The Leap | turtles + plastic ocean conservation in Costa Rica

Video and Photos

One of my first Olive Ridley sea turtle babies!
La Fortuna waterfall
The unedited sunset in Matapalo
Costa Rica.  Turtle Conservation
Costa Rica. Turtle Conservation
Costa Rica - View of the beach at Matapalu
Costa Rica - View of the beach at Matapalu
Costa Rica: Turtle Conservation
Costa Rica: Turtle Conservation
Costa Rica. Monteverde Cloud Forest
Costa Rica. Monteverde Cloud Forest
Costa Rica. Turtle Conservation
Costa Rica. Turtle Conservation


Your time will be spent on the Nicoya Peninsula where you will contribute to our plastic oceans project which includes turtle, forest and beach conservation and working alongside the local children to help spread the word about the importance of preserving our natural world.

Experience includes:

Turtle Conservation
A stunning stretch of beach famous for sunsets, surf breaks and every June-November, a turtle nesting site. Live in a volunteer house right on the beach and help protect the eggs and hatchlings.

Beach and Forest Conservation at Santa Teresa
Live in the hip beach side town where you will help with forest and beach conservation before teaching about the environment, English and swimming to local kids.

Surfing, Spanish and Adventure Week
Since the surf is amazing we have arranged for you to learn how to navigate the breaks and speak the Spanish, before nipping off to the cloud forest for an adventure week of zip wiring and trekking.

Looking for a January/February Departure?

We still have a few spaces left in our Tanzania, Ecuador, Cambodia and Costa Rica teams heading off in Jan and Feb. Just get in touch for more information.

Questions & Answers


based on 6 reviews
  • Housing 8
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 9
  • Value 7.7
  • Safety 8.5
Showing 1 - 6 of 6
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Leap - Turtle Conservation (3 weeks)

I had my sights set on travelling to Central America this summer and due to my friends having other commitments I found myself organizing a solo trip to Costa Rica. A friend of mine suggested going on an organized trip and she then recommended The Leap having used them in her gap year to go to Tanzania in which she had a great experience teaching and volunteering.

Before flying, the three-week leapers arranged to meet at the airport and we met the rest of the 6-week leapers out there who had arrived a few days before us. We thought it was strange at the time that we didn’t all start the ‘program’ as one group but we realized that no specific program had been planned for either the 3 week or 6 week leap volunteers.

The trip that we had signed up to was entitled ‘Costa Rica Turtles’ but the turtle conserving was very minimal. This element of our trip was brought forward to our second week of the trip when we asked our camp leader about it which also made room for a trip to Monteverde. When at the turtle project there was a lot of free time. It became apparent that project organizsers had been expecting us in the third week of our trip and not the second and therefore volunteering tasks hadn’t been prepared for us. The highlight of our stay here was of course seeing mothering turtles laying their eggs which was extremely special. However on a 3 week turtle conservation trip to Costa Rica, 9 hours of turtle conservation did not match up to the trips description. Another group in our camp had a much more hands on experience as they attended in the third week as planned, having busy days volunteering and even dance classes included.

Furthermore, the leap had described the Spanish lessons as optional, 45 minute extras to our trip should we be interested. However, it became clear these were part of our daily schedule and lasted for an hour and a half each day. Whilst it was great to learn Spanish, it was not the main reason we were there and the trip began to feel like something quite different to what had been sold to us.

The most memorable parts of the trip were the extra activities that we paid for which included a waterfall tour, a day tour on ATVs, a trip to Monteverde and surfing lessons. These varied in price from $45 for the waterfall tour to $160 for the surfing lessons. This added up which became costly especially when the trip was expensive in the first instance. It was lucky that my group had budgeted for these as the trip would have felt empty without them. Before arrived, I was aware that Costa Rica was expensive but I did not anticipate the extra activities to take up most of my budget considering that we were already on an organized trip.

The last week of the trip worked well when we mentioned to our leaders that we wanted to be busy and more involved. Our itinerary then included daily surfing, Spanish and volunteering - it was a shame that the trip did not start of in this vain. The most enjoyable volunteering activity we took part in was the beach clean-up. This was the most efficiently ran exercise and we could see we were making a direct difference to Banana Beach. It was done by a smaller group of volunteers that used at the project meaning that we could get hands on. Meli, Brandon and Edwin were all great leaders and we felt particularly safe and encouraged when working with them. It was a shame that the three week leapers did not get involved in the bridge project that the six week leapers started after our arrival.

