Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica
96% Rating
(97 Reviews)

Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

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:

San José
Costa Rica
Starting Price
Price Details
Volunteer Programs Include:

- Airport pick-up
- Personalized volunteer placement based on your skills and interests
- Safe, comfortable housing with breakfast and dinner included Monday - Sunday.
- In-country orientation, safety presentation, and walking tour
- Free access to high-speed internet and modern computers
- Free Office-wide WiFi
- Home-base facilities and multi-lingual team support 7 days/week
- In field support from our professional Field Managers
- Free Salsa lessons
- Free Cooking lessons
- Cultural and social activities
- A toll-free emergency hotline in the U.S.

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 !

Program Reviews

based on 97 reviews
  • Impact 9.2
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.4
  • Benefits 9
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.3
  • Facilities 9.2
  • Safety 9.2
  • Instruction 10
  • Support 10
  • Value 10
  • Difficulty 8
  • Job Assistance 10
  • Growth 7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8
  • Housing 8
  • Safety 8
  • Growth 10
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Housing 10
  • Safety 10
Showing 76 - 88 of 88
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Maximo Nivel, Costa Rica - Childcare

We worked at a daycare for underpriviledged children within San Jose. Our day began in the morning with Spanish lessons, followed by a bus ride to the daycare. At the daycare, the afternoon often started with nap time, followed by an arts and crafts period, possible play time outside at a soccer field or a playground, and ending with free time with the kids inside. The daycare staff and children did not speak any English, but we were able to communicate with them through the Spanish we learned during our lessons.

We were responsible for occupying the kids with activities during arts and crafts and free time. This involved preparing projects for the kids beforehand. The children sincerely appreciated projects such as snowmen crafts, painting, making Christmas cards, and "all about me" booklets. They also loved playing with the gifts we brought such as hoola hoops, bubbles, toy cars, fingerpaint, tattoos, and a soccer ball.

I felt safe throughout the project and Maximo staff were able to help with any questions I had. The homestay was with a very nice family who prepared excellent meals for us. Evening activities organized by Maximo were enjoyable and well-organized.

How can this program be improved?

More information during orientation such as how to get to laundry and important Spanish phrases relevant to the daycare project.

Yes, I recommend
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Awesome Learning Experience

Costa Rica has been a beautiful and friendly place. I learned so much from this experience and am so glad I did it! The in country staff at Maximo Nivel were very helpful and did their best to take care of the volunteers.

Yes, I recommend
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If you're looking for a one time, short term opportunity...

...Maximo is great. But, they have zero volunteer loyalty and their number 1 priority is earning money for the business aspect, rather than their projects and their voluneers, and it shows in the way they treat their staff, their host families, and their volunteers who stay for more than 3 weeks. If you're looking to make a significant impact, which requires someowhat of a chunk of time, find a different organization. Behind the scenes, Maximo cares about making their money and nothing else, and unfortunately this has a negative impact on their projects and volunteers.

How can this program be improved?

Be more responsive to volunteers and remodel your business strategy.

Response from Maximo Nivel

Hello Becca (Rebecca),

We really appreciate the overall rating of 9 and that you would recommend us. We think you’re great too, and we are incredibly saddened that your last experience with us (your 3rd time) has left you feeling this way. We’ve all worked hard together and we’ve loved getting to know you. We hope you will come back as planned in 2014.

We do need to address some of your points because this is a public forum.

We feel a great deal of loyalty to all program participants, especially those—like you—who come back and do multiple programs. We have always prided ourselves on being a hardworking organization and one that is very focused on providing a great volunteer experience.

We work hard to have mutually beneficial relationships with our families and projects and the proof is they’ve continued working with us over the years—which means we bring positive impact. As you know, we have a monthly humanitarian budget that helps support our projects—construction, medical campaigns, orphanages, soup kitchens, English scholarships, etc. It is also important to point out that unlike most volunteer organizations we are locally-based—we purchase locally, we employ primarily local people (65% of staff), and we are active in the community.

Like any organization, we do have a business model, but that does not mean our ‘number one priority is earning money for the business’. In fact, Maximo Nivel is one of the most affordable options for volunteering in Latin America.

Again, we hope you’ll come back.

Best, – Kim, Paula, Sammi, Giovanna, and Ken

Yes, I recommend
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Experience of a lifetime

I just returned home from assisting with the "Madre Crea con Hijos" construction project for two weeks volunteering with Maximo Nivel. This was a women's rehabilitation facility with children located in Coronado in the province of San Jose.

Some of the daily tasks included installing sheet metal, laying concrete, painting, and tiling. I went into the project hoping to make a difference and that is exactly what occurred. As you complete each and every day at work, you notice all the progress and improvements that have been made and you get this uplifting feeling. It is truly a surreal experience knowing that your hard work is well appreciated.

The Maximo Nivel staff made the whole volunteer trip as smooth as possible right from the very first day of orientation to the last. They were well organized and always available to answer any questions that you had.

