Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

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About

Maximo Nivel provides great volunteer programs Costa Rica—programs are available in the capital city of San Jose and on the beach in Manuel Antonio. Maximo is a locally-based organization and you work directly with local projects, get involved, and make an impact!

University credit is available for our service learning programs from our official School of Record: California State University-Monterey Bay.

Volunteer placements include:

Questions & Answers

From my experience plan 2 months earlier is good for volunteer:)
Yes, at least the basics. Try a few classes on online sites like Duolingo and/or a phrase book. It will make your life much easier and minimal communication is required. Don't expect most of the people we interact with to know English, apart the volunteer organization and travel agencies, or at least it was my experience in Costa Rica. And they will appreciate the effort !

Reviews

96%
based on 102 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.4
  • Benefits 10
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Facilities 10
  • Safety 7
Showing 31 - 45 of 102
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Danielle
10/10

UNREAL

I am going to try my absolute best to formulate sentences about how unreal this experience was but i genuinley dont know if theres even words to describe it. Everything about this program from the maximo nivel staff, to my host family, to my placement and all of the friends i made on this trip, have been nothing shy of amazing. the maximo nivel staff was crazy inviting and is there for you for support in any situation. Im can to volunteer to make an impact and be part of a greater change but in all honesty, although don get me wrong i definitely am confident in the impact i made during my time here, i feel like i got just as much out of this program as i gave which is an amazing feeling. i would recommend this program to any single person whos intrested in traveling with a purpose. and if the language barrier is a concern, dont worry to much about it, i had 0 background in spanish whatsoever and had no problem, other than the slight inonvience, but was able to pick up many phrases and words fast. hope some of you get to experience this program, it truly is unreal.

Yes, I recommend
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Katelyn
10/10

Childcare (Bebitos)

I came to Costa Rica to volunteer in the childcare program through IVHQ and Maximo Nivel. I cannot begin to explain how amazing this experience was. My friend and I were placed in a daycare center with children ages 0 to 8. The staff and children were incredible, they greeted us every day with smiles and could not wait to play. They definitely made saying good bye extremely difficult. No matter how much time and attention you gave to them, the rewarding feeling they gave back was impossible to be matched. The program set up the living arrangements which were with a host family, this allowed me to completely submerge myself in the culture, it was definitely a culture shock for me at first, but after the first day I was in the swing of things and would not have traded the experience for anything.

Yes, I recommend
Kelly
10/10

Holiday Program, San Jose

This program was incredible. Each day we did something new, including painting classrooms, throwing a holiday party for children, and working in an elderly care home. The staff at Máximo Nivél were supportive, organized, and genuinely thrilled to be working on the volunteer projects. They spread joy and made the experience amazing. Moreover, San Jose is a great city. The people are friendly and welcoming, and I personally never felt endangered during my time there. Staying with host family was also a great experience. I was able to learn what daily life in Costa Rica was like, and I developed a great relationship with my host parents. I would highly recommend this program to anybody interested. This program has opened my eyes up to a life full of volunteering and traveling, especially in Latin America.

Yes, I recommend
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vanessa
8/10

Holiday Experience/ Child care (orphanage)

