Last updated: 10:21 AM ET, Wed November 04 2015

How to Give Back on Your Costa Rica Vacation

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | November 03, 2015

How to Give Back on Your Costa Rica Vacation

Photo by David Cogswell

When you think of Costa Rica, do you envision howler monkeys swinging through the canopy, deserted beaches, lush rainforests and hidden waterfalls? It’s easy to be sucked into the beauty of the tropical jungles and white, sandy beaches without thinking twice about the effects of tourism on the pristine country and the various cultural and ecological challenges that a developing country faces.

However, Costa Rica is known for its eco-friendly policies and dedication to sustainability when it comes to tourism. For those who want to delve farther into the country’s tourism practices and give back while they are on vacation, Costa Rica offers a variety of educational experiences from language immersion courses to cultural exchanges for both short- and long-term visitors.

Conservation at National Parks

Those who love to learn about nature can get an in-depth experience within the country. Visitors can get a firsthand look into the sustainable management of wildlife, forest resources and other protected areas with the Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas of Costa Rica (ASVO), which plays a key role in Costa Rica’s conservation, investigation and educational efforts.

The association offers a variety of service opportunities for individuals, organizations and for research projects. They frequently host volunteers from around the world who participate in the organization’s programs in Costa Rica’s parks and protected areas. The programs are so in-depth that they can be used as coursework for a college thesis, but they are also open to general volunteers. Projects include sea turtle conservation, teaching English in rural schools and conservation projects in national parks and reserves.

Cultural Exchanges

If you are looking for a long-term experience, ACI Costa Rica offers programs that are six months to one year long. These programs are a great way to immerse yourself in another culture and/or help with a social or ecological program. Through the intercultural experience, the volunteers develop a sense of independence, become more multilingual and develop an open mind toward new and different situations.

ACI Costa Rica is also an active member of the International Cultural Youth Exchange federation, which has been declared an International Peace Messenger by the United Nations for its contributions to intercultural learning, and it is an associate to UNESCO.

Language Immersion

Those looking for a language immersion opportunity can find it in Costa Rica. Programs such as AEI Study Abroad and International Studies Abroad offer visitors a variety of intensive courses for students who want to learn in both traditional and experiential settings. The agencies also organize school programs, private lessons, family boarding, learning activities (such as surfing) and volunteer activities in Flamingo Beach, Heredia, Monteverde, Jaco and San Jose.

Costa Rica also as a variety of local Spanish language institutes that can be found throughout the country.

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