8 Best Costa Rica Volunteer Programs in 2018-2019

by Published

When searching for Costa Rica volunteer opportunities, you find that some are in it for the wrong reasons, and some are truly in it for the people! When you hop on the volunteer abroad wagon, which program will YOU rely on, not only as an investment in your safety, convenience, and learning, but also as the organization you’ll look back on someday and think, “volunteering in Costa Rica changed my life forever.” Even though Costa Rica is one of the best volunteer destinations in the whole wide world, you have to take your volunteer abroad plans a step further and figure out who you’re going to volunteer with. 

Costa Rica Waterfall GIF

Don’t go chasing waterfalls? While volunteering in Costa Rica, WHY NOT?!

You might not realize it, but choosing between programs in Costa Rica Is a huge decision; I mean heck, with beautiful destinations, beautiful animals, and even more beautiful people, there is so much to choose from! Since we’re on YOUR team, we wanted to make your decision process a little easier for you. Here are the best Costa Rica volunteer abroad programs in 2018 according to our community of intrepid, meaningful travelers just like you, so that you can live the “Pura Vida” way!

What makes the “best” volunteer abroad programs in Costa Rica?

Are you looking for lush jungles? What about awe inspiring wildlife and opportunities to make the world a better place? Well then, looks like you found what you’ve been searching for; Costa Rica volunteer opportunities! As you start to do your research on volunteer abroad programs,  keep in mind a few things that you need to pay attention to, to make sure your experience is what you have been search for your whole life.

Think to yourself, “what do I want when I volunteer in Costa RIca?”, “what is important to me?”. Everyone is different, which means your goals, needs, and wants could likely vary from people who have left those reviews and ratings that you are looking at.

So stop right where you are! Yes, right there. Good!  First, you need to know where to start, so here’s how to actually pick a volunteer abroad program, and while doing so, pay attention to these factors:

  • Rating and reviews from volunteers who have taken the time to talk about their experiences. You’ll start to get the gist of what volunteer abroad programs in Costa Rica are right for you.
  • Is information clear and accessible? If you have to go digging just to find details that should be in clear sight. TURN BACK NOW… before it’s too late!
  • Organizational partnerships are important.  Check out who the organization directly works with.  They can range from all over the place; whether that be in your community or half the world away.
  • Resources for alumni, like how to take your experience and make that resume of yours shine!
  • Does the organization respect and care for local culture, environment,  and individuals? Look into their social media and websites to get a feel of their morals and values.
  • Level of support and assistance. Do you have faith that you can count on them when you are in need.
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T...find out what it means to YOU! Within your area of interest, consider a program that makes people that you look up to go “WOW.  They did whaaaaat?!” 

GoAbroad’s 2018 round up

Maximo Nivel logo

1. Maximo Nivel - Medical Volunteer in Costa Rica—9.4 Rating

“I was a volunteer in the physical therapy department at a senior living facility in the city of Cartago. I worked alongside other students from a local university and provided assistance to them however they needed it during their morning therapy sessions with the residents...The residents were very fun to talk to as they had many interesting stories to share and were also very interested in learning more about me! The clinical supervisor Juan was a great teacher, and the other students were also very welcoming towards me. Working with these students helped me meet some local Costa Ricans around my own age and I developed some great friendships with them...Overall, this experience would be very beneficial to a PT student who has some background in clinical treatment as it will allow you to participate more at your site. However, even if your skills are limited you can still learn a lot by being assertive in asking questions and trying to take on more responsibilities. The more you put into this experience, the more you'll get out of it!” — Maximo Nivel alum

  • Where?: San Jose
  • When?: Year Round
  • Why?: Medical and healthcare projects provide volunteers the opportunity to work in hospitals, clinics, assisted living, and other healthcare facilities. Volunteers work alongside doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical professionals. With the choice of a duration of one week up to one year, you will improve your Spanish skills, get school credit, and gain international experience. Plus, you can earn the President's Volunteer Service Award if you are a U.S. resident!
  • More program info
Love Volunteers logo

2. Love Volunteers - Volunteer Abroad and Make a REAL Difference—9.3 Rating 

“An amazing experience looking after and releasing baby turtles into the Pacific Ocean. Montezuma is a beautiful remote location on the coast of Costa Rica where we were able to make a difference to endangered turtle species whilst enjoying the jungle style natural habitat. The living conditions were basic but not impossible, plenty of free time to explore the area as shifts were generally between 4 and 6 hours per day. Also a great chance to meet like minded people from all over the world and share in this extraordinary experience. Highly recommended!” — Love Volunteers alum

