ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

By ISV   Reviews (78)   96% Rating

Costa Rica is filled with a colourful array of animals, white beaches, lush rainforests, rivers, volcanoes and smiling communities. The national motto is "Pura Vida," meaning Pure Life, and the volunteer projects offered by International Student Volunteers (ISV) reflect this sentiment in every way. ISV works with grassroots initiatives to address social and environmental issues facing this Central American country, in methods that directly benefit locals. Projects range from wildlife conservation, community development, children's programs and environmental management.

You could be observing the feeding behavior of endangered species, mapping habitats, monitoring dolphin populations, or taking beach patrols to protect turtle nests. Community development projects involve working alongside locals in recycling, reforestation, trail building, organic farming and habitat restoration. For more details on how to preserve Costa Rica's valuable biodiversity, visit ISV's website today!

View Program Information
Location: 
  • Costa Rica
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
Languages: 
English
Spanish
Housing: 
Camping
Guest House
Home-stay
Hostels
Hotels
Volunteer House
Application: 
Online Application

Program Reviews (78)

96%
Positive
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  • Impact
    93%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    93%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    94%
  • Kayla
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Baton Rouge, LA, USA
    Louisiana State University- Baton Rouge
    Community Project in San Jose
    08/29/2015

    This was an absolutely life changing experience. Living with my host family was one of the best parts, because even though we barely spoke each other's language, my host sisters taught me so much and we played and had fun. By the end of the two weeks, it was tears all around and promises to be back. We joked and laughed and danced while working and the breaks were filled with fun games and getting to know the other volunteers. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything on the world and I can't wait to go back!

    Photos:
    Me and one of my sisters, Jazmin
    Playing kickball
    Making smores and singing some songs
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  • Rachel
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Tucson, Arizona
    University of Arizona
    EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
    08/28/2015

    I don't think that I can even come close to describing my experience in Costa Rica with ISV. Just like everyone has said, it really is a life changing experience, and made for the best summer of my life. Although traveling around Costa Rica was a blast and a beautiful experience, nothing could compare to the actual volunteering. The people I met during my project made this trip amazing! My project leaders were phenomenal and so much fun, the volunteers became life-long friends, and the community made us all a family. This was an eye opening experience, that made me so grateful for what I have. I fell in love with Costa Rica and all the memories there. I would 110% recommend this to everyone!!!

    Photos:
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  • Jillian
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Tampa, Florida
    University of South Florida
    Best Experience of my Life
    08/27/2015

    Looking back at my experience in Costa Rica I have come to terms with the fact that this trip was truly the greatest time of my life. I met some incredible people and got to work with amazing creatures.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would improve this program by warning new participants about the extreme conditions you live in at Nancite and that they really need to be in good physical shape for this location. The price seems a little high as well for our accommodations.

    Photos:
    I was lucky enough to see an olive ridley sea turtle lay her eggs during the day.
    The amazing sunset at Nancite, Costa Rica.
    My incredible volunteer group on our hike to go pick up food for our camp site in Nancite, Costa Rica.
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  • Meg
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Big Rapids, Michigan
    Ferris State University
    Discovering Nancite
    08/18/2015

    While in Costa Rica I worked on the Nancite Sea Turtle Project. It has always been my dream to work with sea turtles and when I finally got the chance I was ecstatic. Except, Nancite was more of a real life game of Survivor than a dream come true. The bugs, the heat, and unfamiliarity of the situation were extreme but the beauty, peacefulness, and wildlife there outweighed the bad beyond measures. I've never enjoyed a challenge so much. I have made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime and, of course, the turtles were amazing. PURA VIDA!

    How could this program be improved?

    There were so many hidden fees involved.

    Photos:
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  • Dan
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Ohio
    Cleveland State University
    Truely Phenomenal
    08/10/2015

    The volunteers I met in my three weeks where some of the most amazing and kindest people I have ever met or had the pleasure of getting to know. The country was absolutely amazing! The host family I stayed with was extremely welcoming and accommodating, and the Spanish immersion program was a perfect way to learn about and appreciate the culture. My project was hard at times but extremely rewarding, and the coolest thing I have ever done. Further, working with the leaders and the sea turtles has opened up educational and professional opportunities I otherwise would never have. This experience has helped me grow both as a Biologist/student and as a person, as well as make amazing friends! I strongly recommend this program to anyone regardless of your background or major.

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  • Caroline
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Souther Carolina
    Wonderful Experience
    08/04/2015

    My ISV program to Costa Rica was everything I wanted it to be and more. I learned so much about the culture, the history, and the ecosystems that make Costa Rica truly unique. I met incredible people, had delicious food (rice and beans!), and completed meaningful and measurable volunteer work. The adventure aspect is well balanced with the volunteering, and offers you a chance to see a large amount of the country while also participating in really awesome activities. I loved every minute of my time with ISV!

