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 144 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 121 - 135 of 144
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Jade
10/10

A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

My boyfriend, Charlee and I spent a week in Costa Rica. We were placed in the child care program at Pollitos. From the first day we arrived until our last day, we felt nothing but respect, love and appreciation. Everyone from the Maximo Team was extremely helpful and kind. Our host family, Yami, was the definition of Costa Rican hospitality. Yami and her husband, Victor went out of their way to accommodate to our needs. The children and the staff at Pollitos will forever be in our hearts. In one short week, Costa Rica became one of my favorite places in the world because of this program. Thank you so so so much for this incredible life changing experience! Pure Vida!

How can this program be improved?
No suggestions at this time.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Sina
10/10

Volunteering in Costa Rica

The past two months I spent volunteering in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel. I worked in an orphanage and also in a day care center. Those eight weeks have been one of the best weeks in my life. Very nice and helpful staff, amazing kids, the best host family I could have asked for and amazing travel destinations on the weekends. Seeing how one of the little ones was first afraid of water but after our swimlessons became so brave was definitely one of the best experiences. So sad I have to leave, but Ill be back!

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Mattias
8/10

Pura Vida!

I went into this programme not knowing exactly what to expect, especially as a solo traveller. I quickly got adjusted to the life in San Jose and the team at Maximo Nivel could not have been more accomadating and friendly. Making friends happened naturally and I met loads of great people from all over the world which was fantastic for organizing weekend trips around Costa Rica. The english placement that I worked was an extremely rewarding experience, the students were very eager to learn and really appreciated the time that we as the volunteers put in. Starting the trip off my Spanish was pretty pitiful but after just a short two weeks I had learned a huge amount, especially with the Spanish lessons of offer at Maximo Nivel. I have no regrets doing this programme and I will surely be back.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Carolina
9/10

Ostional Turtle Project

I enjoyed learning so much about the turtles, their environment and how we can help them i.e. make a difference. Furthermore am looking forward to share my knowledge with others to create awareness.
The local people we worked with where appreciative of our support and effort, they shared a lot of information to make our stay meaningful. Was also interesting to come together other volunteers from different backgrounds with the same interest.
Would definitely recommend to anyone looking to expand and broaden their horizons.

How can this program be improved?
For those interested in making donations, would be useful if one could be put in contact with the coordinator of the turtle conservation project to provide or bring the right donation e.g. microchip scanner
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Amanda
10/10

Teaching English

I had the wonderful opportunity to teach English in La Carpio (just a bit outside San Jose) for 6 weeks. Going into my trip, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. This is one of those things that you just have to experience to understand. But throughout my 6 weeks, I not only was able to help the local community, I also learned so much about myself and the world. This was my first overseas trip, so travelling by myself in a different country was completely new to me. I was able to see many sides of Costa Rica, and its people by leaving San Jose 5 of my 6 weekends. Also, I made some truly wonderful friends, not only in other volunteers, but also in my students. I will truly cherish these friendships for life, and even though it was so hard to leave, I know that I will be coming back. I highly recommend both travelling to Costa Rica, as well as volunteering through Maximo Nivel! The staff is extremely friendly and supportive, and they seem to really care about you, not just as a client, but as a person.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Luisa
10/10

pura vida

First of all, anybody who is about to read that review and is struggling with whether to go on that trip or not... should send the application book those tickets NOW.
Travelling alone will be the scariest, most liberating and most precious experience of your life - and I am so so grateful for having made the decision to live that experience exactly here with exactly this people!
The whole Maximo Nivel team consists of uniquely amazing, supportive and genuinly caring people with the best intentions at heart always making sure you are feeling fine in the new environment. They are gold.
My project itself was the perfect fit! Taking care of children always was my passion, but working and sharing your time with little Ticos who trust a stranger so much and open their heart to you every day a little bit more is such a priceless and precious experience that will leave you with a sparkle in your heart.

So don't overthink it - believe me when I say to simply do it and let it change your perspective.

'Pura Vida' - Life is wonderful.

Luisa

Yes, I recommend this program
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gabriella
10/10

amazing program

i volunteered for 6 weeks with the turtle conservation project in junqillal and absolutely loved it. i had no expectations when arriving that i would have any contact with the turtles, but was blown away with how involved our work was with them. if you're looking for a project where you see direct results of all the work you are doing, i would definitley recommend the turtle conservation project. keep in mind not ALL the work is directly involved with the turtles ( i believe this should be stressed more). a lot of it is dirty work like picking up trash, shoveling compost, hauling heavy buckets of sand and water, and walking several kilometers on the beach at night. but everything you do is to ultimately benefit the turtles so it is defintley all worth it! for anyone who loves animals and the environment i would absoluetly recommend this program!

How can this program be improved?
things on site could be a little more organized in regards to distribution of work, start times of work, and who is working what job.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Corey
8/10

Challenging but Rewarding Experience

I have never traveled abroad before and as one would expect there was some apprehension involved, but that all began to melt away once I met the caring and friendly staff at Maximo Nivel. I arrived by myself but have never once felt alone. They work hard to make sure we feel included and welcomed even in the first few days when you are still trying to make friends and meet the other volunteers. On top of that they ensure we have the supplies and materials we need for our projects.

I participated in the Teaching English program which at times can be trying but overall was very rewarding. Although it was somewhat of a hassle to take the medly of buses to our site every day, the students desire to learn and excitement about the language made it all worth it.

It can be challenging living abroad especially if you're traveling by yourself. But the warm staff, solid programming, and exciting experiences make it all worth it. Living with a brand new family and in a completely foreign city is not for the faint of heart but if you feel you're up to the adventure this wonderful place will provide you with lasting memories for years to come.

How can this program be improved?
Newer supplies in the staff support closet for projects and activities.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Cecilia
10/10

Costa Rica- Unforgetable Experience!!!

When I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica I was very nervous and excited but did not know what to expect. As soon as I got to the house I felt very loved and welcomed by the family. The first day volunteering was life changing to me. I was teaching adults that were very eager to learn English and friendly with me. They are a part of a small community in Coronado.They are amazing people that do not get the same opportunities a lot of us have, and still they are strong and make time to come with their children to learn English and help each other by sticking together through good and bad.
The adults in this community planned a day to take the volunteers on a trip so that we would get to see all the beautiful places in their community. They all saved money to rent a van, take us sightseeing, and visit their church. After that amazing trip we all had dinner together, in which we all brought something to eat. I will never forget all the love and hard work that was put in to make this happen. They gave me so much love that I could never express with words how happy they made me feel. I will always keep the Coronado people in my heart and be thankful that I had a chance to learn the important things in life from them.

How can this program be improved?
It would have helped volunteers know in advance that we had to take multiple buses to get to our projects and the cost of transportation.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alexus
9/10

Special Needs Abroad

My trip to costa rica was very special and fun! I felt like I made a good decision coming here for my first volunteer trip. I reccomend to other volunteers that they learn spanish before or during their expierence and take off more than one week! one week is not enough because this is such a good expierence.

How can this program be improved?
A little more inclusion for the volunteers.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Toddossa
10/10

Costa Rica- Maximo Nivel

I had such an amazing time volunteering here for the week I stayed in Costa Rica! The staff are so welcoming and are here whenever needed. Not once have I felt out of place nor unsafe. I would highly recommened this to anyone.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Nicholas
9/10

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 this program
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Kortni
9/10

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 this program
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MarioJungleTom
9/10

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 this program
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Christian
10/10

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.

PURA VIDA!

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...