Volunteering In Costa Rica: A Comprehensive Guidebook

calendar_today June 6, 2018
schedule min read


With rugged rainforests, secluded volcanoes, and pristine beaches along the Pacific as well as Caribbean coastlines, Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty and has allured travelers forever! A recent study has shown that the majority of Costa Ricans live longer, healthier lives than people on the rest of the planet, and it all comes down to their concept of “Pura Vida” (pure life), a term you’ll hear everywhere while you are there! And it’s not just a connotation, but the phrase has a deeply rooted meaning that you can sense just after spending a couple of days in the country.

If Costa Rica has been there on your checklist, then now is the time to end all procrastination and set out on that much-awaited volunteering trip. Volunteering Solutions has a wide range of amazing & affordable opportunities for high school/ college/ university students as well as gap year travelers who are keen on setting out to make a difference.

It’s time to befriend the Ticos!

Can I Know More About The Volunteer Programs Available In Costa Rica?

There are 8 different kinds of volunteering programs available in and around San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, and you can choose the one that suits you best. Take a quick look at the list below!


Childcare Volunteering Program

volunteer in costa rica childcare

For those who love to work with children, the Childcare Volunteering Program would be a perfect choice! As a volunteer, you’ll be working at orphanages, community childcare centers, as well as daycare centers in and around the capital city of San Jose. Costa Rica faces a constant migration problem, as poor people from the neighboring countries often move here in search of work. The child care centers are usually filled with underprivileged children who are mostly malnourished and, hence need proper care and attention. You’ll be working alongside the local staff in providing basic education as well as love, care, and much-needed attention to the children.

Program Fee – The cost for 1 week would be $380, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


English Teaching Volunteering Program

volunteer in costa rica teaching

Volunteering as an English Teacher would enable you to spend time with a little older kids. You’ll be placed at primary and middle schools, community centers as well as orphanages. Your main focus would be on improving the basic English communicative skills of the children. Since tourism is flourishing at a fast pace in Costa Rica, the future generation needs to have a grip on the language if they wish to build a career. You can assist the teachers in preparing their daily lesson plan, organize activities through which kids can learn new words, and also tell them different kinds of stories. Volunteering as an English Teacher will also help you in developing your skills by testing your patience and perseverance.

Program Fee – The cost for 1 week would be $380, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


Turtle Conservation Program

volunteer in costa rica turtle and sloth conservation

Volunteers in this project actively engage in a community-driven conservation initiative dedicated to preserving the sea turtle nesting beach habitat on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Covering an impressive 8 kilometers of coastline, the project meticulously registers over 7000 nests per season, focusing on the Olive Ridley and Pacific green turtle species. Situated on the far south Pacific tip of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula occupies a position in one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth.

This pristine area is home to the renowned Corcovado National Park, which envelops a range of distinct ecosystems, including ancient primary rainforests, palm forests, mangrove swamps, and coastal and marine habitats. The diversity of ecosystems fosters an abundance of native, endemic, and migratory species. The Osa Peninsula alone contributes to an estimated 2.5% of global biodiversity, harboring around 250,000 plant and animal species. Remarkably, over 300 of these species are exclusive to this region and found nowhere else on the planet. By participating in this project, volunteers play a crucial role in the preservation of this extraordinary biodiversity hotspot, contributing to the ongoing sustainability and protection of the Osa Peninsula’s rich and fragile ecosystems.

Program Fee – The cost for 1 week would be $650, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


Volunteer at Wildlife Conservation Center

volunteer in costa rica wildlife rescue

Volunteers participating in this program will contribute to the welfare of wildlife at an animal rescue center, serving as a temporary or permanent home for ill, injured, and orphaned animals. Tailored for wildlife enthusiasts, this month-long volunteering project offers a unique opportunity to interact closely with animals under the guidance of an experienced team. Focusing on monkeys, sloths, various mammals, birds, and reptiles, the center provides crucial veterinary services and round-the-clock care to animals that may not survive in the Caribbean rainforest without assistance.

