ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

Video and Photos

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 106 - 120 of 141
Default avatar
Molly
10/10

BEST experience of my life

Going to Costa Rice with ISV was one of the best experiences of my life. I will never forget the amazing people I met during my trip. The volunteer part is so rewarding. You get to experience a whole different culture. I also really enjoyed the adventure tour. You get to experience all of what Costa Rica has to offer. I made friends and have memories I will always carry with me for the rest of my life!!

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Bita
10/10

Costa Rica Conservation and Adventures

The first half of the trip was pretty tough but such an awesome and special experience. We'd trek the forest for hours at a time, recording fruit and fauna data. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I'll forever cherish. There were some risky moments during the trip but that's what happens when you go to some pretty neat places! Examples: white water rafting and rappelling! Loved it so much. Thanks!

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps have emergency help phone lines or something that would be useful if we're somewhere where people don't speak our language and/or we're in a perilous situation. You never know!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Martina
10/10

..Pura Vida!

Volunteering with ISV in Costa Rica has definitely been the adventure of a lifetime. I got to live in the rainforest for two weeks, and my perspective on life has totally changed. I have learnt to appreciate all the small things in life I used to take for granted, like being able to have a hot shower, flush the toilet after use, or even drinking tap water without having to treat it beforehand. We were treated like family, and experienced Costa Rican culture in all of its aspects, 100%. EVERYTHING there is so beautiful, so extreme, so awesome that it's almost unbelievable. I have witnessed the most amazing sunsets, seen breathtaking scenery, and felt like I was living in a postcard. We got to see monkeys, toucans, macaos and gorgeous butterflies on a daily basis; roosters and howler monkey were our alarm in the morning. We faced bugs, giant spiders, huge crabs, bats and even snakes, learning that a boa, here, is JUST a boa. Pineapples there are way more delicious than the ones I get at home, and that there are at least a dozen fruits whose existence I completely ignored. We had mud fights, got covered in dirt, and then jumped in the ocean with all of our clothes on. We jumped from rocks and climbed waterfalls, had the time of our life playing football with my the local "ticos" and learning about their culture. We have helped monitoring the forest, planting new trees, husking and hiking every morning.
I have faced my greatest fear, and felt like I was on top of it for the first time ever.
I have sweated, and believe me, a lot! I got physically exhausted, knackered, dirty with "mud" as I never thought I would, earning countless bruises and cuts. But I also have experienced the great pleasure that comes from working hard for a good cause, and I have felt truly accomplished, probably like never before.
And, most importantly, I have learnt that each and everyone of us can make the difference, that we can all give our best to make this world a little bit better.
And, finally, I have learnt that it is possible to feel sincerely happy with what we have, as little as it might seem.
So, to sum it all up, Costa Rica has been the most amazing, eye-opening, life-changing experience I could ask for, and I would definitely recommend it to all of you!
PURA VIDA!

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
twestrom
10/10

Once In A Lifetime Opportunity

My time volunteering in Costa Rica was incredible! Each morning we would wake up and hike in the rainforest, watch the sunrise, and get to observe all sorts of animals. Our host family was so generous and kind that it was a joy to live with them. The entire community that we worked with welcomed us with open arms.
And don't even get me started about the adventure tour. It was absolutely wonderful and I could not have asked for a better way to travel the country. You get a good mix of the tourist locations and the local secrets. You have a wonderful guide that knows more about the country than you will ever be able to wrap your mind around.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing it would be that there would be more security. We had several people on the trip who had things stolen from their housing. While this is always a risk when traveling, it might be possible to prevent.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Rowie
9/10

Costa Rica with ISV

Last Wednesday I got back from my trip to Costa Rica and it wasn't until my last Saturday there, when I was in Samara, that I actually felt like coming home. Up until then I wanted to stay because I absolutely loved it there and didn't want to leave. Particularly the people and the town I did my project in, San Pedro.
It was through ISV that I had the opportunity to go, have the time of my life and meet some amazing people. During my project, my group and I were in San Pedro working to help the community by building an eco house for their coffee season so that they could store their materials and tools for when they were planting coffee plants and we were also making eco bricks to make a small bridge for the community to use.
During the two weeks we were there, not only did we become close as a group and become friends but we also became quite close with our host families and really come to feel at home there and like we were part of the community. And it is just an amazing feeling knowing that my group and I helped build something that the community needed and will be there for a while.
The town and the people who live there were so wonderful in welcoming us and making us feel at home that towards the end of our project, when we were driving back into town the day after our second day off it felt like we were coming back home from a camping trip or something—we really felt like we were at home there.
After the project, we rejoined a lot of the people who also went to Costa Rica and went on a two week adventure tour around Costa Rica and again had an amazing time. I met new people and formed new/more friendships with them and had a great time travelling around visiting new towns, staying in beautiful hotels- some of which were surrounded by equally beautiful scenery and natural surroundings- and the activities were so much fun- I honestly don’t know if I would have considered zip lining if I hadn’t gone to Costa Rica but it was honestly my favourite thing that we did there.
Being able to have this experience was amazing! I had the best time and it was honestly the best experience I have ever had. I learned a lot- not only about the environment and being more conscious of how I use things back home- but also about myself and different living is over there and how easy it is over here.
Coming home to Australia and not waking up in Costa Rica and seeing all the friends that I made there everyday seemed like a strange idea at first and unreal the night before we flew out of Costa Rica and it slowly got more real as we all started going our separate ways- whether we were going back to Australia or New Zealand or whether we were going travelling somewhere else- the things we did and saw and the friends we made, made that more special because no one else will know what it was like for us or know how much fun we had.
I am honestly looking forward to going back one day.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
JennaS
9/10

