. When visiting Costa Rica the zipline usually gets the most credit but I have to say the rappel is becoming more and more popular and with some simple steps it can be an amazing adventure.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Organic Experience

What would a student trip to Costa Rica be without seeing the Don Juan Organic farm. Don Juan is the Lebron James of Organic Farms and he has his 2 acre farm looking perfect everytime we stop by.

Costa Rica is not a place you come visit to go on a food tour. But if you have any interest in having one of the best lunches you can imagine than Don Juan is a must stop. His farm is located about 5 km outside of the town of La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano. The best part about his farm is that it is run by the family. It is used by local schools to give kids the education on how an organic farm works. The students get a chance to pick the same fruits and vegetables they will eat for lunch. The highlight of the trip is always the sugar cane. With a set of volunteers the kids get to make their own agua dulce (sugar cane juice).

Don Juan has the competition pretty tough to get the kids attention considering most of the kids are coming from zipline, rafting, and volcano tours. Don Juan is the man with the farm and he does an incredible job of keeping the attention of the kids and making it one of the top educational experiences in all of Costa Rica. Along with the ziplines and rivers a student travel trip should always involve some education and the Don Juan farm is an amazing stop in Costa Rica.

Costa Rican Resource & Hogar Siembra

The most rewarding part about working in student travel trips to Costa Rica is the chance to give back. Most parents of young students want their kids to get the experience of rainforest and ziplines but they also would like to see their children take part in community work in a chance to give back to the the community. Costa Rican Resource has developed some excellent relationships with many different communities. One of the communities that makes for an emotional stop with every group is the Hogar Siembra which is a home for orphan girls. These girls from some of the most difficult backrounds you can imagine. Some come from very physical and sexual abusive cases.

When bringing groups to the home we usually just socialize, play games, and involve a cooking class. This past week we had a group that was working up to 6 months in advance to raise money for the orphanage. It was group from Ridgefield CT. When we visited the orphanage they presented the Director with $500's that was raised by the students from doing different fund-raisers at school. It was a very speical moment for the orphan girls to see how these visiting students have been working for them the last 6 months without even knowing them.

It is little actions like this that make a big difference. In working in student travel in Costa Rica we have the chance to see how much just a visit and a smile can make. It is also very encouraging for us to see groups put work into these visits to raise money months before they come on their trip.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Cave Costa Rica's Best kept Secret

When it comes to student travel in Costa Rica there is one stop that you might want to check out. If you are up for some adventure and taking the road less traveled then visiting the area between Dominical and San Isidro is the spot for you. Student travel in Costa Rica can take you to the commercial sites which there happen to be quite a few now. I feel visiting these places can benefit a student trip. But I also feel taking the non-tourist route in your itinerary can be a big bonus to any trip.

The cave is not actually a cave. It is a rock formation that sort of forms like a cavern where a kitchen, beds, and bathrooms have all been set up. This is officially called camping but you are not completely roughing it and left to survive in the jungle with your backpack. It all starts with the hike to the cave making your way straight up on a very tough hike that will take you around 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours depending on your group. Your first stop will be the gardens where you will get a chance to try many different types of tropical fruits and the sugar cane should give you the extra boost you need to make the final leg of the hike. Once you arrive to the cave an amazing lunch is prepared for you in the cavern. The only way into the cavern is to hike on a narrow ledge behind a waterfall which is surrounded by lush rainforest and beautiful rock structures.

During your stay in the cave which we usually do one night you will get the chance to rappel waterfalls, hike to pools, and jump off some rocks which are about 15ft high. You will also get the chance to hike to the top of the Diamante waterfall and visit one of the tallest waterfalls in Costa Rica. This is a spectacular site and a chance to see views of the Pacific coast.

Having the chance to sleep under a waterfall and live in nature for the night is an excellent way to experience one of the so many natural beauties of Costa Rica.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Man's Trash Another Man's Gold

Although none of us are making millions we have found a way to employ a local village, clean up some trash, and not use plastic bags on our tours. The new project we started for our clients is giving them each a bag of trash. I know what your thinking is that if you pay over a $1000's for a tour and the first thing you get when you get of the plane is a bag of trash you will probably be calling your lawyer and writing negative comments about us on TripAdvisor. But if you make what one man called trash into a stylish peice of fashion then you will probably be asking me where the nearest shoe store is to buy some shoes that match your fancy new bags.

