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The Most Popular Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Beach

The country of Costa Rica is an ideal destination for anyone interested in volunteering abroad or perfecting their Spanish speaking skills: volunteer projects in Costa Rica range from teaching English to many conservation projects, as almost 25% of the land consists of protected national parks. From the tropical beaches of Jaco to the volcanic hot springs of Heredia, no other country in the world is as devoted to the preservation of their land and natural resources as Costa Rica is. It comes as no surprise that there are a multitude of volunteer projects in Costa Rica, and so if you’re looking to spend time protecting this beautiful Central American country, your opportunities are almost endless. Where else can you harvest coffee beans, save turtles, and zip line through the jungle all in the same day?

Costa Ricans know that tourists flock to their country to marvel at the beautiful beaches, jungles, and volcanoes. They also understand that is their own responsibility to protect these unique landscapes; you can help the locals by preserving the natural beauty of their country when volunteering in Costa Rica. Whether you choose to harvest local produce, explore underground caves, rehabilitate animals, or plant flora in an exclusive greenhouse, be sure to make a positive impact on Costa Rica’s environment.

Suggested Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

Now, there’s absolutely no pressure at all to go all out by picking one program and spending 3+ months there. Instead, you should feel free to test the waters to see if conservation projects are for you, and if you can’t decide on one program, consider partaking in multiple short-term projects. Though there are plenty to choose from, here are the 4 most popular volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica.

Rescue Costa Rican Wildlife
Costa Rican wildlife rescue

If you have a soft spot for animals and are ready for some hard work, this is the opportunity for you. Whether affected by loss of habitat, repossession, or injury, the Wildlife and Rescue Centers in Costa Rica exist to put various creatures back on their feet – literally! Available assignments include anything from cleaning cages, to feeding the animals, maintaining paths and roads, or developing social programs to increase awareness for Costa Rican wildlife.

One project, lead by Volunteering Solutions, allows you to work directly with endangered and mistreated animals. Programs range anywhere from one to eight weeks, and if you love it enough, you can even extend your stay.

Costa Rica's sea turtles are in danger! Jakera offers a language immersion and volunteer program that focuses on sea turtle conservation. You’ll spend your time conducting field work and practicing your Spanish skills.

Help Rural Families in the Central Highlands
Central Highlands Coffee Farm

Coffee lovers, this opportunity is for you! If you’re passionate about the environment, and are interested in seeing how a “cup of Joe” is produced from start to finish, you’ve come to the right place. Approximately one fifth of Costa Rica’s GNP comes from coffee production alone, so your time spent on a plantation will not go to waste.

Depending on the time of year, your help will be needed in any of the following areas: marketing, harvesting, roasting, packaging, cropping fruits, and aiding in reforestation.

If you choose to volunteer with IVHQ, you will live with a host family whose home resides on a nearby plantation. After a two-day orientation in San Jose, you’ll be paired with a local community to assist in coffee production operations. You’re welcome to stay anywhere from 7 days to 6 months; the longer you stay, the larger range of tasks you’ll be able to accomplish.

Explore Underground Caves at Barra Honda National Park
The Caves at Barra Honda National Park

Not afraid of bats or small spaces? Then your help is needed at one of Costa Rica’s most unique National Parks. Barra Honda is in the western region of Costa Rica and is home to 42 individual limestone caves. With so many caves in the park, the staff is unable to study each of them on a daily basis.

This is where you come in; if you’re up to the challenge, project coordinators welcome extra help to study the bat population within the underground caves. If you prefer to stay above ground, you can always help by translating brochures, working at the welcome center, or even mapping new trails.

The Projects Abroad program at Barra Honda provides a wide range of available projects that include taking night walks, aiding with wildlife inventories, taking a mammal census, and investigating unexplored caverns. This program includes on-the-ground support, accommodation, food, airport pickup and drop off, travel insurance, and medical insurance.

Work in a Private Eco-Reserve in the Rainforest
Eco Reserve in Costa Rica Rainforest

If you’re looking to utilize your green thumb or love for nature’s furry friends, then consider volunteering in a remote eco-reserve in the Costa Rican rainforest. After virtually meeting the animals, you won’t be able to resist hopping on a flight to give them some love.

If plants are more of your thing, then you can help in the greenhouse, while those who prefer spider monkeys and peccaries can assist in the animal rescue center. If you’re willing to do more exploration, you can always help maintain the trails, build new habitats for the animals, or assist with community outreach projects in the area.

Known for promoting environmental consciousness, Greenheart Travel manages an exclusive Eco-Reserve and Animal Rescue Center in Northern Costa Rica. Stay anywhere from one to twelve weeks and try not to get too attached to the cute critters.

If you’re already studying, volunteering, interning, teaching, or taking a gap year abroad in Costa Rica, these programs are all great ways to give back to the country. The additional benefit to partaking in one of these volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica is the opportunity to see the country not as a tourist staying in a luxury resort, but to challenge yourself by getting your hands dirty on a volunteer project helping to keep Costa Rica beautiful! iPura vida!

Where else can you harvest coffee beans, save turtles, and zip line through the jungle all in the same day?

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Photo Credits: Eye - the world through my I, Rainsong Sanctuary Photo Gallery's photostream, Catandrea, CRMarket, and Greenheart Travel/CCI.
Dana Goble

After growing up in the Great Lakes state, Dana decided to embark on a more exciting journey by attending college in Indiana, studying abroad in Mexico, volunteering abroad in Chile, and working abroad in Peru. She now resides in Chicago, and is seeking out new adventures daily. You can follow Dana on twitter at @danagoble and Google+.