An Unforgettable Experience

ISV knows what they are doing. They gave me 4 weeks of complete cultural immersion, adventure, and education. I learned so much about the locals and native species! Especially sea turtles. We did beach patrols at night, looking for nesting mothers. We would measure them and collect their eggs as they were laid, so we could move them to a safer spot in the hatchery. We monitored the hatchery 24/7, and once the babies emerged, we recorded data and released them to the sea. In the second two weeks, we went on an adventure tour. This was a very organized vacation, packed with activities that most people may not have the chance to experience. For example, we went on a nature hike, horse-back riding, river rafting and visited a mud spa, just in one day! I made so many friends from around the world and countless memories that will last. Volunteering in Costa Rica helped me decide to pursue a career in marine conservation. My life has changed since this trip, and I am so happy I had this opportunity.

How can this program be improved?
It is a little more expensive than similar programs, and I wish they offered better fundraising advice. But you get a lot for your money!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Seclayt
10/10

Life Changing

In June 2012 I went to Costa Rica for 5 weeks with International Student Volunteers. I decided to travel with ISV because I didn't want to just see the sights, I didn't want to just be a tourist. I wanted to live there, volunteer in the community, learn and speak the language, all while doing more than a tourist does, not just seeing the sights but skydiving off them, walking through the waterfalls, kayaking to a private island, and much more. My 5 weeks started in a town called Heredia, I took classes at the local english to spanish university for a week. With 30 other ISV students we were broken up into classes with 5 students and 1 teacher based on the spanish we know. I lived in the town there with a host family closely living to the other students walking everywhere. My second and third weeks were spent with my group of 12 people up in the highest altitude in Costa Rica living in the cloud forrest atop the mountains. The first of my two weeks there were spent making an environmentally friendly manure for the farmers there who grow coffee plants. This was a very small community with less than 100 people and almost everyone was a cousin of someone else. One rural dirt road ran through several mountains and connected the town, the school, and all of the houses spread out through miles. Also during the first week we worked on five different farms throughout their small community. The second week was spent working on the dirt road pouring concreate from where the previous groups have ended and we continued. All of this was done while each of us lived in different homes, all virtually neighbors. I lived with the nicest old couple in a nice home on a farm with hens, horses, dogs, cows, etc. He was also known for being the oldest, nicest, man in the town and during the time I spent their I threw a surprise party for my couple when I found out about their 30th wedding anniversary. They told me thank you, but in their culture 30 isn't big and I needed to come back in 10 years for the 40th when the entire town will be partying. Sadly I had to leave my little home in Costa Rica, as the 12 of us headed back crying on the bus. When we got back to Heredia we met up with the other 5 volunteer projects and all 60 of us were divided in half for our adventure tour. After all going out for a fun night together we left the next morning headed out on reverse trips one started at the end and one at the beginning, sadly not meeting half way. The adventure tour was an amazing time filled with some of the best things I have ever done. Surf lessons, kayaking, massage on the beach, horseback ridding, climbing waterfalls, sea tubing, white water rafting, mud spas, and much more. It was the best 5 weeks of my life and this summer, I am going to Australia. I would recommend ISV to anyone who wants to go to Australia, South Africa, Thailand, New Zealand, Dominican Republic or of course, my Costa Rica.

How can this program be improved?
The people that work in the office aren't very helpful when dealing with things
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Kelsey
9/10

DO THIS!

I volunteered with the WIDECAST initiative on the OSA Peninsula working with sea turtles. It changed my life! Honestly, one of the best experiences ever! I still start many of my sentences "In Costa Rica...." The country is beautiful and the host family we stayed with was wonderful. I learned so much during my time there! I now know so much more about sea turtles and even learned a little Spanish even though I didn't take the Spanish week. PURA VIDA EVERYONE!

How can this program be improved?
At times things were a little uncoordinated but that comes with the fact that this is a very new initiative. Patience is required but just being able to live in a place that is so pure is worth every idle minute :)
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
KatyB
10/10

Life-changing experience

It was a truly memorable experience and I will never forget it!

I enjoyed meeting all the people involved in the project and adventure weeks and I overcame fears and I encounted difficulties which I also overcame, and I feel proud to have acomplished this.

Everyone was so helpful and I felt safe and looked after for the whole duration.

I would recommend this trip to everyone!

