Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central America because of its comfortable lifestyle, peaceful democracy and overwhelming natural beauty. The country’s Disneylike cast of creatures—ranging from howler monkeys to toucans—are populous and relatively easy to spot. The waves are prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace seductive. A peaceful oasis in a tumultuous region, this tiny nation draws 1.5 million visitors every year.
To put things in perspective, consider the fact that prior to 1950, half of the country struggled with grinding poverty, and living beyond the age of 50 was an achievement in itself. Today, less than one in five Ticos (Costa Ricans) lives below the poverty line, and life expectancy is on a par with the USA. Given the rise in quality of life throughout the country, Ticos are generally self-content and passive about politics. But underneath the easygoing veneer is discernible pride and support for their unarmed democracy.
What’s on tap? The question is what isn’t? Active travellers can surf, hike, snorkel and spot wildlife for starters. The incredibly varied topography means you can cruise the cloud forest one day, visit an active volcano the next, and finish relaxing on a hot sandy beach. Adrenaline junkies have a myriad ways to make mothers worry – among them zipping through canopy lines hundreds of meters long and riding the rough surf of the Pacific. Choice and variety name the game.
Of course, the frenzy to snatch up a piece of Shangri-la has its consequences. Since the boom, tourism is more chic and less cheap. Classic destinations are now crowded destinations and local culture is often lost or cast aside. Lucky for Costa Rica that its do-gooder fans, ranging from ecologists to proud Ticos (Costa Ricans), are vocal and vigilant. Nature here (like everywhere) suffers its blows, but at least it is taken seriously.
Why volunteer in Costa Rica:
While Costa Rica is high in literacy rates, environmental efforts, and overall has a clean bill of health, it takes a lot of work to get that way. Costa Rica is a popular volunteer destination for very good reasons: the people are welcoming of volunteers and there are plenty of areas to volunteer. Turtle conservation, providing clean drinking water in rural areas, teaching English to both children and adults, providing medical care, and many other volunteer projects are available.
Any medication must be carried in its original packaging and with its prescription.Crime is often high in Costa Rica, particularly with carjackings, gang muggings and express kidnapping.
It is illegal to photograph official buildings.
While medical facilities in the capital, San Jose, are of a reasonable standard, smaller towns and rural areas are not well equipped.
Malaria is a significant risk in the provinces of Limon and Puntarenas, along with other insect-borne diseases (including dengue fever). Costa Rican authorities require a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate for visitors who within the last ten days travelled to Sub-Saharan Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru and Venezuela.
The Australian Consulate is located in San Jose, while the Australian Embassy is located in Mexico City.