Encompassing 49 hectares of untouched primary forest, the animal rescue center serves as an ideal location for the local release of many rehabilitated animals. This pristine environment provides them with the best chance for a clean and naturally safe habitat, minimizing future interactions with humans. Located just 4km from Puerto Viejo and 220km from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, the project is easily accessible by a 4-hour shuttle/bus ride from San Jose to Puerto Viejo, followed by a brief 10-minute journey to the project site.

Program Fee – The cost for 4 weeks would be $1350, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


2 Weeks Special Volunteer Program in Costa Rica

volunteer in costa rica 2 weeks special

If you’ve just 2 weeks and wish to experience the best of volunteering and travel, then we’ve curated a perfect program for you. This program offers a perfect blend of experiential learning for students, as well as an enriching experience for backpackers and gap year travelers eager to make a positive impact while exploring the wonders of the ‘Land of Ticos.’

Immerse yourself in meaningful work at a community kitchen, contributing to food preparation, cleaning, dishwashing, and sharing meals with children and adults who rely on this NGO for perhaps their only daily meal. As a responsible traveler, engage in beach cleaning initiatives, actively participating in efforts to protect the environment. Amid these impactful activities, ample time is reserved for exploration and adrenaline-pumping adventures, including exhilarating canopy tours, allowing you to bask in the natural freshness of Costa Rica. This program is designed to be the optimal choice for individuals seeking a short yet impactful journey that combines cultural immersion, community service, and unforgettable adventures in this vibrant Central American paradise.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $949, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


Turtle & Sloth Conservation Program

volunteer in costa rica environment conservation

Being a part of the Turtle & Sloth Conservation Program in Costa Rica, you will be working hand-in-hand with dedicated local staff already committed to preserving the lives of these endangered species.

Situated approximately 30 minutes south of the small town of Quepos on Costa Rica’s central Pacific coastline, and about 1 hour south of Playa Hermosa and Playa Jaco, this extraordinary project is positioned 2 and a half hours from San Jose. Nestled in a relatively remote area, free from excessive noise and light pollution, it serves as a significant nesting ground for thousands of sea turtles annually. The prevalent species include Olive Ridley, Pacific Green, Leatherback, and Hawksbill turtles. In addition to turtle conservation, volunteers will actively monitor local sloth populations, contributing to the protection and preservation of this unique species.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $945, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


Volunteer at an Animal Rescue Center

volunteer in costa rica animal rescue

Volunteers in this program embark on a unique opportunity to savor the beauty of Costa Rica while actively contributing to making the world a better place for the animals we cherish. Working within a non-profit wildlife rescue facility, the project is dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, and study of Costa Rican wildlife. Each day, volunteers play a crucial role in treating sick, injured, and orphaned animals affected by various threats, including electrocution, dog and cat attacks, and illegal pet trade.

The range of animals under the care of this facility is diverse and includes the Two-toed Sloth, Mantled Howler Monkey, White-Faced Capuchin, White-nosed Coati, Kinkajou, Northern Raccoon, Nine-banded Armadillo, White-tailed Deer, Variegated Squirrel, Mexican Hairy Porcupine, Common Opossum, and various bird species. This hands-on experience allows volunteers to actively contribute to the well-being and conservation of these incredible creatures, fostering a deep connection with Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity.

Program Fee – The cost for 1 week would be $600, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.


Rainforest Conservation Program in Costa Rica

volunteer in costa rica rain forest conservation

Costa Rica boasts one of the world’s highest levels of biodiversity and species density. The Rainforest Conservation Program is dedicated to safeguarding and studying a private reserve spanning 140 hectares of pristine rainforest. Volunteers in this program play a vital role in rainforest protection while gaining invaluable insights into living in harmony with nature.

The project’s primary objective is the mutual exchange of knowledge and research. Through this collaborative approach, the project not only expands but also generates a positive impact on the forest, the volunteers, and the local community. By actively participating in the protection and study of the rainforest, volunteers contribute to the preservation of Costa Rica’s unparalleled biodiversity.

Program Fee – The cost for 1 week would be $600, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

What Are the Necessary Requirements to Participate in the Costa Rica Volunteer Programs?

