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!

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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 46 - 60 of 141
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Emilie
10/10

Great overall experience

Meeting people of your little home town in the same country at the other end of the continent is a feeling you cant explain. Almost like it was meant to be, that two people are there at the same time, just by councidence!? I dont think so.

How can this program be improved?
People shouldnt pay so much to volunteer. After all, they are giving their time and they have to pay to do it.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Mary
9/10

The Summer my Life Began

A famous Chinese Philosopher once said "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." This is the quote I chose to perfectly reflect my experience with ISV. What was it that made ISV my first single step on my journey of life? Was it the dancing and cooking lessons I took while being immersed in the culture of Heredia? No. Was it the people that helped me climb over the mountains to our cabin in the middle of the most beautiful national park? No. Was it the scenery that was so indescribable that halfway through the trip I stopped taking pictures because they just weren't doing the place justice? No. Or was it the knowledge I gain from our project leaders and the hands on experience with my favorite animal, Sea Turtles? Again, no. This trip was my single step on my journey of life because it inspired me to keep doing good. For the rest of the summer I continued my hard work and dedication in my own local community and volunteered with a non-profit organization. I am proud to be one of the thousands of "active and global citizens" that ISV is inspiring every year.

How can this program be improved?
The price. Volunteering is a big part of my life and when I heard of this opportunity the only thing that held me back was the cost. I was able to fund raise for most of my trip, but once in my host country there were many other hidden costs that weren't mentioned before hand.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jared
10/10

Wonderful people and places, authentic cultural immersion

My goal was to strip away my sense of comfortability and immerse into a new culture/language and meet new people in an exciting place. This all happened and more. Not only did I get embraced wholeheartedly by an entire village, I got to leave behind helpful structures for the community and take with me experiences that put faith back into humanity in my mind. On top of all the immersion and wonderful aspects of being fully accepted into a host family and community, being able to explore practically all of Costa Rica's wonderful destinations was a gigantic bonus.

If you want something new and exciting to spark your life, this trip will put you around good, like-minded people and might even guide your next step on your journey like mine. Hands down, experience of a life time.

How can this program be improved?
Cost. Although it was more than worth it, it was expensive.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Teresa
10/10

The 'Tican Experience

Our second to last night in Ostional our Mama 'Tica and I were discussing her life and participation in the ISV program. She told how grateful she was to actually have someone take the time to ask her about her life. Most of her time with previous volunteers was made up of signing rather than actual conversation. There was usually very little to no discussion between them from the day they arrived to the day they left. Not too many volunteers put much effort in conversation. Never knowing much about them she was always nervous about helping them enjoy their trip. This time around she was so happy to hear it rather than interpret it. I gave her a hug and thanked her for everything. The next day was just so busy that we didn't see her when we prepped for bed. We woke up extremely early. Thinking that I missed my chance to say goodbye the night prior I got my luggage together only to find that she had slept on the couch just so she wouldn't miss us. I couldn't help but smile. Never will I forget her hospitality. Forever she'll stay just as a mother, my Mama 'Tica.

How can this program be improved?
I'm not quite sure what could have made the experience any better. In all honesty I am not sure I could have had a better time aside from someone having paid the trip for me.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Autumn
10/10

Pura Vida

Going to Costa Rica with ISV was incredible. The language immersion was so much fun. I loved staying with a host family and being immersed in the culture. I spent time in the Osa Peninsula counting dolphins and time in the rain forest counting poison dart frogs. The adventure tour was amazing, we had so much fun. We did a variety of activities from zip lining to white water rafting. The program was incredible, so rewarding. I would recommend traveling through ISV to anyone interested in international volunteering.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Arianne
10/10

ISV is for YOU!

The summer after my sophomore year in college I was looking to travel. I found ISV by chance and am so glad I did!! I was able to travel and do something good at the same time. My project was working with sea turtles. This experience was a life changing!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jessica
10/10

Better than a Holiday

Absolutely amazing program if you want the relaxed environment of a beach vacation combined with the ability to make a real impact! Great food, friendly people, beautiful scenery, and the ability to work up close with wild life!

How can this program be improved?
It would be nice to provide more educational prep material to get ready for volunteer portion.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Oliver
10/10

Impact Your World

I'm about to get real right now. Everything I'm going to say will sound cliché, but you have to trust me that this isn't just any travel program. I've been on travel programs. This is so much more.

I have never felt so at peace with myself and my surrounding environment as I did during this trip. At no point did I feel like what I was doing was work. Sure, it was tedious carrying wheelbarrows of concrete up and down hills to construct a sidewalk. Yes, it was difficult at times to shovel five tons of pungent fertilizer into the back of a truck. Regardless of the strenuous jobs we completed, though, I spent every second of every day feeling like I belonged there, like I was doing something so meaningful that happiness was the only emotion available to experience.