Did you know that US households dispose of nearly one hundred billion plastic bags annually. If we reduce this by two bags per week each person would throw away 100 less bags a year. If we tied all of these bags together handle to handle these plastic bags would make a rope long enough to wrap around the earth more than 126 times (The Green Book)

Costa Rican Resource has developed a relationship with the village of Sitio de Mata where we have been bringing clients to experience the culture of Costa Rica. The families at Sitio de Mata are some of the nicest people you can imagine. They entertain tourist as a way of making a living. In the last few months I told Fressy I did not want our clients using plastic bags anymore and if she could help me invent bag that the clients could use while they are here. Sure enough Fressy who is the lady that does not have the word trash in her vocabulary came up with the fancy looking back you see in the pictures. This bag is made of different products that if you come to Costa Rica for a week you will surely recognize. Some of the more common bags that are part of the bags are coffee. Different plastic bags that where at one point trash for people are now collected and then sewn together to make a super stylish and bag that I guarantee you will get comments on during and after your stay in Costa Rica.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Ultimate Travel Game

If you have done any traveling lately and you noticed some down time needed to be filled there is no better option than Bananagrams. Ive been doing family vacation for years now and I have seen all types of games but seeing bananagrams last month takes the number 1 spot for travel games.

Bananagrams is made up of what looks like just the scrabble peices where everyone takes a certain amount of peices and makes what looks like at the end of the game their own crossword puzzle. When all pieces are used up the person with no peices left first wins. The best part about this game comparing it to scrable is that an average game takes around 5 - 10 minutes as compared to the traditional scrable game which can take all night. The game is packed into a small bag with the pieces in it that is about the size of something you would store you pencils in. We have also used bananagrams for our student travel trips to Costa Rica with the groups that want to concentrate on Spanish you can get bananagrams in Spanish also.

Costa Rica is an amazing spot for a family vacation and student travel trips that can fill your time doing amazing adventures and learning about the rainforest. But every vacation deserves a little bit of down time and what better way to use that down time to hang out with friends and family with a view of an active volcano while playing BANANAGRAMS!!! A huge thanks to the Wolfson family from Boston for coming down on a family vacation and getting the whole country hooked on Bananagrams. Thanks so much WOLFSONS!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blackberry & 3G in Costa Rica

With technology being where it is today there is no tougher place to keep intouch with people then when you are rafting the rainforest, hiking volcanos, or ziplining in the jungle. Now with the 3G network in Costa Rica all of this is possible. With our student travel trips every parent wants to know how their child is an stay updated day to day. Now with the 3G network, a blackberry, and a little extra time invested in the trip our company can keep parents posted literally on the hour. We operate our tours with small netbook computers that connect to the internet anywhere in the country through the 3G connection to the blackberry. The 3G connection is very new to Costa Rica and was brought on by Costa Rica signing a free trade agreement with the USA in which USA telecommunication companies will soon be able to operate in Costa Rica. The 3G which is available now is produced by ICE which is the Costa Rican Institue of Electricity. They want to make their product as best as possible before the competition comes in. With 3G the internet connection is excellent. Pictures can be uploaded and a summary can be given on the event that just happened. For us as a company it is a chance to offer better service to our clients but it is also a chance to get our name out in which we hope that all members reading the exciting information pass it on to family members and friends. At the end of the trip you have the whole trip in detail in a blog form that kids can go back to years later for the memories and pictures of their Costa Rican Adventure.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Costa Rica Eco-Tourism

With tourism growing in Costa Rica and well over 1 million tourist arriving every year water bottles are usually the first request when getting off the plane. With the heat, sun, and adventures water is a must when traveling in Costa Rica. Lets just take 1 million tourist on 8 day adventures drinking two bottles of water per day. 8 days x 2 bottles = 16 bottles x 1 million tourist = 16 million plastic bottles (this is a low estimate but it should get the point across). With our company dealing with student travel in Costa Rica we really want to take advantage of the fact that we have the stage to teach. A rule on our student trips is that no plastic water bottles for the whole week. This means that each student gets their own bottle on the first day and we have larger containers of purified water that we refill each container. The bottles we use are oxo-biodegradable. The plastic container is completely degradable and has a useful life of approximately 36 months. If discarded, the product will become part of the environment leaving no methane, toxic residues or harmful fragments. Plastic wataer bottles are a big expense on oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil annually to satisfy America's demand for bottle water. If this oil was converted to gasonline it could fuel 500,000 station wagons to take their families on a trip of the USA coast to coast. The USA's shortest point from coast to coast is 2,092 miles and Costa Rica is just 54 miles coast to coast. So just think about how many station wagons can go coast to coast in Costa Rica.

Family Vacation Specialist
Costa Rican Resource