  • Where?: San Jose
  • When?: Summer
  • Why?: Love Volunteers is the most affordable way to volunteer and help local communities in developing countries! Why are they cheaper than other organizations? Firstly, they are just a handful of passionate people working hard to help volunteers and local communities around the world. We don't have huge overheads - no company cars, no downtown office - they are just volunteers who knew we could do a better job. Be more than just a volunteer... join the world’s fastest growing independent volunteer organization and become a LOVE VOLUNTEER!
  • More program info
Frontier logo

3. Frontier - Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtle Conservation—9.0 Rating 

“The staff group is truly what made this experience so special. I was welcomed with open arms. I was able to develop very close relationships and learn so much from their experience and knowledge. They were all very professional individuals and you can tell that they love what they do. The information they provided for the project was very informative, and constant support was given. I was fully trained and understood all the objectives within the first few days...The science aspect of the project, and the variety of work completed makes the entire project worthwhile. The dedication demanded for the research by Frontier shows the amount of progress being made.” — Frontier alum

  • Where?: Osa Peninsula
  • When?: Year Round
  • Why?: With projects running from anywhere between 1 and 30 weeks and there are a whole variety of short trips for those with limited time. There’s also something to suit every budget and interest, with everything from conservation volunteering and community development! Help conserve habitats and the species that live within them with Frontier.
  • More program info
GoEco logo

4. GoEco - Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica—9.0 Rating 

“My experience volunteering at a turtle conservation in Costa Rica was absolutely life changing. Seeing how people in Costa Rica live their day to day lives was such a positive addition to the experience. Going to school in San Jose and learning the language was something I never thought I would be able to do. It was so incredible being able to actually apply my knowledge right away and test out what I had learned on my host family, who would also help me with my Spanish. Actually getting to the turtle conservation was a feeling I don't even know how to describe. Collecting the eggs from my first nest is something I will never forget, I still get chills thinking about it. The staff were so kind and caring and really helped to make sure the volunteers were getting the most out of their time at the conservation. I never thought I'd meet people from Austria or Switzerland and now I have friends from across the world whom I still keep in touch with. Overall this was the most incredible experience of my life and I would recommend it to anyone.” — Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary alum

  • Where?: Talamanca
  • When?: Year Round
  • Why?: No matter what type of volunteer project you elect to do, all volunteer work with GoEco in Costa Rica will be extremely rewarding. It is amazing what one can learn by immersing themselves in a culture that is different than their own, especially in Costa Rica where the people and the culture reflect a “pura vida” way of life. This phrase literally translates to “pure life”, but it has a much more profound meaning once you experience the exciting land. Walk tropical beaches, release newborn sea turtles, and take a new adventure every day.  Volunteering in Costa Rica with animals will let you witness a true marvel of nature and meet interesting people from this region and participants from around the world.
  • More program info
GVI logo

5. GVI - Volunteer and Teach English in Costa Rica—9.5 Rating 

“There are so many amazing aspects of the programme so it's hard to choose just one. I think that the support provided by GVI, not only for the El Cocal community, but also for the volunteers is incredible. I was made to feel so at home and welcome due to the amazing staff members here. I also think that the structure of the programme and the planning that goes into working with the kids and teaching English is another great aspect as it provides the community with a sense of stability. A final great aspect is the way in which Moises, a member of the El Cocal community, has started to work with GVI. I believe that this is a great step forward as it provides the kids with a role model while also changing his life for the better. Overall I believe that the support provided by GVI to El Cocal is the best aspect as it also makes me believe that I am making a difference and by giving the kids and adults a platform to learn English it increases their chances of a better future.” —  GVI alum

  • Where?: Rural Areas
  • When?: Spring, summer, fall
  • Why?: With GVI, you become part of the community within a beautiful and remote part of Costa Rica. Group Spanish lessons, take advantage and adventure the beautiful wild rainforests, Caribbean beaches and local canals, and live in a peaceful area with no cars or roads. Seeing the direct impact you can have in a short time frame will change your life, so take the extra time to explore the wonders of Costa Rica. Volunteer Costa Rica, and you will have the opportunity to learn basic Spanish and work with children and adults and experience Costa Rican culture.
  • More program info
Carpe Diem Education logo

6. Carpe Diem Education - Central America Immersion—10.0 Rating 

“My experience with Carpe not only transformed my world view, but it taught me a lot about living with a group and it gave me the tools I needed to be a confident independent traveller. It also helped me realize the importance of being an active member in society- whether that means becoming very involved in politics, controlling your environmental footprint, or buying from local and organic companies. It is such a privilege to be born in the United States, a country that has so much influence in the world, but it is what we do with that privilege that matters.” — Carpe Diem Education alum

