ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

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Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

About

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!

Related Programs

Questions & Answers

I don't believe you can scuba dive. You can however snorkel, in fact they take you to a small fishing village in which you can snore at with beautiful corals.

Reviews

97%
based on 141 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 16 - 30 of 141
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Shaquilla
9/10

Amazing, Life Changing Experience

This trip was amazing. The people in Costa Rica are so helpful and open to new people learning about their culture and how to speak Spanish. I remember when we went to the Waterfall Gardens and our guide stayed with me the entire time and helped me learn the animals' names in Spanish. It made learning Spanish fun and interactive and has greatly increased my respect for culture in other places. I would definitely visit this beautiful, nature-rich country again.

How can this program be improved?
A better calculation of costs would be beneficial. It was frustrating that we ended up spending a lot more than we thought we would have to.
Yes, I recommend
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Kelsey
9/10

Ostional, Costa Rica Volunteer Sea Turtle Project

When I was in Ostional, Costa Rica, I had an amazing experience being able to help work with the sea turtles. Not only was I able to make a difference, but I got to interact with other volunteers, employees of the wildlife refuge, and the locals. Along with all of these positive experiences I had, my favorite was being able to witness a small arribada of 3,100 nesting sea turtles. I will never forget my experience with ISV.

How can this program be improved?
ISV could improve their program by having less unexpected costs.
Yes, I recommend
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Colton
8/10

ISV Costa Rica: Nancite

The first optional week was amazing. I would go to that school all over again. My host family was really nice, the food was great, and I totally fell in love with Heredia. If you like coffee, go to Cafe Armania up the street from Intercultura.
I volunteered in Nancite with the sea turtles. Let me warn you, the living conditions are quite rough. It's hot and humid, there are A LOT of mosquitoes, the beds are pretty horrible, and if you're not physically fit, you will have a hard time even making it there since you have to hike over a steep mountain. However, I took it as a personal challenge and was proud I made it through. Also, it felt really good to help the turtles, and they were amazing. I completely loved my Project Leader, Florence.
The last two weeks were unforgettable. I made really close friends and the activities were exhilarating. The only damper was the Tour Leader, who was pretty offensive and condescending towards the volunteers. I only heard worse things about the other Tour Leaders as well. Still, it is relatively easy to avoid them and have a great time.
Also, the packing list contained contradictions and could have been more helpful.

How can this program be improved?
Work with the Tour Leaders to be more appropriate and pay more attention to the packing lists and what the volunteers will actually need.
Yes, I recommend
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Jennie
10/10

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica is a beautiful country who's motto is Pura Vida (Pure Life) and I truly got to experience just exactly what that means. ISV provided me the opportunity of a lifetime and memories I will cherish forever. My favorite memory from the trip was one day on our sea turtle volunteer project in Osa. It was the end of the day and we were pulling in the nets and right as we got to the end we caught a juvenile Hawksbill sea turtle. We brought her into the boat and happened to see some dolphins in the distance so we headed over towards them to check them out. There were three dolphins who were so playful and came right up to our boats. It was truly magical to experience these beautiful creatures play in their natural habitat. I highly highly recommend doing any ISV program!

How can this program be improved?
I would've liked a better breakdown of the spending money we needed to bring. Also some of the items on the packing list were irrelevant and just extra weight to carry around.
Yes, I recommend
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Jessica
10/10

Projecto Carey

If you decide to do the volunteer program plus the travel portion, you'll spend the second two weeks thinking about how after all the sweat, dirt, and bug bites, you still don't feel like you contributed enough to a country that's giving so much back to you. I swam in volcanically heated springs, surfed the pacific coast, and hiked through the rainforest to cliff jump into hidden waterfalls... Yet when I look back, the best time I had was working for the community we got to live with. There is nothing I can say here that will do justice to my experience but I can say that after a year of college, I learned more in the month I spent in Costa Rica about hard work, appreciation, and living and loving purely. I've never met a more yu inviting people willing to share their way.

How can this program be improved?
Improved flight cost deals
Yes, I recommend
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Samantha
9/10

The Best Two Weeks of My Life

During my two weeks in Ostional, Costa Rica I made some of the most amazing memories and experiences I have ever had. We stayed in the most welcoming host families, which forced us to be completely immersed in Costa Rican lifestyle. We ate a traditional meal of rice and beans for most meals, and there was no air conditioning which made things uncomfortable at times. Because you and these other volunteers are thrown into this together, you al become very close very fast and it made it SO much easier and a thousand times more fun. Our main work was at night doing patrols on the beach for turtles. Ostional is the second largest arribada (mass nesting event) in the world (only 9 total). The first night of patrol was not fun, it was a lot of walking and we didn't see any turtles. But my new friends and I encouraged each other to keep each other's spirits up and the next few nights of patrol continued to get easier. Each night after that we saw anywhere from 1-10 turtles. Finally on the second to last night we got to witness an arribada, in which 3100 olive ridley sea turtles all came up on the beach the same night! It was one of the most incredible experiences I could have ever imagined. On our days off we got to go to near by "touristy" beaches and spend time on the beach and shop for souvenirs for our families and friends. All in all, this experience was a once in a life time opportunity and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Any student who is considering taking this trip should go for it, because it is incredible.

