Elusive jaguars. Prehistoric sea turtles. Flamboyant birdlife. Join one of our Costa Rica wildlife volunteer programs and find yourself immersed in a tropical terrain teeming with life, opportunity and excitement – and help protect it against the threats of habitat loss.
Did you know that Costa Rica accounts for only 0,03% of the world’s surface area, but contains more than 5% of its biodiversity? Known for its Pura Vida lifestyle (which translates to “simple life”), when you join a volunteer program in Costa Rica, you’ll live and work in the heart of the tropical jungle on the Caribbean coast.
Since Costa Rica has such a variety of terrains, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a multitude of different ecosystems where myriad types of fauna and flora flourish. And the tropical climate just adds to the variety.
When you join a wildlife volunteer program in Costa Rica you’ll experience a country bursting with biodiversity and see first-hand the types of plants and animals that are found in its forested peaks and flatlands. Our conservation volunteer work in Costa Rica includes projects where you could work towards the conservation of:
It’s no coincidence that our volunteer programs in Costa Rica are rated tops. We take every opportunity to make sure that our programs are the best by:
Our volunteer projects allow for plenty of free time – meaning you can explore the surrounding areas. A popular tourist destination, you’ll be spoilt for choice when visiting Costa Rica. If you’re looking for beaches, you’ve come to the right place. Head to Punta Uva beach, where you’ll find kilometres of white sand lined with palm trees, excellent surfing conditions, and eateries. The famously advanced surfing spot known as Salsa Brava can also be found here. If you’re looking for something more off the beaten track, head to the neighbouring beach towns of Cahuita or Manzanillo.
Other activities you can take part in include snorkelling among a coral reef in Cahuita National Park, hiking, ziplining and white-water rafting. You could also spend a weekend visiting a nearby town or head to the capital city of San Jose. Spend the day exploring the cultural sites of the city, visit a museum, admire the architecture, and take note of the birdlife while enjoying a picnic in one of the city’s many parks.
Feed your sense of adventure by journeying to our Jalova base in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, and getting involved in wildlife and marine conservation. From assisting with the conservation of critically endangered hawksbills and endangered green sea turtles to gathering valuable data on jaguars, your biggest decision will be deciding which conservation volunteer program you want to join.
Take the chance to duck and dive along a jungle path and take stock of all the species you spot. With each twist and turn, you’ll keep an eye out for the tropical birds, reptiles and amphibians and jaguars that you’ll be collecting conservation data on while volunteering in Costa Rica.
Or, put your photography skills to good use in our wildlife photography and conservation awareness program. Staff and participants often bring camera equipment with them – and spend their free time in the coconut tree area or on the beach, working on their photography and videography skills.
If you’re looking to explore a remarkable coastal rainforest and conduct biodiversity species in their natural habitat, our rainforest and biodiversity program is for you. Living and working in the rainforest, you’ll hike through Tortuguero National Park, assisting the Costa Rican government with understanding the health of the habitat and assisting them with managing conservation efforts in the region.
Costa Rica is also a bird lover’s paradise. On our bird research program, you’ll have the opportunity to assist the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment (or MINAET) with collecting data on the 30 target bird species found throughout Tortuguero National Park.
And if conducting research on elusive jaguars is something you’ve almost dreamt about, our jaguar conservation volunteer program is the one for you. You’ll learn valuable conservation skills and field experience while setting up and monitoring jaguar camera traps along the coastline and in the forest. On this program your research will assist the reserve management, the Costa Rican government, and organisations like Coastal Jaguar Conservation and Panthera.
We also have a specially designed under 18 program for teens between the ages of 15 and 17. Teens who join our rainforest conservation volunteering program will join a group of other teen participants and learn how researchers are working to protect jaguars and other important species. Throughout this project, you’ll be trained, guided, and supported by world-class leaders in the field who have been chosen for their mix of relevant experience and ability to mentor and inspire young people.
GVI has been operating ethical and responsible programs for under 18s since 2012, so you’re in safe hands with us. We treat health and safety as a number one priority and take extra measures for our under 18 programs, with greater supervision applied to our teen programs than our other volunteer programs.
Training and field experience allows teens to develop skills beneficial to their college applications and future employability. Some of these might include intercultural competency, teamwork, and leadership, by interacting and working with teens from around the world.
