Costa Rica volunteer vacation activities vary wildly, depending on what sort of service trip you’ve selected. The Sierra Club, for example, hosts many ecologically-minded service trips across the world. True Nature Education, the program with which my family signed up, adapts each Costa Rica volunteer vacation to the wishes and abilities of each travel group. Our group had several children (including mine), and a couple of grandparents, so no serious lifting types of volunteer activities were scheduled. With all the Costa Rica-happy travelers, though, you can be sure there were plenty of photos taken; barely 10 minutes would go by without the telltale flash from someone’s digital camera.
We completely enjoyed rainforest reforestation, spending time with a couple of Costa Rica families in the small rural village of San Rafael, and helping to protect a sea turtle hatchery. We had a wonderful experience getting to see Costa Rica on a more personal level than a standard all-inclusive resort would have allowed.
The Costa Rica culture is so welcoming and friendly, by and large, that it’s really remarkable. After living in busy New York City, and now in bustling Southern California, my family was absolutely delighted to visit the warm homes of a couple of Ticas (“Ticas” are how Costa Ricans refer to themselves). As a parent and travel lover, it warmed my heart to see my kids playing with children in the front yard areas in San Rafael. Anyone who is considering a volunteer vacation in Costa Rica should consider getting to know Ticas better — many service trips to this Central American country focus purely on environmental themes, but cultural immersion is just as enriching.
My children have been talking about their Costa Rica volunteer experiences every day, and this morning another mom at one of my kid’s schools talked about how hearing about the service trip got her thinking that she’d like to treat her own family to a similar trip. Believe me, few things are more rewarding to a travel writer than hearing that!
These photos are just a few of the approximately one billion photographs we took in Costa Rica. Not sure I needed to take seventeen photos of the sloth idling on a Cecropia tree, but that’s the pleasure of living in the digital era. The last night of our volunteer vacation in Costa Rica, we were staying in an eco-lodge in Matapalo. As we watched the sun set, we all knew that this wouldn’t be the last time we’d sign up for a service trip. And I decided that it wasn’t even the last sunset we’d ever see in Costa Rica. We’ll return to this beautiful country, and I hope that — if it’s on your bucket list — you’ll make Costa Rica travel plans someday, too.