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 121 - 135 of 141
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Claire
10/10

Change Your Life and the Life's of Others

I have always wanted to volunteer abroad and when I heard about International Student Volunteers I signed up to volunteer in Costa Rica straight away. I have always been fortunate enough to live a very comfortable lifestyle and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give back. However, I could never have predicted how incredible Costa Rica and ISV would be!
A group of 9 volunteers arrived in a small fishing village called San Juanillo and it was our job to build a deck and bathrooms as well as paint the walls and prepare all the finishing touches such as roof boards and doors for the new building where the local fishermen would soon be preparing and selling their fish. The old building where they prepared the fish was on the beach and was severely damaged from waves and weather and was being robbed as no one lives on the beach to supervise. Past ISV volunteers had left their impact on this beautiful town such as implementing a recycling system and starting the building that we were to finish. Work was hot and we had never sweated so much in our lives! We started at 7am and completed tasks such as digging eight 1x1m deep holes, mixing cement manually, painting, sanding, digging through concrete to level the driveway and all the odd jobs typical of any building site. By 3pm we were tired and dirty and ready for bed. Instead we spent our afternoons playing with the local kids doing activities such as soccer, traditional games and taking them to the beach with us.
We stayed with the most generous host families. Whilst these people didn't have much, they welcomed us into their homes and their families and the generosity and care that they showed us is something that I will never forget!
The group of volunteers came from three different countries (Australia, New Zealand and the USA) but we came together for a common cause: wanting to impact our world. Not only did we work together and support each other to achieve more than we could have ever expected but the friendships that have been created will be lifelong. Together we shared laughs, tears and an experience that could never be forgotten.
Of course there were times that were hard. The language barrier was at times stressful and the different lifestyle, food and culture pushed our comfort zones. But the support we received from our ISV leader made all these times that much more manageable. Our project leader changed the way we saw the world as well as our attitudes and beliefs about living in a sustainable manner, but most of all he was a friend and support to everyone and the changed the experience in such a positive way for everyone involved.
When the village chief thanked us on the last night for our efforts, he told us that due to the money we had into the project and our labour we achieve more in two weeks than they could have in 20 years. I think this highlighted how much we contributed and how appreciative the small fishing village was.
I knew that Costa Rica was going to be an amazing experience, but I could never have predicted that it was going to change my life the way it did. I am now going to South Africa with ISV at the end of 2012 because I cannot imagine a better way to spend the summer holidays than by giving back and having the time of my life! PURA VIDA!

Yes, I recommend
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Kalie
9/10

volunteer and advanture in Costa Rica

ISV offers you the chance to volunteer on a range of different community and conservation projects. I volunteered for seaturtle research which took me to the amazing town of Ostional. Staying with a home stay family was difficult as my Mamma Tica spoke no English, but she tried very hard as did I to speak Spanish! The work was was at night so sleep was often deprived but man was it worth it! You got to see 3 different species of seaturtles with the leaders making sure everyone saw them as well as the baby turtles we released.This is what made you feel like you were making a difference. After the volunteer work ISV allows you to travel around Costa Rica with a wonderful guide. You get out of your comfit zone and get to experience things you wouldn't usually be able to. Its diffidently worth going!

Yes, I recommend
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Penny
10/10

