Friday, October 29, 2010

The Río General

 Costa Rica Leadership Students Raft the Rio General

Costa Rica is known for its world-class whitewater rafting. It has many fantastic rivers for all skill levels, on which rafting trips can last anywhere from a few hours to a four or five days.

Our Water & Wave students are currently on a multiple day rafting trip on of Costa Rica's most famous rivers, the Rio General(map? or wiki). Rio General is near San Isidro, in the South West portion of the country.

The Rio General is typically a Class III to Class IV river, as defined by the International Scale of River Difficulty.

Although there are more than 1,000 miles of rapids in this huge river system, Costa Rica Outward Bound courses typically run the portion from San Isidro to El Brujo. (This is also the part that gets the most commercial attention). While this portion of the river is only about 40 miles long, it produces a different kind of whitewater experience from others of Costa Rica's rivers. Kayakers in particular love surfing the Rio General's huge waves and tackling the big holes and rapids not found in Costa Rica's other rivers.
(From Costa Rica Outdoors)

For more information on Costa Rica's other whitewater rivers, click here, and to follow the progress of our Water & Wave students, or any of our other courses, check out updates on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween in Costa Rica

This weekend is Halloween! Time for candy and costumes, ghosts and ghouls. While Halloween isn't a traditional Costa Rican holiday, it is quickly gaining prominence, especially among the younger Ticos. Here is a great blog post from "Eye On Costa Rica" about Halloween in CR!

Halloween….in Costa Rica. A Happy Holiday?...: "Well, it’s almost that time of year again, October 31st, when countries like the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, France and many other countries around the world celebrate Halloween. A mostly unfamiliar tradition in Costa Rica..."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet The Instructors: Leadership Fall 2010

Meet The Instructors for our Fall 2010 Leadership Course. For more information on our Field Staff and to see their certifications, click here.

Alexandra Cervantes, Hiking Instructor

About: Even though she was born in Nicaragua, she moved to Miami, FL, at age four, then went to Montreat College in North Carolina, where she earned a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education. Since then, she moved to Nicaragua, Boulder, CO, and then back to Nicaragua where she currently works as a science teacher at the American Nicaraguan School.

Sean Marr, Lead Instructor
Hometown: Doylestown, PA

About: Before joining Costa Rica Outward Bound, Sean spent time studying in Mexico, and then teaching ESL in Pennsylvania. Although he loves traveling, Sean is very close to his family and plans to move to the states when he gets older. 

Read more: Sean's Leadership Series profile and Canopy Chronicle article

Orlando Zamora, Hiking Instructor
Hometown: Piedras Blancas, Costa Rica
About: Orlando is arguably the strongest instructor we have at Costa Rica Outward Bound. He not only built his house for his wife and five kids, but he carried their cast iron stove 15 km to his house on mountainous rainforest terrain.Last December, he carried the large water tank 12 km to the small village during a water supply service project.

Mauren Granados, Hiking Instructor
Hometown: Piedras Blancas, Costa Rica

About: Mauren is one of our toughest female instructors. She knows the rainforests of Costa Rica inside and out, and is always happy to share her knowledge. One of Mauren's surprising passions is for watching free-style motocross. When she's not instructing courses, Mauren enjoys playing soccer with people in her town.

Joe Ewing, River Instructor
Hometown: Castle Rock, CO

When he is not rafting or river kayaking, Joe is a one man show on his banjo. He has a passion for the environment, a seemingly tireless supply of energy and a gift for story-telling.  Joe is always fun to have around and is an undisputed master of the river.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Four-Legged Additions to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Family

Bienvenidos to the two newest additions to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Family - Zoe and Rocky! They are both American Staffordshire Terriers, like "Petey the Pup" from the movie Little Rascals. Don't be alarmed though - these two dogs are the sweetest things on four legs, and are fast becoming favorites here on base! Zoe, the grey-blue pup is a year and three months, while baby Rocky is only three months. Check them out in action!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carnaval in the Caribbean

This week is Carnaval in Limón, Costa Rica. Limón, which is a port town on the central Caribbean coast, is famous for having the largest Carnaval celebration in all of Costa Rica. It's a cultural celebration that has also become a major tourist spectacle, attracting thousands of visitors from across Costa Rica and abroad.

