Volunteer Abroad in San Jose

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A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in San Jose

The capital city of environmentally focused Costa Rica, offers unparalleled opportunities for volunteering abroad. Discovered by Christopher Colombus and home to many Spanish immigrants, a heavy European influence is still evident in the culture and architecture of the city of San Jose, contributing to the city’s charm. With a city centre that attracts more than 1 million working professionals each day, it is the focal point of Costa Rica’s economic and political development. There are numerous placement options for individuals who decide to volunteer in San Jose.

Projects & Placements

A plethora of projects are available in and around San Jose, but the most popular areas for volunteering in San Jose include sea turtle conservation, teaching, and community development. But volunteer placements in San Jose sprawl a range of other areas too, including, but not limited to, working in orphanages, environmental research, health care or even farming or agriculture.

Sustainability is a huge focus of volunteer projects in San Jose, so volunteers should be aware of how they are impacting the environment and local communities through their volunteer work. Eco-tourism programs are also common in Costa Rica in general, and San Jose is not an exception.

Volunteering programs in San Jose vary in length from one week up to one year, and while Spanish is useful, it is not usually required. For those interested in learning Spanish or developing their language skills while volunteering in San Jose, Spanish classes are prevalently included in volunteer programs or at the very least available throughout the city.

Overall individual who choose to volunteer in San Jose will have any placement at their fingertips; many volunteer organizations in San Jose offer placements in literally 20 different focus areas and projects, so if volunteers arrive and decide they’d like to try something new after a few weeks, there will be plenty of options.

Life in San Jose

It’s no surprise that Costa Rica is home to many expats and yogis, and is a location on many travelers’ bucket list. A combination of diverse wildlife, pristine beaches, and bustling cities gives Costa Rica an irresistible sense of calm coupled with vibrant culture and history. 

With San Jose acting as the transportation hub for Costa Rica, it’s relatively easy to travel throughout the country. However, for first-time visitors, the public transportation system can be a bit confusing with a lack of schedules or a centralized bus terminal. Bus schedules and terminal information can be obtained in brochures distributed throughout the city, but beware that schedules aren’t always accurate.

The cost of living in Costa Rica is said to be comparable to that of a mid-sized city in the United States. The Costa Rican colón can be exchanged at any bank, with U.S. dollars being the most accepted currency. Visa is widely accepted in San Jose, while MasterCard and American Express are less preferred.

Accommodations & Visas

Volunteer programs in San Jose often provide assistance in obtaining a visa and arranging accommodations; however, you may have to pay for your own visa fees, which aren’t always included in program fees. Note that Americans do not need a tourist visa, but do require a valid U.S. passport and return airline ticket to enter Costa Rica. Check with the Costa Rican embassy and your program provider for more information about visas before you begin your journey to volunteer in San Jose.

When programs include accommodations, volunteers will find themselves most often living in a homestay or dormitory. Living with a host family is encouraged as it gives volunteers an opportunity to immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture while enjoying the famous Tico hospitality.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

San Jose is rated as the safest city in Latin America, with decreasing crime rates and increased law enforcement support. While it’s always recommended to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense, Costa Rica has a largely peaceful history, as evidenced by not even having a military.

Volunteering programs in San Jose offer opportunities for volunteers to help develop the social, economic, and environmental components of Costa Rica, while learning to love the local culture and traditions.

In addition to being able to explore the city, those who volunteer in San Jose will be perfectly situated to discover the many other wonders of Costa Rica, including volcanoes, waterfalls, and beaches!

Read our comprehensive guide on volunteering abroad in Costa Rica.

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A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in San Jose

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MAXIMO NIVEL – Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

Maximo Nivel provides volunteer programs in San Jose and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Work directly with local projects and really get involved, because Maximo Nivel is a locally-based organization too! Volunteer placements include: Working with Kids, Teaching English, Construction, Conservation, Animal Care, Medical/Healthcare and more. University credit is available for most programs.

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Affordable Volunteering in Costa Rica: From USD 295

Work on various volunteering projects in Costa Rica through International Volunteer HQ. They offer programs in San Jose, one of the youngest capital cities in Latin America. Volunteers can join programs that run for durations varying from one week to one month.

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GoEco - Learn Spanish and Volunteer in Costa Rica

Contribute to community development and conservation projects in Costa Rica through GoEco. Volunteers can also assist in social work programs or fill teaching positions. Projects are held in San Jose, which offers a beautiful backdrop for meaningful volunteering experiences.

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Lend a hand in Costa Rica with Love Volunteers

Travel to San Jose, Costa Rica and take part in a volunteer program with Love Volunteers. They provide a four-week program that will place participants working alongside locals in a life-changing service learning project. They arrange accommodations for the volunteers and ensure worthwhile projects that truly benefit local communities.

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Volunteer Programs in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities in San Jose, Costa Rica. For a maximum of one year volunteers from around the world can work with children, nature, and wildlife. The volunteer abroad program includes housing, food, and medical insurance.

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Volunteer and Travel in Costa Rica with Kaya

Help people in need as a volunteer in Costa Rica through Kaya Responsible Travel. For a maximum of 12 weeks, participants can experience working with local communities and learning about their culture. Program focuses on Women Empowerment, Childcare, and Social Work.

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Dance Volunteering in Costa Rica

Grow personally and artistically and make a difference in the lives of Costa Rican children as you share your dance and movement skills by volunteering teaching at a school or orphanage. Impact a community and build your international dance experience by volunteering in San José, the country’s capital. The city offers ample opportunities to become involved in the vibrant arts scene and experien...

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Tutor or Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica with GeoVisions

Volunteer at a children's hospital and bring joy to patients with GeoVisions in San Jose, Costa Rica. Participants assist doctors and nurses, keep the children company, and help with the patients' therapy and recreation. Develop interpersonal skills while getting to know the children, their parents, and the members of the hospital community.

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ISA Service-Learning in San Jose, Costa Rica

ISA Service-Learning provides opportunities to serve in dozens of San José-based NGOs, schools, clinics, and businesses through structured service-learning programs year-round. In San José, Costa Rica, program participants can work with host organizations in a variety of fields; opportunities include a plethora of museums, local schools, youth and disability centers, health clinics, and several...

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Central America - Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Roatan

In Guatemala and Nicaragua, study Spanish, live with home stay families, and teach at local community schools with your new language skills. Then volunteer at a sustainable arts center and live in an eco-lodge as you learn about permaculture and alternative building techniques, enriching your experience as you embrace local cuisine, folklore, and indigenous culture. As you learn first-hand abou...

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Academic Programs International

API offers Guaranteed volunteer placements available in the areas of: Child care, Sustainable Farming, Environment/Ecology, Social Justice, and Education. Note: Volunteer activities are not limited to the above listed. Placements are customized to meet both community needs and your goals, skills/background. As such, you and your Program Manager will work together to find a placement right for y...

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A Broader View Volunteers Corp

This A Broader View Volunteers Corp program provides services for children and adolescents who have little access to social services and come from poor families living in and around San Jose, Costa Rica. Very much like a community day care, or boys and girls centers in the United States, this is a safe haven for many families. Children are provided a place to come and get basic education, some ...

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Build Abroad

Build Abroad is the leader in construction volunteering trips, offering trips working on housing, schools, and disaster relief. Build Abroad feels that construction volunteering is the best way to give back to a community. Construction projects provide a physical impact in a community that will last for years. Currently Build Abroad has locations in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nepal, Peru, and Thail...

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Costa Rica Medical Volunteer

Volunteer at an English-speaking coastal clinic in Costa Rica with Gapforce. Gapforce staff will meet volunteers at San Jose International Airport and transfer them to a base, where they will undergo a welcome and safety briefing. Volunteers will then be allocated to the clinic by the base, working with dedicated medical staff for either a morning or afternoon shift. No medical experience is ne...