Thursday, September 30, 2010


Over the summer, we invited all our Alumni to write a short essay, 300 words or less, about how their Costa Rica Outward Bound experience affected who they are today.  Several people, of all ages and from different parts of the world, submitted really touching essays.  Thank you all!  And know that all the essays submitted will be shared later on this blog, but this particular blog is all about Bianca Soto—because after a CRROBS-wide vote, we selected Bianca’s essay as the winner! 

Thank you, Bianca, for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts, feelings, and insights with us.  You will be receiving a $50 gift card from REI shortly!  Bianca Soto participated in a custom-course with us and her company, SUNY New Paltz, based in New York.  Here is Bianca Soto’s essay:

I never imagined going to Costa Rica until this year of spring 2010.  The New Paltz athletics department was planning a seven day expedition to Costa Rica. As I came across this email, and saw the subject titled “New Paltz plans a trip to Costa Rica”, I instantly thought of a beach with white sand, green water and huge palm trees. I was definitely going on this trip until I later found out that it wasn’t going to be an average typical vacation. It wasn’t the kind of vacation where a person normally spends his or her time at a beautiful resort, drinking wine coolers while laying out catching the sunrays. Instead, we were going to be exploring and hiking through the tropical rain forests of Costa Rica, staying at a home stay, learning how to surf, and going white water rafting.

At the first general interest meeting, the coordinator; Keith Kenny, made it clear to us that we would be hiking about twenty seven miles with a fifteen pound backpack for the first three days. Before he continued any further, I already had second thoughts about participating in this adventure. I’ve never engaged in any of those activities before and I was more than willing to do so with the exception of the hiking phase. The sound alone, of hiking up and down hills for twenty seven miles seemed discouraging, so the thought of actually doing so, seemed impossible to me. After contemplating for about a week and discussing the trip with friends and family, I decided to participate. I was aware of the possible struggles and discomfort during the voyage, however having the opportunity to experience a different country was enough to convince me that my time in Costa Rica would be worth it.
To my surprise, the most memorable moment of the entire trip was indeed the hiking phase. Although it was extremely dreadful and exhausting, after completing the twenty- seventh mile on the third day, I had never felt the sensation of triumph like the way I did at that particular moment and despite the fact of the several bumps and bruises I had, the accomplishment made it all the more rewarding. Because I often doubted my physical capability, way before I even attempted this voyage, to this day, it all seems surreal.
Hiking through the rainforest I came across orange sewage, leaves the size of me, several birds and distinct insets, and much more. The presence of the nature and being alienated from the computer and television, allowed me to embrace and be mindful of our natural surroundings. In addition, this particular location has contributed to my sense of self in ways that have allowed me to explore my strengths and weaknesses. By being exposed to outdoorsy environments I developed a passion for the wilderness and I was able to appreciate the advantages that I have in which others may be unfortunate of.

Going on this trip has been one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had. Being in the heart of the mountains, surrounded by all the beauty of the rain forest was so invigorating and fulfilling. Every place we went to had its own charm and wisdom and taught us a little something about the world and more importantly, about ourselves. On a larger scale I was able to experience how simply life can be lived and how simplicity does not imply unhappiness, but in fact nurtures happiness.
Costa Rica, with all the beautiful places and people, taught me that there is so much beauty around that if we disconnect from our modern lives, we are able to take in and appreciate the world for what it is. Although I was far from my comfort zone, I am glad that I was pushed beyond my standard individual limits. It forced me to try new things and from this I learned to never underestimate my capabilities of achievement. Traveling to Costa Rica increased my passion for traveling and experiencing different cultures.

All in all, it felt like an entirely different world. It was extremely refreshing to be away from my cell phone, laptop, and all the other technology that plagues us. The trip itself was a huge learning experience and had a major impact on my life and the way I view the importance of nature and family. Compared to families in some parts of New York City, unity is so strongly influenced in Costa Rica; it is almost shocking to believe that families of twenty three manage to remain connected and content without any forms of technology. Although I encountered obstacles along the way, I overcame my sense of doubt which had shaped me into becoming a stronger individual.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Costa Rica Outward Bound welcomes El Colegio Europeo

Costa Rica Outward Bound is well known for its semester and summer courses, but what you may not know is that we also offer educational institutions, corporate groups, social organizations, friends and families the opportunity to design and experience their “own” Outward Bound experience—we call this a “custom course” Shawn Pendergrass is our Custom Course Manager and is involved at all stages of creating custom courses with interested groups.