The week-long festival which began last Wednesday celebrates La Día de las Culturas, or the Day of Cultures. This makes its setting in Limón fitting, since the Caribbean coast is a melting pot of Spanish-Costa Rican, African and Caribbean Culture.

Leading the festivities are the comparsas, or the traditional dance groups. The term comparsas applies to any traditional dance group in any Latino part of the world, but at the Limón Carnaval the comparsas are truly the spirit of the Caribbean city during the festival celebrations.

Tico Comparsas spend the entire year leading up to Carnaval carefully combining Africa, Caribbean and Costa Rican motifs into their dances, costumes and music. They will be center stage on Saturday, when Limón Carnaval culminates with a street party un-matched anywhere in Costa Rica.

 Check out the video above to watch some comparsas in action!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Uses for Sarongs

On top of being a great souvenir gift, we've found that the simple Sarong can be one of the most versatile items to pack when you've got limited space. Whether you're going to the beach, hiking in the woods or heading out to eat, a sarong comes in handy in just about any situation.

1. Mosquito repellent
Tropical paradise isn't quite paradise if you're being eaten alive by minuscule blood-suckers. When you run out of insect repellent (or if you don't have space to pack enough for the whole trip) a cover up can be invaluable in keeping pesky mosquitoes at bay. Or, for those opposed to toxic warfare, protect your skin by soaking your sarong in coconut oil, then throw it over your shoulders and stay mosquito free.                                                           

2. Sunblock
Costa Rica is much closer to the equator than most people realize, and the sun shines much hotter here. Even if you're very diligent about applying and reapplying sunblock, its easy to get burned (especially when you're swimming and sweating all day). Having a light layer over your skin can help protect you from the sun and keep you from getting nicknamed "lobster-legs". Drape a sarong over exposed skin and feel immediate relief from intense rays.

3. Beach towel
Quick-drying, light-weight and easily to de-sand, a sarong is the perfect substitute for a bulky beach towel. Lay it on the sand and catch some rays, or use it to dry off on your way out of the water. Hang it up on a nearby branch or lay it in direct sunlight and your sarong will be dry and ready to pack up even before you are!
                                             Sarongs as Beach Towels

4. Yoga Mat
Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles out and relax your body after a day of hiking, surfing or paddling. Carrying a yoga mat with you when you're backpacking however, might be a little excessive, even for the most dedicated yogis. Instead, find a flat space on the ground (or sand), lay out your sarong and OM to your heart's content. When you're finished, simply pick up and shake off your sarong, and put it back in your pack.

5. Clothing
A knot here, a tuck there, and you can go from beach to fabulous in no time flat. Sarongs can be cleverly turned into a dress, skirt or top, a fashionable neck-scarf or a head covering. They're great to wear on the way off the beach into a restaurant and transition well from day to night.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Service with SIGA

As a commitment to serve is part of our mission statement at Costa Rica Outward Bound, we are always excited about partnering with new community service organizations here in Central America. Most recently, we have partnered with SIGA Ministries to deliver school supplies to children in underdeveloped regions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

SIGA, which stands for Servants in Grace Abounding, is a "ministry of encouragement" that aims to improve the quality of life in remote regions of Latin America.

Founded by Ruth Clowater and her husband Carlos Espinoza in 2004, SIGA Ministries, Inc. is a Virginia-based 501(c)3 in the United States with full-time outreach programs in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

SIGA Ministries works in remote communities to provide educational materials for children, facilitate community development projects for indigenous peoples, teach adult literacy classes and fund womens empowerment and economic initiatives that aid women entrepreneurs in starting new businesses.

Costa Rica Outward Bound Tri-Country students will be working directly with SIGA Ministries to deliver school supplied to a remote town in Costa Rica along the Sarapiqui River. The Tri-Country group will deliver school supplies to the village of Arbolitos as they paddle up the Sarapiqui on their way to San Juan Del Norte, Nicaragua. Then SIGA will help to deliver the school supplies to over 300 students in about 24 schools in and around Arbolitos.

The children will receive things like pens and pencils (especially decorative ones), glue sticks, erasers, individual pencil sharpeners and composition books (in spanish: cuadernos). There will also be small toys and/or personal items that will be given as Christmas gifts during the holiday season.