ISV's slogan is "Impact Your World." I thought this meant I was impacting the world through my work with ISV. While this is very much true, I now realize that ISV impacted my world as well.

Here's a joke for you: an American, an Englishman, a Manx, a Scot, and a Canadian travel to a foreign country and realize that borders are invisible, we're all human and we can and should work together for the benefit of our planet. Alright, so it isn't a joke; this describes my ISV trip. I now have true friends all over the world because I spent one month alongside them laughing, crying, thinking, reflecting, and learning. I truly wish every person on Earth could experience what I did. I know that anyone who travels with ISV will.

How can this program be improved?
I literally can't think of one thing I would change about this program. I had the time of my life.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Aithne
10/10

Working close and personal with endangered sea turtles every day!

This trip really took you into the wilderness - living on the beach by dense rainforest, taking a boat to work every morning and handling both green and hawksbill sea turtles every day! This trip really makes a difference in conservation, and the people you meet in Costa Rica are all amazing!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Mckenzie
9/10

Proyecto Carey 2015

This trip was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life. The good parts were that almost every single person I met was friendly, and there was a good support system. Our group leader, Pablo Riba, you could tell he cared about us. It was all over 18, so we had a lot of freedom which was nice. I wasn't 100% sure what we would be doing in terms of conservation work, but I guess I didn't care. Until I got there, and I realized it wasn't very fun field work. Which was okay! I didn't sign up for a vacation in a luxurious suite. It was hard work. By the end of my work for the day I was drenched in sweat and humidity, covered in red mud and bug bites, and absolutely exhausted. I wasn't exactly prepared for it, but I got through it. I guess the one part of the trip I didn't really like was the lack of food. I don't need all that much to keep me going, but I can honestly say we were not fed enough. 3 meals a day, 6 hours apart each and with no snacks in between. There was a shop inside someone's house in our village that we could buy some cold drinks and chips or candy from, but it was tiny, and the supplies were limited and if the man was asleep you couldn't get anything. The closest actual store was two hours on foot, or you could pay the same guy who owned the little shop to him have take you by boat, if he wasn't busy and there were enough people going. I was hungry most of the time. If I would have known it was going to be like that I would have stocked up on snacks in my luggage. My host family was very very sweet and the mom cooked for us the best she possibly could with what she had, but the problem was that she didn't have a refrigerator that works properly. ISV should spend more of the money they get from "volunteers" on getting the host families everything they need for hosting the volunteers that ARE PAYING to stay there.

Response from ISV (International Student Volunteers)

Dear Mckenzie,
Thank you for your review and comments as we thoughtfully review all feedback. We were glad to read that the trip was memorable for you – that the people you met were friendly, there was a good support system, your group leader, Pablo Riba, was caring, you had a nice amount of freedom, and that your host family was very sweet.

We were sorry to read that you were not fully satisfied with your personal experience with ISV on Proyecto Carey. We were also very surprised to see anyone at Carey say that they were not fed enough We have reviewed the evaluations from your group again, as well as those from more than 50 ISV participants on this project throughout the summer 2015 season, and almost everyone rated the meals 5/5 with comments about how amazing the food was, as well as praise for the cook(s). In fact, two people in your group commented that there was lots or even “too much” food, and the Project Leader commented that your group had a real appreciation for the food provided by the cooks. There were no notes in our records about any personal limitations such as food allergies or dietary restrictions, though I know others have commented about the host family cooks at Carey being very accommodating for certain preferences and restrictions. I encourage you to contact us directly to let us know what the issues were in this regard, so that we can be aware of what went wrong and address any problem areas.

As anyone who has done an ISV Program in Costa Rica can attest, rice and beans are a major component of the local diet, and are usually accompanied by a variety of meat, vegetables, eggs, cheese, fruit, bread, etc. And while some (like me) cannot get enough of Costa Rican rice and beans, some find it a little repetitive. However, I have personally not experienced nor heard a complaint of a shortage of food on an ISV Program here. As for the fridge being a limiting factor, we will speak to our project hosts at Carey to ensure all is in order.

Your ISV Project Leader did also remark that the weather had been very warm while your group was there, which made some of the hiking more tiring, and that there had been some complaints about the demanding nature of the tasks as a result. Like all ISV projects, the tasks at Carey can be moderately strenuous, and that can be exacerbated by conditions like high heat and humidity, heavy rain and so on. We do try to mentally prepare all participants for these conditions in the project information we provide between 90 and 30 days prior to your departure, as well as during the on-site orientation. We also clearly state that no one will be asked or expected to carry out a task that is too strenuous or beyond their ability. If this was not made clear to you then we apologize.

