My ISL trip to Costa Rica was a truly life-changing experience. Being able to learn about a country and their poorer areas is eye-opening and makes you truly appreciate what you have. By working with the wonderful communities, I not only was able to assist in providing medical care, but was able to meet some amazing people. Part of my heart has been left in Costa Rica and I will always fondly remember my time there. I am so grateful to ISL for providing me with this opportunity.
–Kelly H., Indiana University
About Costa Rica
Costa Rica (“rich coast” in Spanish) is a Central American country bordered by the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, Nicaragua and Panama. Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, democratic, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. It permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of a few sovereign nations without a standing army. While Costa Rica is known for its coffee and tropical fruit exports, tourism is now the largest industry. 25% of the country’s land area is protected—one of the largest percentages in the world. From tropical Cloud Forests to Volcanoes to Beaches, Costa Rica is truly rich in geographical and bio diversity.
Costa Rica has a social security system that unfortunately is oversaturated and only covers public and private sector employees and self-employed people that contribute to the system. The unemployment rate is very high and we have a large population of poverty stricken immigrants, mostly Nicaraguans. These are the communities where ISL volunteers serve. Costa Rica is good first country to visit for those who have not been exposed to extreme poverty before.
Volunteers arrive for service in Costa Rica via the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), which is located about 12 miles from downtown San Jose. After going through customs and picking up their luggage, volunteers are met by an ISL staff member. Volunteers are then transported by taxi, van or bus (arranged and paid for by ISL) to their hotel or guest house in the province closest to their work site. Airport to hotel travel time varies from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Daily travel time from housing to work site varies from 15 to 45 minutes. On Recreation Day travel may take up to a maximum of three hours. Housing locations may change as the team moves to a new work site or as they travel to their Recreation Day location.
Costa Rica’s beautiful and diverse terrain is comprised of lush rainforests, wildlife reserves, and tropical beaches. Zip-lining through the rainforest, hiking up a volcano, or swimming near waterfalls are just a few of the activities possible for our volunteers. The variety of outdoor recreation possible in Costa Rica provides endless possibilities to experience a forest-and-beach laden paradise.
Costa Rica’s cosmopolitan capital city, San José is home to a large number of museums, theaters, markets, and dance clubs that helps our volunteers experience the strong culture that surrounds this country.
Here are a few of the options available:
- Poas Volcano, Alajuela. Approximate travel time: 2 hours
- Los Chorros, Tacares de Grecia. Approximate travel time: 1.5 hours
- Jaco Beach, Puntarenas: Approximate travel time: 2 hours
- Manuel Antonio National Park. Approximate travel time: 3 hours
- Baldi Hot Springs. Approximate travel time: 3 hours
Home Base and Typical Lodging
ISL has strict housing standards for cleanliness, safety and comfort. Each volunteer shares a room and shower facilities, but has their own bed. Housing locations are selected according to proximity to program sites. ISL staff members stay with volunteers and are always available 24/7.
- Internet is available at most housing locations. Volunteers are transported by their Team Leaders to an internet location periodically if internet is not available at their hotel.
- Laundry services are provided at least once a week for a small charge.
- If food or drug stores aren’t nearby, Team Leaders make sure volunteers are transported to shopping areas periodically or as needed.
- ISL provides breakfast each day, unless otherwise specified in the team itinerary.