Costa Rica Coast

Hannah Richardson- Smith and I were selected to participate in a unique five-week volunteer program in Costa Rica, working alongside 50 other like-minded individuals from around the world. Together we worked under the direction of an organisation called International Student Volunteers (ISV) and this was made possible by local support, especially that of the Lorne Lion’s Club.
During our first week in Costa Rica, we were housed within local host families where we attended school- learned Spanish, and were immersed within a new culture. We then began our volunteer project, which ran in conjunction with local community leaders and educated us of conservation issues. A key tool in the project’s sustainability was protecting endangered turtle species.
Costa Rica is considered one of the most important nesting grounds for sea turtles in the world. More than fifty different nesting beaches can be found along the Carribean and Pacific coasts, where five out of the world’s seven sea turtle species come ashore to lay their eggs. One of these beaches is Ostional- where we were based for volunteering. The community of Ostional has been active in sea turtle conservation for the past forty years and is one of very few nesting beaches where turtles nest year round. Three species which travel to use this important nesting site include the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, Pacific Green Sea Turtle and the Leatherback Sea Turtle (which were what we worked with).
The importance of our volunteer work was due to the arribada phenomenon (which occurs once per month, where thousands of Olive Ridley turtles come ashore to nest) and has lead to Leatherback turtles becoming critically endangered due to their nests being destroyed by the Olive Ridley turtles. Until 2004, no comprehensive research on the Leatherback turtle nesting activity had been carried out. Similarly, despite the high rates of poaching reported, no specific measures were implemented to protect this species.
Hannah and I participated in nightly patrols led by experienced biologists and local conservationists. These consisted of walking roughly 22kms a night, alongside hatchery shifts- where we monitored and then released baby Leatherback turtles. During a nocturnal beach patrol we measured the carapace (shell) length of nesting adult turtles, helped with data collection for future research (record time, zone, activity etc. of the turtles), tagged turtle flippers, relocated nests into the hatchery, excavated and examined nests which had been disrupted by local dogs, poachers and external unnatural causes, measured and weighed recently-born hatchlings, released and monitored the hatchlings on their journey to the ocean and built new nests to transplant eggs in attempt to receive higher rates of Leatherback success.
Moreover, during our time in Ostional, Hannah and I alongside other volunteers achieved to tag 18 Olive Ridley turtles, counted a total of 1332 turtle eggs- laid by 16 Olive Ridley turtles, measured 2 Leatherback turtles and counted their 57 eggs, witnessed a 70% Green Sea Turtle nest excavation success, witnessed 25% Leatherback hatchling success, released 13 hatchlings, witnessed 3 Green Sea turtles hatch from natural nests, participated in 40 hours of patrol per week each, participated in collecting 202 kgs of plastic from the beach and also 36 hours of log clean up.
Ostional is located seven hours from the capital city of San Jose’, where Hannah and I were collected and transported via truck out to the beach in what was almost forty degree weather. We stayed with separate host families and were forced to communicate with them only through Spanish. The typical community homes were small and basic, but comfortable, consisting of two or three bedrooms, a kitchen, living room and bathroom, where we experienced no running hot water for the duration of our project. Through staying with these families we were generating local income, which represented an important alternative activity to the extractive use of sea turtles and our enthusiasm and motivation encouraged the protection of these essential and overlooked creatures within the local community. Our diet consisted of the traditional gallo pinto for breakfast, lunch and dinner (rice and black beans), which we happily demolished at the time, however are thoroughly enjoying the variation of foods back in Lorne.
We were both proud representatives of Lorne within our project, and are extremely thankful and grateful to the Lorne Lion’s club for their support in helping us on this venture. Hannah and I feel we have learnt a lot from this experience and appreciate the support we received from everyone in Lorne who allowed us experienced this opportunity.
Although at points in this trip we experienced corruption within the local community we were living in, Hannah and I used these opportunities to learn, and allowed us to appreciate our community back home. It was inspiring.

Yes, I recommend
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sirwolf
10/10

What an amazing experience

The volunteering was absolutely amazing. I developed friendships I still have and loved every minute of it. The traveling/vacation part was awesome as well. The planned activities were exciting and eclectic. Overall the trip was one I will never forget

Yes, I recommend
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Lawrence
9/10

Volunteer at a Beautiful Beach for Sea Turtle Conservation

This was an amazing experience that I will never forget! I think there are many volunteer opportunities for sea turtle conservation, but I think this one would top it off as being the best one. At Ostional, by day we would relax, enjoy the beach (and because the beach was large and there aren't many people living in the village, it was almost as if we had it all to ourselves), participate in activities with the local community, and occasionally clean up the beach. Just be prepared for the heat and mosquito bites. By night we would spend glorious walks along the beach in search for sea turtles.
The scene at night was absolutely beautiful. Imagine, walking with a small group of friends on a dark beach, only lit under the starry sky, including the Milky Way, and occasionally by the silent flashes of heat lightning. You feel the gentle breeze coming from the ocean and only hear the sounds of the gentle waves. After walking for a certain time, you rest on the dry, soft sandy beach before turning back. Most of my night experiences were like this.
My favourite one includes the night when we suddenly spotted thousands of sea turtles coming onto shore during "la arribada" to nest their eggs. It was sudden because I thought the beach was mostly empty until a heat lightning flashed and thousands of large turtles were seen surrounding us. The next night, the moonlight kept the beach lit enough for us to just watch all the turtles do their things. These nights were unforgettable sights!

