ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

By ISV Reviewer Verified   Reviews (116)   97% 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

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Program Reviews (116)

97%
Positive
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  • Impact
    93%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    93%
  • Value
    84%
  • Safety
    94%
  • Alexis
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Mesa, Arizona
    Northern Arizona University
    10/10
    Summer well spent
    12/21/2015

    This is actually my second ISV program! I went to South Africa in 2013 and now to Costa Rica in 2015. I am in love with this organization and what ISV does. I got to stay with a host family on the beach and help in rainforest ecology research. My host family was fantastic, even if they did not speak too much english the charades were fun! I got very close to everyone and we got to learn a lot about the environment and what we were doing there. The work was hard! But I love using my hands and getting dirty so it was the best experience I could ask for. I would go back to Costa Rica in a heartbeat and actually fueled my desire to travel central and south America. I just got back from Belize a week ago and the ISV trip definitely had a hand in my travel decisions.

    Photos:
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  • Sarah
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Arcata, California
    Humboldt State University
    10/10
    Volunteered (and so much more!) in Costa Rica
    12/18/2015

    The ISV program in Costa Rica was absolutely incredible. I signed up for the whole five week trip. The first week we stayed with host families in Heredia while taking Spanish lessons through Intercultura. This was an awesome immersion experience and a great way to learn about the culture firsthand.

    For the next two weeks, we were at various volunteer projects throughout Costa Rica. My group was in the rainforest on the Osa Peninsula, where we helped collect data about the rainforest's health by monitoring seed dispersal. It was a lot of hard work and took tons of energy, but being able to help in this way was inexpressibly rewarding. Our little group bonded so much and we all became so close. And we got to see tons of animals---monkeys, sloths, and toucans, to name just a few!---in their natural habitats!

    The final two weeks of the trip were spent taking an adventure tour of Costa Rica. We white-water rafted down the Pacuare River, surfed at Samara Beach, and ziplined through the rainforest---and that's not even half of the activities we did! It was amazingly fun and even though I was super nervous (I had never done any of the activities before) I had a blast with each and every thing we did.

    I have nothing but good things to say about ISV's volunteer project/adventure tour in Costa Rica. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish we had been given an accurate and comprehensive list of what supplies we should bring---I had to purchase some extra things while in Heredia. Also, I wish we had a good estimation of how much money we would be spending during each part of the trip. I spent a lot more money in the first week than I had been prepared for.

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  • Michelle
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Aberdeen, Scotland
    University of Aberdeen
    10/10
    ONCE IN A LIFETIME
    12/18/2015

    Great experience, I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica, firstly taking Spanish lessons, then helping with sea turtle conservation, and ended with a 2 week adventure tour.
    Every part was amazing, wish I could relive it.
    Met amazing people and challenged myself with many activities I never thought I would do, from abseiling down a waterfall, white water rafting, kayaking and ziplining over the rainforest canopy.
    Lovely staff, locals were very friendly, felt very welcomed.

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  • Jacque
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Yorba Linda, CA
    Other
    10/10
    Life-Changing Experience!!
    12/18/2015

    I had an incredible volunteer experience, conducting sea turtle research in Costa Rica! We conducted research on adult hawksbill turtles, which was unique and incredible.

    The accommodations are right on the water and the program leaders are knowledgeable and passionate about their research.

    Highly recommend this program for students majoring in marine biology, conservation, animal care, etc. but it will be life-changing no matter your area of study.

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  • Kelsey
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Cascade, Idaho
    Weber State University
    10/10
    ISV Costa Rica
    12/17/2015

    I will never forget the bus driver pulling to the side of the road so we could see a sloth that had been helped into a tree on the other side. We were so excited because we didn't get to see one during our nature walk. The sloth was one of the coolest things I got to see and definitely one of my favorite pictures. I loved learning more about the sloth after seeing it. Did you know that sloth's cannot support their body weight unless they are hanging? They also can't reach backwards so the person that helped the sloth into the tree was able to carry it by its back and remained untouched it's sharp claws.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would have changed the suggested money amount for food and souvenirs. I ended up having to withdraw a lot more money for food than I was lead to believe I would.

