COSTA RICA has staked its reputation on being a progressive pioneer when it comes to environmental conservation policy. A full 25% of its territory falls under national park status or some other designation of protection. Deforestation — a serious concern in a state that’s 50% forest — has been halted almost entirely. The legislature banned recreational hunting in 2012, and the government is aiming to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation by 2021.
And Costa Ricans have plenty to protect. Their tiny country (around the size of two Vermonts) accounts for just 0.1% of the world’s land area, but is home to almost 5% of its biodiversity. From rare amphibians to monkeys to big cats to sea turtles and over 800 different bird species, Costa Rica’s fauna is as impressive as its volcanic, rainforest-covered landscape.
For the traveler, all of this adds up to pretty much the most spectacular ecotourism opportunities anywhere, as well as plenty of volunteer-based travel options. Below are some snapshots of what you can expect when you go.