Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Central America Mar 3rd, 2017 to Mar 11th, 2017
Cost: $1,326.00 Partner Organization(s): Rio Drake Farm Service Type: Environmental conservation, sustainability Language(s): Spanish Number of Participants: 12

Trip Logistics & Participant Requirements

We’ll begin this amazing trip on Friday, March 3 by driving up to Northern Virginia, where we’ll spend the night with Rachel’s relatives. Early Saturday morning we’ll fly from Dulles to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, spend the afternoon sightseeing there, and then stay the night at a nearby Airbnb. Then, we’ll be up bright and early again Sunday to travel to Drake Bay via taxi, bus, and ferry, where our site contacts, Edu and Sabrina, will pick us up. We’ll stay in Drake Bay until Friday, when we will board a plane to San José, spend another day there, and then fly back to Dulles on Saturday. We plan to arrive back in Charlottesville around 11:00 PM Saturday night.

While in Drake Bay, we’ll be staying at Río Drake Farm, a beautiful eco-friendly resort owned and operated by our site contacts. Bounded by the jungle and the shores of a lagoon, this idyllic getaway spot boasts palm trees, tropical birds, and LOTS of hammocks, which are perfect for lounging and enjoying the Pura Vida vibes.

Some knowledge of Spanish would be helpful for this trip, but it’s by no means a requirement—our site contacts both speak English, and most of our possible projects won’t be communication-intensive. That said, being able to speak Spanish will allow you to engage more fully with the people of Drake Bay, potentially making for a more meaningful experience. The same goes for a background in sustainability or the environment: it’s not necessary, but you may get more out of this trip if you have one. Don’t let a lack of experience in either of these fields hold you back from applying—what’s most important is an open mind and a can-do attitude!

Service Activities:

Río Drake Farm has two major goals—preserve the environment and contribute to the development of the local community—, and we will definitely be helping to accomplish both of those ends. Exactly what we’ll be doing, though, depends on the current progress of outstanding projects and the expressed needs of our site contacts. Past projects have included beach clean-ups, planting trees or vegetables, building hammocks, aqueducts for drinking water, and recycling stations, and painting community rooms and the local church. Regardless of what we do, be prepared to get your hands dirty!

Regional Background:

One of the most stable nations in Latin America, Costa Rica is known for its booming ecotourism industry. Its beaches attract vacation-goers looking to unwind, while its national parks (which contain around 25% of the country’s land area) present a paradise for naturalists and thrill-seekers alike. Possibly the greatest draw of Costa Rica, though, is its inhabitants—their motto, Pura Vida, or pure life, speaks to their reputation as an extremely friendly and easygoing people. Costa Rica is also a well-known producer and user of sustainable energy, taking electricity from wind, water, and geothermal sources; it’s been lauded as one of the “greenest” countries in the world and plans on becoming carbon-neutral by 2021. At the same time, though, crime is a major issue in Costa Rica, especially crime related to the drug trade, and many areas are still transitioning from an agricultural economy to a more modern one. Related to that, too, is that the environment is beginning to suffer as a result of global warming and industrialization as larger, non-sustainable business are entering the national market.

Community Background:

Río Drake Farm is owned and operated by Edu Pomares, a nature guide who grew up in Drake Bay, and Sabrina Schäublin, a biologist originally from Switzerland. As mentioned before, Edu and Sabrina strive to make Río Drake Farm good for the environment as well as for the community: it uses solar power to charge its electronic equipment and strives to minimize excess waste on-site, and it undertakes at least one major project yearly in the Drake Bay area.

Drake Bay, which lies on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, takes its name from Sir Francis Drake, who reportedly used the port in the 16th century. (It may also be the burial place of a fabled pirate treasure!) However, it was settled only recently and was accessible solely by sea until the late 20th century. As a result, its rainforest landscape remains in very pristine condition, an attraction which has led it to become an ecotourism destination since around 1990–and which has led the Costa Rican government to make extensive efforts to protect it. Río Drake Farm works to preserve this amazing landscape while ensuring that the community can develop and coexist with it.

Recreational Activities:

Our time in Drake Bay will allow us to experience pura vida to the fullest! We definitely plan on hitting the beach, watching the sunset from the hammocks, and borrowing canoes to paddle on the river in our free time. Probably the highlights of our activities, though, are the chocolate tour, during which we’ll get to taste and grind local cacao, as well as learn about how chocolate is made; and the ziplining excursion, which we’ll take through the nearby rainforest canopy. Other potential activities include going fishing with Edu (who will likely point out local flora and fauna throughout our stay) or riding horses with Sabrina, who trains and breeds several of them at the farm.

We’ll also be doing a lot of sightseeing in San José, the capital of Costa Rica, at the beginning and end of the trip. Consistently rated one of the safest and least violent cities in Latin America, this economic and cultural center boasts a wide array of museums, parks, and monuments, not to mention two central markets where we can enjoy the local food.


Connor is a third-year from Tallahassee, Florida majoring in English and Spanish. This will be his first time going to Costa Rica, but after having an awesome experience as a participant on the Nicaragua ASB trip last year, he knows this trip is going to be incredible. (He’s especially excited for the warm weather, since he’s still not sure how he feels about the whole “snow” thing up here in Virginia.) Connor is active in Greek life and, when not writing essays in Alderman, enjoys naps, milkshakes, long walks on the beach, reruns of The West Wing, and bad jokes and puns.

Rachel is the fourth-year from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so international travel is almost second nature to her. Somewhere in the middle of moving to a new country and majoring in English and Economics, she decided to go on an ASB trip to Sunflower County, MS and gained a new family and is excited to do it again this year. This is also Rachel’s first trip to Costa Rica and she is ready to tackle this trip head on despite knowing zero Spanish beyond hola, gracias, and como estas. If she’s not at a UPC event, you can probably find her at OpenGrounds doing anything from calligraphy to jamming out to EDM to keep herself awake. She also enjoys hunting for free stuff, UVa basketball, funny Tumblr posts, fun facts, and living life like her blood type, B-positive.