How can this program be improved?
I would like there to be more detail on packing lists for the trip , as I found I bought things for the trip that were requested and I did not need them, so I think a more detailed list would be useful so I know exactly what I need for my particular project/trip.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Blake1234
10/10

Life Changing

It was an absolutely life changing experience. It was my first chance to put what I had been learning in the classroom to use in the field. I learned so much about conservation, the country and myself during my month in Costa Rica. I loved every minute of it and we we did valuable work on the wildlife reserve. It has inspired me to work in several different countries throughout my career. I owe a lot to my experience with ISV and I wish that every student could have the same opportunity. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country with an incredible culture.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
hfcherne
10/10

Unbelievably eye-opening

Traveling with ISV was the best decision I've made in my 23 years of life. I have done study abroad and backpacked through Europe but nothing has impacted my life quite like the ISV experience. The staff is there for you 24/7 and they are super friendly. I worked in an incredible community building a road for coffee farms out of sustainable materials and eco-bricks, learned about eco-tourism, and played with the local children. It was a very humbling experience to say the least but after your volunteer work is over the next 2 weeks is an AWESOME adventure tour that practices sustainable tourism initiatives! We did everything in those 2 weeks; horseback riding, cliff jumping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, surfing, zip lining, free-hand rappelling, and the list goes on. ISV enhanced my love for adventure, travel and culture.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Jen
10/10

Experience of a lifetime

I travelled to Costa Rica in 2011 to do a project in Golfo Dulce. Our project was all about researching dolphin and poison dart frog populations in the area so as to determine their critical areas and protect their habitats. So we spent half our days out on a boat recording the behaviour of dolphins which was absolutely unreal. The other half was spent trekking through these stunning rainforests, looking for poison dart frog- a ridiculously cool experience.
We were completely immersed in the culture, staying with a host family and working alongside the locals. It was great because we saw Costa Rica from an angle that tourists don't get to see.
I learnt so much while I was there about sustainability and responsible tourism, and I took that back home with my when I left. It was absolutely the most fun and the most rewarding 5 weeks of my life, from the Spanish lessons to the project to the adventure tour! This program was the best experience of my life, and it will change yours! I recommend ISV's programs to anyone who wants to travel and to make a difference in our world!

How can this program be improved?
I seriously don't know. This program is great, the staff are really on to it, so you just get to sit back, relax and have a great time!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
ysamantha
10/10

Wonderful, life-changing experience

I traveled to Costa Rica in 2008 with ISV and worked with a sea turtle research organization. We would do nightly patrols of the beach with WIDECAST researchers looking for turtles and nests so that we could collect important data in regards to their nesting habits. We also worked during the day cleaning the beach and helped rebuild an old school house into a dormitory for the researchers. The amount I learned in regards to conservation, sustainability and responsible tourism was amazing. They did such a great job and turning hard work into an incredibly rewarding experience. The 2nd two weeks on the adventure tour was just unreal. We went rafting to a lodge in the middle of the rainforest, ziplining, rapelling down waterfalls and snorkeling just to name a few activities. I came home so stoked on this program that 4 of my closest friends have traveled with ISV now as well. I highly recommend any of their projects!!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly can't think of anything I would change. They did such a great job and making sure everyone felt comfortable, even when many students had never traveled outside of the states before!
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
ISValum
10/10

Traveling with ISV was the best decision I ever made.

While I was in Costa Rica I volunteered for Proyecto Carey, located in the Osa Peninsula. It was a breathtakingly beautiful area surrounded by picturesque beaches and the locals were gracious and kind. During our two weeks we hiked through the rain forest and documented frugivores' interactions with nutmeg trees, all in the hopes of creating legislation to protect nutmeg trees for future generations. My roommate was amazing, as were the rest of the volunteers on our project and our host families. We truly became a little family during our time at Proyecto Carey.

The second two weeks were a wonderful finish to a meaningful trip! The activities were terrifying, crazy, and wonderful. We all had the time of our lives! I made great friends and enjoyed so many new experiences. Sometimes I look back at the pictures from my trip because it's the only real proof that something this wonderful actually happened, and it wasn't all a figment of my imagination!

If you're considering going on this trip- DO IT! There is no possibly way you will regret it!!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly can't think of a single thing I would change.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Aprilcb
10/10

Best Experience of a Lifetime

This was the best opportunity that I ever could have taken in my entire life. The first two weeks being able to help out a local community in another country while spending some serious bonding time with people from all over the world was an amazing experience. I felt like the work that I was apart of really helped out the community. I had so much fun and made friends that I never would have known without this trip, that I will have for the rest of my life. After the volunteer experience being able to travel around the country and participate in activities that I am unable to do in my home state gave me the most amazing stories, pictures, and memories. The trip really taught me how to be responsible on a global level, not just in regards to my carbon footprint, but also how to be a responsible tourist. Adding on the extra week and pushing myself to a higher physical level really made some of my wildest dreams come true.

Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

Meet the Alumni

Meet the Staff

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.

Destinations...