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Holiday Experience Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Holiday Experience Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Purpose
Support marginalized & low-income communities
Start dates
Only available the weeks of Christmas and New Years
Duration
Choose from 1-2 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 5 hours a day
Age
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Accommodation
Local homestay
Program fees
From CA$810 for 1 week
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

This program is ideal for:

Compassionate volunteers who want to spread holiday cheer and make a difference to people’s lives over the festive season.

Project details

Ready to put on your party shoes and be a Holiday Experience volunteer in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Holiday Experience project is a great way for volunteers to spend the Christmas and New Year season while also contributing towards important community initiatives. Volunteers will help out with community celebrations for children and the elderly, beautify community spaces and enjoy having free time to soak in San José’s vibrant atmosphere on public holidays.

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

The holiday period in Costa Rica is vibrant, colorful and exciting. This special project is designed to help volunteers enjoy the festive season while pitching in with valuable community initiatives. Many projects are closed at this time of year, but this provides an inspiring way to still do something meaningful and contribute to the local community.

As a Holiday Experience volunteer, you’ll assist in a number of tasks, such as working with children and elderly, coordinating holiday celebrations for locals, and cleaning and renovating community centers.

Please note, the order of this work may be subject to change based on local requirements. In 2024, this project is only available to volunteers who begin the weeks of 16th and 30th of December - volunteers should arrive on the day before the project starts.

See the Holiday Experience Schedule for 2023 to learn more about what to expect.

Why do Holiday Experience volunteering in San Jose with IVHQ?

When you volunteer during the holidays in San José you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Bringing people together during the holiday season
  • Providing companionship to the young and old
  • Practicing your Spanish
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining childcare, elderly care and event planning experience
  • Experiencing the festive season in Costa Rica
  • Discovering Costa Rica’s lively capital, San José

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • VVolunteers aged 16 or 17 on their program start date are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional document to the local team.
  • Volunteers aged 16-18 volunteering without a parent or guardian can volunteer for a maximum duration of 12 weeks.
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply for free

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'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

MM
Morgan Midkiff
04 Jun 2024

This program was amazing! I am so glad I went! I have never gone out of the country this long, let alone by myself. This was a great transition from college to the outside world. I was very happy I went and got to meet so many new people and experience the culture of Costa Rica. If I had to change one thing, it would be to book the adventure week. I didn't get to see much of Costa Rica, outside of my placement and the city. I am dying to go back and explore! It was a lot of hard work and hot, humid days, but I wouldn't change it for the world! Pura Vida!

...
BB
Ben Bradford
21 May 2024

Experiencing Costa Rica and its healthcare has improved my understanding of the differences between healthcare systems around the world. Costa Rica is a beautiful place and the people are so friendly, definitely would recommend volunteering here!

...
JH
Jonathan Hausman
03 May 2024

When you try a project like this, you're not stepping "out of your comfort zone" - instead you're stepping into a "new comfort zone". That attitude can help so much. Being a little nervous or afraid is totally natural on a trip and project like this, so allow yourself to feel that way. You're making a huge difference even doing small things for both animals and people, and if you treat the accommodation and people as though it is your home and your family, things will go really well for you.

Judge the people you meet AFTER you meet and get to know them and have no preconceived notions about those you'll come in contact with. If you're trying to find who you are, challenge what you know, learn a new skill, and have an impact, it will work for you in this place. All you have to do is take it one moment at a time - and you'll leave the place having a new adventure you can always remember and talk about.

...
VM
Virginia Manzano
16 Feb 2023

The most memorable moment from my experience in Costa Rica was when we put our palm prints on our Team Manager Melissa's shirt after we finished painting the wall mural at the Children's placement. We were all happy admiring our work. Best high five ever! 😊This experience has given me more confidence to do things on my own. "Be open and flexible" is my new mantra. Thank you IVHQ for leading me to a new path, a new direction. To anyone still wondering if they should volunteer abroad, I'd say try it, you might like it! 😊

...
NS
Nancy Sharif
02 Feb 2023

I loved working with the children and to get to know the culture, people, and what the country of Costa Rica is really like from an inside perspective. To anyone wondering if they should volunteer abroad, I can say they should go because it is a great experience to learn about the people, culture, and another country.

...
KB
Katherine Blackstone
02 Feb 2023

I was hesitant to volunteer abroad, too. There will be an adjustment period at first, but don’t let this worry you! If you go in with an open mind, you will adjust smoothly, and you will have an incredible volunteering experience! The local team and other volunteers are so kind and are always there to support you with anything you need.

I really enjoyed chatting, singing, dancing, and playing games with the elderly at a recovery center. Seeing the smiles on their faces made me smile! I can say that stepping out of my comfort zone to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate left the deepest impression on me after this experience.

...

To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

Learn about course credit

Location

Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica San Jose with IVHQ

Location

San José is Costa Rica’s modern, metropolitan, cultural hub. The capital city has been hailed as one of the most visited destinations in Central America and is the central point for tourists arriving in Costa Rica. It’s got excellent eateries, an interesting variety of museums, markets, shops, parks and nightlife and is only a short trip to any of the numerous natural attractions and adventures in the region.

