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.

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 139 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.4
  • Benefits 10
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Facilities 10
  • Safety 7
Showing 61 - 75 of 139
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Janki
9/10

Teaching English in San Jose

I was very nervous about embarking on this journey, visiting a new non english speaking country and being thrown into an environment out of my comfort zone. I am so pleased with the experience I have had. My home stay family was lovely and welcoming and I always felt very much at home.
Teaching the children English was challenging but very rewarding and I feel as though I have gained so much confidence from the experience. The children are so lovely and it was so difficult to say goodbye.

How can this program be improved?
I feel it would be helpful for new volunteers to have more information about what to expect and what is expeced of them coming into the program.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Katrina
10/10

2 Weeks as a nurse in San Jose

It was such an incredible experience! I took part in the Healthcare project and absolutely loved it. I came to Costa Rica only having studied my first year of nursing and yet was able to partake in everything. The experience is without a doubt worth it. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
As for Maximo Nivel, the assistance all the students received was outstanding. They help you with every aspect of your travels and hold 'event nights' wher eyou can practise salsa and learn to cook typical Costa Rican dishes. Definitely well worth it and I would recommend it to anybody who is ready for a lifechanging experience.

How can this program be improved?
More classes!! The salsa and cooking class were amazing, having more events or social nights would top it off even more.
Yes, I recommend this program
Kai
10/10

Incredible Program

I volunteered in Costa Rica and had a wonderful time sightseeing the country and working with kids, would definitely recommend to anyone looking for volunteer abroad opportunities. I didn't speak any spanish but the volunteerHQ staff were super helpful in getting me around and I was still able to help out a lot at the daycare I was volunteering at. I also got to spend the weekend traveling to Manuel Antonio and the beach was beautiful.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Nela
10/10

Childcare in Sonrisas

Such a life-changing experience! I loved going to my project and spending time with the cute children, it always made my day and I feel like that with time it got better so I would definitely recommend coming for longer than two weeks (I did it for 8 weeks). My homestay was amazing, they made me feel like a part of their family and I already miss them.
This experience allows you not only to see a new culture but to live it. I cannot stress how much I’d recommend everyone to do this at least once in their life. I feel like I’ve learned so much and feel more grateful for what I have now. I got out of my comfort zone a lot and learned a new language- the more Spanish you know the more you’ll benefit from your experience.
Also, Maximo Nivel was great, I felt supported all the time.

Yes, I recommend this program
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David
9/10

Holiday Experience

Having only a week to volunteer before my second semester started back up, I chose to do the holiday experience. We participated in beautification projects in some of the most underprivileged areas, worked and played with children in different orphanages and day cares, and visited a home for the elderly. It was a great way to get a taste of some of the programs that maximo provides. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent on projects, and although my Spanish is limited, I feel that I really connected with some of the kids. It is quite humbling to see the real side of the country, and even more uplifting to get involved, experience it, and help first hand. I wish I had another week or two to spend with Maximo in Costa Rica. I developed friendships with other volunteers, was able to go on excursions and out at night, and developed a love for the country as well. Maximo Nivel was extremely accommodating, my homestay was very pleasant, and I felt safe yet able to explore the entire time. The staff at Maximo were incredibly enthusiastic (a quality that radiated to other volunteers) and made me look forward to getting started on my project every day.

How can this program be improved?
I feel as if the time spent volunteering each day could be lengthened, possibly by working on multiple projects in one day or coming back to the same one after a lunch break. 3-4 hours a Day was a good amount, but I would have been pleased with a few more hours of volunteering.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Elissa
10/10

Teaching English

After finishing a lesson, a mother of one of the students came up to me and the other teacher and gave us both big hugs and said thank you. On the last day of teaching, my students made us lunch and celebrated the progress they made throughout the two weeks. The semester of Spanish knowledge I have and would use to communicate just made people smile and say, "que linda" and help me work through the sentence. The people of Costa Rica are so kind and caring. The students I had the pleasure to work with value the time you put in and give it back to you by putting in lots of effort. The staff at Maximo Nivel were so supportive and amazing. They are so welcoming and they really care about the volunteers and the projects which they are affiliated with. Safety is important to them and they play an active role in your volunteer experience by accompanying you sometimes to the volunteer placement. They embody Pura Vida.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Michelle
10/10

Costa Rica Experience

My experience in Costa Rica was amazing. I was here for two weeks and I volunteered at a special needs care project. This project was at Casa Esperanza and there are adults who live here who have great personalities. They all love playing BINGO and coloring but they also love your company and talking to you. I felt I made an impact on them but they made an even bigger impact on me. It is a fun project to do and a project I would recommend to anyone. You learn that even though they have special needs they are human just like us and they love company!

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

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...