I have had a really good time here at Maximo Nivel these past two weeks. The first week I did the Holiday Experience which consisted of different projects each day. All the AM volunteers gathered in a shuttle and we went to different parts of Costa Rica, poor sides or slums, and we painted a mural, had a party for the kids with different activities, and spent a day doing different stations of activities. The following week I was placed at an orphanage where my main job was to play, entertain, and show affection to a group of about 8 kids. One other volunteer from Maximo Nivel was placed with me. This is a very hands on job, they take you the first day so you know how to get around and then you do the rest. At Maximo Nivel they have a closet that volunteers can take from to do different activities. Mind you, supplies are very limited and there is a great need to be creative and think outside the box. At the orphanage the kids were very enthusiastic and grateful to do anything. Another thing, be mindful that these children only speak spanish and if you don't there may be a bit of a language barrier that will enable you from connecting with them.
During your week stay you will be with a host family. I have had an absolutely amazing experience with my host mom, Marita, she has been very accomodating with my vegan diet and very pleasant to stay with. I shared a room with another volunteer who joined me from the states, however, other volunteers were placed in rooms with people they may have not known prior to arriving. If you feel uncomfortable with your belongings, I would suggest bringing a lock for your suitcase. Your host mom will make you breakfast and dinner. Breakfast usually will consist of toast and cut up fruit, if you're lucky, maybe eggs, empanadas, gallo pinto, or quesadillas. At my home dinner was always delicious, typical meal is a meat, rice, and beans. She also made soup on two separate occasions. The only negative thing I have to say about my house visit is that I had to take ice bucket cold showers. Literally, I would wet the wash cloth and wash the important parts.
As for Maximo Nivel, I would suggest doing all the activities they offer because they are all free and fun to do. Also, it gives you something to do since there is not much to do around San Jose, well at least not enough to do for a two week stay. Another word of advice, you WILL have a lot of free time. Your project will only last about 3-4 hours every day. Had I known this ahead of time, I would have maybe chosen a different program and budgeted more money.
My final thing, budget more money than expected. I came to Costa Rica with the impression that things were going to be a lot cheaper. I'm from California and everything is about the same price! Also, if you plan on doing any leisure activities such as the beach or volcanos, budget for transportation and a hotel/hostel. You will need to stay the night or at least want to stay the night because all these places are about a 3-4 hour drive from San Jose. I stayed at Selina hostel in La Fortuna the weekend I went to explore and it was an amazing experience. Shop around and look for tours around whatever area you choose to stay in. Booking through M&J travels is really costly and you can bargain for better deals in person (don't book online either).

Have fun and be adventurous, make the most of your stay and be mindful that you are in a developing country. Don't be a spoiled brat and be thankful for what is provided to you.
If you need help wit anything, the staff at Maximo Nivel is amazing and there to help or to just talk to. Tati, Dan, Emmy, and Steve are great people and I hope you love them as much as I did.

How can this program be improved?
Have the duration of the "volunteer work" be extended. 3-4 hours a day is nothing and I feel like I could have made a bigger impact had my days been extended. Also, there are tons of volunteers which equals a lot of money. I'm not sure where it's all going, we could have better supplies and the closet could be better stocked with things to do. Another thing, the program coordinators seemed to be stretched really thin. There are hundred of volunteers coming in every week and they could use the extra staff.
Yes, I recommend
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Miranda
7/10

What an experience...

The two weeks that i have been volunteering in Costa rica with Maximo Nivel have been a gret experience. The first week that that we were here we did a program called the "holiday experience". During that time we visited daycares, where we were able to paint murals and play with children, threw parties for young children who are less fortunate in the slums, and spent time with elderly people. During the weekend, we had free time to do as we pleased, so i decided to travel to La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano and check out more of this beautiful country. The second week of my stay I worked on a project at a nearby orphanage caring for aprozimatly 8 children between the ages of 0 though 7 years of age. The children love to play, dance, and simply be held, as they dont generally recieve that love and attention for anyone. While here, i was able to stay with a wonderful host family with a couple of other volunteers as well. My host "mom" is such a wonderful woman, and her children are also part of the Maximo staff. Being that i am vegan, she gladly accomodated and cooked all of my breakfasts and dinners vegan, we were to provide lunchs for our selves. At Maximo Nivel during the evenings, there are days where they host activities such as free cooking classes.. YUM! and also free salsa classes. The activities here were a lot of fun and helped me to meet new friends from around the world, as we were all here for the same reason we were all able to connect in some way. The only thing i wish was different within the programs were the lentgh of time that we worked during the day. My hours with the children were between 9am to 12pm. Although i did love having so much free time to explore the country and be on my own without work, I would have loved to have been able to spend more time with the children or been put at two programs at once, one in the morning and one in the evening to make me feel that i was making even more of an impact in the community. I know that those children cherished the time and the attention that we were able to give to them, although short. Would i do it again.. OF COURSE I WOULD. The staff at Maximo are people, and now friends that i will never forget.

