Hola! As part of our regular IVHQ program visits, we traveled to our volunteer program in Costa Rica to catch up with our local team, meet with our volunteers, and to see the impact our volunteers are having on the ground. If you’re thinking about volunteering in Costa Rica in 2020 or 2021. We trust this blog will guide your planning!
Thinking about going Volunteering in Costa Rica?
Whether you’re taking a gap year, volunteering abroad or just looking for a worthwhile holiday with a difference, embarking on IVHQ’s 2020 / 2021 Costa Rica volunteer program offers a meaningful way to explore Central America while making a genuine impact in the local community.
About IVHQ’s 2020 Costa Rica Volunteer Program
Volunteering in Costa Rica with IVHQ is an excellent opportunity for volunteers to provide hands-on support to community development projects while being immersed in the local culture alongside other international volunteers.
Our 2020 & 2021 Costa Rica volunteers can choose from diverse range of volunteer opportunities including teaching english, childcare work, sea turtle conservation, healthcare, and construction and renovation work. There is volunteer work suitable for all kinds of volunteer travellers.
Volunteer Program Highlights
- IVHQ’s Costa Rica volunteer program is mostly based in the capital San Jose. Some projects are based in Manuel Antonio on the Pacific coast, the Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteers are based on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and the Sustainable Eco-Agriculture Project is based in a community coffee plantation in the central highlands.
- Program durations are flexible and can choose to volunteer from 1 to 24 weeks.
- Volunteer programs are open year-round and start every Monday.
- Affordable program fees from US$370 for 1 week.
- Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country volunteer support. As an IVHQ volunteer, you gain access to discounted Spanish language classes.
- Weekends are free to explore San Jose or other parts of Costa Rica. You can visit volcanoes, rainforests and beaches, or roam the eclectic township with your newfound volunteer friends.
What is the best time of year to volunteer in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica’s tropical climate means mid December to early April is the dry season and is an ideal time if you’d like to explore the rainforest and national parks without getting too wet. During this time of year you’ll find vibrant fiestas taking place all across the country, including live music, dancing and bull fighting. During June and July the rains tend ease up. Between May and November is the rainy season, also known as a ‘green season’ due to the vibrant and lush growth of the rainforest during this time.
My family just had one of the most amazing experiences of our lives! We worked for three weeks in Costa Rica. We spent a week in the city working at a soup kitchen and day care. We had quite an adventure working together to figure out the buses, language and money. We had an amazing host family and lots of great local food! We then spent two weeks working on a turtle sanctuary on the coast in a very small town. Working with the local environmentalists and the animals was so rewarding. We worked hard, took cold showers and continued with the local wonderful food. We would patrol the beach together at night collecting eggs and being in awe of a million stars and fireflies. We spent the evenings swimming in ocean as the sun set and the sky was filled with rainbows. It was magical. We spent the weekends on adventures including kayaking, jumping off waterfalls, and zip-lining through the Forest canopy with monkeys and Scarlet Macaws. All these new experiences were life changing. Pura Vida! Lua Hancock (IVHQ Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer)
Eco-Agriculture Conservation in Monteverde
Based in the central highlands of Costa Rica, the Eco-Agriculture Conservation project offers you the opportunity to volunteer on a family-run coffee plantation in Monteverde that promotes responsible and sustainable agriculture.
Our local team will be there to arrange transport when you arrive in Monteverde. What a beautiful place, if you are a bit of an adventure junky, can handle physical labour and have a passion for organic food and plenty of coffee, then this is the place for you to volunteer! In only half a day, I learnt all the processes that go into picking, drying, shelling, cleaning and roasting the organic coffee beans, as well as the care and maintenance of the trees and seedlings. A wee tip for IVHQ volunteers who are going to this project - bring gumboots, a torch, gloves and a passion for great coffee. (IVHQ Program Manager)
Your weekend activities while on this project can be spent flying through the cloud forest on Latin America’s longest zip line, bungee jumping, or taking a walk around the lakes and volcanoes.
Childcare Volunteering & Volunteer Teaching
IVHQ offers meaningful childcare volunteer programs in Costa Rica, designed to help local children that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. This project is ideally suited to someone who is creative, energetic and passionate about helping children. As part of your placement you will work alongside local staff and provide hands-on support within local community centres, schools and kindergartens.
