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Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica with IVHQ

Volunteer in Costa Rica

Volunteer in Costa Rica with International Volunteer HQ on a wide range of volunteer abroad projects, including Teaching, Healthcare, Childcare, Construction and Turtle Conservation. Volunteers are based in San Jose, Manuel Antonio, the Central Highlands and coastal locations within Costa Rica. With low volunteer program fees and top rated volunteer projects, you will not find a more affordable and trustworthy volunteer travel organisation.
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Watch IVHQ volunteers abroad in Costa Rica

At a glance…

  • Available year-round
  • 12 meaningful project options
  • Projects based in San Jose, Manuel Antonio, the Central Highlands and in coastal locations
  • Accommodation in homestays and dorms (dependent on project)
  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support
  • Program fees from US$365 for 1 week (approximately AU$450)
  • Affordable Spanish language lessons available
  • Between 40 and 80 volunteers start in Costa Rica each month
I loved my project - it was the perfect fit! I made wonderful friends and connections with everyone. Being one of the youngest volunteers on my placement, it brought me a new sense of maturity. I'm extremely grateful for the personal and emotional growth that this project gave back to me. I can't wait to go back!
IVHQ Volunteer - Jade Manuel
Jade Manuel
Nationality: Canadian
Age: 18
Destination: Costa Rica
  • Most affordable fees - as the world leader in affordable volunteer travel, we’re able to keep our fees low by partnering with a local organisation in Costa Rica to support meaningful community projects and local employment.
  • Superior support - your experienced IVHQ Program Manager, teamed with our local team in Costa Rica will ensure you feel supported every step of the way - from planning to volunteering.
  • Responsible projects - we’re dedicated to ensuring that our projects are responsibly run and have sustainable positive impacts that are supporting local needs.
  • Online training - as soon as you register on an IVHQ program, you will gain access to our interactive volunteer training to ensure you’re well prepared for your program.
  • Safety-first - volunteer safety is a top priority for IVHQ and we have clear standards for risk management on each program. You can feel confident that you are placed with trustworthy institutions, organisations and families that have been screened by our local teams.
  • New friendships - as an IVHQer, you’ll always be in the company of friendly locals and like-minded volunteer travellers who will quickly become your life-long friends.
  • Epic weekend adventures - you’ll have your weekends free to explore Costa Rica with your new-found friends.

The Costa Rica volunteer program has volunteer projects located throughout Costa Rica, with the large majority based in and around San Jose and volunteer opportunities also available in Manuel Antonio. Turtle Conservation volunteers are based in coastal locations on the Pacific or Caribbean Coast, and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers are based in Costa Rica’s Central Highlands.

Costa Rica Volunteer Project Locations:

  • Childcare (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Turtle Conservation (Pacific Coast, Caribbean Coast)
  • Healthcare (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Construction and Rennovation (San Jose)
  • Teaching English (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Eco-Agriculture Conservation (Central Highlands)
  • Special Needs Care (San Jose)
  • Holiday Experience Project (San Jose)
  • Spanish Service Learning Course (San Jose)

Volunteer programs begin every Monday. You can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks. Please note that the Turtle Conservation project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and the volunteer projects in Manuel Antonio have a minimum duration of 3 weeks.

Volunteers are required to fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport, which is a 17 to 19 hour flight from most major airports in Australia.

Childcare

As a Childcare volunteer in Costa Rica, you will be supporting a project where the focus is on improving outcomes for children from difficult backgrounds in San Jose. You will be working alongside local staff and playing a hands-on role in providing much-needed support within local community centres, daycares, schools, soup kitchens and kindergartens.

This project is well suited to enthusiastic volunteers who are interested in working with children, providing them with a headstart on their education in a fun and supportive environment.

Your tasks may include working one-on-one with the children, organising games and activities, providing education around hygiene and assisting with homework. The majority of the volunteer work is focused on working with children from immigrant communities in Costa Rica that are facing social issues in regards to poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.

You are not required to have experience in childcare or education to take part in this project, as you will be working closely alongside local placement staff.

Working with Children - Manuel Antonio

The aim of the Working with Children project in Manuel Antonio is to provide additional care, attention and most importantly, companionship to children within local childcare facilities.