To learn more about SIGA Ministries check out

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Keep in Touch With Students on Course

As part of Costa Rica Outward Bound program, we remove the distractions of the outside world. This means no MP3 players, computers or cell phones while on course. We do this in order to help students disconnect from the high-tech world they live in so they can enjoy their experience here in Costa Rica.

That does not mean it is impossible to contact with students while they are in Costa Rica. Here are several easy ways to keep in touch with students while they are on course.

Facebook is a great way to stay up-to-date on what students are doing while they are on course. We post regular updates on our Fan Page about the whereabouts and activities of students, as well as upload photos from course. NOTE: While we wish we could post photos more often, our social media staff does not have access to students or their cameras until they return to base. Please be patient - we put up photos as soon as we get them in the office!

Viewing photos and updates is easy once you become a fan of Costa Rica Outward Bound's Facebook Page! Here's how you do it:

Become a Fan:
Step 1: Log into Facebook

Step 2: Copy and paste into your address bar
(This will take you to the Costa Rica Outward Bound Fan Page)

Step 3: Click on the "Like" button at the top

Congratulations, you have officially become a fan of Costa Rica Outward Bound! Now you can post on our wall, make comments on our posts and look at photos of students on course.

NOTE: Students will not have access to the internet while they are on course, so they will not be able to see or respond to your wall posts. If you have a more personal, private or important message to send to your student while he/she is on course, please follow the instructions for how to email students on course.

In case of emergency, Facebook should only be used as a last-resort method of contacting us. Please refer to our Emergency Contact Procedure for more information on how to contact students during an emergency.

The best way to communicate directly with a student is to send an email to Please include the student's name and course in the subject line. Any email received in this manner will be printed out and given to students as soon as it becomes possible. Letters may be delivered on re-supply days, or when the students return to base. Additionally, students on longer courses may have the opportunity to write emails to their friends and family on their transition days, although we cannot guarantee that will be the case for every course.

When they first arrive on base after landing in Costa Rica, all students are required to contact their families to assure they arrived safely. After this point however, students will only have access to the telephone in an emergency situations. If you want to speak to one of the office staff, we are happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.

International Toll Free Numbers:

  • We are reachable between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MST.
  • If you are calling outside of those hours, please leave us a message and one of our staff members will return your call as soon as we are back in the office.
  • In the case of an emergency that occurs outside of these hours, please refer to our Emergency Contact Procedure.

We do not encourage families or friends to send physical mail to students while they are here for one simple reason: It most likely won't arrive until after the student has left Costa Rica. Mail to and from Costa Rica can often take an excessively long time to be delivered. For example, an Easter package that was sent to one of our staff members in April did not arrive on base until early September.

That being said, If you absolutely must send mail to a student while they are here, it can be sent to the address listed below. Please note that it is a P.O. Box, so packages larger than a deck of cards will be returned to sender.

PO Box 1817-2050
San Pedro, San Jose
Costa Rica 02050

NOTE: Letters and packages sent by courier or certified mail will not be accepted.

Keep in Touch!
Here are some ways to stay up to date on the happenings at Costa Rica Outward Bound (even after your student has left course.)

1. Follow us on Twitter
2. Keep reading our Blog!
3. Sign up for our Newsletter

In the event of an emergency in which you must contact a student on course, please follow these instructions:

1. If you are trying to reach us between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MST

Call one of our primary office numbers:

    Primary International Number        1-800-676-2018

    Primary Costa Rica Number          +506-2278-6062    (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6062)

NOTE: Messages left after 5 pm are checked the following weekday morning

2. If you need to reach us between 5 pm - 9 am (MST) on a weekday, or on a weekends

Call one of our Costa Rican lines (in the following order)

    Communication Director Home: +506-2278-6085     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6085)
    Communication Director Mobile: +506-8352-1329     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8352-1329)

    Program Director Home: +506-2278-6102     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-2278-6102)
    Program Director Mobile: +506-8323-5037     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8323-5037)

    Executive Director Mobile: +506-8883-9838     (If calling internationally, dial 011-506-8883-9838)

3. If none of the above methods worked

Send an email to

Send a fax to one of the following:


NOTE: Always leave return contact numbers and indicate the action you would like CRROBS to take regarding communication.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bringing Your Surfboard: The Ugly Truth

Getting a new surfboard is really exciting. You have the chance to get to know the board, know the feel of it, the thickness and the balance points. You know how to take the drop, how much speed you'll get and how to carve on it. It's easy to get attached. So when its time to take a surf-trip, of course you want to bring along the board you love best.