The ages of the children ranges from infants all the way to 12 years old. Your project role does change from day to day but will often involve organizing games, arts and crafts, singing, playing sports, as well as teaching manners and colors to the children.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course)
During your orientation in San Jose, teaching volunteers take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) crash course in San Jose to gain an understanding of how to structure a lesson plan, as well as implementing a second language (you can even plan ahead and up-skill with an online IVHQ TEFL course before you depart). If you are a little nervous about standing up in front of a class, don’t worry as the teaching is often in small tutorial style groups and can be less formal.
As an additional support to volunteer projects and for those who desire a more physical and hands-on project, you should consider a Construction and Renovation project. This type of project includes a range of activities, such as building the Childcare placements some new cubby holes for the children to store their belongings, to fixing roofs, or maintenance on the churches that house many of the placements. There is always plenty of work to maintain and the work is always different. Come prepared to be handy and work as part of a team with the local foreman.
Costa Rica Special Education Volunteering
Special Education volunteer placements are available for volunteers who are interested in helping children with learning difficulties and working to help support local teachers in teaching mentally and physically disabled children. Placements vary and can include schools for students with autism, to those who are blind or dear, including a range of other mental or physical disabilities. Volunteer placements help create a healthy learning space for these students, as well as the right facilities to support agility and exercise. Volunteers looking for a Special Education placement should have a calm and supportive nature and an understanding of working with Special Needs children.
Costa Rica Medical Volunteering
Students interested in our Costa Rica medical volunteer program find it offers a great range of options for volunteers from pre-med to fully qualified doctors and nurses. Since you are participating in direct patient care, your involvement may be limited by the level of your Spanish language skills. The more time you spend on the project and the more the nursing staff get to know you and see your abilities (including Spanish), the more work you are able to assist with. Work for Medical volunteers include elderly care (medical check-ups, physiotherapy and nutrition), to working with HIV/AIDS patients, to EMTs.
Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteering
Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteers work with a local biologist to assist in his preservation efforts of the endangered turtles native to Costa Rica. Volunteers are stationed at one of two beach locations: Nicoya Peninsula (based on the Pacific coast) and Parismina (based on the Caribbean coast). There are four different sea turtles species in Costa Rica - Leatherbacks, Greens, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill and the Costa Rica sea turtles hatching season varies depending on the location and sea turtle species. Therefore your work assignment will vary depending the location and the time of year of your placement.
- Leatherbacks: On the Caribbean coast, they nest from March to July. On the Pacific, they nest from September to March.
- Greens: Nest from June to October along the North Caribbean, especially Tortuguero.
- Olive Ridleys: Along the Pacific, they nest throughout the year, though on many beaches the nesting is concentrated from July to November.
- Hawksbills: Nest in Cahuita National Park in September and October, and can be found foraging in the Golfo Dulce.
Volunteers on this project work for 6 days a week for about 4 to 7 hours per day. Scheduled shifts are on a roster (for example 10pm to 2am or 12am to 4am). These shifts are equally distributed and is discussed with you once you arrive. Activities involve patrolling (patrol duration depends on the amount of turtle activity that happens during that shift, but can take anywhere from 2 hours) and collecting data about population dynamics and hatching success. Beach patrols include tagging, measuring of turtles, checking for markings, counting the number of eggs being laid and taking weight measurements. Volunteers work under the supervision of local leaders and the project coordinator.
Turtle Conservation volunteers will typically take orientation on Monday in San Jose with the rest of the group and then depart early Tuesday for their placements. As there is a fair distance to travel to these placements, volunteers will need to commit to a minimum of 2 weeks on the project.
The Turtle Conservation volunteer placement is quite isolated and is well suited for a volunteer who is looking for a more laid back beached based program. Nearby is the town of Santa Cruz, a 45 minute bus ride from the volunteer basecamp.
There is plenty of work to be done and volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside local biologist Gabrielle, who is deeply passionate about promoting Sea Turtle Conservation and working to protect the beach where turtles often visit to lay their eggs.
Volunteers who are interested in helping release baby turtles back to the ocean are likely to have the chance to do so on the Junquiall project, where there is a turtle hatchery on site. This project is a community-based initiative and volunteers will spend their time taking care of the environment and surrounding beach, replanting native trees, educating the local community and undertaking night patrols to spot any turtles that take to the beach to lay their eggs.
If joining the IVHQ Turtle Conservation project, ensure you have plenty of insect repellent, sunscreen and light clothing, as it can get quite hot. For the night watch patrol, you will need to bring a torch with a red light on it or at least some red cellophane to put at the top of your torch.
