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The Land of Pura Vida: All You Need to Know About Costa Rica

To celebrate Costa Rica Independence Day, we are delving into Costa Rica’s history, the concept of Pura Vida, and how our volunteer work plays a vital role in sustaining its environment and supporting local communities.

Nestled in Central America, Costa Rica is more than just a tropical paradise with pristine beaches and lush rainforests. It holds a rich history and a commitment to preserving its natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Costa Rica’s History

Costa Rica’s has an extremely rich history. Its land was inhabited as far back as 5000 years BC, by various indigenous groups including the Caribs and the Boruca Tribe, before Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century.

In 1821, Costa Rica gained independence from Spain, along with several other Central American countries. Achieving Independence is one of the most momentous events in Costa Rican history, and, unlike their neighbours, Costa Rica managed to find a path to modernity much more peacefully and without much conflict. The Spanish influence left a lasting mark we still see today on many parts of the country, from language to religion, and architecture. But throughout its history, Costa Rica has embraced a democratic government, even abolishing their army in 1948, and focusing on social and environmental well-being of their country and people instead.

To this day, the 15th of September is still celebrated as the day of Costa Rican independence! It shares this date with Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

Pura Vida: The Heartbeat of Costa Rican Culture

“Pura Vida” isn’t just a phrase; it’s a way of life in Costa Rica. Pura Vida can be a greeting, a response, and an attitude that reflects the country’s laid-back, joyful, and eco-conscious ethos. Pura Vida means ‘pure life,’ and this philosophy encourages appreciation for a lifestyle that is relaxed, carefree and optimistic. Costa Ricans, known as Ticos and Ticas, embody Pura Vida by embracing sustainability, living in harmony with their environment, and cherishing moments of happiness.


Raleigh’s Volunteer Work: Nurturing the Environment Communities

Costa Rica’s commitment to environmental conservation and community empowerment is commendable. It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with conservation areas that are natural sites of global interest. The role of volunteer work is crucial in helping to sustain Costa Rica’s heritage, and its environment. On a Raleigh Expedition, there are multiple projects that help Costa Rica maintain its goals:

Environmental Projects: Many areas of biodiversity in Costa Rica are inaccessible to tourists, and susceptible to illegal deforestation and pollution, because of limited budget, a shortage of staff and lack of infrastructure. Raleigh volunteers work with the National System of Conservation Areas, National Parks and Rangers, and the Ministry of Labour. From sign-making and trail clearing, to reforestation and biodiversity inventory, volunteers will support the protection of biodiversity, and the maintenance and conservation of ecosystems.

School building in Costa Rica

Community Projects: Our volunteer work occurs in some of the most remote areas in Costa Rica. The Alto Chirripó Indigenous Territory is home to around 8,000 Cabecar indigenous people. The school attendance and literacy levels are extremely low, and poverty is high, due to lack of facilities and access to places of Education. Raleigh International works school staff, the parent association, and the Ministry of Education to tackle these challenges, by building or repairing school infrastructures and planning days with community leaders and school staff.

Leadership Trek Projects: Led by Raleigh Staff and Volunteer Managers, our volunteers will trek approximately 260km through rainforests and up volcanoes. These routes are not frequented by tourists, so our teams have a chance to experience true Costa Rican environment and raise awareness on the importance of preserving these ecosystems.

Volunteers in the rainforest


Costa Rica’s captivating journey from its historical roots to its embodiment of Pura Vida is a testament to the country’s unique identity. Its commitment to environmental conservation and community well-being serves as an inspiration to the rest of the world.

By engaging in volunteer work in Costa Rica, individuals have the chance to not only explore its breath-taking landscapes, but also to actively contribute to its sustainable future and learn about its communities. In the land of Pura Vida, every step taken by volunteers and local communities brings us closer to a purer, more vibrant world.

Volunteer in the land of Pura Vida and make a difference on community and environmental projects, while also taking on the challenge of an incredible adventure trek.


Need more information about Expedition?

Consultation call

Whether you have a specific question or want to discuss which Expedition is right for you, schedule a call with a member of the team at a time convenient to you. 

Join an info event

On our monthly online info events, we’ll tell you all about Expedition. Have your questions answered, meet other volunteers and find out what Expedition is really like from an alumni.

Download a guide

Find out all about Raleigh International and Expedition in our helpful information guide.