El Colegio Europeo, located in Heredia (Costa Rica), has been doing custom courses with us every year, for nearly 10 years!  The first week of October, 20 students and teachers from El Colegio Europeo will start this year’s Outward Bound adventure by hiking around Santa Maria de Dota.  Along the way, they will be studying the flora and fauna of Costa Rica, and then camp out under the stars.

From there, they will continue to hike all the way to Rancho Tinamu.  When they are not playing in waterfalls, they will participate in an educational tour of a thoroughly eco-sustainable farm.  After a few nights at Rancho Tinamu, the school will continue to hike down to Londres, which is a farming village just outside of Quepos/Manuel Antonio.  While they are in the area, the students are going to visit the world-celebrated Manuel Antonio National Park and spend some time at the beach!

Some of our fave instructors-- Orlando Zamora, Mauren Granados, Alexandra Cervantes, and Antonio Lopez—will be working with this group the first week of October.  Please do not hesitate to contact our Custom Course Manager, Shawn Pendergrass, at if you would like to learn more about how to create and design your own Costa Rica Outward Bound experience!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Do you have what it takes for a Costa Rica Outward Bound Semester Course?!

Costa Rica Outward Bound offers three intense semester courses each Fall and Spring: Tri-Country, Water and Wave, and Leadership. Ranging from 65-85 days, these courses offer students ages 17+ the opportunity to have an in-depth Outward Bound experience. 

Tri-Country Semester  This course is most well-known for its coast-to-coast hike across the entire country of Costa Rica.  Through Costa Rica Outward Bound’s unique approach to outdoor, experiential education and personal development, this is your opportunity to experience the best of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Panamanian islands of Bocas del Toro, both on land and by sea, as well as earn academic credits. 
Water and Wave Semester Why sit in a classroom when you could be earning college credit while surfing, kayaking, white-water rafting, and SCUBA diving in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama?!  If water sports – especially surfing – and travel appeal to you, then the Water & Wave Semester is for you!
Leadership Semester  By far our most popular semester course (this Fall’s course is already full!), the Leadership course is for people interested in careers in the outdoor education and/or adventure sports industries. Students train to be multi-skilled outdoor adventure professionals in a variety of settings; procure internationally-recognized certifications; learn and practice leadership skills; and have an opportunity to earn a 3-month internship with us.
Before you are fully enrolled into a Costa Rica Outward Bound semester course, all students must speak one-on-one with our Enrollment Coordinator for a brief “interview.”  This process helps us ensure your chosen course is the best fit for your skills and expectations, as well as share a number of important course policies with you and help prepare you for the unique challenges of a Costa Rica Outward Bound semester course.  This conversation is also an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about going on a semester course.
The physical challenges of our semester courses are obvious; however, the emotional and mental challenges of a semester course are greatly underestimated.   The interview process is designed – above all else -- to help students think about and prepare for these challenges.

You will be asked to look at any fears or concerns you may have—for example, some people are nervous about SCUBA diving or scared of heights (a big obstacle when waterfall rappelling, for example.)  Also, on every semester course, there will be “solo” time—which is more of a meditative exercise than a “survival” exercise, but most of the time you are a critical and constant part of a group.
The group dynamic is crucial to the success of the course for all—cooperation, clear communication, fellow emotional (and sometimes physical) support, sense of humor, patience, and harmony are all key and need to be worked on every day on a course.  You will also look at what events or situations stress you out, and which bring you happiness and fulfillment.
There is also a strict “code of conduct” to be considered and how you can cope without your laptop, cell phone, or MP3 player.  You will have limited access to your family and friends at home and the support network you’ve come to rely on through these relationships.  All of this tends to be a shock to students at first, but once you get “into” the course, you will discover invaluable insights into yourself, others, and the world around you.
All of our courses teach you practical, valuable and even marketable skills; introduce you to another culture; and most importantly, teach you more about yourself.  Know that all of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenges that you may face on a Costa Rica Outward Bound course are thoughtfully designed to serve you in all areas of your life.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This is a list of what our instructors deem as fundamental gear for your course. Feel free to bring items that are not on this list, but please keep in mind that you will be responsible for your personal belongings. Do not bring more than you think you will be able to carry.