How can this program be improved?
I think flight costs should be included, because it is hard to recognize what the total cost of the program was going towards because a lot of what we were doing did not seem to cost over $3,000 per person
Yes, I recommend
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Patricia
10/10

ISV Nancite Volunteer Experience

My trip with ISV changed my life in so many ways. I was assigned to the Nancite sea turtle project, which meant I worked to tag turtles and count their eggs. The volunteer experience itself was amazing; the host organization was welcoming and really worked to educate all the volunteers. I learned so many new concepts, not only about sea turtles but also the state of our environment in general. The adventure tour was also an incredible experience. We got to see so much of Costa Rica, all while doing fun activities like rafting and zip-lining. ISV really opened my eyes to the world around me and how I can preserve it. I left with a new found appreciation for different cultures and their influence.

How can this program be improved?
Other than better communication within the pre-departure e-mails, I cannot see how this program can be improved.
Yes, I recommend
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Hali
10/10

ISV

During my time in Costa Rica my group participated in so many crazy activities. We went white water rafting, surfing, kyaking, swimming in hot springs, tubing down rapids, horseback riding, and more. However, my favorite was a zip lining and repelling excursion we did that ended at the home of an indigenous tribe of Costa Rica, the Maleku people. The first part of the trip was 6 zip lines that brought us to a waterfall. We repelled down the side of the waterfall 285 feet. Then we had to climb back up on a 200 foot cable ladder. After we did 5 more zip lines that landed us right at the Maleku peoples' home. They had set up shop for us, given us a religious presentation indicitive of their culture, and welcomed us. They displayed artwork that we could buy from them to help support their community. Every second was amazing. I will certainly be back.

How can this program be improved?
No changes needed!
Yes, I recommend
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Emily
10/10

International Student Volunteers changed my life

It is very difficult to pick just one moment from my trip because this experience was truly a dream. I had the opportunity to push myself physically and mentally which allowed me to progress as an overall person in my journey through life which I am so thankful for. After the first 2 weeks of the volunteer program was over, we continued on to the adventure tour where we explored Costa Rica and all it has to offer. The first few days of the adventure really stuck out to me because of the fact that we jumped right into a 3 day white water rafting trip, which i had never done before. With our guides being members of the Brazilian rafting team, the leadership was very strong. However, they didn't speak very much english. This, although it was an obstacle, forced us to really come together as a team and communicate with each other during all times since we were riding through class III and IV rapids; pretty intense! The rain started to come down pretty hard about half way through the trip on the first day. Since our lodge was only accessible by raft due to the fact that it was built into the side of the mountain in the middle of the rainforest on the Pacuare River, we had to persevere and continue on until we reached our final destination. Once we arrived, my team and I climbed 850 steps through the jungle to the top of the mountain where we found infinite pastures that presented such immense depth of the forest, I was at a loss for words. The views that met my eyes were absolutely breathtaking, i can assure you they will forever be ingrained in my mind. Not to mention, on the third day the guides allowed us to jump out of the rafts to swim down a safe portion of the river. The water was aqua blue and very refreshing. These 3 days of white water rafting taught me how important team work was and showed me how beautiful the land of Costa Rica truly is.

How can this program be improved?
The program really didn't need to much improvement. If anything, maybe a more thorough description of how intense some of the activities really are because I noticed some people were struggling more than others during certain activities which required a good amount of physical strength and stamina.
Yes, I recommend
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Shannon
10/10

The trip that'll change your life!

I heard about volunteering abroad through ISV from a student that came into my class and just explained her experience. I love traveling so the second I heard her talk about the opportunities ISV had to offer, I knew my mind was set and I had to go. I have traveled before with groups so I had some experience with traveling like this before I came, but this trip was nothing like my previous ones. Going to Costa Rica and living in a community environment was refreshing. We woke up early, showered with cold water, slept in bunk beds, was drenched in sweat every second of every day and so on, and I would 100% choose to do this again then stay at a 5 star resort that had AC. Not only was volunteering with sea turtles and planting mangroves absolutely rewarding, but there comes an extra appreciation for the Costa Rican culture when you are living among families that live like this on a daily basis.

The first two weeks of volunteering was incredible; it changed my values, how I view the world, made me realize how much I impact the world every day, and allowed me to build friendships with people I would have never met otherwise. I also chose to do the two week adventure tour, and it was nothing less than amazing. You change places every two or three days so you get to experience as much of Costa Rica as you can in only two weeks while doing incredible activities along the way such as: white water rafting, zip lining, rappelling down a waterfall, watching an indigenous tribe give a presentation, surfing, and so much more. This trip was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and I wouldn't change a single thing about it!

Yes, I recommend
Alexis
10/10

Summer well spent

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Sarah
10/10

Volunteered (and so much more!) in Costa Rica

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 can 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.
Yes, I recommend
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Michelle
10/10

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Jacque
10/10

Life-Changing Experience!!

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Kelsey
10/10

ISV Costa Rica

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 can 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.
Yes, I recommend

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About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

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.

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