Yes, I recommend
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Rebekah
10/10

Costa Rica + ISV = heaps of fun

I went to Costa Rica with ISV for 5 weeks over Jan-Feb. WE spent 1 week learning Spanish, this was a good chance to meet everyone on the tour (64 People). We split into groups of 12-13 people to volunteer for 2 weeks, I worked with dolphins and frog to make the area a national park. We spent the last 2 weeks in a group of 30 people (half the group) doing an adventure program. ISV ran this section really well making sure you never repeated any activities.

I met some great friends on this trip and enjoyed all 5 weeks. I can't wait to do it again. Thanks ISV.

Yes, I recommend
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RhianEvans
10/10

Costa Rica - ¡Pura Vida!

Volunteering in Costa Rica through ISV has been the most rewarding and amazing experience of my life so far. In 5 weeks I was able to participate in a range of activities across the country. The first week involved a homestay and language program in Heredia, where I was able to practice my Spanish with my mama tica, learn more about the country and culture (including the national phrase Pura Vida! or, Pure Life) and explore the city - including one day where we went in search of a panaderia (bakery), got a little lost and had fun walking through markets and shops making our way back. I then spent 2 weeks living in a very remote area of the rainforest in the Osa Peninsula where I assisted in collecting data about tree reproduction and how animals and birds are important - also living with a family during this time and learning the different customs and ways of life. During this two weeks I had the opportunity to see a number of Scarlett Macaws and Toucans every day! In the final two weeks of the program we travelled to a different 'tourist' location every 2 days- visiting volcanos, going to mud spas and hot springs, doing nature walks to search for animals/birds, and participating in fun adventure activities like zip-lining, white-water rafting, horse riding, and jumping off many many rocks into different rivers!

It was the best 5 weeks of my life!

Yes, I recommend
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Claire
10/10

I had the timw of my LIFE!

Visiting Costa Rica with ISV is the best idea I've ever had. The first week was an optional addition - Spanish language lessons. We were at school for four hours a day, and we had the afternoons to explore. Everyone stayed with another student from ISV with a host family to practice all the Spanish we were learning, and it was a lot. There were also excursions - we went to Volcan Poas and Tortuga.
The two weeks after this are your volunteer project - and you have a choice of community or conservation. I was on a conservation project in the Rainforest down in Peninsula de la Osa, collecting data from nutmeg trees as part of the research into a biodiversity study looking at the effects of selective logging. We were hiking through the jungle for four hours a day, and we had discussion sessions in the afternoons. The rest of the time was our own, and we spent it either practising our Spanish with our 9 year old host sister, at the beach (there's only so much laughing ridicule you can take) or lying in hammocks eating frozen banana helados. The project was tons of fun, and the work we were doing is something that hasn't been studied before, and it will inform environmental policy, likely around the world, in the future.
The last two weeks were the adventure tour. In two weeks, we went kayaking, surfing, hiking, horse riding, cliff jumping, tubing, relaxed in hot springs, chilled out at a mud spa, went zip-lining across the rainforest canopy, rappelled down next to a waterfall, and climbed back up the cliff face on a cable ladder, got to meet some people from a native Costa Rican Tribe, we saw some rastafarian culture on the Caribbean coast, went for a bike ride, saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys, and sloths, we went through level three and four white water rapids, and when we weren't going through the rapids, we were pirate boarding each others boats, throwing each other in the water, or jumping off cliffs into the river. On the day we spent at the eco lodge (only accessible by raft) we went bouldering up a creek where we got to slide down a natural rock waterslide.
And, amazing as all that was, the best part about the trip was the fantastic new friends I've made - all the volunteer students, and some amazing people from Costa Rica too.
Travelling with ISV gives you the opportunity to do some good and make a difference, to experience the culture and have a ton of fun - they organise everything for you, check the safety, make sure it's through reputable local companies to give a kick to the local economy. And they are there to look after things if anything goes wrong. Like if a monkey steals your prescription sunglasses.