Prior to leaving our base, instructors lead students through a process we call the “Duffle Shuffle.” During this process you will be issued the necessary equipment for whichever phase of your course (trekking, surfing, etc.) that you are about to embark on. At this time, instructors will advise you as to which of your personal items you will not need or cannot take on course. Any such items will be locked in our storage facility on base and returned to you at the end of your course.

When packing, please keep in mind that rain, mud, and cold nights are inevitable. Good equipment can protect your body from these elements and really make a difference in your comfort level.

Personal Clothing

2-3 Pairs of casual/street clothes for travel
1-2 Tight-fitting rash guards for surfing
Underwear – lightweight, fast drying, non-cotton
3 Pairs (minimum) of serious hiking socks - wool or synthetic, such as Smartwool
4 T-shirts - highly preferable: non-cotton, fasting drying, and/or wicking fabric
3 Tank tops
2 Pairs of shorts – lightweight, fast drying, non-cotton
1 Pair of pants – lightweight, non-cotton (for mosquito protection)
1 Pair of Jeans or other comfortable pants
1 Lightweight non-cotton long sleeve shirt (for mosquito protection)
1 Fleece jacket – at Base Camp and during the hiking section, you will encounter cold nights
1-2 Bandanas
1 Baseball cap or wide brimmed hat
1 Beach towel or Sarong

Rain Gear

**You WILL get rained on during your course. Rain gear can make or break your trip. Take the time and spend the money to get quality rain gear.

1 Lightweight WATERPROOF/breathable rain jacket with a hood. Check at your local outdoor store (REI, EMS, etc.) for their store brand of jacket. Some people choose to use ponchos instead of buying a rain jacket. If you choose this option, please be aware that ponchos tear easily and often do not last the length of the course.

1 Large waterproof backpack cover

Foot Wear

1 Pair medium-weight, high-top hiking boots.
*When you are purchasing new boots make sure they are comfortable and come up ABOVE the ankle for good ankle support. BREAK IN YOUR BOOTS! If you purchase new boots, follow the advice of the sales representative/boot manufacturer as to the length of time you need to wear your boots to sufficiently break them in before arriving. The more your wear your boots before you arrive the less chance you’ll have of getting bad blisters. Students have had to leave their courses because of bad blisters caused by new boots!!! Don’t let this happen to you!

1 Pair non-Velcro sandals with ankle straps OR neoprene SCUBA/surfing shoes with a rubber sole. This is to protect your feet during the river section. We recommend Chacos, Keens or Tevas. Crocs are not recommended.

1 Pair of Flip-flops (for the beach/casual days)

For Women

2 Swimsuits – at least one needs to be a sports swimsuit for surfing and beach athletics
1 Pair of board shorts/swim trunks
2-3 Comfortable sports bras - non cotton if possible

Tampons – bring a good supply even if you do not expect to need them. You DO NOT want to be surprised on course. Try to find a brand without plastic applicators or that are bio-degradable. Menstrual cramp medication recommended if you normally need it.

For Men

2 Pairs of board shorts/swim trunks

Personal Gear

1 Pair gaiters, medium height – Gaiters are a valuable piece of equipment that help to keep water, mud and other debris out of your hiking boots.
1 Pair UVA/UVB protection sunglasses - polarized lenses are best for the water
2 Nalgenes or other wide-mouth water bottles - 1L each
1 Camelback – just the plastic bag and hose, backpack not necessary. *Very helpful on long hikes.
1 Fox 40 whistle (non-cork ball)
1 Headlamp with extra batteries - Energizer brand headlamps have proven to be durable as well as cost efficient for course
1 Box of large Ziploc-type plastic bags
2 Bottles of insect repellant (weaker strength for day, stronger strength for night)
2 Aloe Vera gel or other sunburn creams
1 Lip salve or balm with sunscreen
2 Bottles of waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
1 Tube zinc oxide sun protection - if you burn easily this is the best sunscreen for you
1 Pack towel (shammy)
1 Full size bath towel and/or beach towel (CRROBS does not provide any towels)
1 Roll Duct tape (small roll)
1 Personal journal, paper, envelopes, and pens - we gladly provide postage for letters home


Your toiletry kit should include toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, biodegradable shampoo/conditioner, foot powder, deodorant (unscented), antibacterial hand sanitizer, brush or comb, etc.

