Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Costa Rica

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costa rica volunteer
costa rica volunteer
costa rica volunteer
costa rica volunteer
volunteers on the beach in Costa Rica
volunteers on the beach in Costa Rica
Journalism Internship opportunities in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Journalism Internship opportunities in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer at a school in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer at a school in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer on a Conservation project in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer on a Conservation project in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer at an orphanage in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer at an orphanage in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer on a Teaching placement in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad
Volunteer on a Teaching placement in Costa Rica with Projects Abroad

About

Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer placements in the developing world since 1992. Our volunteers in Costa Rica directly impact local communities through service projects arranged and coordinated by in-country staff.

We offer a wide selection of volunteer opportunities, ranging from child Care and Teaching English or French to coaching Sports to Conservation & Environment. We also have Business, Physical Therapy and Journalism internships. Visit our site for more details.

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Popular Programs

male and female volunteer in a Costa Rica forest

Live in Costa Rica’s dense tropical dry forest and work on the frontlines of conservation.

child on swing in Costa Rica

Live in central America and prepare children for school by teaching important early childhood development skills.

children hugging volunteer in Costa Rica

Improve the English language skills of primary school students and inspire local teachers with new teaching techniques.

volunteer coaching group of children in Costa Rica

Work at a disadvantaged school in Costa Rica to promote health and well-being through sports.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

93%
based on 26 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 8.9
Showing 16 - 26 of 26
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Kassandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Lives Endeavor

It is hard to put a price on an experience that will 1) forever change you and 2) continuously help you in life. That is what Projects Abroad gave me. I went to Liberia, Costa Rica when I was 18 years old, I am now 23, and this opportunity has continued to follow me!
The program Projects Abroad was well placed and I was with someone most of the way there. I was picked up at the airport by a staff member and driven to the buss station where I was handed off to a close family friend who would be going the same route as me. Once I arrived in Liberia another representative was at the station to drive me to my host families home. I was able to walk to the school I would work at as well as any stores that I may have wanted to go to.
The teacher I was shadowing would hang out with me and show me around. I also made friends with a local church group in the town square are started spending my free evenings with them once they came to my host family and introduced themselves.
I am now the Child Care Assistant Director at a local YWCA and provide Respite care to children in need in my community and while Projects Abroad may seem unrelated it gave me the chance to hone my skills at adapting to different people and situations both culturally and personally different than myself. To have been able to go to a different country where I didn’t know the language, the exact currency change, or some of the major customs and leave with a deeper understanding of both world that I am both apart of as well as the world I had only read about was a truly life changing experience. I had more growth as a person and human being in two weeks than I ever thought possible. Even now I am able to reflect back on that time and center myself as an adult in this moment. To be able to use a memory from five years ago to help me focus my current ambitions and goals is truly profound.
To anyone who wants a unique, life altering and exhilarating life experience look no further than Projects Abroad.

Life IS what YOU MAKE of it. Make it an experience that will last you a 1,000 life times.

What would you improve about this program?
To have been told a little bit more about how I was going to get to Liberia. I was exhausted and then had to take a two hour buss ride to get into the town. This was another awesome experience but was a bit startling at first.
Default avatar
Charlotte
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Pura Vida

I spent three months in Liberia, Costa Rica, volunteering as an English teacher in a public arts experience. I choose Costa Rica because I wanted to improve my Spanish skills and the country is beautiful. I had the most amazing time! My host family did not speak any English, but I arrived knowing enough Spanish to speak with people. When I arrived in Liberia, I was met by a staff member who took me to my host family. The family was very accommodating and cook vegetarian meals for me. I really did feel like part of the family. Everyday, I would come home from work and we would have a family lunch together. Luis would always come in yelling "Charlotte, Pura Vida" and his daughter, Maria Jose, would ask me about my day. Carmen was very accommodating to the fact that I am a vegetarian, and also tried to give me some traditional Costa Rican food. Of course, this involved lots of rice and beans, but I got used to that. On night she even made me plantain ceviche as a substitute for the raw fish version. Since I really did not want gallo pinto for breakfast, Carmen would just cut me some fresh fruit, which was always delicious!

I work at Colegio Felipe Perez with students from the ages of 13 to 18. They often had problems maintaining focus in class but they were happy to practice with a native English speaker. They always invited me to sit with them during the breaks or in assemblies. One of my students even taught me traditional Costa Rica dances so I could perform with her at the English Festival. I had a lot of responsibility in the classroom. I helped my teacher grade exams, created activities, and even taught the class by myself if my teacher had a meeting. I also was able to experience Costa Rican culture as the school would host assemblies on holidays and showcase traditional dances and songs. The kids were all really talented.I even got to help stand up for the rights of students in my school. When I first arrived, the school didn't have access to potable water or clean bathroom facilities. They administration needed more money from the Department of Education to fix the problems. Off and on for two weeks, classes would stop and we would march around the "barrio" or the town in protest.

