The village of Palenque Tonjibe says capi capi and welcomes you to an amazing week of nature, cultural immersion, art, and adventure with new friends in a colorful indigenous reservation.
The Maleku are one of Costa Rica’s seven remaining indigenous groups and have lived in the northern regions of Costa Rica for centuries. They speak Maleku, a Chibchan dialect that is distinct from the neighboring Mayan, and have managed to maintain their distinct cultural identity through waves of Western influence. But increasing development and globalization in Costa Rica have left them clinging to a rich tradition and culture that is slowly being absorbed by mainstream Tico society. There are only about 600 Maleku people left living in three communities in northern Costa Rica on a reservation that is a fraction of the size of their former lands. Immerse yourself in their little-known way of life during this unique program. You’ll participate in Maleku ceremonies, learn about the medicinal uses of plants from the rainforest, create your own colorful, traditional artwork, and even pick up a few Maleku words and phrases. Your group will live in a traditional Maleku house that is within walking distance of the village.
Teaching, Painting, and Digging
Spend your time here getting to know the Maleku people and working on several rewarding service projects. You may paint houses and community buildings, contribute to reforestation efforts, lend a hand on educational projects, or help out in the local school’s vegetable garden. Maleku community members will join you on the service projects, giving you a chance to learn about the culture first hand.
Exploring the Jungle
With your Maleku friends as your guides, you’ll explore Tenorio Volcano National Park, home of the Rio Celeste. Spend a day hiking and trekking through this pristine park, following the course of the river and stopping along the way to soak in natural hot springs that are warmed by volcanic steam. The trek will continue through primary forest and past pools of boiling water until you reach a turquoise lagoon beneath a 90-foot waterfall. Go for a swim in these celestial blue waters and marvel at their tranquil beauty.
Discover the land of the Maleku, a sacred territory that you will see through the eyes of the people who have called it their home for centuries.
Day 1 (Tuesday)
Depart the United States for San Jose, Costa Rica. All scheduled flights to Costa Rica are non-stop and escorted by a Rustic Pathways Flight Leader. Upon arrival at the San Jose airport your Rustic Pathways Staff will greet you. From here you will head over to the Rustic Pathways Base hostel where you will spend the first night. Good luck and enjoy your stay in beautiful Costa Rica!
Day 2 (Wednesday)
Wake up for an early breakfast before departing for the town of Palenque Tonjibe in the Maleku Indigenous Reservation. After a beautiful 4-hour drive, arrive in the village in time for a hearty lunch cooked by our friendly Maleku hosts. After getting settled into the bunkhouses, everyone will have an opportunity to tour the village and learn about the service projects. Enjoy traditional Costa Rican cuisine for dinner and an evening getting to know new friends.
Day 3 (Thursday)
Enjoy a delicious Costa Rican breakfast before heading to one of the Maleku villages to begin your service projects. Projects may include light construction on a community building, planting a school garden, or working on an irrigation ditch for a communal area. After lunch, take a walk along a nature trail with one of the Maleku community guides and stop for a swim at the Rio Cucaracho. You will eat dinner in the village and then hang out by a camp fire in the ranch and learn about Maleku culture through traditional stories.
Day 4 (Friday)
Everyone will eat breakfast as a group in the village before continuing work on community projects. In the afternoon, take a trip to view the gigantic “arbol de Ceiba” and listen to legends from your Maleku guides about this mythical tree. Then head out towards the Mirador de los Angeles for a beautiful view of spectacular Costa Rican mountain ranges. Play soccer with the local children in the Lost Angeles Plaza. Then head back for dinner, and after dinner enjoy a night hike as we look for different types of frogs.
Day 5 (Saturday)
Today after breakfast, head into areas in the Maleku reservation that are being reforested. Learn about reforestation and how to live alongside the forest. Then contribute to ecological projects which will include planting native trees, collecting seed, and other efforts to help rehabilitate the rainforest.