Overall I had an amazing time and made some really great friends. I would recommend this trip to gap year/students looking for a chilled out holiday with some volunteering but not as a turtle conservation/volunteering program in the first instance. I would also recommend checking items on the kit list with the leap (i.e mosquito net and sleeping bag) before coming as it was not necessary to have these things.

Response from The Leap

Hi Catrin,

Thank you for your feedback and we are delighted to read you had a great time overall.

I’ve gone through your review with Chris and Meli to get a better understanding and to see how and where we can improve.

Moving forward we will make it clearer that the 3 and 6 week programs are completely different – date, itinerary etc and that the turtle program only includes one week of Turtles.
I am glad that Chris and Meli could change the order of itinerary for you so you could go to Monteverde. Perhaps in the future we don’t change the itinerary to avoid putting pressure on Cirenas. Chris told us that you had extra days of turtles on the other beach?
I am glad you mentioned to Chris that you wanted to be kept busier and that they delivered.
Surfing has never been included in the 3 week program but we have now included it avoid disappointment.
We will highlight the cost of activities in Costa Rica – it is an expensive country, I understand that.
We will make sure the Spanish Teachers highlight that it’s optional at the beginning and the volunteering projects will be busier – Meli is in charge of this role.

Best wishes and many thanks for your constructive feedback - it is so helpful and can only make the program better.


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Yes, I recommend this program

Overall amazing trip but not value for money...

I had a really fantastic time overall but I found I was promised things that weren't delivered... Volunteering and spanish lessons were spaced apart by 1 or 2 hrs so we wasted time hanging around at camp. There were no turtles this time of year, and the animal sanctuary they replaced it with was fine but not what I had signed up to the programme for. Meli Sophie and Pablo were awesome but when they left we had no group leader and volunteering felt half-hearted. It would have made a big difference if we had group leaders that were there for the whole time.
I wasn't told much about the volunteering and I was not expecting to be doing litter-picking and recycling for the majority of days. We taught english to children on friday mornings which was fun and helped my spanish a lot.
The excursions at the weekend were expensive- Isla Tortuga was $60 and the waterfalls trip was $35. I was not expecting to have to pay that much when I had payed over £4,000 already. We also had to pay for the zipline and canopy tour in Monteverde which came to $85... I was surprised this was not included! I don't remember being told this when I booked the trip. Bring plenty of spending money because Teresa is expensive and you will want to do trips at the weekend- for example renting quad bikes was about $60 per quad for 24hrs.
The surf lessons were great and I picked it up really quickly. I only had 4 lessons included and it was $50 per lesson after that which I had not prepared for in my budget. I would recommend buying your own surfboard there if you take to it and avoid going during rainy season as the surf conditions aren't ideal.
Santa Teresa has a great vibe and nightlife, and the locals are friendly! I really would recommend Jakera. I think it was the people and location that made the trip. It felt like home and after 2 months I was so sad to leave.
A big thank you to the staff as well they were fantastic. When I brought up issues they were quickly resolved and compensated for. I felt like the staff at Jakera would do anything to make your experience better, and the issue was more the Leap not giving the right information about the programme. My biggest complaint is that I expected more for the amount of money I payed. I think the agency fees are excessive- for example If you book directly with Jakera it is 2 weeks shorter but you save about £500 and you have 8 yoga lessons included.
The leap were however very helpful when I booked the trip and answered all my questions.. booking was super easy and I felt very supported during the trip. So I suppose this is the extra you're paying for and if it's your first time travelling and money is not an issue then you might find this helpful.

What would you improve about this program?
I would like more activities to be included and for them to be organised more efficiently. I found myself bored on multiple occasions which just led me to spend more money. I was hoping to not have to think about entertaining myself- I expected to be super busy the whole day.
Response from The Leap

Hi Grace,

Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback on our program in Costa Rica, which we will discuss with our partners In Costa Rica.

Just a couple of thoughts that I would love to discuss further with you…

• With regard the cost issue - our program in Costa Rica is different from what is available through Jakera, especially when it comes to the project mix and back up - so very hard to compare the prices. Moving forward however, we will endeavour to do a better job in our program details and make sure they get read.