Read more about GVI’s conservation volunteer work in Costa Rica in this article: How to experience biodiversity in Costa Rica.
With more than 1,000 kilometres of coastline, it may be a challenge to see every beach in Costa Rica. But, when you do volunteer work in Costa Rica you’ll travel to some of the best beach spots in the country, and take part in meaningful marine conservation activities while you’re there.
Get kitted out and set off on night-time patrols along the beach during the turtle-nesting season in Costa Rica. Count the numbers of turtles creeping up onto the beach, digging their nests or already laying their eggs. Then get some sleep before going out for day-time patrols where you can assist team leaders in measuring turtles and collecting other information that contributes towards the conservation of leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles.
Back at base, you’ll continue contributing to sea turtle conservation in a big way by processing conservation data.
Run in conjunction with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Costa Rican Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), when you join our sea turtle conservation volunteer program you might also have the opportunity to conduct research on jaguars and aquatic birds, and carry out biological assessment surveys of the area, contributing to long-term conservation efforts along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Our Costa Rica volunteer programs run throughout the year, from January to November, but our sea turtle conservation activities are restricted to the nesting season, from May until September.
Each of these volunteer programs in Costa Rica come with the GVI promise that you’ll:
See what you could get up to on a gap year in Costa Rica here: What to do in a gap year in Costa Rica.
If you’re looking for a community based program you can volunteer with children at a local school, or facilitate women’s empowerment workshops. Our programs are locally-led, which means you’ll work in collaboration with community leaders, enjoy homemade Costa Rican cuisine and learn about the language and culture of Costa Rica first-hand.
Spend your time in Cimarrones on volunteer programs in Costa Rica that are focused on supporting the education of school-aged children through extra-curricular activities. Work with school teachers and your fellow volunteers to plan and deliver fun activities that assist children in learning English.
Since GVI is committed to ethical and sustainable solutions, we’ve transitioned away from working with orphanages, and each of our Costa Rica volunteer programs follows our strict stance on orphanage volunteering, as well as our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy.
While the closing of the educational gender gap is cause for celebration in Costa Rica, there are still many opportunities to address UN SDG 5: Gender Equality. Learn about the culture of Costa Rica while working with local women in one of our Costa Rica community volunteer opportunities. Facilitate English-language lessons and alternative-income projects that will assist them in starting – or improving on – their business in the tourism sector.
Visit our People site to find out more about our community programs in Costa Rica.
A: GVI volunteers are required to be able to speak and read English. But when volunteering in Cimarrones, you will also need to have a grasp of Spanish so that you can meaningfully engage with community participants while on project. Participants who are not already fluent will be able to take Spanish lessons on the GVI base if these are not already offered as part of your GVI program.
A: How much you spend while volunteering in Costa Rica depends on your personal preferences. GVI covers your accommodation, meals while on project, and all the necessary training, equipment and materials you’ll need on your volunteering in Costa Rica trip. Your fees also include any specified program excursions and activities.
You may need a visa to travel to Costa Rica (depending on the country you are travelling from).
The costs you’ll need to cover once in-country include any extra excursions or activities you choose to take part in, Spanish lessons (if not included in your program) and additional drinks and gratuities.
You can get in touch with GVI’s support staff to find out more about project- and travel-specific details for our Costa Rica volunteer programs.
A: Our Costa Rica volunteer opportunities take every necessary precaution to ensure volunteer health and safety. Our strict Health and Safety policy places the well-being of our volunteers at the top of our list of priorities. All staff on our projects are our own, which means that they’ve been through our rigorous health and safety training. During orientation, every volunteer also receives general and country-specific health and safety training that allows them to have the safest – and most exciting – volunteer experience.
While volunteering in Costa Rica, participants take part in volunteer activities in groups and are supervised by trained professionals. This means that whether you’re tracking jaguars in the rainforest, or working with a group of students at a local school, GVI promises you a safe and enjoyable experience.
Learn to pick and husk a coconut
Visit the world's oldest sea turtle research group
Meditate on the beach at sunrise
Take a jungle nightwalk and frog watch
Canoe along jungle river canals at dawn
Stargaze and learn the northern constellations
Hike an extinct volcano, Cerro Tortuguero
Visit a sustainable chocolate farm