The accommodation at the home-stay with the host family was a unique experience for me and I really enjoyed it. The home cooked meals are really good and if one of your goals is to learn Spanish while volunteering, then this is one of the best ways to do it.

The whole experience was truly amazing from contributing to your project, to exploring the beautiful sights of Costa Rica, to making lifelong friendships with the volunteers at Maximo. The best advice I can give anyone considering volunteering abroad is to just do it! Once you immerse yourself in the culture and begin assisting at your project, you will not look back. Numerous discussions among volunteers are usually with regards to planning another volunteer trip in the near future.

All in all, Maximo Nivel was a great organization to work with and I felt this trip opened up new horizons for me. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.


Yes, I recommend
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In love

I expected to come abroad and have an incredible experience teaching English this summer, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that this please, and the people with whom I am working could touch my heart the way that they have. My biggest fears about coming were my host family, and a lack of support system while in a foreign country, and now that I am here, I can't believe I was ever concerned. After six short weeks, my Costa Rican family already feels like my own family, and not only do I feel supported by the Maximo Nivel staff, but I also feel loved, and known, which is more than I could've ever asked for.

As per my project, I am not going to lie, it isn't what I was expecting. I was expecting to be in a classroom with a bunch of screaming children who would rather do just about anything than listen to me speak English. Instead, I am not only helping teach, but also learning from two of the most special groups of people I've yet to encounter. I'm getting to not only watch them struggle through conjugations and exams, but also getting to watch them anticipate the births of their first children, being welcomed into their homes, and building friendships that will leave hold a permanent place in my heart.

It's amazing how when we have no expectations at all, life can totally take us by surprise, and that is the best way I can describe my experience with Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica. I am love with this country, these people, their language and Maximo and would recommend it absolutely anyone. Best of luck!

Yes, I recommend
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Construction project in San Jose, Costa Rica

During the first week of May 2013, a group of nine of us from the University of Michigan volunteered through Maximo Nivel in San Jose, Costa Rica to help with construction improvements in un hogar de ancianos, a shelter for the elderly in Tejarcillos. I speak for the whole group when I say the trip was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. By the time the end of the week came, we wanted nothing else but to extend our stay in Costa Rica. In fact, as we were leaving Costa Rica, we were all ready planning our Maximo Nivel trip for next year.

This trip could not have been as incredible without the amazing work of the Maximo Nivel team. Maximo Nivel worked tirelessly to ensure that my group had a comfortable place to stay, a project that met our interests, an itinerary that included both work and play, and a clear budget for my group to plan around. Without the talent of Maximo Nivel employees, this trip would have never happened. In country, we felt completely safe with Maximo Nivel and our house mom. Maximo Nivel has its own private transportation through TransLeo Tours in Costa Rica, and the transportation was reliable and safe. Our house mom was delightful and made sure that we felt at home.

Overall, volunteering through Maximo Nivel was a life-altering experience. We gained more perspective on other culture, but we also grew closer as a group. I won't ever forget the community's pastora thanking us and telling us that God brought us to Tejarcillos to make a difference. This trip has touched and has helped us further appreciate the impact of taking time in our lives to reach out and work with others to make the world a better place.

Yes, I recommend
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Great Program!

I was a medical volunteer for one week in Costa Rica through IVHQ and Maximo Nivel. Overall, the experience was truly a great one. I felt as though I did impact the people I was working with and affected there lives positively. My day to day schedule was my project from 8-12 and then free time from 12 until bed time. With my free time, I shopped in downtown San Jose, zip-lined, took the Doka, Poas, LaPaz tour (HIGHLY RECOMMEND), and I bungee jumped on my last day all in my one week stay! I did all my tours through Trans-Leo and although they are slightly overpriced, the convenience and time saved in my opinion makes it well worth it. My host family was very nice, although no English was spoken in the home to the family. The people at Maximo Nivel were very kind and helpful but let you be independent as well, so, be prepared for that.

The most difficult thing I had to deal with was arrival. Finding my ride took about 15 mins but it was smooth sailing from then. Be calm, and do not worry if this happens to you. Just call and they will help you as they did me. Also, it is very stressful to not know what you will actually be doing once in CR, but you will find out on day one of arrival. My best advice is to just relax, let things happen, and pack scrubs and plan to wear those every day at you project.

How can this program be improved?

Send out more information about which project the individual will be working prior to arrival. It reduces stress levels and helps when preparing to travel.

Yes, I recommend
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Volunteer Costa Rica

I can't even begin to describe how amazing my experience was! I volunteered in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel for four weeks, and my only regret is that I didn't stay longer. I worked on two projects, childcare and turtle conservation. Every moment in each project was simply amazing. Upon arrival, I was welcomed by helpful, loving staff who all quickly became friends. Any time I had a question or conern they were more than happy to help. They went above and beyond my expecations.
The projects were both great learning experiences, but you definitely get out of it what you put into it. We were only with the kids for a few hours every day but in that time we grew to love them. It was wonderful getting to see how they live day to day, getting to play with them, and teach them.
The turtle project was indescribeable, spending time on the beach, meeting people from all over the world, and learning all about sea turtles and the effort to learn about them and help the populations grow.
Without hesitation, I would HIGHLY recommend Maximo Nivel to anyone. I would return to Costa Rica to work with them again in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?

