Central America will surprise you with the amount of travel experiences one can have on such a tiny piece of land that connects the North and South Americas.
Can you imagine having stunningly natural beauties such as beaches, jungles, caves, lakes and volcanoes and tons of different cultures in one place?
But even with that richness and the variety of things to see and places to visit, the people of these countries are still struggling with poverty, lack of education, medical care and malnutrition. As a response, foreigners and a locals started coming together to create NGOs and other organizations to provide less fortunate with basic services and education. There are also organizations that are doing amazing jobs at working with the communities to protect the local flora and fauna.
These organizations are constantly looking for people with all levels of education and skills that are willing to donate their time, knowledge, work and strength to be able to do the job. I would highly recommend considering Central America if you want to volunteer abroad. The best part about these programs is that it is not all about the work. If you volunteer you also get to immerse yourself in the local culture and the opportunity to explore the region on your free days.
I have even heard from some people that they take time during or after their help to either learn Spanish or get their certification to teach English abroad.
In my opinion the best places for volunteering in Central America are Guatemala and Costa Rica here is why:
1. Volunteering in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the most visited country in the region due to its natural beauty and diversity. Travelers come looking for a close encounter with nature.
All of this provides tons of volunteering options for those interested in flora and fauna conservation. If you are near the coast you might find some opportunities for working with sea turtle rescue centers.
Costa Rica has the only sloth rescue center in the world – and they love volunteers.
On the other hand, around the San Jose Region you will find opportunities that allow you to work with kids and women or even in micro finance.
For your free time you can choose among activities such as canopy tours, hanging bridges, ATV, horseback riding, hiking, sailing, plantation tours and surfing.
Lastly, Costa Rica has a reputation for having extremely friendly locals. They specially love and welcome kids. So entire families can come and volunteer here.
2. Volunteering in Guatemala
The variety of volunteering options offered in Guatemala is a bit different. Here you won’t find so many organizations working on conservation. Most focus on humanitarian issues. Most of the main offices for NGOs are located in or round Guatemala City or Antigua. Some are also in Xela and Peten.
On your free days you can either explore the country or go out to Belize, El Salvador or Honduras which are only a few hours away by car from pretty much anywhere in the country.
Guatemala is known for being home to hundreds of Mayan Archaeological sites, including some of the largest and most spectacular complexes that they ever built. Some Mayan towns are still bustling with life and color.
It is also known for having, what I consider to be, the last true Colonial City of the region.
What not a lot of people know is that it also has tons of National Parks and reserves that cover around 30% of its territory. Wouldn’t you want to take some time to explore them?
Have you volunteered in Central America? I’d love to learn about your experience.