Because you will be in Costa Rica for such a long time it is natural to bring large bottles of shampoo/conditioner, sunscreen, toothpaste etc. However, you will not want to carry these large bottles in your backpack during the hiking section. Please bring small refillable bottles (travel size) to carry while backpacking. Your back will thank you.


Moleskin or Molefoam (for blister protection) is strongly recommended
1 Bottle of Swimmer’s Ear to help prevent ear infections

NOTE: Instructors carry complete First Aid kits on all courses, so you only need to bring medications that are specific to your needs. If you are taking prescription medicines or have glasses/contacts, bring backup supplies (up to twice the normal amount – in case of loss/emergency.)

Travel Documents/Money

Your passport (must be valid for at least six months)

Your plane ticket and copies of your flight itinerary to assist us in planning transportation for your return flight

A photocopy of the picture ID page of your passport

$500 US CASH or Credit Card for medical emergency and personal items


1 Pair of lightweight trekking poles – these will protect your knees during the hiking phase.
2-3 Pairs of synthetic sock liners – NOT COTTON
1 Extra pair of boot laces
3mm spring suit (shorty wetsuit) – only for Fall Semester students. If you get cold easily, this is a good idea.
1 Small dry bag
Camera(s) – disposable/disposable waterproof are good options. If you bring a more expensive camera, we recommend a small dry bag or other waterproof case to store it. If you bring a digital camera, consider bringing extra batteries and memory cards.
1- 2 Secure straps (“Croakies”) for your sunglasses and/or glasses, if applicable
Camp/travel hammock – “Eagles nest” or Hennessy hammocks made of lightweight nylon are best. Many students buy a traditional hammock in Costa Rica before leaving the country as a souvenir, but this will not be available until the end of the course.
2-3 Books for your reading pleasure
1 Travel size sewing kit
1 Travel pillow
1 Mosquito net – students in the past have said these are VERY helpful for Nicaragua
1 Spanish-English dictionary
1 Deck of cards or other travel game

CRROBS Provides

Hiking backpack (if you have your own you are welcome to use it!)
Sleeping bag and pads
Meal kit
All necessary river equipment


YOU DO NOT NEED TO BRING YOUR OWN BOARD! It is not a good idea to buy a board if you are a new surfer, just for this course--you can rent a board from us.

However, if you insist on bringing  your board with you to Costa Rica:

Ensure that it is carefully packaged for transport- if you need suggestions for this, ask!Be sure to bring all necessary parts: fins, bolts leash, bag, etc. and necessary tools specific to your board.CRROBS provides surf wax.

Think carefully about bringing your own board- it may be damaged in flight or on course. CRROBS is not responsible for any such damages should they occur.


The following items will not be allowed while you are on course and will have to be left at our base. You may consider leaving them at home:

Cell phones – Cell phones will most likely not work once you land in Costa Rica and therefore are only useful in US airports. Regardless of service, they are not permitted on course.

I-pods or other music devices- These items will be put in our safe at the beginning of the course and you will not have access to them again until the last day of your course.

Watches/ Clocks- If you are used to checking your wrist every five minutes, it’s time to relax. =) If you bring a watch with you, you will be asked to leave it at base. We find that students enjoy themselves much more if they aren’t worried about the time.

Pocket Knives or Multi-Tools- We supply all the cutting implements you will need for your course; personal ones will need to be left on base.

Lighters- Our instructors carry all fire-starting devices you will need for camping and cooking activities on course.

ANY OTHER PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES- (with the exception of cameras) must be left behind once you start your course, so think carefully before bringing them.