  • Where?: Rural Areas, San Jose, Santo Domingo
  • When?: Year Round
  • Why?: Experiential education. Community. Intercultural exchange. It's how Carpe Diem Education connects with and gives back to the global communities we interact with. Learn a foreign language, stay with a host family, and participate in a volunteer project on a gap semester or year around the world.
  • More program info
Cross-Cultural Solutions logo

7. Cross Cultural Solutions - Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica—10.0 Rating 

“I just returned from three weeks in Costa Rica. I worked at Manos de Jesus ❤️. Hard to find the right words. My heart was filled with gratitude and love there everyday. My experience with the staff of CCS was just as profound, what an amazing group of people bringing profound change to the world. Don't hesitate to go, and go with an open heart and I guarantee your life will be changed ❤️❤️❤️❤️.” — Cross Cultural Solutions alum

  • Where?: Cartago
  • When?: Year Round and Summer
  • Why?: At CCS, they know that a chance to learn about the culture of the community in which you're volunteering is what truly makes the experience unique and complete. This is why they include plenty of immersive Cultural Activities to complement your volunteer efforts. As a volunteer, it isn't only the work that you do that will leave a lasting impact on the local community, but the cultural exchange and understanding in which you openly participate as well. Whether you're engaging in guided discussions on relevant local issues, or find yourself elbow deep in rice flour and learning how to cook a local specialty, every organized Cultural Activity will offer you a deeper understanding of the local community and all of its beautiful complexities.
  • More program info
Greenheart Travel logo

8. Greenheart Travel - Volunteer at an Animal Rescue Center—10.0 Rating 

“Greenheart Travel has an excellent program, allowing students from all over the world to immerse themselves in a different culture. Through Greenheart Travel I was able to volunteer in Proyecto Asis for two weeks, where my Spanish improved, I was able to meet great people, and eat delicious food. The host families were wonderful and treated you as if you were one of their kids, and the people around were kind as well. I was able to see and experience what it feels like to actually be apart of the Costa Rican culture. I was able to take care of animals, learn how to cook traditional foods, and visit the beautiful scenery Costa Rica has to offer. Thank You Greenheart!” — Greenheart Travel alum

  • Where?: Costa Rica
  • When?: Alternative spring break, summer, year round
  • Why?: Make a difference with Greenheart Travel and volunteer in Costa Rica with animals! Spend one to twelve weeks making change and getting a wide variety of experiences. Work with animals, on conservations projects, and so much more. As a volunteer you will focus on rehabilitating animals and releasing the back into the wild, and have so many adventures in between.
  • More program info

[Check Out ALL Volunteer Abroad Programs in Costa Rica]

More resources for volunteering abroad in Costa Rica

We’re hoping some of these programs already have you packing your hiking boots (and bug spray) and singing “Livin’ la Pura Vida”...or is is “Vida Loca”! However, if you aren’t a Ricky Martin fan or none of these programs are quite what you’re looking for, take a gander through our entire Costa Rica volunteer abroad program directory. There are filters galore, allowing you to really hunt down the program that you’ve been daydreaming about.

Handful of sea turtles pictures

Get a handful of Costa Rican lovin’...turtle-y duuuuude

Overwhelmed by the options? We get it. Our Online Advisors are here to save the day. Just tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll do your homework for you / send you a handful of specific recommendations to your preferences. 

Pro tip: One of the most important steps to figuring out which volunteer abroad programs in New Zealand are right for you—that many people unfortunately skip—is identifying your WHY(s). Why are you volunteering abroad? Why volunteer abroad in Costa Rica in the first place? To learn and get more familiar with the culture, to travel far and wide, to make buddies from all over the world, to gain skills? Set goals, then use them to influence the Costa Rica volunteer abroad programs you’re thinking about.

And last but not least, MONEY! Sometimes you can find organizations where your work for them is enough and you don’t have to pay (other than the plane ticket that is). However, next time you ask yourself, “Why do I have to PAY to volunteer?”, understand that the money you are giving is going towards a great cause and you are helping the organization keep working towards a better world. Donations and funding is important to a lot of NGO and non-profit organizations. So again, think back to identifying your WHY.

Now’s your chance—volunteer abroad in Costa Rica in 2018-2019!

Katy Perry and Monkey GIF

No monkeying around! Volunteer in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica is a country unlike any other. With mountainous views, monkeys, sloths, sea turtles...pretty much all the wildlife you could wish for; and you can be a part of it! Choosing to volunteer, seek more knowledge in your area of interest, and help others around the world can only make your life that much brighter. So be Kiwi-ck (HA, get it like quick) and why wait? 2018 is your year! You will be amazed at what you can accomplish if you become a global citizen. 

Use MyGoAbroad to Find YOUR Costa Rica Volunteer Program →