Balance Out Your Volunteer Vacation in Costa Rica
By Sheryl Kayne
Volunteer vacations are holiday trips to interesting places in the United States or around the world that include helping out with a charitable cause, scientific research, education or advocacy working with people, community, wildlife, or environment. It’s the perfect way to explore new places, connect with the locals to understand their lifestyle and experiences, and give back.
“I have wanted to try a volunteer vacation,” wrote Virginia, a 57 year old tomato from Syracuse, NY commented after visiting my website, www.ImmersionTraveler.com and reviewing my book, Volunteer Vacations Across America. “My best friend is not into roughing it,” wrote Virginia. “She likes to stay in very comfortable accommodations and it seems to me that volunteering is equivalent to traveling on the cheap.”
No worries, Virginia, there are many options available to today’s volunteer traveler. Yes, there are some trips that come with rustic accommodations, but often other options are available. Check with the sponsoring organization. It’s not uncommon to have a few different suggested accommodations and price range for where you’d most like to stay, depending upon the location.
A rapidly growing trend among grass-roots to high end hotels offers short-term, “bite-sized” volunteer vacations, along with the opportunity to stay in comfortable to most luxurious surroundings. Hands Up Holidays offers travelers a mix and match package for travelers to select from a variety of locations, tours, volunteer opportunities, and accommodations to create the ultimate vacation experience that suits you best. These hotels partner with ongoing local projects, dates aren’t limited, trips can be personalized, a percentage could be tax deductible, and money benefits the local community.
Hands Up Holidays (HUH) helped me put together the perfect immersion and volunteer vacation in Costa Rica, currently a very popular destination for Americans since it’s relatively close by, with competitively priced flights, and accommodations for every budget. November through April are the driest months with a few extra hours of sunshine every day. I visited during rainy season in June and it rained once a day, particularly in the Rain Forest; however it was still quite comfortable and lovely to visit.
My priorities were to immerse myself in the country, refresh my Spanish skills, enjoy a few adventures, and relax and chill out. Here were a few of my favorite HUH choices:
NBC’s Love in the Wild was filmed at the Arenal Nayara Hotel, Spa & Garden and Trip Advisor named it the most romantic hotel in Central and South America as well as one of the top five most romantic hotels in the world. I stayed there, with a female coworker, and must admit, it was simply a beautiful place with impeccable service. The ‘romantic’ side wasn’t overdone and I didn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place in a non-romantic situation, and would love to take my children there. They would thoroughly enjoy the whirlpool bathtub out on the deck surrounded by a magnificent garden looking out over the
Arenal volcano – Leave plenty of time to walk up the path towards the volcano and explore the park, followed by zip lining in the afternoon. Be sure to also visit the Hot Springs before moving on.
Proyecto Asis offers Spanish classes, volunteer activities in their animal refuge with animals native to Costa Rica, and cultural immersion programs appropriate for all ages, nearby Fortuna and Arenal, Costa Rica. During my four days of volunteering, I enjoyed a home stay with a local family, gaining insights into their lives with total immersion in the language, food, culture and day-to-day management.
Manuel Antonio National Park has beautiful white sand beaches, multiple islands and forests to watch dolphin and whale off the coast. It is the most visited national park in Costa Rica and has surfing, diving, and hiking, along with fascinating wildlife.
According to a happiness index survey that ranks 143 countries, Costa Ricans are the happiest, most content people on earth. Their attitude and philosophy of life is summed up in two little words that are used as a greeting, a good bye, to express pleasure, thanks, you’re welcome and even confusion or a misunderstanding: Pura Vida. Live the pure life. ###
Sheryl Kayne’s website is www.ImmersionTraveler.com and she has published Volunteer Vacations Across America and Immersion Travel USA are both available in E-books in all formats, for your Nook or Kindle http://tinyurl.com/3vcffwh.