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Costa Rica

Literally translated as “Rich Coast”, Costa Rica has been one of the most prosperous and peaceful nations on the South American continent since it gained independence from Spain in the late 19th Century. It currently boasts Latin America’s longest-standing democracy. It is also one of the most environmentally progressive countries on Earth, having been ranked as the “greenest” country in the world, and with plans to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country. It is home to the greatest density of species in the world, and 25% of its territory is in protected land, the greatest percentage of any country on Earth. This beautiful country of jungles and beaches has a lot to teach anyone interested in volunteering in the areas of environmental preservation and conservation.

QUICK FACTS

  • Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949, making it one of the only countries in the world without one.
  • The country has a literacy rate of around 96%. Children who live in very poor or remote areas are taught over a national radio station. However, there is still a need for additional teaching resources, as a number of schools are overcrowded, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
  • “Pura vida” is a common saying among Costa Ricans, meaning “pure life”, and it reflects their cheer and optimism.
  • Life expectancy in Costa Rica is one of the highest in the world, at 77.
  • Coffee was Costa Rica’s first major export and its principal source of wealth well into the 20th Century.
  • There are seven active volcanoes in Costa Rica, one of which is among the top 10 most active volcanoes in the world!
  • The climate of Costa Rica is tropical year-round, with the dry season running from December to April, and the rainy season from May to November in some areas, it rains constantly during this time.
  • “Gallo pinto” (“spotted rooster”) is a ubiquitous traditional breakfast dish in Costa Rica, consisting of rice and beans cooked together, and served hot. Despite its name, it’s totally vegetarian!

TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Visit the quiet beaches of the seaside village of Nosara. Development is strictly controlled by law, so there are no high-rise beach resorts or hotels here just white sand leading down to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, and edged by forest.
  • Arenal, the active volcano overlooking the town of La Fortuna, is a great site for extreme sports. Even if you don’t get to see lava flow, you can hike up to its crater lake or abseil down a waterfall.
  • The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is the place to go if you’re into gastronomy: its food contains the spicy influence of the Caribbean islands as well as the warmth of traditional South American cuisine. Expect to enjoy truly unique seafood dishes heavy on coconut milk, in a laidback island setting.
  • Monteverde is a conservation area nestled between two cloud forests. It has become known as one of the best places to see the most beautiful bird in Central America, the quetzal, and so you are likely to share it with many other tourists. But it’s worth it for the stunning landscape, lush vegetation and quaint settlements nearby.
  • Cocos Island is a World Heritage Site and an old pirate haunt. Its marine life is abundant, and there are rumors of underwater treasure, too! It takes about 30 hours to get there by boat, but for experienced divers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (This is the island on which Jurassic Park was filmed!)
  • If a relaxed snorkel off the beach is more your thing, head to Cahuita National Park on the Caribbean coast. You’ll see some of the hundreds of species of fish that live in the reef as well as the wreck of a slave ship.
  • San José, Costa Rica’s capital, has become a hub of artists, foodies and entrepreneurs. It’s about as hip as it gets, with a thriving party scene near the University of Costa Rica, and new bistros, cafes and bars opening all the time. So don’t write the capital city off as a necessary layover before you head into the jungle or to the beach: it may surprise you!

GETTING THERE

Most international flights land in San José (at the Juan Santamaría International Airport), with the majority of airlines from North America flying directly.

From Europe, there are only one or two airlines that fly direct to Costa Rica, so you are better off flying into a major US city and connecting from there. The same goes for the UK, Australia and New Zealand, as options for direct flights are limited.

You might also consider flying into Liberia rather than San José if you are heading to the beaches and/or the Nicoya peninsula: more and more direct international flights are touching down in Liberia these days.

projects shortlisted TOTAL 5

Jaguar Conservation in Costa Rica

Project Impact: Wildlife Research & Conservation

Destination: Costa Rica

Price from:  US$ 2100 |

Assist in the long-term conservation of the endangered jaguar while living in the rainforest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Jaguar numbers have declined devastatingly in the last 50 years because of habitat destruction by human activit...

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Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Project Impact: Wildlife Research & Conservation

Destination: Costa Rica

Price from:  US$ 2100 |

Play a role in protecting endangered sea turtles by volunteering at a research station in the rainforest on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Living and working in the beautiful, remote Tortuguero National Park will place you in the unique p...

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Wildlife Research Expedition in Costa Rica

Project Impact: Wildlife Research & Conservation

Destination: Costa Rica

Price from:  US$ 2920 |

Play a hands-on role in conserving the abundant biodiversity of the rainforest on the Caribbean coast of the “greenest” country on Earth. Based at Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica, the research station is where you will join a team...

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Volunteer with Children in Costa Rica

Project Impact: Teaching & Education

Destination: Costa Rica

Price from:  US$ 1790 |

Make a real difference in the lives of disadvantaged children in the town of Quepos on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The local school district suffers from a shortage of teachers, and this is where you as a volunteer will come in. You...

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Teach English in Costa Rica

Project Impact: Teaching & Education

Destination: Costa Rica

Price from:  US$ 1790 |

Teach local school children and community members of the idyllic coastal area of Quepos in Costa Rica to speak English. This is a popular destination for tourists, with its abundance of wildlife, its beautiful beaches, and the tropical r...

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