COSTA RICA

Hanging high above the lush treetops in Costa Rica’s cloud forest may be your favorite weekend adventure, but it’s rough to choose between that and waterfall hunting by the coastline. Costa Rica may be small and narrow but the entire country is brimming full of jungle adventures and beachy getaways.

Volunteers get to experience all there is to do here, but also get a front row seat to the ways Costa Rica needs help. A semester in this country means providing a free English education to children who wouldn't be able to afford one: a huge gift in such a tourism driven industry.

City: Northern San Jose and Uvita

Service: Help children receive a free English education through this Humanitarian program.

Life Abroad: Live in a house with other volunteers. Fill up on local food like rice, beans, plantains, eggs, and the freshest fruits. Practice your Spanish skills with the friendly neighbors.

Group Size: About 6-10 volunteers.

Semesters: Spring semester is late January - May. Summer semester is May - August. Fall is August - December.

A Traveler's Paradise

This country may be small, but it’s packed full of adventure after adventure. If you love the outdoors, the best sights are all close by … no matter where you are. Try white water rafting in world renowned national parks, exploring hidden caves or experiencing the dense rain forests by foot (or by zipline!). Try soaking in jungle hot springs, hiking to waterfalls and volcanoes and checking out some of the world’s best snorkeling. Before you leave, you gotta see white sand beaches and bustling markets for yourself. You’ll have lots to do in Costa Rica, that’s for sure.

TOP VACATION SPOTS

From national parks to jungles and beaches, explore what Costa Rica has to offer. You can also jump over to neighboring Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico ... or maybe even check out a Caribbean island like the Dominican Republic.

  • Guanacaste Province The beaches along this northern coast are all so good that we couldn't pick just one! It's probably one of the most traveled to destinations in Costa Rica for good reason. Spend a lazy day at the beach, practice your yoga, and sip on fresh fruit smoothies before you head out to explore nearby national parks.
  • Monteverde Cloud Forests are iconic in Costa Rica and this is one-top spot for experiencing these dense jungles. Hike across bridges suspended over the treetops and get views of the thick green jungles from the clouds.
  • Volcano Arenal There are several incredible volcanoes you've got to see here, but this one is a definite favorite. Hike through Arenal's trails before relaxing in natural hot springs.
  • Montezuma This bohemian hippie town is perfect for backpackers who want to get off the beaten path. Relax on the famous white sand coast, hike through the jungle to waterfalls, go snorkeling at nearby islands, and visit a turtle sanctuary.
  • Pacuare River Up for some of the best white water rafting in Central America? Head east of San Jose through the jungle to spend the day rafting through thick green canyons. You might be lucky enough to spot some local wildlife, like monkeys, toucans, giant butterflies, and even jaguars.
  • Granada, Nicaragua Shop for handmade beaded bags at the markets, wander colorfully painted streets, kayak through a nearby island chain ... and don't forget to meet up with the other ILP volunteers who call this city home!
  • Ometepe, Nicaragua Head to this island made up of two volcanoes! Paddle board and dive into crystal clear lagoons surrounded by lush jungles. Explore brightly colored fishing villages nearby.
  • Bocas del Toro, Panama Go island hopping, snorkeling, and hammock on the beach in this incredible Panamanian getaway.
  • Manuel Antonio National Park Hike through the jungle of this favorite national park. You may even want to hire a guide who can help you spot the wildlife — cross your fingers that you're lucky enough to see parrots, monkeys, or maybe even a sloth!
  • Rio Celeste Hike in the dense jungle for a couple of miles before spotting the turquoise pools of the Rio Celeste waterfall. According to local legend, God used this river to wash the blue paint out of his brushes when he was painting the sky — and yes, the water really is that blue.
  • Territorio de Zagutes Anyone up for hiking Costa Rica's rolling hills with 700+ dogs? Come hang out in this massive dog shelter that lets abandoned pups be cared for, loved and played with before they're hopefully adopted. It's truly an adventure you can't get anywhere else in the world.

Find your own “pura vida”

You’ll see and hear this phrase all over —  it’s plastered all over businesses and shops and heard constantly on the street, but it’s much more than just a saying. It translates to “pure life” and is woven into the cultural fabric of the country. Pure vida is a greeting, but it has also become a way of life. The people here are all about living a happy life and want to share that with others. Plan on finding and sharing your pura vida with the locals during your semester here.

Get the humanitarian experience ... with a twist

Costa Rica’s culture is a unique mix of local history and wealthy expat life, a split between all-inclusive tours and a rugged paradise perfect for the adventurous backpacker. When it comes to this humanitarian experience, you’ll notice the stark halves of this country firsthand; Volunteers here get the unique experience of teaching children who fall right in the middle of that gap. The children you’ll teach are poorer than those who attend (expensive) private schools, but at the same time, they aren't lacking as much as children in our other ILP humanitarian programs. Because of Costa Rica's tourist-bolstered economy, volunteering here will mean giving children an English education they wouldn't be able to receive otherwise.