All ISV projects around the world involve hands-on tasks that truly contribute positive outcomes to the host community and local environment. The efforts of ISV volunteers at Carey over the years have assisted researchers in learning more about the amazing wildlife/tree interactions in that rainforest and how best to protect and manage this threatened ecosystem. One of the most common comments we read from our participants on any project is that the volunteer work can be hard, challenging and unlike anything they have done, but also incredibly rewarding, inspiring and totally worth it. Thank you Mckensie for sharing your experience and making a positive contribution to sustainable development in Costa Rica.

Deanna Mathewson, ISV International Education Director

No, I don't recommend this program
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Jaclyn
10/10

Costa Rica Los Santos 2015 Review

This trip was the best trip of my life. I made friends from all over the world and plan to visit them in the near future. Every day my 3 best friends and I walked long hikes up the road. We saw some near by kids playing a game of soccer so we asked if we could join. Three hours later it started to get dark and we were still having a blast and didn't want to leave. Of course, I had a sunburn all over my body and should of gone inside hours earlier, but it was so much fun I didn't want to stop. It was a moment I'll never forget, playing with the young children and my friends until the sun started to set.

How can this program be improved?
It costed too much money and not enough went to the host families. We talked to our host families and they only received a very small portion of what we paid which was thousands of dollars. We were all under the impression it was so much because the families housed us for two weeks and supplied food, electricity, water, plumbing, etc. I wouldn't mind paying that much next time if I knew it was going to the families and not ISV itself.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Nishani
10/10

The Other Side of the World

Being at Costa Rica was a life changing moment. From the moment I got there to the very end was a learning experience. For the fist time I saw some great animals, helped saved a rainforest, and was living with excitement and thrill everyday. Trailing up the red mountains, waking up to the Pacific ocean, and living with a family that had different values than mine. One of the most memorable part was when a woman was about to give labour, but could not get to the hospital that night because it was dark and the boat couldn't get to town. We stayed up helping her. This experience helped me realized how loving, passionate, supportive and cultural the community in the Osa Peninsula island was. Really miss my family there right now.

How can this program be improved?
More opportunities to leave the village, and look around the other towns.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Riley
9/10

ISV COSTA RICA

Traveling through Costa Rica offered an insight into a whole different world. The ISV program got up close and personal with the locals so us students really had the chance to interact. While with a guide/ISV rep most of the day, nights and afternoon were full of freedom to take a bus somewhere else, go to the beach, hangout at the bars, take surf lessons, and do SO much more. Samara Beach was our last stop and we made it the most fun filled and wild days! Surf lessons, ocean kayaking, plenty of guacamole breaks, then hanging at the clubs with the locals or other tourists at night. Traveling in a group allowed you to go outside your comfort zone at first to get to know everyone and then have that comfort to fall back on as you explore new places and meet even more people in stops along the way during the trip. While an experienced traveler and backpacker may feel like this program is too coordinated, for someone who is traveling abroad for the first time and just needs a tiny but of support when you're there, it's great. It was perfect for me at the time to help me find the confidence in myself to take on a foreign country alone and I cannot be more thankful for that.

How can this program be improved?
Giving overviews of the country is amazing but our tour guide talked the entire bus ride everywhere we went. Information on the country is (of course) desired but it is hard to enjoy the beauty and learn the basics when every ounce of information possible is being shared during every bus ride.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sarah
10/10

Host Family Is Now Family

During my time in Costa Rica, I was hosted by a local family in a very small, rural, mountain community. The language barrier was very evident, as I didn't speak much Spanish and they hardly knew an English. However, during my two weeks of living with this family and learning their traditions and quirks, I was opened up to a whole new world of communication that didn't necessarily include verbal language. We spoke by gestures and motions in order to understand each other. This was the most unique position ive even been put in; to adapt to a completely different culture with must verbal communication. It was absolutely amazing and challenging. By the end of the trip, when I had to leave them, there was no language barrier needed to interpret tears. We all wept because it was understood, without any words, how much we would all miss each other. That was the most rewarding and impactful part of it all. I now have a new family in a different country that I know cares about me, as I do them.

How can this program be improved?
With every group project, there can be some disorganization. As with this one, some of the tasks took longer that they could have due to miscommunications between project leaders and host organizations. However, this is all part of adapting and learning to work as a team.
Yes, I recommend this program
Julya
10/10

Volunteering in an ecology project

This trip completely changed my life and life perspective. I got to life in a completely different cultural community (a small, 6 family village off the coast of the Osa Peninsula) and work hands on in the rainforest. I was entirely immersed in the huge amount of biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer and I would give anything to go back and do it again. It made me change my major to ecology so I'll be able to make a difference in deforested areas and better understand the interactions that occur in this environment.

How can this program be improved?
Price was a bit much.
Yes, I recommend this program

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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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