    Photos:
    The Last Night at Nancite
    Saying Goodbye
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  • Allyson
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Royal Oak, Michigan
    Oakland University
    9/10
    Sea turtles and so much more!
    12/16/2015

    Be ready...its night time, you've traveled all day just waiting for all the excitement. You're exhausted, hot, nervous and so many other undescribable feelings but most of all you're ready. You suit up in your flashlight, dark clothing, closed toed shoes and head off to the beach! Yes, the beach at night, and even better you're setting out to find sea turtles! You get to the beach, see the beautiful night sky, the crabs scurrying amongst your feet and hear the waves crashing ashore. Costa Rica is more beautiful than you could've ever imagined, and then it gets better. You see your first sea turtle! They're huge, and you're working with them hands on! Taking skin/shell samples, tagging them, counting thier eggs and measuring! Helping these beautiful creatures give birth to so many more! At that moment all your money, stress, time and energy is worth it.

    How could this program be improved?

    The price, it is volunteer work and even if you were going on the two week trip, it's still over $3,000.

    Photos:
    The hike is worth the view!
    Friendships that will last a lifetime!
    Spend the night with sea turtles!
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  • Cara
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Indonesia
    California State University
    9/10
    Home Stay
    12/16/2015

    The most remarkable part of this trip was the home stay for two weeks during the volunteer portion of the trip. My best friend and I went together and stayed with the same family. They became our family. We immersed ourselves in their daily routines. We visited our Tico father at work milking cows on our day off, and on Saturday evening we helped cook the tamales that they sold in the city for extra money. It was an experience we both will always cherish dearly.

    How could this program be improved?

    The volunteer portion could be longer, if participants choose, I think it should be allowed for more than 2 weeks.

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  • Alyssa
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
    10/10
    ISV (Costa Rica)- You gotta go!
    12/15/2015

    I heard about International Student Volunteers (ISV) through the flyers that were hung around my school. When they had the informational meeting, I thought "why not" and popped in to check it out. Their presentation was so intriguing and looked like everything I ever wanted; so I put down the deposit and submitted my application. Fast forward to June, I was anxiously sitting on the airplane not knowing what to expect AT ALL. But my nerves were eased as soon as I landed. (ISV was so helpful and engaging prior and throughout the trip). The program consisted of two parts (the second,the adventure, was optional). The first part was two weeks volunteering in the local community of Provedencia. The host families there adopted us like they're own as soon as they met us. Even though there was a language barrier, the love and hospitality poured from each and every home. The other volunteers were amazing; I know that my two roommates are going to be lifelong friends. Though they worked us hard cementing and farming, we learned so much and the experience it gave us was priceless. Everyone I met was so passionate for the cause. The last two weeks was the adventure part. We traveled around the entire country and did everything from surfing to nature treks to repelling. Again, everyone we met was AMAZING. I always felt safe, yet I wasn't smothered and never felt like I was being treated as if I were a child. I HIGHLY recommend volunteering with ISV.

    How could this program be improved?

    I felt as though the overall price of the trip wasn't accurately disclosed. It came out to be quite a bit more than anticipated; but totally worth it. Just would suggest giving a more accurate estimate of cost.

    Photos:
    The crew in Provedencia
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  • Julie
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    San Diego, California
    California Polytechnic State University- San Luis Obispo
    9/10
    My First Adventure Abroad
    12/15/2015

    Traveling to Costa Rica with ISV was my first time out of the country. Like most people, I was a little nervous about the experience. However, I found that ISV was well-organized and plans everything out for you, including transportation, lodging, and activities. My trip included a week of Spanish classes in Heredia, two weeks of volunteering in the Osa Peninsula, and two weeks of traveling around. Whatever volunteer project you go on will be challenging. For my project, we studied trees in the rain forest, which required hiking for 3-4 hours every day in very high humidity. It was physically demanding, but also rewarding to challenge myself and see what I could accomplish. We stayed with host families in simple accomodations, but that is truly the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of another country. Also, the food cooked by locals is ten times better than anything you will eat at a restaurant! You meet people very quickly in this program, so don't be afraid to go alone; the majority of the people I traveled with didn't know anybody. There were only two disappointments I had with the program that really stuck with me. One was during the Adventure Tour (the two weeks we traveled around the country), we were riding in a bus for 5-6 hours about every 2 days. So, while we got to experience a wide variety of really cool places in Costa Rica, it was also a lot of travel time. Also, be prepared to spend a large sum of money beyond what you pay for the trip. The expense of meals not covered as well as extra optional activities add up and aren't clearly explained in the itinerary. Other than that, I had a fantastic trip and met some really cool people. I would recommend this program to students currently enrolled in college. Take the risk and have an adventure of a lifetime - you won't regret it!

