ISV - Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

This program is no longer offered. View more programs from ISV (International Student Volunteers).

Video and Photos

Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica
Some of the sea turtles during Arribada
At Rio Tropicales, Pacuare River, Costa Rica
White Water Rafting
Impact Your World


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.


based on 141 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 136 - 141 of 141
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the Most Amazing Things You'll EVER Do!

Traveling with ISV is truly an experience. From the time I submitted my application I was SO EXCITED! You can go more places besides Costa Rica and do conservation (working with the wildlife) or community (working with the people) projects. I chose conservation and did spotted dolphin/poison dart frog research. My project group was lucky to have been in a place with the rainforest on one side and the ocean on the other (so beautiful!). A week before my project I participated in the Spanish Lessons and stayed with a host family. They were so amazing--they made me feel like a part of the family and were friendly and welcoming--and I plan to go back in the future to visit them. On our adventure tour we had native Costa Rican guides to take us around and do the different activities with. They were some of the most amazing people I'd ever met and made you feel completely safe. We went white water rafting, zip lining in the canopies of trees, and much more! The accommodations from the Spanish Lessons and my project were amazing but on the adventure tour you feel like a queen/king--everything is decked out. We had a hot tub in our floor in the one place! Everything was also extremely safe. There was always someone checking in on us whether it was our Host Mom, our project leader, or our tour guide. I ended up getting two ear infections while I was there (one in each ear--I get them often) and there were people in the California office checking on me (in a different country!) and my project leader took me to a hospital to get medicine (it was truly a Costa Rican experience, by the way, because I got to see how actual Costa Ricans live). Overall, it was a great experience. It's not a vacation program because you're there to volunteer but you do have a lot of fun--even if there are conflicts with other volunteers or whatever (sometimes the ones who do think it's a vacation cause problems). Aside from the conflicts, you will make a bunch of friends and keep in contact with them--it's hard not to, you meet a lot of great people from all over the world and can even use them as a resource in future travels! ISV looks out for the volunteers, offers many resources to help, and has offices in each country they have programs in so it's really great. I loved the experience so much that I became a Student Rep, referred a bunch of friends (to do it!), and am planning to travel again ASAP! :)

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A truly life changing experience.

My ISV experience included 2 weeks of volunteer work and 2 weeks of activities. I did 80+ hours of volunteer work with endangered species, such as dolphins and poison dart frogs! Seeing those dolphins in their natural habitat was exhilarating and I know that my volunteer work would help keep them safe. The activities were out of this world! I did so many things in one month that I don't think I could have dreamed of doing if I hadn't gone. I zip-lined, white water rafted, rappelled 290 feet down a waterfall, and so many other things. Besides the volunteering and the adventure, I learned something much bigger... I learned to be confident and to explore the world. There are so many different cultures and ways of life. I found a meaning within myself while I was in Costa Rica that I would have never found on my own. ISV helped change my perspective on life and the things around me. If I had the chance, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing Experience!

Traveling through ISV to Costa Rica was the most life changing experience ever!
I stayed for 5 weeks and through that duration I never wanted to go home, I never felt let down, I never felt unsafe, and I never once wanted to be doing something different.
ISV gives you so many options to have the most amazing experience. I got to take part in both a Spanish immersion week and an Adventure tour of activities across the country along with my 2 week volunteer project. Each time I was accompanied by unbelievable leaders whose organization was impeccable, and people from around the world who I couldn't have been closer with.
I stayed with host families and found out that life is not always about material things, but rather community. I learned so much about myself and I felt like I was a daughter in another family.
We ate like gods, I had alot of rice and beans, but the americanized food was also abundant.
Living out of a back pack for 5 weeks was amazing, you realize how much you don't need at home.
I knew no one when I left and it was very scary, but I would do it again in a second, and I would have payed double the price for the accommodations and the unforgettable experience I had.
It was the type of trip for everyone, if you like to site see, if you like culture,if you like to party, if you like adventure, I got all of that and sooooo much more in a matter of 5 weeks.
I am so much more of an outgoing and happy person. I think more of others now, and all I want to do is travel, it doesn't get any better than this.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Costa Rice is an amazing place.