While once-upon-a-time, all you needed was a passport and a board bag to have an international surf adventure, airlines have started to make it more and more difficult for surfers to travel with their boards. These days, oversized baggage fees, undersized planes and travel embargoes are normal roadblocks for traveling surfers run into.

Because of these things, we at Costa Rica Outward Bound don't always recommend bringing your own board on course. It often is more trouble than its worth. Plus, we have a great selection of boards from 5'4" fish to 10'6" longboards and everything in between), so if you're renting from us, you're bound to find something you'll love shredding on.

If you are set on brining your own board however, here is an excerpt from a great article from, with up-to-date information on taxes and fees for traveling with surfboards, by airline.

Aero Mexico
$65 One-way per board, maximum length 9ft – packed

Air Pacific
Varies Variable Excess Baggage Charge + $22 “Bulky Item” charge.

Air New Zealand
Free As part of your two-bag limit, otherwise $80. Max. length is 6½ ft.

$50/$75 63-80 in/81-115 in. One-way per bag.

American Airlines
$100/$150 Domestic/International. One-way per bag under 70 lbs.

EMBARGO IN EFFECT No surfboards allowed on Continental flights to Latin America from June 4, 2009 through August 20, 2009. Embargo also in force during Christmas and Easter.

800-221-1212 $175
Domestic/$300 International One-way per board.

Hawaiian Air
$100 One-way. Two boards max. per bag, Max height 11ft.

Japan Air
$50/$350 $50 for the first board. $350 a piece for others.

Jet Blue*
$50 One-way per bag. *No excess baggage (including surfboards) allowed on flights to the Santo Domingo or Santiago

Free; Cannot exceed 80 or 99 lb.

$65 One-way per bag, Max 100

$175 One-way per bag. Max 109

Free as part of your two bag limit. Otherwise $53 each way.

South African Airlines
Free As part of your two bag limit, not exceeding 109, otherwise, $125

$50/ $150 international Domestic/International. One-way per bag (2 boards per bag). No size restrictions.

$175/$250 Under 109/Over 109, One-way per bag, 2 boards per bag

Virgin Atlantic
Free, limit one per customer.

Depending on the time of year, some airlines won’t even take your surfboard — for any excess baggage charge. See the list below, and ask any airline, especially if you’re booking during peak travel times.

Excess baggage (including surfboards) is NOT accepted from June 3 through August 31 to the following cities: Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE), Quito, Ecuador (UIO), San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL), Guadalajara, Mexico (GDL), Leon, Mexico (BJX), Zacatecas, Mexico (ZCL). Also, no bag over 50 lbs or 62 linear inches will be accepted for travel during the period.

Surfboards and Wakeboards will not be accepted during an excess baggage embargo when no excess baggage is allowed (0 pieces). Exception: Surfboards and Wakeboards will be accepted to Costa Rica during an embargo period. Continental does not accept excess baggage in the following YEAR ROUND embargoed markets: Caracas, Venezuela (CCS); Houston, Texas to Bogota, Colombia (BOG) Lima, Peru (LIM) San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL) Santiago, Dominican Republic (STI) Tortola, British Virgin Islands (EIS)

Travel to Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador
The checked baggage policy for travel from (and via) Los Angeles to Costa Rica and Guatemala effective February 18, 2005, is as follows: During the peak summer travel period of May 28-September 6, and the peak winter travel period of December 4, 2005-January 6, 2006, customers are limited to the number and size of their checked baggage. The following guidelines apply to all customers: Maximum linear dimensions: 62 linear inches/157cm (length + width + height) each. No oversize, overweight or extra bags will be accepted. (= NO SURFBOARDS) Only one box is permitted as part of a customer’s free allowance; it must be the original manufacturer’s box containing the original item.

Side note: it's not uncommon for surfers who prefer to surf their own board to purchase one when they arrive in Costa Rica. Its often more economical than paying round-trip airline fees, and frequently they are able to sell the boards before leaving the country, virtually eliminating all any expense. Should you chose this option, Costa Rica Outward Bound's local surf instructors can help you find and purchase a new or used board for your Costa Rica surf adventure.