About Costa Rica

Surrounded by a stable political environment and a culture of peace, Costa Rica is an example of longstanding social mobility through education efforts. Our social security system has shown that with an ideology of cooperation and solidarity, health levels of more developed countries can be reached by a majority of the population.

Our natural and multicultural wealth are hard to find in other parts of the world. Added to its strategic location within Central America, Costa Rica is the ideal place to internalize the determinants of health. Local diversity makes it possible for participants to apply their professional and contextualized skills and make an impact on health and accomplish vulnerable populations’ wellness.

Costa Rica is located in Central America, has a north border with Nicaragua, South border with Panama, West border with the Pacific Ocean and East border with the Caribbean Sea. Its total territory is of 51 100 km², comparable in size to West Virginia. There are approximately 4.9 million inhabitants, according to the last population census of 2011 and 52% live in the Central Valley, constituted by the provinces of San Jose (the capital city), Cartago, Alajuela and Heredia.

The Southern region and San Vito are some of the poorest areas of Costa Rica. But the region also has natural cultural diversity that is difficult to find elsewhere.

In the Osa Peninsula, the communities have been widely affected both in their social organization and their health due to the development of various agricultural activities and ineffective development policies. This makes it an ideal place to understand how health is affected by economic, political, social and cultural factors. Additionally, the region is where many institutions are placed, such as governmental and non-governmental organizations, both national and international converge. 

Biodiversity and Economy

Costa Rica is proudly the host of 5% of global biodiversity and approximately 25% of the territory is protected areas. Costa Rica has three parks declared Natural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO: the Isla del Coco National Park, the reserves of the Talamanca Range/Amistad International Park and the Guanacaste conservation area. Its richness in species of flora and fauna and its geographic characteristics provide a variety of ecosystems turn the country in a very special hub for research in environment and ecology. Research in biology and ecology has been a strong support for the development of communities since it has brought education and actions on sustainable development and conservation of the environment.

In 1994, Costa Rica adopted Sustainable Development as an official policy. Since then, the country has made impressive advances in the fields of biodiversity prospecting, protected area management and environmental regulation.

According to the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, in 2014 Costa Rica ranked third among the best economies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although there is an important part of the economy that depends on agriculture, mainly growing and harvesting pineapple, bananas, sugar and coffee for exportation; and in the last decades, African palm for oil; the service economy is taking a strong foothold as well as the tourism industry, especially eco-tourism which since the early 2000s has generated more foreign exchange than any of the main agricultural export products.

Weather and Climate 

In San Vito, the typical weather is mildly hot and humid during the day and cooler and breezy at night, with moderate temperatures ranging from 60 to 80°F. The altitude is 1,000 meters above sea level, with annual precipitation of approximately 1390 inches. However, you will be travelling during the field trips to different parts of the country, including San Jose and Osa Peninsula. So plan for hot weather generally but it can be cool at night. The rainy season is May-Nov so it will likely rain every day in the afternoons.

Watch this video from students who participated in this course in 2018! 

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