This project is well suited to energetic and creative volunteers who are passionate about working with children. You will be encouraged to use your creativity, be open-minded and ready to pitch in and help out wherever possible.

Your role on the project is to assist at a local daycare facility or local school where work may vary, but generally includes organising games, sports, activities, hygiene education, cleaning and assisting the teachers and caretakers at the project site.

You are not required to have experience working with children to participate, as the local placement staff will be close by to assist. Please note that this project requires a minimum duration of 3 weeks.

Turtle Conservation

When volunteering on the Sea Turtle Conservation project in Costa Rica, you will be working alongside a local biologist to assist with sea turtle studies, focusing on marine conservation and supporting sustainable egg protection programs. There are four sea turtle species in Costa Rica - Leatherbacks, Greens, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill and protecting these spectacular species will be at the heart of all your volunteer work.

This project is well suited to hard-working volunteers who love nature, the marine environment and being part of rewarding volunteer work within a coastal setting.

When volunteering on the Turtle Conservation project, you can expect to work at one of four beach locations around Costa Rica: Ostional, Drake Bay, Junquillal (based on the Pacific Coast) and Parismina (based on the Caribbean Coast). Your role on the project will vary according to the time of year and you will be involved in a variety of day and night shifts. These shifts may include beach patrols, building hatcheries to protect eggs from predators, beach cleaning, counting and tagging sea turtles, locating nesting females, collecting eggs and replanting mangroves.

As a Sea Turtle Conservation volunteer in Costa Rica, you can expect basic living conditions that are equipped with all the essentials. There will be downtime on the project and you will have limited access to shops and restaurants, so volunteers often take the opportunity to enjoy outdoor games, play cards, practice yoga or find a quiet spot to read a book. It is also important to note that the working week on this project is 6 days, so it is best to plan any travel within Costa Rica for before or after your volunteer program.

This project is open to all volunteers who have an interest in the protection of sea turtles and are ready to come to Costa Rica with a positive attitude and willingness to work hard.

Please note that this project has a minimum duration of 2 weeks and has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Healthcare

As a volunteer on the Healthcare project in Costa Rica, you will have the opportunity to ehance your global perspective of medicine while supporting positive health and wellbeing outcomes for communities within San Jose. You may work in a range of community care facilities, including clinics for disabled children, nursing homes, HIV/AIDS assisted living homes and ambulance services. The healthcare system in Costa Rica is relatively well developed, however the placements we work with always appreciate the extra assistance that volunteers provide through supporting local nurses, doctors and caregivers.

This project is open to healthcare students and professionals across all fields and your tasks will be determined by your level of training and demonstrated expertise, your Spanish language level, age and ability to take initiative, as well as your program duration. Pre-medical, pre-nursing, as well as first or second-year medical and nursing students may work alongside medical professionals to assist with distributing and sorting medication, assisting with rehabilitation exercises, feeding, bathing and keeping patients company. Third-year nursing or medical students and qualified health professionals may shadow local doctors and nurses, assist with check ups, triage, taking vitals and preparing medical equipment. If you are a physical therapist or occupational therapist, there is a great deal of need for your support on this project.

Volunteers on this project can expect to take a shadowing or assisting role, as strict insurance laws and regulations in Costa Rica make independent patient care prohibited. It is therefore important that volunteers have realistic expectations with regards to the work they will be doing.

Please note that you will need to bring scrubs and evidence of your current level of education to Costa Rica. Pre-medical or pre-nursing students who wish to participate on this project are also required to have relevant practical or shadowing experience. The Healthcare project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Healthcare - Manuel Antonio

When volunteering on the Healthcare project in Manuel Antonio, you will have the opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into the healthcare system within Costa Rica while supportinng positive health and wellbeing outcomes within the local community. As a Healthcare volunteer in Manuel Antonio, you may find yourself working in a range of community care facilities, including nursing homes and HIV/AIDS assisted living homes. The healthcare system in Costa Rica is relatively well developed, however the placements we work with appreciate the extra assistance that volunteers provide through supporting local nurses, doctors and caregivers.

This project is well suited to volunteers who are currently working towards a healthcare degree, as well as qualified professionals and those who are interested in pursuing a career in a healthcare-related field. If you are looking for physical therapy volunteer opportunities, or if you have a background in occupational therapy, there is a growing need for your skills and your work on this project will be highly valued by the community.