  • The most important criterion for being a part of any volunteering program is openness. You must be patient and calm, as well as enthusiastic enough to adjust to any situation and hope to deal with any circumstances that might crop up. You need to understand that no luxuries will be available during this journey, however, we shall try to make this experience as comfortable as possible.
  • To join the Teaching and Childcare Programs, one should be at least 17 years or older. For the other projects, the minimum age should be 18 years or more. Volunteers who are keen to work with children for any project (Childcare and/or Teaching) will have to provide a Criminal Background Check Report.
  • You must be adaptive, flexible, and willing to live out of your comfort zone.
  • You can volunteer as an individual or in groups (students, corporate, or friends), and/or with your family & friends. You need to know that volunteering is a serious task and needs immense focus and sincerity. So, if you have the motivation to help others, the dedication to be a part of a meaningful project, and the enthusiasm to travel abroad to do something worthy, we believe that you can be a volunteer.

What Kind Of Accommodation and Meals Can I Expect During My Volunteering Trip In Costa Rica?

Volunteers engaged in the Turtle Conservation Project have accommodation options that include ranger houses, host families, or volunteer houses situated near the project and close to the beach. Dorm-style living arrangements are provided, with volunteers sharing rooms with others of the same gender. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, volunteers are initially accommodated in a host family setting in Heredia or Santa Barbara. Following the orientation and project introduction, volunteers seamlessly transition to their respective Turtle Conservation Projects on either the Pacific or Caribbean Coast.

For all other projects, volunteers reside with host families, and further details about these accommodations are shared upon program application. Volunteers are provided with two meals daily.

Those participating in the Animal Rescue Center Project in Puerto Viejo are initially accommodated in a hostel in San Jose upon arrival. While at the project site, volunteers stay in dorm-style hostel accommodations. Meals are not included, but volunteers have the opportunity to prepare their meals in a fully equipped kitchen.

When Do I Need To Arrive In Costa Rica For My Program? What Will Happen Once I Arrive?

All volunteers have to arrive one day before their program start date, that will be a Sunday considering that the programs start on a Monday. Please check your program start date, and coordinate with the Program Advisor. Volunteers are picked up from the Juan Santamaría International Airport (located about 20 km from San Jose) by the local coordinator or representative and taken to the respective host family accommodations.

On the next day, i.e. Monday, there will be an Orientation Session that will cover the program highlights and provide you with details about the city of San Jose. You will get to know about the local culture, marketplaces, ATMs, internet cafes, and where to shop for your daily essentials.

On Monday, volunteers would also be required to take a Spanish test to assess their Spanish knowledge. To add to the project experience, you can also join the Spanish Immersion Week which gives you a crash course in Spanish and even tests your current Spanish skills which would help you in volunteering, and you would also get a chance to experience Costa Rican culture, learn cooking and Latino dancing before beginning the program.

Can I Know More About The Program Locations in Costa Rica?

  • The Childcare and Teaching Volunteering Projects are located in and around San Jose, primarily in the areas of Heredia and Santa Barbara.
  • The Turtle Conservation Project is located in Osa Peninsula, giving you a chance to live the perfect beach life.
  • The Wildlife and Rescue Center Project is located across different locations mainly in Alajuela Province and the Central Pacific Region.

You’ll be given more information about the placement location during the Orientation Session, on the first day before you commence your volunteer work.

How To Get A Visa For Costa Rica?

Americans do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. However, they must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica.

British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Costa Rica. You may stay as a visitor for up to 90 days under a tourist visa waiver, although the exact period is at the discretion of the immigration officer on arrival.

People of ANY nationality holding valid USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea or Schengen visas do not need a prior visa to enter Costa Rica. The only condition is that the visa must be valid for 3 months and should be stamped in your passport.

You can get more Visa-related information from our Program Advisor, once you apply for your chosen project. We would also advise you to click here and also check with your nearest Costa Rican embassy once, to be sure of the procedures.