• Feedback about there being not enough to do – there is so much to do which I experienced first-hand when I was there with you, it's just a matter of saying yes to all the opportunities Jakera arrange. It was a shame you missed seeing the turtles hatching and helping with the community surf afternoon. You would have loved those experiences. Moving forward I will ask the team to not give anyone the option of attending. With regard to the animal verses the turtle sanctuary. I know this was a joint decision by everyone to head to the animal sanctuary instead. I am sorry you didn't like it. In future we can discuss not giving everyone a choice and always sticking with plan A.

• I am sorry that you didn't expect to do so much with the recycling project. This project is a huge part of what we do in Costa Rica - keeping the beaches clean directly helps with the turtle conservation and plastic ocean commitment we support. Moving forward I will ask Chris and his team to better explain the big picture with the community plastic oceans commitment.

• Lastly - Costa Rica is indeed an expensive country and despite us describing this in the program details, the reality still can come as a shock, we will do better at highlighting this in the future.

Overall, I am pleased you had a great time and appreciated the team element, flexibility and level of support on the ground - giving you the confidence to then head off to Cuba. I hope you had a good time there.

Have a lovely summer,

Yes, I recommend this program

Great fun

(If you want to receive £100 off your trip use the code 39733 in your booking form)
My brother and I went to Costa Rica in July and had a great time. The house we stayed in was really nice and all the staff working there were extremely helpful. I would 100% recommend this trip. Upon arrival we were greeted in a lovely hotel by a boy named Marco who was our « guide » during the trip, we then travelled to the house in Puntarenas which took about 6 hours. We personally stayed for 3 weeks and did lots of activities, the only sad thing was that we were looking forward to turtle conservation, however July was not to right time to visit because it is not hatching season. I will definitely be going back in October at some point to help with turtle hatching.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of is perhaps slightly more efficient transport.
Yes, I recommend this program

Turtles Changed My Life

One of my favorite memories from my trip to Costa Rica was the first time I released a baby turtle into the ocean. I was immediately lucky because most baby turtles crawl out of their nests in the dead of night, so you don't get to enjoy the sight of seeing them walk to the water when it's so dark out. When I saw my first baby turtle it was just before the sun went down, so it was still incredibly bright out! Watching all the babies push their little flippers against the sand as they fight to get to the water is something else. They are so excited to be alive! It's something so wonderfully inspiring that I will always remember.

Later when I got back to camp after all the babies were swimming away, one of my new Costa Rican friends asked me if I was a mom yet. I knew what he meant right away and proudly exclaimed, "Why yes I am!" I'm a big fan of Game Of Thrones, so now I feel at one with the "Mother of Dragons" herself, Daenerys Targaryen - now I am the "Mother of Turtles."

What would you improve about this program?
My only recommendation would be for our time spent in Monteverde. I would have liked to have done more conservation work in the reserve to help maintain the forest. The most we did there was rake trails. I definitely would have hoped to have been more involved.
Response from The Leap

Hi Madison,

Thank you for your feedback - really useful. We could change the phases around or perhaps spend more time at the coast? With hindsight are you pleased you went to both places to experience the variety, see more of the country?

We will ask the others and look at the itinerary.

Many thanks


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Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience

This trip has left me with a group of life long friends from around the world, experiences that have plus will affect me forever, and skills to help me through life. Everyday was a new adventure, from building hatcheries for turtle eggs to teaching English at a local school to playing volleyball with the Costa Rican Cost Guard to hearing stories from past poachers to watching a turtle lay eggs to have a sing-a-long with the group. I would highly recommend this trip.

What would you improve about this program?
If I could change one thing at the time of my trip, it would be the food. At the time of my trip eating rice and beans for every meal after a month got repetitive. However, looking back it was eating that rice and beans everyday that helped form some of the best memories and friendships from my trip. So I speaking from hindsight I would not change it.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My experience in Costa Rica

Every day was a new adventure! seeing waterfalls, surfing, milking cows, living with locals and saving turtles, hot weather, rainforests, exotic animals, friendly team members were the highlights for me!

What would you improve about this program?
To stay longer than 10 months.


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The Leap has been leading the field in planet saving gap year experiences and career enhancing internships since 2000, providing award winning programs across Africa, Asia and South America. They are the first UK company to be accredited by the Gap...