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Holiday Experience Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Holiday Experience Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

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.

Highlights:
  • Only available the weeks of Christmas and New Years
  • Affordable fees from $530 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Help with festive activities for children, elderly and others in need

  • Discover Costa Rica’s vibrant culture and traditions

  • Celebrate the holidays with a local host family

Key information

Support marginalized & low-income communities
Based around the neighborhoods of San José
Local homestay accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Fully hosted experience from $530 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 2 weeks
Spanish language lessons available
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

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.
Who is this program suited to?

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
  • Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation 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.

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

RG
Raffaella Gurini
14 Feb 2024

I learned so much about the culture and the turtles and I met so many amazing people! We had so much fun! It’s an amazing experience, an adventure of a lifetime! It changes the way you see other people, the world and even yourself in the best possible way! Just be open minded and flexible and take the next step! You won’t regret it!

...
MB
Maria Jose Benet
14 Feb 2024

Two weeks in Costa Rica with IVHQ transformed me in ways I never imagined. My journey began with a desire to step out of my comfort zone, immerse myself in a new culture, and contribute positively to a community by teaching English to young kids. IVHQ stood out because of its affordability, ethical volunteering approach, and the rave reviews from past volunteers.

From the get-go, IVHQ's support was stellar, providing all the necessary guidance to prepare me for the trip. Landing in Costa Rica, the local team's warmth and efficiency shone through. The orientation was thorough, equipping us with essential information and making us feel at ease in our new surroundings.

Teaching in Quepos was a heartwarming experience, enriched by the children's enthusiasm and the local team's guidance. Their insights into the community and culture were invaluable, making our teaching efforts more effective and meaningful.

The accommodation and meals provided by the ocal team were exactly as IVHQ described—clean, comfortable, and truly felt like a home. I am a vegan and the food the family I stayed with did a big effort to assist me with my diet, all while being prepared with the utmost care for hygiene.

Reflecting on my two weeks in Costa Rica, I can say that this experience has left a profound impact on me. It wasn't just about teaching English; it was about cultural exchange, personal growth, and making lifelong connections. For those hesitant about volunteering abroad, my advice is to leap. The growth, experiences, and memories you'll gain are beyond compare.

To future volunteers, embrace every moment, and to IVHQ and the local team in Costa Rica, thank you for an experience I'll cherish forever.

...
KT
Keira Trudgill
18 Jan 2024

I gained so much confidence from this trip, I feel more independent and capable of solo travelling. At first, I was very nervous to travel so far from home, especially as I did an add-on week by myself, but the staff were so helpful from when I first applied, to when we got back home and prepared us for what we would be doing and what we needed to do to prepare. They answered all our questions and made us feel comfortable and at ease. I learned so much about Costa Rican culture and also the wildlife and country itself. I left with a greater appreciation for the environment and other cultures. The advice I would give is to go with an open mind and be open to trying new things. It really was a life changing experience and I would say if you are not sure whether to apply or not you should definitely go for it! I loved it and would definitely do it again.

...
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 through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

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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 $5 and $10 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
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 $530 Equivalent to $76/day
2 weeks $905 Equivalent to $65/day
  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • 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.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately $329) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$150 - US$200 per week to be sufficient for expenses. For Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture projects, volunteers can bring less spending money as the location is remote and all meals will be provided.

Free-time experiences & tours in Costa Rica

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

$920
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, followrd by a Coffee Farm experience.

$220
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.

$1255
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

$920
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, followrd by a Coffee Farm experience.

$220
Zipline, Tarzan Swing and Superman Cable - San Jose
Zipline, Tarzan Swing and Superman Cable - San Jose

Experience an adrenaline-filled journey through Costa Rica’s lush rainforest on a heart-pounding canopy tour, featuring the “Tarzan Swing,” “Superman Cable,” and the “Elevator,” xperience an exhilarating journey through Costa Rica’s lush rainforest on a heart-pounding canopy tour, featuring the “Tarzan Swing,” “Superman Cable,” and the “Elevator”.

$144

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: $145 (approximately $145) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: $225 (approximately $225) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: $455 (approximately $455) per week

Check what's required to visit Costa Rica

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

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).

Other projects you may be interested in

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
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Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
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