What Are The Dos & Don’ts That Should Be Followed In Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries that you’ll ever visit – filled with exceptional wildlife, picturesque scenery, and wonderful people, there’s nothing in the country that you wouldn’t like. The basic thing is that if the locals see you doing it their way, they’ll accept you as one of them and it’ll help you further in your project work.

Always remember that to be a responsible tourist there are some do’s and don’ts you should follow.


  • The Costa Ricans believe in ‘Pura Vida’ (pure life) and often use the phrase to mean ‘No worries’. While in the country, try to absorb the vibes of happiness.
  • Start any conversation by appreciating the beauty of the country, because the Costa Ricans absolutely love their land!
  • Dress moderately, especially when you are at your project placement.
  • Experience the goodness of traveling by local transport. It’ll not just be an amazing way to spend more time observing the natives, but you’ll get to save a lot!
  • Excessive public display of affection is often frowned upon, so try not to get into any such thing.
  • Carry an insect repellent, as you might need it while at the project site! Also, keep your sunscreen handy, always.
  • Most importantly, learn some basic Spanish words (if you don’t know them already). You can also get an app that’ll help you with translations. Here are a few commonly used phrases that can be of help:
    – Hola – Hello!
    – Gracias – Thank You!
    – Como Estas – How are you?
    – Con mucho gusto – You’re welcome.


  • Don’t disrespect the culture because the Costa Ricans are extremely sensitive about it.
  • Don’t miss out on indulging in some great adventure activities like zip lining, surfing, canopy tours, and scuba diving.
  • Don’t pay a tip while eating out, because it’s considered to be derogatory! A service charge of 10% is already included in your bill on top of the tax.
  • Don’t go hiking or for nature walks after dark because you might just get attacked by fer de lances, pit vipers, and fire ants!

What Are the Things to Do While Volunteering in Costa Rica?

During your volunteering journey in Costa Rica, you’ll be spending your weekdays at the project site mostly, but the weekends will be all yours, to explore and experience the goodness of this Central American country. Here’s a list of things that you can do and places you can visit during your volunteer trip – check them out!

things to do in costa rica

Explore the city of San José – The capital city has too many museums and churches that date back to the Centuries and are worth a visit. On a weekend, head out to explore the city and visit the Casa Amarilla (a beautiful colonial building, that is home to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Museo del Oro Precolombino (Precolumbian Gold Museum), Museo de los Niños, Catedral Metropolitana and more.

Spend a lazy afternoon at Parque Metropolitano La Sabana – Popularly known as the ‘the lungs of San José’, this is the perfect place to go for a picnic with your peers chill in the afternoon, and enjoy a bit of nature in the middle of a busy city.

Head out to explore Manuel Antonio National Park – Located at a distance of about 177 kilometers, this coastal rainforest would be perfect for a weekend retreat, away from the urban chaos. The park roughly covers around 680 hectares, with hiking trails, which meander from the coast up into the mountains. It’ll be the best destination for adventure lovers!

Take a trip to the Arenal Volcano National Park – This is something you can’t miss out on at any cost! Housing the active Arenal Volcano, this National Park is home to a wide range of flora and fauna as well as some gorgeous hot springs. Hiking, canyoning waterfall rappelling & diving into the hot springs are just a few of the attractions in and around this place.

Explore the Irazú Volcano National Park – Another place to witness the beauty of nature, the word ‘Irazú’ is a derivative of an Indigenous word which means ‘thunder and earthquake mountain’. It is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica, as well as the largest in the country, standing at 11,260 ft tall and 500 sq. km at its base. Keep your camera handy, as you’ll get to spot robins, owls, hummingbirds, porcupines, rabbits, coyotes, and foxes.

Get drenched at La Fortuna Waterfall – If you are seeking a relaxing bath amidst nature, then there can be no better option than this place! Located in the Alajuela Province, you can hike down to the waterfall is short and arduous, along with a staircase carved into the hillside. It’ll be a perfect place to unwind and breathe in some fresh air.