I loved going to Costa Rica! Our host families were so friendly and hospitable. We stayed in a very remote part of the jungle so we got to see a whole different kind of setting that what we were used to. I will definitely be returning!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Pura Vida

This was the experience of a life time. I was in San Cristobal Norte and constructed a road. I learned to speak Spanish I did not know any when I got there. This program gave me a new look on life and the world. I learned to live without technology without the internet I for the first time really saw the world. And it was beautiful now I try a little time everyday just viewing the world around me and enjoying life, Pura Vida pure life a Costa Rican saying that means many things but mostly in Costa Rica the most important thing is family and spending time with them. This is something I will never forget. Even though the work was hard and exhausting and HOT it was also enjoyable the look on the town folks when the road was finished. But after the work was done we got some time for fun. I zip lined down a volcano. Rafted on a river for 2 days baths in natural hot springs and swam in the ocean for the first time. I did things that I never dreamt of doing. I faced my fears knowing that it was completely safe and even conquered some of them like my fear of heights. The friends I made the people I met I will never forget. I still keep in touch with my host families there. They mean so much to me I lived with them for over 3 weeks and I lived as they do ate local foods some was good some not so much, though I never got use to how much they ate after my first meal I was not worried about being hungry. In addition I did the extra excursion to Peru. It was a 4 day hike to Machu Pichu camping under the stars climbing a mountain standing a glacier. But nothing beats the sight of the ruins there what a manifest city. This was an experience that if I ever had the chance I would do it again and recommend anyone to do it as well and for what you pay to be part of this program is so much less than what you get out of it. I can say that I miss everything and everyone in Costa Rica and I made a promise to my host families that one day I will return a promise I intend to keep because of my experiences in this program I plan to continue volunteering in my local town and perhaps around the world as well. I guess the only thing I can say to wrap this up is PURA VIDA!!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing experience

Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country. I feel privileged to have experienced it with ISV. Not only did I feel like I made a difference, but I also got to see and do things that I could not have managed on my own without the help of the organization.

There were several different volunteer projects, I was assigned to the Sea Turtle conservation project which was actually located in Panama (only a few kilometres south-east from the Costa Rican border). Our project which consisted of about 14 volunteers and a project leader was stationed in the San San Pond Sack wetlands on the Caribbean Coast. Our project had us participating in various activities throughout the day (we also had free time as well). Then at nighttime we would begin our beach patrols searching for nesting Leatherback sea turtles. The patrol groups consisted of about 3-4 volunteers and a patrol leader who would direct us. We would take data and measurements of the turtles, then collect the eggs and relocate them safely to our hatchery.

The locals living on the island were very friendly and always willing to teach us new things. The beach was gorgeous during the daytime (much of our free time was spent enjoying it). The food was also very good, I found myself looking forward to every meal I enjoyed it that much! The only challenges our group encountered was of course getting used to the high temperature and humidity and the bugs.

Due to the nature of the Sea Turtle project, we were not allowed to wear bug spray during our night patrols. Wearing long sleeves and protective clothing during night patrols is a MUST. Sand flies and mosquitoes were probably the two biggest annoyances about the project. Everything else just simply took some getting used to, but it never hurts to come prepared! When our departure came at the end of the first 2 weeks, everyone was very sad to leave the island. Even to this day I find myself missing it quite a bit!

The first 2 weeks are spent on the volunteer project, then if you opted for the 4-week package the real fun comes with the Costa Rica adventure tour! All of the different volunteer groups meet up at a central location in Costa Rica and spend the next 2 weeks touring around the country doing some really exciting stuff.

Our first activity was white water rafting on the Paracuare river, to a secluded jungle lodge owned by the organization. We then made a giant loop around the country, stopping at different locations for different activities. We also stayed in some very nice hotels and accommodations that were very comfortable and relaxing! The adventure tour as a whole was simply amazing and the first 2 weeks of volunteer work make you really feel like you earned it!

Everyone, from the project leaders to my fellow volunteers were all amazing. I made a lot of friends and we all simply had the time of our lives that we won't soon forget. We almost felt like a big family by the end of the trip, the goodbyes were very sad.

I simply can't suggest enough for everyone to go on a 1-month ISV volunteer trip. It will change your life and make you appreciate the world and each other so much more!