How can this program be improved?
The only way i feel that these programs could be improved were to extend the time worked. 3 to 4 hours always felt like i was cutting my service short when all i wanted and came here to do was to volunteer and work.
Yes, I recommend
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Brandon
10/10

Simply incredible

This program was something exceptional. For 2 weeks I had the privilege of teaching English to a group of children in an area of San Jose called “La Carpio”, which has a reputation for being one of the most underdeveloped and dangerous parts of Costa Rica, though I never once felt in danger. The team at Maximo Nivel showed me the ropes, and made me feel like family. I’m already planning my next trip back! Do yourselves a favor, and volunteer with this passionate team. Everyone here has such a great energy and positive vibe. Pura vida!

Yes, I recommend
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Margarita
10/10

Costa Rica Experience

One amazing week volunteering in Costa Rica. My daughter and I volunteered in Casa Hogar Maria a home for children ages 0 to 6. We volunteered the morning shift so we had time to explore San Jose in the afternoons. I was a little apprehensive since I had never done anything like this before but the Team at Maximo Nivel is incredible with their support. Working with the children was a wonderful experience. I was sad to see the week go by so fast. One week was not enough. I look forward to returning in the future and volunteering on another project.

How can this program be improved?
It would have been helpful to know about our host family before arrival
Yes, I recommend
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Noelia
10/10

Volunteering with kids in Costa Rica.

Although I was only in Costa Rica for one week, it was an amazing week. I worked at a local orphanage called Hogar Infantil Maria with kids whose ages ranged from a 10 day old baby to a 6 year old. The kids are so polite and clearly excited about having people to play with. They are full of energy so there was always something to do during my 3 hour morning shift. There was never a dull moment during my trip. I loved the project I signed up for, I loved my host famlily, and I loved everything in between. To anyone who is interested in doing what I was able to do, or anything similar, Do it! There are so many things to do when visiting a different country and so many wonderful people to meet along the way. My only piece of advice would be to go for more than just one week because it flies by!

Yes, I recommend
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Jessica
9/10

Tortugas

A friend asked me what my one favorite thing was about volunteering in Ostional on the turtle project - I couldn't pick one. I was placed with a family and was able to really be immersed in the culture and the language. My homestay family was so kind and gracious, I met great friends, who I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life, and turtles! I was there during arribadas and was able to experience hatchlings and the nesting process of adult Olive Ridleys and we even got to work with a leatherback! On our time off, we adventured to other towns and beaches and when we came back to Ostional, it felt like coming home. The volunteer posiion itself could be really physically demanding, but I wouldn't change it for the world. It was truly one of the coolest things I've ever done.

Yes, I recommend
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Carissa
10/10

Amazing Experience in Costa Rica!

Whether you're new to traveling or a seasoned volunteer abroad, Maximo Nivel is amazing. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and they provided all the support we needed to feel comfortable, safe, and equipped for our project. We were teaching English in one of the poor neighborhoods near San Jose, and it was great to have access to computers, supplies, and TEFL certified field managers to do our lesson planning. They made sure we had everything we needed and then some. I have taught English before with other organizations abroad, and did not receive nearly as much support. They also partner with a local travel agency so you can plan excursions and activities during or after your volunteer experience. I would HIGHLY recommend using Maximo Nivel to volunteer abroad!

How can this program be improved?
N/A
Yes, I recommend
Matt
8/10

Maximo Nivel Nursing Home Volunteer Project

As a volunteer, I worked in a nursing home in San Jose in Costa Rica. It was very interesting, and I was suprised at how many responsibilities I was given - sorting medications, taking vital signs, interacting with patients, helping in decorating, helping feed patients, and so on. I highly recommend it if you're like me and a pre-med student trying to improve your application for medical school - you have the opportunity to do a lot of things that you wouldn't be able to do without specialized training in the United States. San Jose itself is pretty cool, but if you do come to this project, make sure that you take the weekends off to go explore the countryside of Costa Rica. The staff is very helpful, and they have all sorts of trips that you can sign up for through a travel agency literally nex tdoor.