Your tasks as a Healthcare volunteer will be determined by your level of training and demonstrated expertise, Spanish language level, age and ability to take initiative, as well as your program duration. Students who are pre-medical, pre-nursing students, as well as first or second year medical and nursing students may work alongside medical professionals to assist with distributing and sorting medication, assisting with rehabilitation exercises, feeding, bathing and keeping patients company. Third-year nursing or medical students through to qualified health professionals may shadow local doctors and nurses, assist with check ups, triage, taking vitals and preparing medical equipment.

Volunteers on this project can expect to take a shadowing or assisting role, as strict insurance laws and regulations in Costa Rica make independent patient care prohibited. It is therefore important that volunteers have realistic expectations with regards to the work they will be doing.

Please note that you will need to bring scrubs and evidence of your current level of education to Costa Rica.

Construction and Renovation

As a Construction and Renovation volunteer in Costa Rica, you will be working to support underfunded projects in San Jose that are rundown and in need of a refresh. Your support will help to breathe new life into communities and enable initiatives to carry out their work in healthy, vibrant spaces. You will take the lead from a local construction worker, who will provide you with direction and guidance throughout your project.

This project is well suited to energetic volunteers who love a challenge and are willing to work hard. By working within the local community and being enthusiastic about helping out wherever your support is most needed, you will be able to enjoy seeing the tangible impact of your volunteer efforts.

When volunteering on the Construction and Renovation project in Costa Rica, you can expect to be supporting the renovation of childcare centres and local clinics, repainting community centres and assisting with landscaping or gardening.

As you will be volunteering alongside a local construction worker, you do not need to have previous experience with construction work to join this project. It is important to come to Costa Rica with good energy levels, a reasonable level of fitness and dedication to your work - this will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of your volunteer project.

Please note that the Construction and Renovation project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Teaching English

As a volunteer on the Teaching English project in Costa Rica, you will play a hands-on role in developing the English language skills of students from low-income communities in San Jose and surrounding areas. As Costa Rica is increasingly becoming the tourism capital of Central America, learning English provides locals with increased employment opportunities within this rapidly expanding industry.

This project is well suited to volunteers with an interest in education, confidence in a classroom setting and a good understanding of the English language. Your tasks may include teaching English classes to school students, tutoring, setting up small workshops, and organising educational games and activities. You can expect to be teaching within schools and community centres, and you will be provided with a general syllabus to follow and examples of what previous volunteers have taught to guide your lesson planning.

You are not required to have teaching experience to participate on this project as you will be provided assistance from the local team and placement staff. You can expect to be running classes independently, so we recommended completing a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course before travelling to Costa Rica if you don’t have prior teaching experience. Visit our Online TEFL Course to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate. Our local team also provide Teaching English volunteers with a TEFL “crash course” and educational materials to help get you started.

Please note that schools in Costa Rica are closed from the third week of December until the second week of February and there is a 2-week holiday beginning on the first week of July. Any time that schools are closed, Teaching English volunteers usually teach in precarios (urban slums), community centres or churches.

Teaching English - Manuel Antonio

The aim of this project is to help provide locals in Manuel Antonio with the opportunity to learn English. The ability to speak English can be the difference between finding a job and being unemployed, as Manuel Antonio is a major tourist destination within Costa Rica.

This project is well suited to individuals with an interest in education, confidence in a classroom setting and a strong understanding of the English language. Placements can take place within schools, family homes and community centres. This project is open to all volunteers with an interest in education. During your time on this project you will receive lesson planning assistance, materials and books, as well as a teaching English crash course to get started.

You are not required to have teaching experience to participate on this project as you will be provided assistance from the local team and placement staff. You can expect to be running classes independently, so we recommended completing a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) course before travelling to Costa Rica if you don’t have prior teaching experience. Visit our Online TEFL Course to learn how to gain an internationally-recognised TEFL certification at a discounted rate. Our local team also provide Teaching English volunteers with a TEFL “crash course” and educational materials to help get you started.

Please note that this project requires a minimum duration commitment of 3 weeks.

Eco-Agriculture Conservation

As a volunteer on our Eco-Agriculture Conservation project, you will be based in the Central Highlands of Costa Rica, approximately 4 hours from San Jose. You will be working alongside a local family in rural Costa Rica to support their coffee production.

