Give back and experience the magic of the Caribbean. So you want to make a difference this summer? A real, sore-muscled, mud-under-the-nails, dripping-sweat difference? Then pack your sunscreen and join us in sunny Puerto Rico. In this Caribbean paradise you’ll work as a team to repair aging rainforest trails, reforest a coastal wildlife refuge, and help an island community recover from Hurricane Maria. Your hard work and good deeds will be rewarded with plenty of adventure, too. You’ll hike, swim, surf, and snorkel, and find out why Puerto Rico is known as “La Isla del Encanto” – “The Island of Enchantment.”
Utuado Rainforest Service
We’ll be introduced to our first Caribbean service project among the cool, rainforested peaks above the town of Utuado in the hills of central Puerto Rico. In this rich ecosystem, we’ll repair and maintain hiking trails and work with a community aid center in the mountain village of Lares. We’ll take time off to explore the rainforest as we hike to hidden waterfalls and spectacular vistas. We will also immerse ourselves in the history of the area and visit the ceremonial park that is home to some of the Caribbean’s oldest artifacts and petroglyphs.
The West Coast: Surfing & Service
Now that we’ve gotten a sense of the lush, green rainforest, we’ll head west to the drier climate of the southwest coast and the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. There, we’ll spend our days with a nice mix of work and play – assisting with conservation efforts at the National Wildlife Refuge’s Salt Flats and enjoying nearby beaches and coastal hikes. To cap off our west-coast experience, we’ll spend one morning riding the waves at our surfing lesson with our professional instructors in Rincon, one of the Caribbean’s hottest surfing destinations.
Vieques: Service, Snorkeling, and Bio-Bay Kayaking / Celebrating in Old San Juan
Our next stop will be Vieques Island, off of Puerto Rico’s east coast. Vieques was particularly hard hit by 2017’s Hurricane Maria, and we’ll help this beautiful island community as they continue with their restoration and storm readiness efforts. We will take a morning to snorkel through aquamarine waters, and then round out our exciting stay on Vieques with a magical night time kayaking experience in one of the world’s most spectacular bioluminescent bays. Returning to the main island, we will close out our amazing Caribbean service adventure with a day of exploration on the cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan. We’ll investigate the city’s rich history by visiting a 16th-century fort before enjoying a festive final dinner in the heart of Old San Juan.
Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!
How physically challenging is CS?
Given a rating of Challenge Level 3 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider CS to be a beginner service trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete. While CS is not extremely demanding physically, many of our projects involve physical labor such as trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, or tree planting. Afternoon activities may include moderate hikes, a surf lesson, or sea kayaking and snorkeling. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.
How many hours of service will I earn on CS?
When performing service, students will spend anywhere between 4-5 hours of the day on projects. This amounts to a total of 20 to 30 hours over the course of the trip — students will receive a letter verifying the service at the summer’s end.
Do I need to know how to speak Spanish?
No. Apogee’s leaders will be Spanish-speakers, and will be able to translate when necessary for the group. However, there are numerous opportunities to practice and learn with locals if your child is currently taking Spanish classes.
Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?
Apogee tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our Caribbean Service trip will include travel to and from San Juan, a sleeping bag, a day pack (most school backpacks will work fine), and hiking boots or shoes.
How will I communicate with my child while they are on this trip?
We are a technology-free program, meaning that your child won’t have access to their phones or other electronic devices over the course of their trip. That said, students will get a chance to call home on their trip leaders’ phones once over the course of the trip (usually on day 6 or 7 of the trip). Since physical mail to Puerto Rico is frustratingly slow, we have an email stop as a part of the program instead of a physical mail stop. Parents, relatives, and friends are welcome to use this to send an email to a student that they know (the trip leader will share the emails with the student). If you have an urgent message to get to your child outside of their one phone call, please call our office and we’ll work to get you connected with your child.
What does a typical day on CS look like?
Every day in the Caribbean is different, as schedules are somewhat dependent on “Island Time.” Generally speaking, however, students should plan to be up early, ready to start the day with 4-5 hours of service. The afternoons will be spent hiking, taking in the Taíno culture, or exploring some of the most beautiful beaches the Caribbean has to offer.
Where will my child be sleeping at night?
Our groups will be staying indoors every night – in rustic, camp-like settings and in more finished hostel-like settings; students will sleep in beds, using their sleeping bags or sleeping bag liners. There will be designated “boys” and “girls” rooms. There is no air conditioning in the first accommodation (nights get cool in the rain forest where the accommodation is located), but there is A/C in the second and third accommodations. Students can expect to have access to clean water and showers every night.
My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?
Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be in Puerto Rico on arrival day and will stay in Puerto Rico after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student who is flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from Puerto Rico, including airport information and arrival and departure time windows. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups.