Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica

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A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Costa Rica

Nestled in the heart of the Americas between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, Costa Rica is one of the planet’s most biodiverse countries, home to several thousand species of endemic plants and animals. The Spanish-speaking nation is further widely renowned for its progressive environmental and social policies, and is often considered the planet’s most sustainable country. If you’d like to do good work within a beautiful landscape, flourishing wildlife, and vibrant culture, then making the leap to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica is a winning decision.


Costa Rica is a small Central American nation, home to some 4.5 million citizens. The country shares borders with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, as well as the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Although Costa Rica sits on less than 0.1% of the planet’s landmass, it contains within it a full 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. Talk about punching above your weight!

As the country’s capital and most populous city, San Jose is typically the most popular destination where to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica. San Jose is the cultural, economic, and political nucleus of Costa Rica, home to roughly a quarter of the country’s total population. It is also the country’s major transportation hub, so even if your Costa Rican volunteer project isn’t in San Jose, odds are you will still spend some time in the capital.

Other popular destinations where you can volunteer abroad in Costa Rica include the coastal province of Guanacaste, the beach town of Tamarindo, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. You might also look for volunteer projects in Costa Rica’s rural areas, which can afford you a much different picture of life in the country’s villages.

Projects & Placements

Because it is such a progressive nation and popular travel destination, there are tons of opportunities to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica doing a wide range of work. For instance many of the most common volunteer programs in Costa Rica are in environmentally-oriented areas such as ecotourism, tree planting, trail building, and biological research. Costa Rica is one of the most sustainable countries on earth for a reason – all the upkeep requires the hard work of a committed volunteer force!

While Costa Rica ranks highly in human development relative to its income, it still remains a developing country, and so fields such as education, healthcare, childcare, and human rights are also popular areas to work volunteer projects in the country. There are many more areas in addition to these that you might look to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica within, so research as many different programs as possible before making your decision!

As an international participant, it’s largely left to you to decide how long you will volunteer abroad in Costa Rica; some stay as briefly as just a few weeks, while others commit for up to a full year and beyond. It’s not a bad idea to allot yourself some time to travel on either end of your trip, either. Take advantage of the fact that you are in Central America to explore the surrounding region!

Costs & Affordability

Because it is a developing country, Costa Rica remains an affordable destination for most volunteers travelling from the industrialized world. And while you will not be paid for your services as a volunteer, many programs will help compensate you in other ways such as providing housing, meals, and transportation. The local currency is the Costa Rican colon, which exchanges at about 540 CRC to $1 USD.

Volunteer programs in Costa Rica vary in affordability, some costing just a few hundred dollars and some costing a few thousand (the upfront program fees will  also depend on how long you intend to stay). If the costs of the trip are a concern, then it’s never too early to start planning a fundraising campaign and make your dream to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica become a reality!

Accommodation & Visas

The most common forms of housing while you volunteer in Costa Rica are typically homestays or group-living accommodations with other volunteers. Housing can be quite different between urban and rural settings in Costa Rica, and do not always expect commodities such as Wi-Fi, air conditioning, or hot water to be available.

Whether or not you will need a visa to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica depends on factors such as your home country, the duration of your planned stay, and the type of work you will be doing. For more visa information regarding your individual circumstances, be sure to check out our Costa Rican Embassy Directory.

Benefits & Challenges

Model Country. Costa Rica is a role model for the international community by way of its sustainable and environmentally-friendly legislation. Come volunteer abroad in Costa Rica to help spearhead the global greening movement.

Diversity. Sitting in the heart of the American continental landscape directly above the equator, Costa Rica is a hotspot for both natural and cultural diversity. Although a small nation, Costa Rica can offer the volunteer abroad a whole lot of opportunity.

Sustainable Development. While it has many progressive policies to boast of, Costa Rica is still considered a developing country due to its relatively low national income. Volunteering in Costa Rica can accordingly be a big help to its most vulnerable citizens.

Making the decision to volunteer abroad in Costa Rica can be the beginning of a grand world adventure; one where you will visit one of the planet’s major biodiversity hotspots, immerse yourself within a lively Latin American culture, and help make a lasting impact within local communities.

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A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Costa Rica


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