There was quite a bit of free time, and although I'm sure many people love that, I would have loved to spend more time with the kids in the childcare program!

Yes, I recommend
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I was nervous at first, but felt much better after orientation and meeting other volunteers. My placement at an orphanage teaching English was as Maximo said...chaotic. The children take a while to warm up to you (who can blame them?), but the first hug you get makes it worthwhile. I made a picture along with a young girl, and had the other volunteers "vote" on which one they liked better.Her grin when she won (and got a first place ribbon I made), was priceless. You can tell she felt special! The biggest difficulty I saw was the "competition" from their television and snacks during our time there in the afternoons. Luckily, we could usually get them outside at some point. Very sweet kids, but they have obviously been through a lot. One more suggestion would be to try and pair someone fluent in Spanish with the rest of us, at least in the beginning. The kids seem to listen better for awhile afterwards.

How can this program be improved?

The tias involved more with supporting us when the kids takeoff to their Room, as we cannot go back there.

Yes, I recommend
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Costa Rica -Pura Vida

Waking up at 6:30 to wonderful aroma of fresh Costa Rican Coffee and Gallo Pinto ( rice & beans) seved with a fried egg and fried plantains my fav!!!Catching the local bus only .50 cent fare and runs regularly every 10 min's (except for rush hour around the universities).Arrive in San Jose in about 20 mins and walking the beautiful Avenida Central (pedestrian only avenue) for approx another 15-20 mins to catch the second bus to my project. On the way pass by many Tostadors (Roasting place) (coffee & nuts)$1 for amazing coffee also cappuccino, lattes you name it! And the most appetizing aromas form the freshly baked pastries in the various bakeries!Easy breakfast, ooops I forgot already had breakfast at home OK just a snack, hahaha! With all the walking and the playing with the kids (skipping rope and soccer)once you arrive at the project, no problem!Beautiful faces and open hearts!What else can one ask for???

Yes, I recommend
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Fantastic experience in Costa Rica !

This was our first overseas volunteer experience and we did not know what to expect in terms of the culture, the stay with a local family and the volunteering itself. We were amazed by what the country had to offer and Maximo is surely the icing on the cake. They are so organized and take care of every need you have, even going out of the way to ensure your questions and needs are cared for. The Spanish lessons are extremely nice and we loved our teaches (Teddy and Angela). I wish we could stay more than just 2 weeks, and next time I will definitely plan to stay longer. I am already planning my next trip to Latin America and if I go to CR, Peru or Guatemala, it will surely be through Maximo!

Ajay and Sonali, USA.

Yes, I recommend
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Eco-conservation coffee plantation

I had an amazing time spending a week in Monteverde, Costa Rica. I wanted to do service work abroad, I only had a week, and I wanted to do something outdoors and environmental related since I'd never really done anything like this before. I was a little unsure at first what the work would be like, what the town would be like, or what my family would be like but they were all wonderful. My family was kind and patient and it was great to have the service work connected to the family itself and their livelihood. My first day, my first hour, of work, was already the most meaningful community service I had ever participated in. Unlike internships or jobs in college where I felt like people were creating work for me to do that didn't really matter too much, the work at this coffee farm was clearly deeply valuable to the farmers; if it wasn't us (the volunteers) working, it would have been them. The work was hard, but good. My week, in mid-August, we were helping prepare the nursery. We packed bags with fertilizer that were going to be filled with the baby coffee plants. The farmers were clearing land and creating spaces to place rows of bags. They had 4000 bags to fill and there was two men, one of their sons, and sometimes another daughter - and that was it! But they were creating this nursery, and had purchased their own roaster, so that they could work for themselves (not in maintanence, like one farmer had at a nearby school), work their own land, and do what made them happy. It was amazing to feel included in this process, know that I was contributing in a positive way to their lives. the work could get tedious, and it was hot, but we were never alone, always working with and talking with the farmers and families, learning about them and sharing about ourselves. Also, the region is stunningly beautiful and the work days were short enough to have plenty of time to explore, hike and walk around this small, rural, rustic community and setting.

Yes, I recommend
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An experience not be forgotten!

I did my volunteer placement in San Jose, Costa Rica. Upon reaching the new country, as expected, there was a culture shock, especially due to the language barrier between my host family and I. However, after day 1, I adjusted rapidly. The people at Maximo Nivel were very friendly, helpful and made you feel comfortable. I was placed in an HIV clinic in Cartago, a nearby city. Volunteering there was one of the best experiences I've had. I learned so much, was able to meet many wonderful people, and enjoyed every moment there. Additionally, during my free time, I was able to go zip-lining, white water rafting, and bungee jumping. You really make your trip what you want it to be. I only wish that I had spent longer than 9 days there. It was an amazing experience!

Yes, I recommend

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...