How can this program be improved?
When you come on this program, try to avoid having high expectations - you will be doing pretty much everything and anything the staff at the nursing home will ask you to do. They are all very friendly, but their English isn't great, so you may have to rely on your program coordinator to help you communicate a bit.
Yes, I recommend
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Sofia
10/10

Working with kids at La Carpio, San Jose

I have been extremely lucky ! After finally deciding to experiment volunteering abroad and do some searching, i found Maximo Nivel. From the start, all our conversations (online chat and e-mail) and explanations assured me as much as possible that this adventure would turn out well.
I've been in San Jose for two weeks, placed at Maria Aux, a daycare for young children from La Carpio neighbourhood, very poor and complicated. What the responsible for the project, Silvia Aguilar, does with the limited space and conditions is amazing : a safe space for the kids, with songs, reading, painting, etc.
The children couldn't be sweeter and were eager to have our help doing all kinds of things, which i gladly did. I could see how Maximo Nivel and previous volunteers have invested in improving the daycare's conditions and it is a work in progress.
I felt very welcomed at the placement and can honestly say that Maximo's team, especially Steve and Emily, were there for whatever i needed. Steve, your idea of a Christmas party is absolutely amazing !
I had a bit more than basic notions of Spanish and felt that the communication with the kids and adults allowed me to give and take much more from this experience.
I've moved now to Manuel Antonio for my final week in Costa Rica. I expect to have a good experience in the new place, but i doubt it will be as rewarding as Maria Aux and La Carpio ! I will surely miss it.

How can this program be improved?
- We cannot expect that adults and kids in Costa Rica will know other languages than Spanish, and it's important that we come with at least basic notions of words and sentences, to actively communicate.
- The host family was excellent, but my daily trip to La Carpio took almost 2h in the morning, with the traffic and the need to take two buses plus a walk in between. If possible, to have host families closer by, on that side of the city, since at least two volunteering projects happen there.
- I spoke directly with Maximo from the start and things went smoothly, but conversations with other volunteers coming through IVHQ showed me that the information provided by them isn't always accurate and/or complete, so adding stress and maybe dissatisfaction. So, correct this if possible ?
Yes, I recommend
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Yiran
10/10

Great experience!!

It's my first time volunteering with Maximo and I feel amazing.The staff are super nice and helpful.The homestay mom is very caring and friendly.Hope to see them again soon!
As to the childcare project "Maria Aux" in rural area of San Jose city.I have to say I am super lucky to join this projects.All the kids are super cute and smart.They curious about everything new and eager to learn knowledge.The day care located in a church.The condition is not good for the kids,but they are always smiling and never complain.Thanks to the teacher Sylvia's support,and Maximo's help,now the day care condition is much better.It has claean restoom and colorful paintings on the wall.Many volunteers donate books,food and other facilities,which is lovely.

How can this program be improved?
Nothing I can think of
Yes, I recommend
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Viktoria
10/10

Bebitos (Child Care)

I had a wonderful time at Bebitos doing childcare project in Costa rica. I had the opportunity to work with kids mainly at the age of 4-6. It was an amazing experience and a very emotional one as well. I had to take care and entertain the chidlren while having support from local staff. Every day we had to do something cretive thus improving the skills of the kids. They gave me a lot of love and even I was working with them for only a week I improved as a person so much. The way how they made me feel cannot be described but it has to be experienced. I stongly recommend to everyone to visit the Bebitos childcare project in San Jose Costa rica! Excellent time of my life!

Yes, I recommend
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Mikaela
10/10

My Time in Parismina

This program was my first experience as a volunteer, as well as my first solo trip overseas. The attention i received from Maximo was above and beyond anything i was expecting. They thoroughly prepared me with two orientations as well as making an effort once i was on my project, to consistantly keep in contact with me, making sure i was enjoying the project. They were only ever a phonecall or email away if i needed help with anything and all of the staff were super friendly.
I loved my project (turtle conservation) located in Parismina, there really is no feeling like the one you get when you release a bunch of baby turtles into the oceanor when you see how much time and effort female turtles display, just to lay their eggs. The only thing i would improve would be for the project itself- I think there needs to be a volunteer coordinator to make sure everything runs smoothly and to provide other options for when there is not much to do.
But overall the project was brilliant and i will definately be coming back!

How can this program be improved?
By having a volunteer coordinator
Yes, I recommend

Interviews

About Maximo Nivel

Máximo Nivel (Maximum Level)—The Intercultural Center of Latin America

Máximo Nivel is a family-owned, social enterprise founded in 2003. Our three intercultural centers are locally-based organizations focused on international education and cross...