We take this very seriously! Violations are grounds for expulsion from course. If you have questions, please ask.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Earn college credits while surfing, rafting and diving in Central America: Water and Wave Fall Semester Course 2010

Why sit in a classroom when you could be earning college credit while surfing, kayaking, white-water rafting, and SCUBA diving in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama?! If water sports and travel appeal to you, then the Water & Wave Semester is for you! The course starts Sept. 26 and runs through Dec 4th. It is not too late to register!

This course starts at Base Camp and then quickly takes you trekking through the mountains, where you will see wildlife, camp, play in waterfalls, and learn about the ecology and the people who live there. Your trek will lead you to an isolated village where you will spend a few nights with a Costa Rican family, fully participating in their rural lifestyle, such as: harvesting and grinding sugarcane; making home-made tortillas from scratch; and of course, playing soccer with the local children. Also during the family homestay, you will participate in your “solo”. The “solo” is not a survival test, but more of a meditative exercise where you spend a couple days totally alone in the jungle.

After your homestay, you will hike through the rainforest to the Pacific coast to learn how to surf at Costa Rica´s Central Pacific coast, Costa Rica´s Northern Pacific coast, and Nicaragua´s Southern Pacific coast. Expect some day trips to world-famous surf spots such as Witch´s Rock, Avellanas, Hermosa, Damas, and Maderas.

When you are not surfing or playing at the beach, you will raft and kayak on the celebrated Rio Pacuare, which is rated in the top 10 of the world’s white-water rivers.
Expect to also spend a day on the San Jose cultural “City Tour”. Then, the rest of this course will be spent island-hopping in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Via sea kayak, you will explore remote, unspoiled islands surrounded by coral reef. Your neighbors will be manna ray, crocodiles, dolphins, and local indigenous communities. In addition to water adventure sports and beach camping, you will participate in a community service project. Past service projects have included improving community access to clean water and nutrition education.

SCUBA lessons begin with on-land, technical instruction—reading, theory sessions, and written assignments-- complemented by supervised, steadily increasing depth dives in a local lagoon. In addition to getting SCUBA certification, you will learn about reef and coastal ecology while snorkeling, wake-boarding, knee-boarding, and sailing in a catamaran.

This course will teach you practical, valuable skills as well as earn you college credits; introduce you to another culture; and most importantly, teach you more about yourself. All of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenges that you may face on a Costa Rica Outward Bound course are thoughtfully designed to serve you in all areas of your life. For more info, please visit our website.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Community service not just for students—but for CRROBS staff as well!

When most people think of COSTA RICA OUTWARD BOUND, they think of outdoor adventure sports, such as trekking volcanoes, zip-wire flying and SCUBA diving, in remote exotic places. But what few may not know is that one of the core values of COSTA RICA OUTWARD BOUND is community service. All of our courses, whether they are designed for adults or teens, include a community service project.

However, Costa Rica Outward Bound’s commitment to community service is not just for our students. Last week, Costa Rica Outward Bound, in partnership with Campo Escuela Nacional Iztarú (CENI), the official national center for training and events for the Association of Girl and Boy Scouts of Costa Rica, conducted a rappelling “play-shop” for a local Costa Rican high school, Sistema Educativo San Lorenzo.

Just a week before school final exams, when students will be mentally challenged, as well as glued to their seats (either studying or taking exams), Sistema Educativo San Lorenzo proposed students should equally be physically challenged and get some therapeutic fresh air. Therefore, the school approached Campo Escuela Nacional Iztarú for some inspiration, and they turned around and contacted us.

Costa Rica Outward Bound has a long history working with the Association of Girl and Boy Scouts of Costa Rica. We constructed and continue to maintain the climbing wall and all its equipment at the Campo Escuela Nacional Iztarú. In addition to this tangible contribution, our CRROBS staff trains Iztarú Camp staff in climbing and rappelling, and regularly provides free training to local schools.

Therefore, last Monday, August 30th, CRROBS instructors Danny Jimenez and Carola Coto Mora, taught 18 not-so-sure-about-this high school students and 3 enthusiastic teachers how to climb and rappel. There was a lot of cheering, laughing, shouting directions (“a derecha!”), and hugging after each climb. It was refreshing to see students hugging their teachers and friends, and the pats on the back for those that faced their fears and managed to get to the top anyway.