You may ask yourself, why should I choose Costa Rica as my volunteering destination? Below you’ll find some info on what Costa Rica has to offer, and why we think you should come and volunteer in this beautiful country.
Costa Rica is located in Central America, positioned between Nicaragua and Panama in the heart of the Tropics. The small but incredibly diverse country has a population of 4 million people and is home to extensive wildlife, rainforests, jungles, volcanoes, mountains, beaches, biologically rich waters and more!
So why choose Costa Rica to volunteer?
Costa Rica is the most developed country in Central America and attracts over 2 million tourists each year! With tourism being its highest source of income Costa Rica has been sculpted to welcome and make life easier and safer for tourists. Families, youngsters and solo travellers are most welcome. As a country Costa Rica is a stable democracy. Medical care is modern and the tab-water is safe to drink.
Costa Rica is blessed with year round warm temperatures. The average annual temperature is around 21 to 27 degrees Celsius or 70 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures and rainfall varies depending on the location, with San Jose and the Central Valley areas experiencing much cooler climates than the coastal regions.
Dry season is from December to April and the Rainy season between May to November, with the heaviest rain period in September and October.
Things to do
Whether it be in your free time whilst volunteering or whether you plan on sticking around after your volunteer program has finished, Costa Rica offers an oasis of fun, outdoor activities. From the coasts, through the jungles to the mountains and up the volcanoes we can offer advice on any tours. We work with professional and trusted tour operators.
With 5% of the entire world’s biodiversity in one location and 35% of its land is devoted to national parks or reserves Costa Rica is a nature and wildlife haven. Monkeys, sloths, iguanas, crocodiles, nesting turtles and an array of beautiful birds are amongst the endless list of species you can see in their natural habitat. Manuel Antonio National Park itself at 683 hectares is home to 352 species.
For those seeking an adventure or an adrenaline boost you are spoilt for choice with countless exciting adventure tours on offer. Canopy zip lining, rappelling down waterfalls, horseback riding on the beach, trekking through the jungle, hiking up a volcano, white water rafting, kayaking, ATVing and mountain biking is a only sample of what’s on offer!
Costa Rica benefits from two beautiful coast lines- The Pacific and The Caribbean. Both Ocean and Sea inhabit a vast amount of marine life, this accompanied with warm waters all year round makes for great scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing, and deep sea fishing experiences.
Beaches & Chill time
Costa Rica gets its names from it’s ‘Rich Coast’, the shore lines are packed with extensive beautiful beaches perfect for a bit of sunbathing and relaxation time. Inland you can seek relaxation in the thermal hot springs. The towns and villages also offer the free and incredibly entertaining sport of ‘people watching’ with the streets full of Tico (Costa Rican) pedestrians and bicyclists who are well-known for their friendliness. Failing this kick back in a hammock enjoy the fresh air and experience what the locals call the Pura Vida!!
Public transportation is cheap and widely accessible. Buses are decent and run throughout the country. Collectivos are common, Taxis are reasonably priced and Car rental places are plentiful. We will also pick you up from the airport and help you with transport to get to your project site. This service is included in your one-time organizational fee you pay in the beginning of your project (for the first week).
Visas & Vaccinations
Upon entering Costa Rica you will be granted a 90 day Tourist Visa* if you wish to stay longer than the 90 days you will need to leave the country for 72 hours – offering a good excuse to jump across the border and see neighbouring countries Panama or Nicaragua! This is an easy process and we will provide you with all the information you need on how to do this.
If you are travelling to Costa Rica from South America or Saharan Africa you will be required to have the Yellow Fever vaccination.
Residents of USA, Canada, the EU, Australia and New Zealand are given 90 days Visa. For all other countries check with your embassy.
Development, Sustainability, and Conservation
Despite the fact that the country has an influx of tourism and is doing better than other Central American countries in terms of conservation, sustainability, and development, there is still a lot to be done. The main reason for the still existing negative impacts is the economy – despite the fact that tourism and agriculture provide income for most of Costa Rica’s population, many people struggle to survive. This is because salaries are low compared to costs for food and living. Food and living costs are amongst the highest in Central America. However, work is very seasonal so often people won’t work in the rainy season, and have to live off what they made in the dry season.
Costa Rica has an extensive network of protected areas, but there are a lot of issues such as illegal hunting and exploitation (including logging and mineral extraction). There is still a lot of transformation of land into mono-cultures, such as Palm Oil plantations or Pineapple farms. In some protected areas logging and agricultural activities are still allowed and harm the environment and animals. Many farms (especially the big mono-culture ones) use unsustainable practices and exploit the earth to a point that nothing else can grow on it anymore.
The education system is generally getting better in Costa Rica, and is maybe better compared to other developing countries in the world. But especially in some lower populated and remote areas the level of education is still very low. English is taught in school, but the teachers’ level of English is often low. Furtnermore, they have too many classes and children, and too little pay and time to properly construct a curriculum for every class. Often all levels in elementary school have similar exercises, and very basic English is taught. Once kids leave elementary school, their level of English is still too basic to have a very easy conversation. Most people who do speak English learn it after completing High-school. Often, kids in Costa Rica don’t even complete High School, since they have to support themselves or their families. Families in Costa Rica are usually large, and children have to help support the family and are later to take care of the parents. So educations comes often too short for kids in Costa Rica.
Domestic animals, mainly dogs and cats, are often not treated well in Costa Rica. Many people hold their dogs outside for their whole lives, and they basically “live on the streets”. The same is true for cats. And if an animal is not needed anymore, it is left alone on the street. We often see cases of badly mistreated animals in Costa Rica – and only through the help of kind people and volunteers do those animals find a new home or are able to receive veterinary treatment. As everything in Costa Rica, veterinary treatments are also expansive, so often money is just not there to go to the vet with the dog or the cat. Very few people spay or neuter their dogs and cats, and so there are a lot of newborns that nobody wants to take care of. Cats are often drowned in a big in a river, just to get rid of them.
That’s why volunteers are still urgently needed in Costa Rica. Volunteers will work in sustainable and organic farms, and will be part of a sustainable movement by contributing their know-how and man-power. Volunteers will help in establishing or maintaining dog and cat rescue projects. Volunteers can teach English and provide Environmental Education. Volunteers support the situation of families economically with their weekly fee payment. Volunteers can bring their special knowledge from their countries or professional backgrounds, and teach different skills or use their skills to help. Volunteers can also learn from Costa Ricans, not only the language, but how to live a more relaxed and laid back lifestyle. Life in Costa Rica is very different from our hectic modern lifes in large city. In Costa Rica, everything goes according to the “Pura Vida” vibe, which directly translated means Pure Life, but relates to just take things easy, enjoy yourself and relax!