7 Reasons To Volunteer In Costa Rica

by Diana Martinez Herrero

Costa Rica earned its name. It truly is a country filled with rich coast. Flanked by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the South Pacific Ocean to the west, the country can boast hundreds of miles of golden beaches. Plus, it is home to a warm and friendly people that welcome volunteers with open arms. It is a country of great hospitality but also of great need. Although there are plenty of reasons to choose this Central American treasure, this list of seven is a great taste.

Volunteering With Children In Costa Rica.
Volunteering With Children In Costa Rica. Photo by Diana Martinez Herrero

1. Safety

One of the biggest concerns for many people interested in international volunteering is safety. The fear of living in a dangerous place and putting their lives in danger is something that the majority of people do not want to face. This fear is often overwhelming and sometimes overstated.

When going to a poor community, helping people is not going to cause a major problem, but making the wrong decisions can. Costa Ricans appreciate the effort and courage volunteers show when going abroad, leaving their families and friends behind, to give their time in order to make the lives of others better. While in Costa Rica the people will fully embrace you and offer assistance and guidance whenever possible to help ensure your safety. Costa Rica is actually one of the safest developing countries in the world and is often named the safest country in Central America.

2. Pura Vida: A Friendly Culture

Costa Rican citizens, or Ticos as they are commonly known, are born with a smile on their face. They are appreciative of even the smallest bits of joy and good in their lives. They are thankful for living in their country, for having a family, and for sharing all they have with everyone around them.

Pura vida literally means the pure life but the words have become a slogan for the country and international volunteers should expect to hear the term several times a day. It is used to say hello, goodbye, have a good day, express excitement, to show something is wonderful, and the list of optimistic expressions could go on and on. It encompasses the Costa Rican way of life and attitude. Throw your arms up, smile wide, and shout the words and you’ll blend right in.  

3. Rich In Resources

Costa Rica is very rich in natural resources as well as paradise-like landscapes that draw thousands of tourists. They have made extensive efforts to protect these natural resources, nearly one-fourth of the country is protected land, and their efforts are for more than tourism. Costa Ricans care about their natural resources and animal populations. Plus, they have fertile farmland and rely heavily on hydropower and other resources.

Tourism is one of its main sources of income, and partly because of that, they are very welcoming to foreigners. The Central American territory is a nation of only 4 million inhabitants; so it may seem small, but it offers a large variety of lands and scenery. Volunteers can take a break from work to climb volcanoes, take a dip in blue rivers, and hike through the jungle.  

4. Diversity In Work And Fun

Help is needed everywhere from the valleys to the rainforest where some of the most famous volcanoes are found such as Volcan Arenal. It also offers the chance to take a refreshing bath in the waves of two oceans - the Atlantic and the Pacific. It takes less than four hours to drive from one coast to the other so the choices of settings, relaxing spots, and possibilities for recreational sports are endless. It also helps enrich your experience since it is so easy to see so many different areas. People can help while enjoying breathtaking nature all around them.

5. Food

Something Costa Rica can be very proud of is its tropical fruit and organic food. Costa Rican pineapples are among the best in the world. They are very sweet. Coconut, guava, mango, and star fruit are others you can expect to try fresh during your volunteerism.

Also, the famous gallo pinto, is a traditional favorite enjoyed by many Costa Ricans everyday. It means spotted rooster and consists of beans, rice, and seasonings. The proportions and spices change but the popularity of this dish does not.

6. Language

The national language is Spanish and a volunteer trip to Costa Rica is an excellent opportunity to try and and learn a little of the language or perfect your skills. English is easy to find in the capital city of San Jose and in tourist spots but is less common in rural areas. Costa Ricans are known for speaking slowly and clearly which also helps someone just beginning their language skills. They are patient and typically enjoy helping people learn.

They use a variety of slang that is easy to add to a growing Spanish vocabulary. For instance, the cultural term “tico” is often added to the end of words as a way to not only make it purely Costa Rican, but to demonstrate endearment or mean small in size. For example, blanquitico means small and white. Language schools are affordable and easy to find so if this is endeavor you would like to undertake it is easy to mix volunteerism with a language education.

7. Gratefulness

Costa Rica is developing fast. Nevertheless, there is still much poverty and it affects everyone from children to senior citizens and from the big city to mountain villages. The need for volunteers is immense. Helping there will not only pay in terms of work experience abroad, but also in emotional and personal growth. The Ticos teach everyone to appreciate every minute of life. Many volunteers feel like part of the community by the time they leave and stay in contact with their host families and friends for life. This country seems to enchant all those who choose to visit it.