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  • Bailey
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Boise, ID
    Black Hills State University
    great experience
    07/14/2015

    Lots of fun things planned but still leaves you time to do your own thing! I think that this is a good program especially if it is your first time doing international travel. I did the 4 week adventure program in Costa Rica with the trees volunteer program. The volunteer part was very remote but right next to the ocean so we got to swim every day. During the adventure program there was a lot more opportunities to go out than I would have thought so be sure to bring enough street clothes. My favorite part of the adventure part was the 2-day rafting trip. you raft into this resort and then raft out the next day. really high Rapids so it was really exciting and the guides were great. I also made a lot of life long friends and traveling buddies from this program. it's truly priceless.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish we could have chosen our volunteer program.

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  • Sabrina
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Clearfield, Utah
    Weber State University
    Costa Rica hawksbill project and adventure tour
    07/13/2015

    This project was incredible! We started out in the city, with the Spanish program. We were totally engulfed in the language which was a bit frightening but the families and school were more than willing to help us learn some basic Spanish. For the next two weeks, we went to the beach to help researchers with their work with sea turtles in a coral graveyard. We helped them to figure out what they were eating so that we can help replenish their dietary needs. We got to work up close with several beautiful hawksbill and green sea turtles. For the last two weeks, we had a blast traveling all around the country and seeing awesome sights, meeting awesome locals, and doing really thrilling activities. I feel that this trip was a three- in- one deal, I improved my Spanish speaking skills, I helped in conservation work, and I was learning about the Costa Rican culture.

    How could this program be improved?

    If I could change one thing about the project, I would like to see more expertise background knowledge rather than guess work, when planting the mangrove trees, it seemed there was a lot of guess work and much of their efforts were failing. It would have been nice to work with a botanist.

    As far as the adventure tour, I felt like many of our destinations were rushed, and there were too many travel days for what we did in that area, I felt like some areas needed more time to relax.

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  • Annika
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Newcastle Australia
    University of Newcastle
    Best Time EVER
    04/05/2015

    To be completely embussed in the culture of the country and not speaking much Spanish myself I felt it was a safe and exciting way to travel. I made so many friends and all the tour guides were relaxed and easy to talk to there were even some tears when we had to part. I was in the Osa Peninsula for two weeks where we planted 850 mangrove with a mud fight to finish and we got to actually handle and work with sea turtle, they are such amazing creatures! the week we spent in Heredia was a great way to welcome us to the tour and allow the group to bond, as well as the cool activities Intercultura offered such as a weekend in Montverde we got to hold a toucan and boa constrictor. As a person who is afraid of heights zip lining was exhilarating and beautifully peaceful at the same time! I haven't even got to the adventure tour yet!
    I strongly advise this, I fell in love with the Country.

    How could this program be improved?

    Perhaps encourage participants to learn a bit of Spanish prior and perhaps be a little more lenient on the last night of the two weeks volunteering, it would have been nice to relax with a drink and also support the local community.

    Photos:
    Getting a bit wet White Water Rafting
    The view from Monteverde
    Casually on an Ox
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  • Kieren
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Brisbane, Australia
    Queensland University of Technology
    A great alternative to standard travel, directly volunteering still better
    03/09/2015

    Let me begin with this: I absolutely adored volunteering for the turtle project in Ostional beach, Costa Rica in January 2015. Our main role was to assist in the research of why Leatherback and Black turtles are heading towards extinction by collecting data from adult and infant turtles. We also took direct action to eliminate dangers such as plastic pollution littered along the beaches, transplanting nests to safer environments, and fending off predators such as birds and dogs (if you so choose to). It's an experience to escort little hatchlings down the beach and watch them swim off, starting the next leg of their journey.

    I would recommend, however, to join a volunteer group through a non-profit third-party or simply contact the volunteer project itself.

    I would recommend this project to people who are interested because it is a great alternative to standard travelling: you are giving back to communities in need; you are minimising your impact as a tourist; and you are experiencing true connection with the communities you will be visiting.

    How could this program be improved?

    The program was run smoothly. I have no other suggestions.

    Photos:
    Freshly hatched negras tortugitas (black turtles) waiting for their release onto the beach.
    Exhuming a black nest to collect nesting and hatching data.
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  • Sumaya
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Port Elizabeth South Africa
    Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
    community development
    03/04/2015

    The highlight of the experience was the impact of completing the kindergarten for the younger children to start school and receive an valuable education.