If you’re passionate about conservation, enjoy hands-on tasks and seeing the physical results of your hard work, this project will be perfect for you. This is a unique eco-volunteering opportunity where the focus is not only on agriculture but also supporting the local community. Coffee lovers will find this project both interesting and rewarding. After seeing all the hard work that goes into coffee production, you’ll never look at a cup of coffee in the same way!

Your tasks on the Eco-Agriculture Conservation project will vary based on the time of year you take part, so it’s important to have enthusiasm for helping out where there is the most need. You may be involved in the harvesting, roasting and packaging of the coffee beans, composting, replanting and clearing the grounds to plant the next harvest.

This project is open to all volunteers with an interest in helping local independant farmers in small rural communities and experiencing an authentic insight into Costa Rican life.

Please note that this project has an extra cost of US$65 (approximately AU$80) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project. This amount will be included in the Program Fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply.

Special Needs Care

The aim of the Special Needs Care project is to increase access to care and education for people living with special needs in Costa Rica. As a volunteer on this project, you will be working within local schools for children with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as in a centre for adults with autism, providing support alongside local staff.

This project is well suited to caring and energetic individuals who are passionate about contributing to the development of students with intellectual and physical challenges and increasing inclusiveness for people living with special needs. If you are an occupational or physical therapist, there is a strong need for your skills on this project.

When volunteering on the Special Needs Care project, you can expect to be working alongside local teachers to help run the classroom activities and provide attention and care to the children. The school is divided into sections, focusing on visually impaired, hearing impaired and physically disabled children; and volunteers are assigned to help in one of these specific areas. At the centre for autistic adults, volunteers play an important role in teaching new skills and providing the families with a break from acting as their full time caregivers. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own unique skills and ideas to this project, for example providing training and activities in areas such as knitting, horticulture and baking.

As you will be working closely with the local placement staff, you are not required to have previous experience or training to participate on this project.

Holiday Experience

The Costa Rica Holiday Experience project is held during the weeks of Christmas and New Years and provides the opportunity to participate in a variety of different projects and activities within local communities in San Jose.

This unique project was designed by our local team as a way for you to make the most of your Christmas and New Years break, as the standard volunteer projects experience frequent public holiday closures over this period. It’s an inspiring way to do something meaningful over the festive season.

Volunteers on the Holiday Experience project assist in a number of tasks, such as working with marginalised children and elderly, coordinating holiday celebrations for underprivileged children, as well as cleaning and renovating community centres. On the major holidays that fall during this period, volunteers have the day off to explore San Jose and the surrounding areas, which is a beautiful and unique experience during the festive season.

Please note, in 2018, this project is only available to volunteers who begin the weeks of 24th and 31st December - volunteers should arrive the morning of 23rd or 30th December (respectively) for this project. The Holiday Experience project requires an extra cost of US$95 (approximately AU$120) per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in this project which will be included in the program fee quoted to you by IVHQ when you apply. Volunteers who continue on the program beyond these weeks will resume on a standard volunteer project of their choice.

Spanish Service Learning Course

Students from around the world have an opportunity to gain university credit while volunteering on any of our Costa Rica projects through the Spanish Service Learning Course (SPAN203SL). This is accredited by California State University, Monterey Bay. The purpose of the Spanish Service Learning Course is to foster a sense of civic responsibility and community, to expose students to local culture and language, and to create an opportunity for students to broaden their global perspective and identity. For further details, see our Spanish Service Learning Course page.

Students attend 5 guided reflections, write a daily journal and then complete a final reflection paper. The Spanish Service Learning Course and optional language lessons are offered in conjunction with the volunteer work and can all be included in your daily schedule as an IVHQ volunteer. The workshops and written assignments are conducted in English, however, the remainder of the course and the entire volunteer experience offer total Spanish immersion. When applying online, please apply for the Spanish Service Learning Course project and indicate your volunteer​ ​​work preference in the ‘Comments’ section of your application.