Orientation at San Jose
A comprehensive volunteer orientation (always held at 8am on Monday morning) is a good opportunity to meet the volunteers who had arrived over the weekend. During orientation, volunteers are given information about San Jose and the local team, as well as specific details about the culture and safety precautions. This is followed by a short Spanish test to determine your language level before concluding with a tour of the building and local area.
The local staff offices function as a central hub for volunteers to catch up, have a meal and socialise with other volunteers. There is also free coffee and complimentary Wi-Fi. Of course the staff are always available if you have any questions too. In the evenings, volunteers return for activities, such as free salsa or cooking lessons!
Learn Spanish & Volunteer in Costa Rica
Volunteering in Costa Rica is a great way to achieve complete Spanish language immersion and learn more about the local culture as part of your stay. Discounted Spanish language lessons are available as part of your program fees and students looking to further their studies can also gain university credit on IVHQ’s Spanish Service Learning Course.
What about local activities and attractions?
On your weekends you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore Costa Rica with your new-found volunteer friends - you’ll be spoilt for choice with volcanoes, rainforests and beaches all within easy access. Don’t miss a trip to Pacuare River to go white water rafting, or visit Monteverde - world renowned for its biodiverse cloud forests, hiking and zip lining!
Manuel Antonio National Park
There are plenty of activities available if you decide to Visit Manuel Antonio over the weekend. As one of the premiere tourist destinations in Costa Rica, it offers some of the most beautiful beaches, abundant restaurants and shopping opportunities. Manuel Antionio also features one of Costa Rica’s largest national parks with a diverse range of rainforest plant and animal species. Manuel Antonio even caters for the adventurous spirit with hiking, rafting and kayaking, canopy tours and fishing.
Poas Volcano and La Pez Waterfall Gardens
Visit the Poas Volcano and National Park, just a day trip from San Jose. As one of the biggest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica, Poas is considered by many to be the highlight of any Costa Rica volunteer trip. The surrounding national park is full of dense jungle vegetation and exotic wildlife, with over 79 native bird species. The Botos path is a well known local hiking trail, which leads up to a beautiful alpine crater lake. On a nice day you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the same time. You can also visit the gorgeous gardens of La Paz which are situated on the slopes of the Poas volcano. The La Paz gardens feature 3 kilometers of trails that include 5 stunning waterfalls, not to mention the largest butterfly observatory in the world, hummingbird and bromeliad gardens, a serpentarium and frog pond.
White Water Rafting on the Pacuare River
For those adventure seekers, a white water rafting trip down the Pacuare River offers an immersive and exciting way to experience the vibrant Costa Rican rainforest. The Pacuare river gorge is known throughout the world for its beauty. Surrounded on all sides by high cliffs with magnificent waterfalls cascading as you float by. White water rafting is a great way to explore Costa Rica if you don’t mind getting a little wet!
One of Costa Rica’s most well known natural features, Arenal Volcano is one of the must see attractions when in the country. The Arenal Volcano National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife and boasts an impressive bouquet of plant life as a treat for nature lovers, be sure to visit the Arenal Botanical Gardens. The volcano is an impressive sight itself, surrounded by rainforest on all sides, but the local area also boasts a wide range of activities such as white water rafting, waterfall rappelling, caving, canopy tours, horseback rides and hiking. Nearby Lake Arenal also offers a variety of water sports including canoeing, fishing and kite surfing. Make sure to leave time for a visit to the incredible hot springs in the area and La Fortuna Waterfall too!
How much will it cost?
There are always some unavoidable costs associated with any Costa Rica volunteering program including food, accommodation and transport, insurance and flights. IVHQ’s Costa Rica Volunteer Programs need not break the bank. With programs starting at $370 USD per week. You can read more about our program fees. Even for a budget minded traveller, there are plenty of cheap volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica to suit your budget.
Why travel with International Volunteer HQ?
IVHQ is the world’s largest volunteer travel organizations with over 112,000 volunteer trips abroad in over 50 destinations. With the most affordable fees and top rated volunteer programs, IVHQ has you covered with the best volunteer opportunities in Latin America! There are plenty of project options to choose from and even more sights to see once you arrive. Whether you’re traveling solo, with a friend, family or as a group, IVHQ is the travel provider of choice for those looking to volunteer in Latin America. Keep reading to find out more…
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time visiting our volunteer program in Costa Rica and trust you will do the same, if you have any questions at all please contact the team at IVHQ, we would love to help plan a volunteer program that suits you, or visit the Volunteer in Costa Rica page for more information.