Day 6 (Sunday)
Today after breakfast, the group will head off on an excursion to the Rio Celeste for a day of hiking, swimming, and service. After an hour long drive, you will arrive at the Volcan Tenorio National Park and spend the day exploring the national park, stopping at different bright blue pools to observe their unique color and formation. Hike through the forest, bask in the natural hot springs, marvel at the blue lagoon, check out the pools of boiling water, finally you will arrive at a beautiful 90-foot waterfall, and swim in its turquoise pools. Return to the lodge and enjoy a delicious lunch, before heading out to a fishing farm, where you will “catch your own dinner.” In the evening return to your home in Palenque Tonjibe. After dinner, sit by the camp fire sharing your stories, and enjoying some machaca (a traditional banana drink).
Day 7 (Monday)
Everyone will eat breakfast as a group in the village before continuing work on community projects. In the afternoon, we will participate in local art lessons. The Maleku Tribe generates most of the village income by making traditional warrior masks and other crafts which they then sell to tourists in the area. You will have the opportunity to learn their craft, and turn everyday items like jicara shells and old tshirts into works of art. After a special dinner, participate in a traditional Maleku ceremony, an amazing and unforgettable cultural experience.
Day 8 (Tuesday)
Awake for breakfast and embark on one last nature walk through the forest surrounding the village with your Maleku guides. Learn about medicinal plants, maleku culture, and history. After lunch, say goodbye to the village that has been your home base for the past week, and head back to San Jose for your last night in Costa Rica.
Day 9 (Wednesday)
Depart for the USA or onto greater adventure with Rustic Pathways!
An Important Note about Schedule Changes
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity. The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
In addition to the general Costa Rica packing list available at http://www.rusticpathways.com/packing_lists/Costa_Rica.html
all students should review the following information specific to the Maleku Culture and Service Experience:
A raincoat is MANDATORY-you’ll be living in the rainforest!
Quick dry clothes are very useful in Maleku since it can be very muddy and rainy and you will be outdoors quite a bit.
Soccer cleats are useful if you plan on playing soccer in the community since it is often wet and muddy.
Bring a pair of shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy/dirty during service work and hikes.
A pair of rubber or rain boots, very useful due to the moist conditions and mud we encounter on hikes and service projects (you can buy them in Costa Rica).
Mix CDs of your favorite to share with your peers in the ranch and on bus rides.
Important Notes About Your Luggage
Please try your best to pack light and fit everything into one MEDIUM size duffle bag or a backpack. We strongly recommend that you DO NOT use wheeled bags.
Do not forget to bring a small backpack that you can use to fit your daily gear would make a great carry-on.
Make sure everything you pack in your carry-on complies with the new carry-on regulations of the TSA http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the flight to this country?
Direct flight from Newark to San Jose takes approximately 5.5 hours.
Direct flight from Houston to San Jose takes approximately 3.5 to 4 hours.
Will there be a flight leader to this country?
Yes. All flights between Costa Rica and the USA will have a flight leader starting in both Newark and Houston. Return flights to the USA will also have a flight leader as far as Newark and Houston. Flights between Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, and the Dominican Republic are NOT escorted by a Rustic Pathways staff member.
Do we need to get visas for this program?
Students from the United States and Canada will be automatically issued a 90 day tourist visa upon entry into Costa Rica.
What Costa Rican province(s) does this program pass through?
During the Maleku Tribe Immersion, students will briefly pass through provinces of Heredia and Alajuela during their travel to the Maleku community, the village is located 20 minutes from the town of Guatuso in the northeast Alajuela province.
What immunizations do we need to get for this trip?
Rustic Pathways does not make recommendations regarding immunizations. We strongly suggest that you consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for medical recommendations based on the area where the student will be traveling (as listed above). You can also check the Center for Disease Control website at http://www.cdc.gov for more information. Yellow fever vaccinations may be required to enter Costa Rica if you have traveled to some international destinations including Peru prior to your trip to Costa Rica. Please check the Center for Disease control website for more information.
How does this program connect to other programs?
On Tuesday afternoon students will depart from the Maleku village. They will stay that night near the airport at a base hotel. Wednesday morning students will meet with their new group and guides at the same hotel where they stayed and go off to their new program.
