The Program

Casa Guatemala is a children’s village nestled in the jungle along the Rio Dulce. It is accessed only by a 30-minute boat ride from the nearby village, also referred to as Rio Dulce, which is home to Hotel Backpackers.

Hotel Backpackers is a hostel and restaurant that serves as a source of financial support for Casa Guatemala. This hostel is situated right on the river and is where we will stay while working at the children’s village. It is a beautiful spot that provides good food, great views, and much needed swimming opportunities after a long day of work. Each day we will enjoy breakfast and coffee in the riverside restaurant and board the boat for Casa Guatemala. Casa Guatemala serves as a home for orphaned children from across the country as well as a boarding school for children who’s parents are unable to sufficiently support them throughout the year. There are many work projects that need to be completed here and each project for each trip will depend on the number of volunteers we have as well as the amount of time available. Projects can range from building classrooms to painting or teaching English. There will be a good balance of work and play on each trip. While our primary goal will be to complete the project set out for us, we will enjoy plenty of time playing soccer (or futbol) and swimming with the kiddos.

Depending on the length of each trip, we will enjoy a variety of cultural excursions. The most popular of which will be to tour the ancient Mayan metropolis of Tikal. Tikal is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the Mayan cities ever discovered. It is a must for any visit to Guatemala. Other excursion options include Semuc Champey, a magical series of naturally formed waterfalls very condusive to swimming, Antigua, a high altitude colonial city surrounded by volcanoes, many of which can be climbed in a day, and Lago Atitlan, a large lake surrounded by coffee plantations and quaint villages bursting with cultural offerings.

The main focus of each trip will be to provide service work at the children’s village. Each itinerary is subject to change based on the availability of various excursions as well as the desires of the group. Please visit the FAQ page for more details of the trips!

The Coffee Shop

Zócalo is a term for the center of town or plaza where people can come together toshare a common interest. It has always been a goal for the owners of Zócalo Coffee House to return a share of the profits of their shop to the country that produces their best product. Our espresso roast is hand picked in the high altitude farms of Guatemala, a country rife with problems that have resonated throughout generations. Although the country has a troubled past, it is rich with cultural history and generous hospitality. The underlying philosophy of the coffee shop is that, although Zócalo normally refers to a physical place, it can manifest into a place of mind. We intend to unite the resources of Bozeman with the intrigue of Guatemala in a figurative Zócalo through student based service adventure travel.

The Destination

Casa Guatemala is a children’s village nestled in the jungle along the Rio Dulce. It is a part of an organization that includes a hostel/bar/restaurant approximately 30 minutes up stream. The businesses serve as a financial support system for the philanthropic cause. The children’s village is a home for orphaned children as well as a boarding school for children who’s parents are unable to sufficiently support them throughout the year. Although the plight of these children is not as bad as it could be, much of that is due in large part to the continued presence of volunteers. This situation is perilous and in need of a recurring presence of volunteers. The Zócalo Abroad program intends to provide that continual and recurring presence of volunteers from the Bozeman area.

The History

In 2007 a group of students form the University of Colorado traveled to Guatemala to volunteer at an orphanage. The original intention was to surrender a spring break in the name of service. The out come was a realization that this type of travel is not only rewarding but is also incredibly fun and exciting. They returned with the idea that this type of trip would be appealing to other students and the response was clear, it was. Over the next few years 100+ students participated in various “alternative break” trips to Casa Guatemala where they completed a multitude of service projects and explored the cultural and geographical features of Guatemala. The future trips will be lead by experienced leaders who have traveled to Guatemala many times and know all of the areas thoroughly.

Winter 2016

Dec 28 - Jan 9, 2017

Get a break from the dead of winter and celebrate New Years on the Río Dulce! This trip will include an adventure up an active volcano, plenty of service days, and a tour of the Mayan ruins of Tikal.

Deadline to apply: Nov 1, 2016
Deadline for deposit: Dec 1, 2016

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Spring 2017

March 10 - 20

Escape spring semester with service based trip that will include a full day tour of the Mayan ruins of Tikal and a day in the Colonial city of Antigua surrounded by active volcanoes.

Deadline to apply: Dec 10, 2016
Deadline for deposit: Jan 31, 2017

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Summer 2017

May 10 - 21

Start off summer on top of an active volcano then travel down to sea level for a week of service work at the children’s village of Casa Guatemala. Tour the Mayan ruins of Tikal then end with an excursion to the magical waters of Lago Atitlan.

Deadline to apply: March 1, 2017
Deadline for deposit: March 31, 2017

Learn More


Summer 2015

In the summer of 2015 twelve MSU students and Zocalo Coffee House employees set off on an adventure. They arrived in Guatemala shortly after the end of the semester and began work repairing the volunteer house in the children's village of Casa Guatemala. After a long week of working in the jungle and playing soccer, they traveled around the country in a big loop exploring the amazing archeological and geological wonders of the country.

Fall 2008

In the Fall of 2008 a group of college students traveled to Casa Guatemala to work on the arduous task of building a path between one of the children’s houses and the classrooms. The swamp like ground required setting many large stones as a foundation upon which the path could be built. This group of volunteers bonded over the challenging work and earned afternoon swimming breaks every day!

Winter 2009

In the winter of 2009, fourteen students traveled to Guatemala to explore and volunteer. They bonded on an overlook of the colonial city of Antigua before heading to Casa Guatemala to begin the construction of a classroom in the jungle. The trip was a huge success but the completion of the classroom would have to be left for the next group!

Spring 2009

The group of twelve students who traveled to Casa Guatemala in the spring of 2009 came with a mission: finish the classroom. They worked very hard for the first few days before taking a much needed break. Traveling down the river to the eastern coast of Guatemala, they explored caves and passed villagers in dugout canoes. When they returned to their project, the work was quickly finished before a large farewell party with all the children of Casa Guatemala.


What about cost?

You will need an $850 deposit to secure your spot on the trip. Plane tickets will be purchased for you and the remaining $480 will be due two weeks prior to departure.

How about safety?

Although Guatemala has a troubled past, the country has improved immensely in recent years with regards to tourism safety as well as the general safety of its citizens. This trip will be lead by very experienced travel guides and will follow well traveled tourist routes throughout the country. Each participant will have a list of pre-departure tasks to ensure health and preparedness during their trip and will carry a contact card with them at all times to ensure their ability to contact help should they be separated from the group. This trip will provide new experiences without jeopardizing safety and security.

What service work will we do?

The volunteer project of each group will depend on the demographics and interests of each group. Once the full group is selected, we will meet to discuss possible projects that we are all interested in. Our goal is to complete a project that will leave a lasting impression on the children of Casa Guatemala. The projects that need to be completed range from teaching and painting to construction of housing and classrooms. The size and interests of each group will be the largest factor in ultimately determining how we volunteer our time.

How To Apply


1. Submit application

2. Wait for a response

3. Submit $850 deposit to hold space on trip

4. Prepare for trip