    I appreciated the efforts that my host family made, by bringing morning snacks as we worked

    I had underestimated the heat and it was a challenge to keep working during the peak hours of the day. I found the task of removing the rust from the fence particularly difficult but always tried to keep the main vision in sight and remember the reason that I had volunteered to attend this program,

    How could this program be improved?

    provide an updated version of the travel manual to insure participants bring the right equipment and clothing

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  • Marlee
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Mankato, Minnesota
    Minnesota State University
    Experience of a Lifetime
    11/16/2014

    I enjoyed every single day and individual experience that I encountered during my three weeks. I spent my first week Spanish and Culture program in which I learned more in one week than I ever could have imagined. I had an amazing host family, great teachers, and had the opportunity to make many amazing friendships as well as explore the capital of Costa Rica. The volunteer portion of my trip was life-changing. My host family turned into a second family; amazing people that I feel like I have known my entire life thanks to their open arms and compassion. I felt like I truely made a difference in the community I volunteered in. It was hard work, but I was working with incredible passion with the same motivation and passion that I had. It felt like together as a team we could accomplish anything. My project leader was amazing. He is such a fun-loving yet hardworking guy who truly loves his job. I learned so much from him and could not have asked for a better leader to spend my two weeks with. When we weren't working on our volunteer project, we took part on some awesome activities. From jumping off cliffs next to waterfalls, to having community dinners and celebrations, to simply spending quality time with my host family, I enjoyed every minute of my experience. My three weeks spend in Costa Rica was a life-changing experience that I will never forget, spent with people from all over the world with whom I have made lifelong friendships.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish I could think of a suggestion to make, but there is honestly not one thing I would change about the program. Everything was incredibly organized and great.

    Photos:
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  • Kelley
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Seattle, WA
    University of Washington, Seattle
    Costa Rica Whale and Dolphin Research Program
    11/12/2014

    My program coordinator was amazing. Day to day was alright. Food for breakfast and dinner was excellent, but lunch had to be taken on the boat. Those in charge of food were negligent of a particular student's peanut allergy, which was unfortunate. Work we did on boat days felt productive. Lessons by program coordinator were good. Days not on the boat were often a little dull or otherwise felt unproductive. Would not have been against doing some more manual labor, etc.

    How could this program be improved?

    Amount of work we accomplished. I wish we could have helped even more.

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    Response from ISV
    11/23/2014
    Thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback. It's difficult for me to comment in regards to the circumstances around the peanut allergy as we do go to great lengths to encourage full disclosure from volunteers of their allergies and medical issues so that we can ensure a safe experience for all. I am sure that as soon as ISV personnel were made aware of the peanut issues that we would have addressed it immediately with our project partner. Really happy to hear that you enjoyed the boat work monitoring cetaceans - this is valuable work that has already had positive outcomes for more sustainable management of the Fjord marine ecosystem - thank you for your part in gathering the scientific data which makes that possible. As for your time off the boat- we've taken this on board and always debrief with our partners at the end of every project and review what could be improved upon. Thanks again for volunteering with ISV and we're really pleased that you would recommend us as without volunteers, these projects wouldn't exist. Sincerely, Narelle ISV
  • Dalton
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Canada
    University of Waterloo
    Just Book It Already!
    11/12/2014

    When I was younger, I did not know if I would ever have an opportunity to travel. I was never one of those people who spent their money on parties or cars or whatever else you can think of. I saved my money from all the work I had done for the only thing that was important to me: to one day travel the world and make a difference. When I heard about ISV, I took the time to read about the organization and realized that this was my first chance to make my dream come true. I booked my plane ticket to Los Angeles and the rest was almost completely taken care of by the organization. At first, I was worried about travelling because this was my first time travelling by plane and I was by myself. I realized quickly that there was nothing to worry about! The group of travellers I met were amazing, and the village we went to had some of the most friendly people I have ever met. I felt very welcome my entire stay with my Costa Rican family, and the slight language barrier was not an issue. Helping construct the road between the two parts of the village and in the coffee farms was very rewarding, and there was still plenty of time after the work was done to have fun! Our group leader, Jonathan, was a great guy who always kept you smiling throughout the entire trip. Not only was helping the community great, but the wildlife was phenomenonal as well. Any doubt's I had had about traveling alone before I left for Costa Rica were quickly erased as soon as this life-changing adventure began. Having the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica was an amazing experience, and I can't wait to continue traveling the world! If you are considering traveling with ISV, please don't waste this opportunity!

    How could this program be improved?

    Better organization of flights to Los Angeles (I thought we were meeting with a group leader there).

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  • andy
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    milwaukee, wi
    University of Wisconsin
    I had fun exploring the jungle!
    11/11/2014

    The group leaders were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. The host family was great. I was able to go off path in the jungle and see it in ways most are not allowed. The conservation program had a goal I could really get behind.

    How could this program be improved?

    More night activities would be great.

    Photos:
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About the provider

ISV's mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

Destinations include South Africa, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. ISV has won multiple awards and over 30,000 participants from around the world have experienced their educational, cultural and adventure programs. Volunteers can join small teams for two-week projects in the field of conservation or community development, followed by a two week adventure tour. Many students earn academic credit for their involvement and highly qualified local staff carefully oversee programs in each country. ISV is recognized as one of the highest rated volunteer and travel organizations in the world and is a non-profit organization in California, USA. Its Australian operations are based in Sydney. Begin your ISV adventure today!

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