How long is the drive from San Jose to this program?
The drive from San Jose to the Maleku village is approximately 4 hours depending on weather and other driving conditions.
What is the climate in the region where this program takes place?
The Maleku program takes place in the north of Costa Rica, a very green, tropical area of the country. Students should be prepared for hot, humid weather in the 80s and 90s during the day with occasional rain showers.
Is this a good program for students interested in practicing their Spanish?
The Maleku program does not include formal Spanish language instruction; however students will have multiple opportunities to practice Spanish with people from the village. Children at the local schools are especially eager to help Rustic Pathways students with their conversational Spanish. Students will have the opportunity to learn vocabulary from the Maleku indigenous language.
What service projects will I work on and how are the projects identified?
Rustic Pathways works with local community leaders to identify and prioritize the needs of each community. In the Maleku villages, students will work on small scale construction projects that will help improve community and school infrastructure. Students will also facilitate educational and cultural projects with local children and youth and be involved in environmental projects with the community. During the first two weeks of July, Costa Rican school children are on vacation, so students should expect to work with students in more informal environments.
How physically strenuous is this program?
The Maleku program is appropriate for most physical activity levels. Students should be prepared for physical activity including short hikes and some manual labor during the service projects.
What costs are not included on this trip?
The majority of costs associated with the program are included on this trip. Students should have extra allowance money if they wish to buy souvenirs of their stay in the Maleku village as they will have opportunities to buy artwork and handicrafts from local artisans. Students should also bring extra money if they wish to purchase additional snacks or soda from the local grocery store.
What are the optional activities available at an additional cost on this program?
All activities are included in the cost of the program except for horseback riding, which is $45. The following activities are INCLUDED in the program cost:
Guided night hike
Maleku art Class
Maleku language Class
Entrance to Rio Celeste National Park and Hike tour.
Occasionally Rustic Pathways staff identify new opportunities throughout the summer that we feel will enhance the students overall experience and we will offer students the opportunity to participate at an additional cost. Optional or included activities may also be canceled at the staff’s discretion.
What kind of food will we be eating? Where?
Students will be eating traditional Costa Rican food prepared by local women’s groups that provide catering services. Breakfast may include gallo pinto (a mix of rice and beans) with eggs and bread, fruits and cereal. Lunch and dinner will be the traditional “casados” which consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat/seafood dish or well cooked Maleku dishes.
Can we cater to specific diets?
Will the kids be drinking bottled water?
Tap water in Costa Rica is generally potable, however there will also be jugs of purified water available to the students in the community kitchen. Bottled water is available for purchase at local supermarkets and grocery stores.
What will the accommodations on this trip be like?
During their time at the Maleku village, students will stay at a traditional bunk house, located within walking distance of the village. Between four students will sleep on bunk beds in each of the rooms. Boys and girls will sleep in different rooms. The accommodations are rustic but clean. Outside of the village, students will stay at comfortable lodges or cabins, depending on the excursion.
What are the bathroom facilities?
The bathroom facilities are located in a separate building directly next to the students’ rooms. They have running water and American style toilets. Showers are rustic and no hot water is available.
How many girls and boys are usually on this trip?
There are typically more girls than boys however the exact numbers vary from week to week.
What is the ratio of guides to students?
Rustic Pathways generally strives to maintain a ratio of approximately 1 guide for every 5 students. In the program, there will be one American guide and two Maleku guides. Our guides go through a rigorous selection process including interviews with our program managers and a full background check.
Is your staff qualified in First Aid?
Because safety is our number one priority, all of our programs have guides that are certified with First Aid and CPR training. Many of our guides are also qualified Wilderness First Responders, EMTs, Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.
How often (if at all) will students be able to do laundry on this program and what will it cost?
Students should pack enough clothes and personal items to last through the end of the Maleku program. Laundry is not available in the Maleku village. If students are connecting to another Rustic Pathways program, they will have the opportunity to do laundry on their new program.
How often will they have access to phone and internet?
Students will not have access to internet during the program. They will be able to purchase international phone cards in Costa Rica from the guides, which can be used to call home from the public phone in the village.