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  • Sara
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Gresham, Oregon
    Portland State University
    10/10
    Life Changing Experience
    12/15/2015

    Costa Rica is an absolutely stunning county, with even more stunningly, nice people. The ISV program was very organized, and jam packed with humbling, once in a life time experiences. My experiences range from seeing monkeys swinging in the trees outside your door, to sliding down slippery muddy hills in the rain forest. The program forced me to learn a lot about myself, as well as learn about the amazing culture of Tikas and Tikos (Costa Ricans). It is an experience that I will always cherish and would not give up for anything.

    How could this program be improved?

    The only thing I would change about the program would be for more integration of the native language, only because I was also there to try to improve my Spanish.

    Photos:
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  • Glejdis
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Ottawa, Ontario
    University of Ottawa
    9/10
    One of the Best and most Picturesque Country
    12/15/2015

    I have been living in two completely different countries throughout my years so far. I have also been lucky to visit quiet a few. But for the first time in my life I felt a total connection with nature, people, and everything else around me. I visited some areas of the tropical rainforest which to me seemed more beautiful than the Swiss Alps with the difference of that of a very warm Summer breeze. The San Pedro community welcomes volunteers in such a way that you can't help but feel part of it and urges you to apply some of that warm welcoming family feeling back home upon the termination of your program. It has taught me so much about sustainability, environment but most importantly to continue pouring a piece of our heart in everything we do. This experience brought out the best in me but it also taught me how to apply it into daily chores in helping our community. Not just a life changing experience, but the kind of experience that everyone should live more than once. It fulfills you in ways one cannot imagine unless experienced.

    How could this program be improved?

    Maybe make it 3 weeks instead, when working hand in hand with the community members time flies. I would have preferred a three week working program instead

    Photos:
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  • Xueting
    Female
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    University of California- Davis
    8/10
    Golfo Dulce is a Sweet Opportunity
    12/15/2015

    For those of you interested in immersing yourself into a Costa Rican jungle, this is a great opportunity for you to spend 2-4 weeks volunteering to gather important data that will help protect valuable natural spaces.

    Photos:
    Mid-day break from tracking dolphins
    Trailblazing
    A trek through the forest
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  • Brandee
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Ames, IA
    Iowa State University
    10/10
    Nancite Sea Turtle Project
    12/15/2015

    Volunteering at Nancite beach in Costa Rica was an incredible experience. I was able to work hands on with the sea turtles as well as help the environment by cleaning the beach. Patrolling the beaches at night was amazing, even though we were sleep deprived. The cause for the project was enough to keep us motivated to keep waking us up for the shifts. It was an unbelievable experience and I learned so much working with the sea turtles and the leaders were very knowledgeable about everything!

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  • Troy
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Ontario, Canada
    McMaster University
    10/10
    Great way to make Connections
    12/15/2015

    It was probably one of the most interesting experiences of my life. Not only did I stay with a host family who was extremely kind and accommodating (even though I couldnt communicate too well as I only speak english). After meaningfully helping the community by building a small parking lot, concrete benches that used eco bricks (bottles that have plastic bags stuffed in them), and helping out on coffee plantations, I got the chance to explore the country, seeing the biggest volcano I the country, ziplining 100 meters above a forest canopy, and rafting to an island populated entirely by iguanas and hermit crabs.

    How could this program be improved?

    Eco bricks suck to make haha

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  • Janet
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Alexandria, VA
    University of Virginia
    10/10
    Costa Rica with ISV
    12/14/2015

    I have absolutely loved traveling abroad with ISV. I have gone abroad a few times before, but never like this. Being in a foreign country, knowing absolutely no one, and knowing nothing about the culture, I was terrified. However, once I met my host family, I knew I would be alright. I scraped by with the little Spanish I knew, and soon met everyone in my group. From the hours and hours of trudging through the rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, swimming in natural pools, and surfing the oceans, I have shared memories with them I know none of us will ever forget. I have met some of the most inspirational people, had wonderful experiences, and I have made friendships that will last me my lifetime.

    How could this program be improved?

    The one thing that I would improve would be the airport pickup system. One I had gotten off of my plane, I met up with some other girls traveling with ISV. We went out side, and saw a woman holding an ISV sign in her hands. Without explaining to us what was going on, she called a cab, and we all got in. The driver dropped us off at each of our host families individually. While I eventually figured out what was going on, I feel that better communication would have allowed us all to feel a little better.

    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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