ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

By ISV   Reviews (72)   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!

Program Info

Location: 
  • Costa Rica
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
Cost: 
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
See Additional Information
Languages: 
Spanish
Application: 
Online Application

Videos

Program Reviews (72)

96%
Positive
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  • Impact
    92%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    93%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    94%
  • 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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  • Ashlie
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Tempe, Arizona
    Arizona State University
    Absolutely Amazing
    11/10/2014

    Once you travel with ISV, you will never want to travel as a 'tourist' again. Spending time with the locals, at their local hangouts and keeping sustainability in mind is an incredible way to travel, and simply going to another country without this local experience is now a major let down. ISV has every detail figured out, so all you have to do is go, work hard, have fun and make a difference. This experience was life changing and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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  • Kelsey
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    Grand Valley State University
    The Unforgettable Adventure
    11/10/2014

    If you love adventure, volunteering, trying new things, or just want a unique way to experience the world while making an impact, ISV is the best program. Not only was it affordable and adventure filled, but you would be amazed at the close bonds created with everyone in your project, the unforgettable sites and tours you are lucky to experience, and the outstanding places you stay at! A trip like this is one in lifetime and I try to explain it and recommend it in my everyday life, because it will never leave my mind, but no words will ever describe this experience! Zip lines down a volcano, a 3 day white water rafting trip, hot springs, surfing, waterfalls, rainforests, wildlife... the list goes on! And the immersion into the Costa Rican culture is a huge plus! ISV has changed my life for good!

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  • Julia
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Austin, Texas
    University of Texas, Austin
    A Memory To Last Forever
    11/10/2014

    The impact that volunteering abroad left on my life was more than I ever expected. ISV did a great job will setting up a project that would have a important impact on the community, and one that you could actually see when the project was completed. The people, including my host family and the other students, will be a great part of my life for years to come.

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  • Melinda
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Montreal, Canada
    Concordia University
    An experience of a lifetime
    11/09/2014

    My experience as an ISV student volunteer is an unforgettable one, I highly recommend anyone to try it out. The volunteering in the community or animal conservation, the exploration, meeting people form around the world is irreplaceable.

    How could this program be improved?

    Make it more affordable, thus accessible.

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  • Amanda
    Age: 25-30
    Female
    Phoenix Arizona
    Arizona State University
    ISV Costa Rica
    11/09/2014

    Participating in the ISV Costa Rica program was the best volunteer opportunity I have ever had. You learn a lot about yourself when your taken out of your comfort zone to volunteer in a foreign country. You'll enjoy making new friends, learning about the local culture and customs and leaving a positive impact on the community. You will however face challenges such as language barrier, mosquitoes and constant rain keeping you indoors when you want to explore. Keeping the above in mind I would recommend this opportunity to anyone who can afford it. Get out there and make a positive impact on the local community and the environment. It will be worth it.

    How could this program be improved?

    Please try and make this more affordable! Go for grants and donations, it never hurts to ask.

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  • Rachel
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Salt Lake City, UT
    University of Utah
    Unforgettable
    11/09/2014

    I would not take back my experiences with ISV for anything. The money is totally worth every penny. I made so many amazing friends and irreplaceable and unforgettable memories. ISV changed my entire outlook on life. I now have a great appreciation for other cultures and especially an appreciation for the community of Ostional, Costa Rica. The Olive Ridley Turtle will always have a special place in my heart because of this trip, as will Costa Rica. I was sad to leave and I hope I get to return one day.

    How could this program be improved?

    The organization was not the best on the pre-trip end. I would have preferred if I had received all of the information more quickly, or at least by the date I was told to expect it.

    Photos:
    Ostional Beach, Costa Rica
    Olive Ridley Turtle during arribada
    The Ostional Beach group making a Leatherback hatchery
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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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