Yes, I recommend
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PetrosA
10/10

Costa Rica Trip - Volunteering & Adventure

Hello,

Seriously, it would take me 2 days to write all the emotions and experiences i had on this trip. So i am just gonna say in simple words.
Take the trip! I went there for a month (including the adventure tour) and believe me i had a post isv depression when i arrived back to Greece. Nothing would excite me as much as the trip itself in Costa Rica. I loved it man. Believe me i have stories to tell... ts. ts.. Its for everyone out there, for every type of person. I myself i am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but the programme suits everyone. Do it and you wont regret, you ll have a lot of summer vacations where you live.
Be different and make the difference. I guarantee you, you will not regret it and I am talking about everything right here. The whole group was about 90 people with 65 females and 25 males more or less. I ll say no more. Take the trip and dnt be weak. True Story bro

Yes, I recommend
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Lisanne
10/10

I would do it all over in a heartbeat.

This program was amazing. I'm not even exaggerating. You might think I am, but I'm not. I'll start at the beginning.

ISV Reps came to my university (University of Prince Edward Island), and I made my decision right then and there, I was going to Costa Rica. I signed up in like October, and was only leaving in July... So I had to be patient. But, time flew by, and before I knew it, we were on our way to la Pura Vida! As soon as we landed I felt safe, and welcomed. There were lots of other ISV participants landing at the same time, and ISV staff in the airport just waiting to meet you. We got on the bus, and heading to our hostel (which wasn't really a hostel at all, more like an awesome ISV B&B). We had orientation, met all of our group, and were off to our volunteer destination the next day. Those 2 weeks were some of the best weeks of my life.

I never expected to get so close with my volunteer group. There were 12-14 of us, no electricity, no TV, no internet. So when we weren't working we had nothing else to do but to talk to each other. It felt so good to do that again. Our group was placed in San San Pond Sak in Panama, on a Sea Turtle Conservation project. I felt completely safe during our entire stay. The staff & project coordinators were amazing, so welcoming. They showed us their culture, and we helped with whatever they wanted us to help with.

Our volunteer tasks ranged from helping them build a dock, to doing work with the sea turtles (my favorite part). We help with night patrols: patrolling the beach at night, hoping to find a turtle laying her eggs on the beach. If we did find one, we'd collect her eggs and bring them to the hatchery to protect them from poachers & wildlife.

Food. The food was different, but in a good way. Although I'd be lying if I said my first piece of pizza afterwards wasn't heaven.. And I'll never eat plantains again, ever. But overall, it was good.

We got to go into town during our volunteer weeks too, which was great. Got to call our parents, use the internet, etc.

Now, for the adventure tour. It was AMAZING. Once you're done your 2 weeks of volunteer, you go on a cross-country tour of 2 weeks doing AMAZING things. We went white-water rafting for 3 days, we went zip-lining, saw SO many things - stayed in these swank eco-friendly hotels. I can't even explain it. You just gotta do it.

Bottom line - if you want to travel, and experience a country for what it REALLY is, not just its tourist locations, do an ISV program. You won't regret it.

Yes, I recommend
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Bubbletoes
10/10

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica is truly a beautiful and happy place. I loved every moment of my ISV trip. I don't know of any other program that so perfectly combines volunteer opportunities and adventure.
I participated in Sea Turtle conservation in Ostional. The place was small, but wonderful. The thing you learn quickly in Costa Rica is that things are wet. And waterproof things in America might well be waterproof in America, but NOT in Costa Rica. The only issue I had was discovering my foulie wasn't entirely water resistant, but then again, is anything when introduced to Costa Rica rain?
Also, it's important to like rice and beans, and maybe tortilla! With a delicious fruit drink.
Honestly, I loved the food, I loved being outside, even the rain. The ISV staff were very knowledgable of all things Costa Rica and always there to help. If you are looking to Volunteer abroad, do it with ISV and seriously consider Costa Rica. Pura Vida!