Escape to Tortuga Island – No, we have no intention to tempt you! But this is a mystical place that you should visit during your trip to Costa Rica. Home to fabulous laid-back villages, outstanding pristine beaches, slow lifestyle, gorgeous reserves, and wildlife refuges. this island located on the Southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula would be perfect for a weekend getaway from San Jose.

As we said earlier, there are too many things that can be done and you might just fall short of time! It would be best if you could make your checklist, and seek guidance from the country coordinator in planning your weekends.

What Will I Gain If I Participate in This Volunteering Program?

This is a sheer act of philanthropy that can’t be judged by what you gain – but if you still want to know, then we would be honest enough to say that there are no tangible profits! To put it slightly differently, what you will gain can’t be quantified.

Imagine spending hours with underprivileged kids – how wonderful it’ll be to make them laugh and guide them to dream. What you’ll gain is unconditional love. Teach children in schools and help them learn through activity-based learning. You’ll get a chance to polish your skills and also acquire new skills like patience and perseverance. You’ll get a chance to encourage them to have a better future for themselves.

The entire experience will boost your CV/ Resume and you’ll have better chances of getting employed. And not just these, but you’ll make friends who’ll teach you something or the other. You’ll make memories that’ll last for a lifetime.

Why should I choose Volunteering Solutions in Costa Rica?

This is a very common question that’ll naturally pop into anyone’s mind. After all, you’ll be paying for it & this is going to be one of the most eventful chapters of your life – so you need to make a proper decision about which organization you want to volunteer with.

In the last 11 years, Volunteering Solutions has hosted more than 13, 500 volunteers who worked dedicatedly to create an impact in society. We are currently running our projects successfully across 22 countries in the world, and Costa Rica is one of the most popular destinations.

We believe in the saying, “Change begins with you” and hence, we try to provide the best facilities to our volunteers so that they can contribute most efficiently. Volunteering Solutions has dedicated coordinators placed at every destination, who can help, guide, and train the volunteers to get accustomed to the norms and culture of a particular country. With proper accommodation arrangements and all facilities provided, Vol Sol makes sure to offer you a comfortable and memorable sojourn.

Volunteering Solutions also provides tailor-made projects for groups (students, colleagues, or families) who can work together and explore Costa Rica most unconventionally.
Join the journey to discover your hidden potential and to help the unprivileged people – evolve and let others grow as well.

Reviews from past volunteers

Leonie Cabot (Germany), Child Care Volunteering Program

“I loved my project and it was worth it! I’m missing it now and I don’t think it could have been better. I think one of the best moments was in my first project where we had to teach the children about the animals in English.

Another of my best moments was when my host brother (six years old) came very close to me and whispered in my ear that he enjoyed spending time with me. In my second project, there was one little girl (only 9 months) she is curious and tried to discover new things all the time and helped her to learn how to crawl and that was great to see. She also started to say “hola” during my time there and waved and that is just an incredible moment when you see children or babies learn such things.

The overall living experience was excellent. It was a very comfortable and homely stay with all the facilities I could have asked for. The in-country staff was very friendly and supportive. They made the program easier and smooth. I would recommend VolSol to anyone I know who is willing to volunteer abroad; mostly because of the variety of programs.”

Jasjap Singh (Canada), Medical Volunteering Program

“Personally, I really liked that the website had the header bar showing what you had completed and what wasn’t completed before you left for your trip. It made things very easy and helped a lot with staying organized. I found the pre-departure booklet VERY INFORMATIVE, which I thought was a very good idea to include all this information since individuals want to know as much as they possibly can before leaving.

My experience of volunteering with Volunteering Solutions was a great one but I think individuals have many questions before leaving for their desired country, therefore I contacted the VolSol team, and the replies to emails were very fast and helpful!

My friends and I had a blast working at our placement! Everyone was friendly and welcoming! Also, had a great time assisting patients and working with staff.

The accommodation and meals were AMAZING! I don’t have a single complaint or problem with our host family. They were super nice and made amazing food, totally loved them all! Thank you guys for running such great, well-organized volunteering trips! I had a great time.”

If there’s something that you think we’ve missed out, please let us know in the comment section below. If you have more queries, you can also drop us an email at [email protected]

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