​​​​The course fee is US$880 (approximately AU$1090) and​​ ​​​is paid directly to IVHQ’s ​local​ ​​team​ ​​to​ ​cover all aspects of the course and accreditation. This course fee is​ ​​in ​addition​ ​to the IVHQ Registration Fee and the Program Fee which​ ​​volunteers pay to cover the volunteer section of the course requirements.​ ​Volunteers can join the Spanish Service Learning Course any time of year and​ ​it​​ ​requires a minimum duration of 4 weeks. Attendance for the whole duration is mandatory. Please note that Spanish language classes are not included in this project.

The IVHQ Costa Rica program promotes the concept of ‘betterment’ across all its social and environmental projects. The program aims to improve the lives of members of the community, the lives of animals and the lives of volunteers through proving an opportunity for volunteers to immerse themselves in project work that delivers sustainable positive outcomes. As one of IVHQ’s most popular destinations, the IVHQ Costa Rica program offers a wide range of project types in multiple locations throughout Costa Rica including, childcare, teaching, turtle conservation, eco-agriculture, healthcare, construction and renovation, special needs care and Spanish service learning. In the last 12 months, IVHQ volunteers have contributed more than 57,000 hours to projects in Costa Rica and have make a significant impact with their time spent in country.

Latest impacts achieved:

  • Measured, counted, and tagged more than 2,900 sea turtles, and released over 1,000 turtle hatchlings into the sea
  • Participated on over 1,800 night patrols to control turtle egg poaching
  • Equipped seven classrooms, each with a capacity for 10 children. Each classroom was given a new whiteboard, one large table, and 10 chairs
  • Organised and led the delivery of six medical campaigns, each with an average of 200 patients
  • Painted seven murals and put up three hanging gardens in an effort to beautify living arrangements for families in need
  • Provided 204 full scholarships for students from local projects to study English
  • Contributed over 8,000 hours of aid at medical projects
  • Donated 215 notebooks, 820 pencils, 500 pens, 210 crayon boxes as well as other materials like glue, activity books, rulers and pencil sharpeners
  • Facilitated the donation of over 3,000 boxes of latex gloves, 1,000 toothbrushes, 1,000 tubes of toothpaste, 900 bottles of children’s vitamins, 550 bags of adult diapers, 400 boxes of bandages, 430 boxes of aspirin, and other medicines as prescribed by a local doctor
  • Renovated and restored two churches
  • Built six wooden desks, drawers and cabinets for the computers to support the provision of computer literacy teaching

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. Australian travellers do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica for a duration of 90 days. When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in San Jose, this is included in your Program Fee. If you are travelling in Costa Rica prior to your program, the local team will pick you up at your San Jose accommodation the day before your orientation.

San Jose based projects, Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation If you are volunteering on a project based in San Jose, Turtle Conservation or Eco-Agriculature Conservation, the program orientation begins every Monday and you need to arrive in San Jose on the Sunday before your program start date - this night of accommodation is included in your Program Fee. Your check out is at 11am on the last Saturday of your program.

The compulsory program orientation is hosted by our Costa Rica team at their offices in San Jose on Sunday or Monday. Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation projects will travel to their placement sites on Monday or Tuesday.

Manuel Antonio based projects If you are volunteering on a project based in Manuel Antonio, you need to arrive in San Jose on the Saturday before your program start date - this night of accommodation is included in the Program Fee. Volunteers who fly into San Jose before midday on Saturday will travel to Manuel Antonio that day. Volunteers who arrive into San Jose after midday on Saturday will spend the night in San Jose and travel to Manuel Antonio on Sunday morning.

The program orientation is hosted by our Costa Rica team at their offices in Manuel Antonio. Orientation is compulsory to attend and is held on Sunday morning or afternoon, depending on what time you arrive to Manuel Antonio.

Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – Introduction to Costa Rica, Costa Rican Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Costa Rica, Introduction to your Project and Placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.

During the week, you will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 3 to 4 hours. A typical morning schedule is as follows:

8.00 AM - Breakfast with your host family.

9.00 AM - Leave home and travel to your placement. You will join the local staff and will receive a duty roster and plan for work. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in.

12.00 PM - Lunch at a local restaurant.

1.00 - 5.00 PM - Work at the placement usually ends. You are free to travel back to your accommodation, go sightseeing or take Spanish lessons.