Yes, I recommend
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Alyssa.379
10/10

Experience of a Lifetime!

Absolutely worth every penny. If you have a chance to go with ISV take it! I made life long friends, while doing my part in helping the world. I did sea turtle conservation in San San Pond Sak. The staff there was awesome including our project leader. We released over 400 hundred baby turtles and collected lots of eggs! Wonderful if you love working with animals.
Seriously worth any amount of time and money it took to get there. Best experience of my life!

Yes, I recommend
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Cjcoutu
10/10

ISV Costa Rica

The things I experienced on this trip were once in a lifetime. I would not change any part of it and I highly, highly recommend it. I spent a total of five weeks in Costa Rica. The first week I spent in Heredia for a Spanish Immersion week. The next two weeks I spent volunteering and impacting a small town called Altamira. The last two weeks, we traveled the country doing extreme activities, such as ziplining, cliff rappelling, horseback riding, white water rafting, etc. My favorite part of this experience was interacting with a different type of people and a different culture. The people in Costa Rica, the ones I lived with and the ones I met, were some of the nicest, most caring people I have ever known. The two families that I stayed with will be my family for life. I still talk to them today via Facebook and I hope to be able to visit them again in the future. I went into this trip questioning my major and my life path and it changed me completely. I went into this trip as a Criminal Forensics major. I came out as a Criminal Forensics major. The change is in how I live my life. I realized that I just want to be happy and be surrounded by the people that I love. People in Costa Rica value family more than they value social status and money. They don't work overtime and they eat dinner together every night. They're happy with what they have and now I am happy with what I have. ISV made this experience even better. It really is an all-inclusive trip. It included volunteering and helping people, having fun and meeting people, learning a new culture, and doing some extreme activities that would not have been possible otherwise. The other people who went on this trip with ISV and the things I learned during my time in Costa Rica will be with me for the rest of my life.

PURA VIDA!

Yes, I recommend
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Anna
10/10

PURA VIDA! Costa Rica 2011!

Could you ever imagine packing up a luggage, boarding a plane, and heading off on an adventure to a completely new country?! And on your own?! It took be by surprise, but signing up with ISV gave me the experience of a lifetime that I could have never forseen coming in my future back when I just started college! I traveled to Costa Rica and lived in a small beautiful community in the mountains. I stayed with a host family for two weeks. I can still smell the morning coffee and taste the fresh mango and the beans! Oh how I loved those beans! It was so hard leaving them, my host mom and I cried the day I boarded that bus to be on my way to the adventure tour. The adventure tour! Surfing the crystal blue waves, zip lining through the forest. The most exilerating experience of my life! The people I met on this trip have affected me in a way my parents can not even imagine! I have best friends in Scotland, Ireland, and England now! As well as the U.S. ofcoarse! This trip made me grow as a person and has given me confidence. I know that I am going places in my life and I can change the world. I recommend this trip to any and all! Through donations I payed for half of this trip, and almost all the donations were given to me from people who I would never have expected to donate! Give it a try, and take a chance. You will not regret it!

Yes, I recommend
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ariananda
10/10

Jaguars And Turtles And Sloths, Oh My!

Traveling to Costa Rica with ISV was one of the most influential experiences in my life. Working hands-on with sea turtles for two weeks was a once in a life-time adventure, and living in a remote station in Nancite was incredible. Waking up to howler monkeys, trekking through a forest of crabs on the way to the ocean, and sharing my lunch with an iguana were just a few of my daily living occurrences. The staff, biologist, and ISV project leader were fantastic, giving us 9 student volunteers an amazing experience. By making friends, learning bad Spanish, and spending our days playing beach volleyball, swimming in near-10foot waves, and scouting for crocodiles, this trip would be nothing without the knowledge and experience of the local staff. I would recommend this adventure of a life time to anyone!! I LOVE ISV!!!!

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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