Special Needs Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose
Interested in Special Needs volunteering in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Special Needs Care project sets volunteers up to help disabled people who live in group homes, many of whom do not have families willing to support them. Volunteers will gain experience caring for disabled people while assisting house staff with day-to-day tasks and providing companionship and encouragement which can make a genuine difference to the lives of residents.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from $380 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Help care for adults, children and babies with disabilities
Discover Costa Rica’s fascinating history and many museums
Experience life in San José by staying with a local family
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
People living with disabilities in Costa Rica are often abandoned by their families who can’t or won’t give them the care they need. Many of these people live together in homes or facilities that are run by only a few staff and rely on volunteers to assist with daily tasks.
As a Special Needs volunteer you can help to increase the care and education people with disabilities receive. By bringing a caring attitude and desire to help, you’ll be contributing to the development of those with intellectual and physical challenges and increasing inclusiveness for people living with special needs.
Creativity and new ideas are welcome on this project, but usually Special Needs Care volunteer duties include:
- Helping people go for a walk
- Sensory activities
- One-on-one care
- Assisting with games
- Hosting gardening or cooking sessions
Why do Special Needs Care volunteering in San Jose with IVHQ?
When you volunteer on this Special Needs Care project you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Improving access to care for disabled people in San José
- Helping students develop and thrive
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining experience caring for people with disabilities
- Immersing yourself fully in the Costa Rican culture
- Exploring San José, Costa Rica’s bustling capital city
- 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.
Costa Rica photo gallery
”The volunteer experience was phenomenal for me in Special Needs Care. My sister joined me and it was a growth experience for us. My college age children, pre-med and pre-nursing broadened their medical skills and enjoyed connecting with the staff and patients. Great experience for entire family!”
Read reviews from Special Needs Care volunteers in San JoseSee more reviews
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
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 or Monday.
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
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. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in but 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.|
|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.|
Whether you want to explore or relax on your weekends in San José , there’s plenty of opportunity to do both. Stroll down the bustling Central Avenue in downtown San José and take in a museum, listen to street performers or do some shopping. Then check out the stunning architecture of the National Theater of Costa Rica, taste-test the city’s fabulous coffee or sample a brew from San José ’s blossoming craft-beer industry.
It’s worth noting that Sunday is a religious day of rest and many stores and restaurants will be closed. Costa Ricans tend to devote Sundays 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 a unique and special experience for many volunteers.
On long weekends you may choose to travel around the rest of Costa Rica and the many cities, volcanoes, jungles, coffee plantations and beaches which are more than worth a visit. Many of these are only a short trip from San José .
Most IVHQ volunteers choose to take advantage of our Costa Rica - Travel and tour add-ons in their free time. Please note that volunteers on more remote projects such as Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation will only be able to join these activities before or after their program.
Accommodation and WiFi
Volunteers in Costa Rica are accommodated primarily 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 your accomodation to have electricity, drinkable running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers are common and the water is not always heated, especially in more remote project locations. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with up to four other volunteers of the same gender in some homestays, however it is possible for volunteers to upgrade to a private room for $62 per person, per week.
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 José. For volunteers based in more remote locations, we recommend purchasing a local SIM card for your unlocked smartphone.
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.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||$380 Equivalent to $55/day|
|2 weeks||$670 Equivalent to $48/day|
|3 weeks||$955 Equivalent to $46/day|
|4 weeks||$1,205 Equivalent to $44/day|
|5 weeks||$1,410 Equivalent to $41/day|
|6 weeks||$1,615 Equivalent to $39/day|
|8 weeks||$2,025 Equivalent to $37/day|
|10 weeks||$2,435 Equivalent to $35/day|
|12 weeks||$2,845 Equivalent to $34/day|
|16 weeks||$3,665 Equivalent to $33/day|
|20 weeks||$4,485 Equivalent to $33/day|
|24 weeks||$5,305 Equivalent to $32/day|
- 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
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of $299 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, such as lunches (except for Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers), in-country tours, and Spanish language lessons.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
We believe that no volunteer adventure would be complete without experiencing the natural wonders of your host country. That’s why we offer volcano and coffee plantation tours, surfing lessons, mini adventures and more, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Costa Rica as affordable add-ons.
Please note that volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture projects are only able to do the following add ons before or after their program, not during.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to book or get more information about any of the following activities and tours.
Your half day Volcano Tour will take you to either Poas or Irazu volcano, depending on the weather. Both are active volcanoes with exciting thermal activity and stunning scenic views. There are short walks to the volcanoes, so it’s not strenuous, but we do encourage sturdy, closed toed shoes for the journey.
Arenal Volcano is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Located in the small pueblo of La Fortuna, the entire area is a paradise for adventure lovers and nature enthusiasts. On the way to La Fortuna, the tour stops in a visit to the artisan pueblo of Sarchi. At Arenal, participants have 3 hours of free time to enjoy the hot springs. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, lunch, and dinner included. Pick up at accommodations at 7:00 AM. This tour is 15 hours long. Note, this tour ends at 10:00 PM.
Volunteers spend a full day exploring La Paz Waterfall and gardens and an expansive animal sanctuary, followed by a Paos Volcano Tour and Coffee Plantation Tour. This full day includes breakfast, lunch, private transportation, a local bilingual guide, and all entrance fees.
The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots into a 1-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 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! It will begin on Sunday and finish the following Saturday morning, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins. Please note that your meals are not included on this trip.
This Mini Adventure includes:
- Visit to Tour to Arenal Volcano and Hotsprings
- 3 days/2 nights trip to Manuel Antonio (accommodations and transportation only)
- San Jose city tour and buffet dinner and cultural night
- Catamaran Tortuga Island Cruise
If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with your Program Manager once you are registered for the program.
The Beach & Jungle Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots into a 1-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 Manuel Antonio as your home base between tours.
The Beach & Jungle Adventure week allows volunteers based in Manuel Antonio to really explore the beauty of this stunning part of Costa Rica. This 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience without the hassle of arranging your own trips and accommodations. It begins on Sunday and finishes on Friday, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins.
This Mini Adventure includes:
- Visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park
- Rainmaker tour and canopy walk and zipline
- White water rafting
- Nauyaca Waterfall hike
- Trimaran Sunset Sails tour
Enjoy a half-day tour of the Britt Coffee Plantation, a working coffee farm, led by your own expert guide. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the coffee production from plant to cup, and enjoy a coffee tasting at the end of your tour.
The Scuba Certification program takes place in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Spend the week learning how to scuba dive with PADI certified instructors on the beaches of Costa Rica. The price is inclusive of your pick-up in San Jose and transportation to and from Manuel Antonio, along with your housing for 6 nights in a private room with a host family who will provide you with breakfast and dinner.
The Surf program is based in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica and is an exciting week-long opportunity for you to learn how to surf some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Your price includes your pick-up in San Jose and transportation to and from Manuel Antonio, along with your housing for 6 nights in a private room with a host family. This is also inclusive of breakfast and dinner.
Enjoy a day white water rafting alongside an expert guide along the Savegre or Naranjo river, and experience class I, II, III, and IV rapids. To join this excursion you must know how to swim and must be comfortable around swift-flowing water. Your rafting guide will provide a brief safety orientation and information about navigating the river, and all rafts will be followed in the river by safety guides in kayaks.
Spend a half-day zipping your way through the jungle on a zipline tour led by professional guides. You’ll have the chance to glide over raging rivers, jungle canopy, and interact with wildlife throughout your journey. Participants must be comfortable with heights and please note that meals are not included.
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
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. 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. 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 per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: $225 per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: $455 per week
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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.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Currency||Costa Rican Colón (CRC)|
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).