7.00 PM - Dinner with the host family.

Please note, this schedule can vary as projects take place in either the morning or afternoon. If you are taking Spanish language lessons, you will usually volunteer for half the day and spend the other half (1 to 4 hours) taking Spanish language lessons. Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation projects will have a varying schedule to the one provided above, due to the nature of the work involved in those projects.

Volunteers in Costa Rica are accommodated in a homestay with a local host family - it’s an immersive experience that connects you with an authentic insight into the Costa Rican way of life. You will find living conditions are comfortable and all homestay families have been approved by our local staff. You can expect the homestays to have electricity, running water (drinkable) and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers are common and the water is not always heated. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with one or two other volunteers and in some homestays, however it is possible for volunteers to have their own rooms. WiFi is available in the majority of homestays and you will have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in San Jose.

Accommodation on the Turtle Conservation project is typically in dormitory-style lodging or homestays with basic amenities. WiFi availability is limited at the Turtle Conservation sites and Eco-Agriculture Conservation sites, so we recommend purchasing a local SIM card for an unlocked mobile phone during your program orientation in San Jose if you want to keep connected.

Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast typically consists of toast, fruit, eggs, rice and beans accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner usually includes: meat (typically chicken), starches, vegetables and Gallo Pinto, which is the national dish of Costa Rica consisting of rice and beans. Gallo Pinto is served with almost every meal. Lunches are not provided to San Jose and Manuel Antonio-based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. We recommend budgeting between AU$6 and AU$12 per day to purchase lunch. Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture volunteers are provided with lunch given the rural settings of these projects. If you have specific dietary requirements, our local teams and homestays can cater to you, however keep in mind that as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible.

“The project offered exactly what I wanted to do and my experience on the Turtle Conservation program was one of the best of my life. The accomodations were far beyond what I expected and I was never unhappy with them. My favourite moment was the first time we released 100 baby turtles to sea at sunset. It was very amazing. I would recommend this program to others for sure.” - Collin Hannahan (Turtle Conservation Volunteer in Costa Rica)

Read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Costa Rica here

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of San Jose and Costa Rica. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to visit volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches throughout the country. Sunday is a religious day of rest and most places (stores, restaurants) are closed on Sundays, as most Costa Ricans devote the day to spending time with their family. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is unique and special experience for many volunteers.

See our Costa Rica Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Costa Rica!

Capital San Jose
Population 4.805 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00

Weather and climate: Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° north latitude, fairly close to the equator. Although you get much cooler temperatures in the mountains above 2000 meters, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 71°F (21.7°C) and 81°F (27°C). The coolest months are from November through to January, and the warmest months are from March through to May. San Jose stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 69°F (20.6°C).

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate, unless volunteering with a parent or guardian. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check conducted within 12 months of your program start date to IVHQ. Additional requirements apply for Healthcare volunteers, please read the project description.

Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica volunteer program, however, we recommend that volunteers take advantage of the affordable language lessons offered to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Costa Rica.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

We recognise that there is more to an awesome volunteer travel experience than simply volunteering. While we maintain a strong focus on providing impactful volunteer opportunities, we also understand that many IVHQ volunteers are first-time travellers and want to make time for sightseeing and exploring.

You can add-on a Mini Adventure Week, ensuring you don’t miss any of the main attractions while volunteering in Costa Rica! The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in into a one-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified bilingual tour guide for each trip, using San Jose as your home base between tours. This six-day program compliments your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your volunteer trip to Costa Rica, you can arrange this directly with our local staff once you arrive in San Jose. The cost is US$1,050 and includes the Ram Luna cultural night of dinner and dancing in San Jose, a 3-in-1 tour visiting the La Paz waterfall gardens, Poas Volcano and a coffee plantation tour, a day-long catamaran tour to Tortuga Island and 3 nights on the Pacific Coast near the famous Manuel Antonio National Park.

Language Lessons - Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica program, however, learning basic conversational Spanish will help you maximise the benefit of your program. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Costa Rica at the program orientation. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.

San Jose Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$95 per week (approximately AU$120)
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$175 per week (approximately AU$220)
  • 4-hour Group Classes: US$195 per week (approximately AU$245)

Manuel Antonio Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$115 per week (approximately AU$140)
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$195 per week (approximately AU$245)
  • 4-hour Group Classes: US$225 per week (approximately AU$285)

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the registration fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!