Arrival and orientation

WEEK 1: December 16th start date

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José on the Sunday before your start date.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in San José. This is included in your Program Fee.

We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation. If you are traveling in Costa Rica prior to your program, the local team will pick you up at your San José accommodation the day before your orientation.

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 José on Sunday.

Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – an introduction to Costa Rica, its customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Costa Rica, and an 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 socializing.

WEEK 2: December 30th start date

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José on the Sunday before your start date.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in San José. This is included in your Program Fee.

We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation. If you are traveling in Costa Rica prior to your program, the local team will pick you up at your San José accommodation the day before your orientation.

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 José on Sunday.

Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – an introduction to Costa Rica, its customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Costa Rica, and an 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 socializing.

Volunteer schedule example

Please not this is a sample schedule based on last year’s activities. We’ll be updating 2024’s schedule once activities are confirmed.

WEEK 1:

Sunday, December 17th Arrival & Orientation - Arrival, pick-up, transportation to housing and orientation
Monday, December 18th Community Beautification - Paint, garden, work on light repairs or construction work. Work varies depending on community needs.
Tuesday, December 19th Holiday Party for the Elderly - Local Nursing Home: Spread the Holiday Spirit at an elderly home by playing games, preparing a special holiday snack, dancing, and providing much needed company and conversation.
Wednesday, December 20th Children’s Holiday Cookout - Depending on weather, accompany children to a local park to get fresh air and have a little holiday fun. Come ready to grill and distribute food and gifts to the kids!
Thursday, December 21st People with Special Needs Holiday Party! - Spread the Holiday Spirit at a special needs home with activities and games, special holiday food, Santa, gifts, and socializing.
Friday, December 22nd Children’s Holiday Party - Show the kids a great time for the holiday! Play games, arts and crafts–celebrate by bringing gifts and food to the project.
Saturday, December 23rd Departure

WEEK 2:

Sunday, December 24th Arrival & Orientation - Arrival, pick-up, transportation to housing and orientation
Monday, December 25th Christmas Day - Closed
Tuesday, December 26th Community Beautification - Paint, garden, work on light repairs or construction work. Work varies depending on community needs.
Wednesday, December 27th Holiday Party for the Elderly - Spread the Holiday Spirit at an elderly home by playing games, preparing a special holiday snack, dancing, and providing much needed company and conversation.
Thursday, December 28th People with Special Needs Holiday Party! - Spread the Holiday Spirit at a special needs home with activities and games, special holiday food, Santa, gifts, and socializing.
Friday, December 29th Children’s Holiday Party - Show the kids a great time for the holiday! Play games, arts and crafts–celebrate by bringing gifts and food to the project.
Saturday, December 30th Departure

Accommodation and WiFi

In San Jose volunteers are accommodated in homestays with local families - 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 you can expect your accomodation to have electricity, drinkable running water 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 up to six other volunteers of the same gender in most homestays It is possible for volunteers to upgrade to a private room (double bed, shared washroom) for $62 per person, per week.

If you are traveling as a family, the local team will place you in a separate homestay to ensure all family members are accommodated together.

Please note, volunteers under the age of 18 who are traveling solo will be accommodated separately from those over the age of 18. If there are other volunteers under the age of 18 participating at the same time, the local team will do their best to ensure they are accommodated together.

WiFi is available at the homestays, and you will also have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in San José.

Meals

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 and vegetables. Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto, is made of rice and beans and served with nearly every meal. Lunches are not provided to San José -based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. Budget between CA$7 and CA$14 per day to buy lunch.

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.

Pricing

  • USD

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately CA$476) you secure your spot and unlock all our preparation and training tools.

You don't need to worry about paying your Program Fee until you get closer to your start date.

Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week $560 Equivalent to $80/day
2 weeks $945 Equivalent to $68/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately CA$476) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$150 - US$200 per week to be sufficient for expenses. Please note this budget is for general expenses and does not include money you will need for any weekend activities you plan to do.
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Airport pick-up
  • Transport to and from your placement each day
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on language lessons
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Lunch
  • Return to the airport when your program finishes
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Free-time experiences & tours in San Jose

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in San Jose! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ San Jose program.

Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio
Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio

Immerse yourself in Manuel Antonio’s stunning natural beauty and thrilling activities on this 6-day adventure

CA$1331
Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose
Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose

Embark on a full-day adventure exploring La Paz Waterfall Gardens, an animal sanctuary, and a Poas Volcano Tour, followed by a Coffee Farm experience.

CA$318
Mini Adventure  - San Jose
Mini Adventure - San Jose

Experience a comprehensive 6-day Mini Adventure, featuring Arenal Volcano, the Britt Coffee Tour, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, whitewater rafting, and a visit to the pristine Tortuga Island.

CA$1816

Spanish language lessons

Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica program, however, learning basic conversational Spanish will help you maximize the benefit of your program. 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. Please note these lessons are not available on the Holiday Experience, Eco-Agriculture or Turtle Conservation projects.

San Jose Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$180 (approximately CA$260) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$205 (approximately CA$296) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$400 (approximately CA$579) per week

Check what's required to visit Costa Rica

Safety and support

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Essential country information

Capital San Jose
Population 5 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00

Weather and climate: Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country. Although you get much cooler temperatures in the mountains, 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).

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