I also worked at the Parque National Barra Honda for my final week. The park is famous for the many limestone caves in the area. As part of the project, I got to go into the caves and see the amazing formations. I also helped to clear trails and work on the construction of a waste recycling system. The volunteers lived in cabins in the park. The bathrooms were a bit dirty but it wasn't too bad. The staff was amazing and they always made an effort to come over and chat with the volunteers in our down time. I really wished I could have stayed longer as I did not get to work on the butterfly or bat project. After Liberia, traveling from Barra Honda on the weekends was more difficult. There was only one bus that ran from the national park into the nearby town and it took a very long time. To get back to the park on Sunday evening, I had to get a taxi, which was expensive.

I also had an amazing time traveling on the weekends with the other volunteers. We really had the chance to see all of Costa Rica, but we arranged it ourselves. We would either take the public buses or rent a private bus, neither of which were that expensive. I traveled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, to the cloud forest of Monteverde where I went bungee jumping, to Jaco and Manuel Antonio, and to the numerous beaches on the Nicoya Pennisula. While I was in Liberia, there were always about 15 to 20 other volunteers from the ages of 17 to 35. All of our crazy adventures exploring the country bonded us together and we still keep in touch even though we live all over the world. I am so glad that I took the time to work and live in Costa Rica. I had the most fantastic time!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to have lived with another volunteer. I lived the farthest away from the center of town and from the other volunteers but it only took about 15 minutes to walk to the Central Park in Liberia. The program was also pretty expensive.
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BryonyPerks
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Passionate, Proactive and an Unforgettable Experience

Being the younger sister of two, I occasionally feel the need to assert my independence. So when it came to my gap year, I was pretty keen to do something different. The year before me, my sister had travelled to South Africa for a couple of months with Projects Abroad and ended up loving it so much that she extended her stay for a month longer than planned (much to my mother’s dismay!). She’d come back buzzing with stories of friends and experiences, not to mention considerable heartache at having left them all behind… But I wasn’t going to let myself be convinced that easily: I was going to do my research properly! I quickly realised, however, that the service provided by Projects Abroad is pretty unique.

What first struck me was the wealth of opportunity available, both in terms of the choice of countries and the range of projects. The second deciding factor was their flexibility; due to their extensive networks between and within counties, Projects Abroad could really take to my plans into account and help me customise a trip that involved two countries and three projects (I really couldn’t choose between them!) which, compared to the other companies I researched, was impressive. So a month later, partially prepared, very excited, and a little nervous, I was off! My first stop was Costa Rica, where I’d be learning Spanish for a month. I’d then planned to fly over to Peru to teach for a month, followed by a week of conservation in the Amazon.

The arrival procedure in both countries was very supportive; I was met by a Projects Abroad member of staff at the airport and taken straight to meet my host family (with the added bonus of receiving a whistle-stop tour of the area on the way). After a night of settling in, I then joined a few other volunteers for an orientation of the surrounding area in which I was living and how to get to my place of work/study, which was invaluable. As for my host families, I couldn’t have wished for more. The warmth I felt on arrival put me at ease almost instantly, and they were so caring throughout my stay – staying up for me if I got back late, or leaving meals in the microwave with a note. Recalling the chats we had over the kitchen table, my early attempts at Spanish, or running around with my host mum chasing cockroaches still makes me laugh. The accommodation was also a lot more luxurious than I expected (I had an en suite in Costa Rica!), and I always felt safe in the area.

The teaching and conservation projects that I took part in were outstanding. The proactivity and passion of the staff out there is infectious, and I really did feel like I was making a difference during my time. The English teacher in the Peruvian school that I was assisting had a very low level of English herself, so I took up to the role of teacher from the beginning. It was daunting at the start, but the weekly workshops and regular contact with the project staff, plus lots of ideas and material from the office really supported me, and by the time I was leaving, both my pupils and my teacher were chatting to me in English! My week on the Taricaya conservation project was equally rewarding. Feeding animals, chasing baby turtles, picking fruit... I kept having to remind myself that it was real. I also joined at a really exciting time during the re-release of Spider Monkeys into the wild, which involved lots of cuddling of baby monkeys and treks into the depths of the Amazon to set up the pre-release cages. A few of the tasks I got involved in weren’t particularly glamorous, but the depth of involvement that volunteers are allowed to experience makes this project truly unique.

Lastly, the countries themselves were breathtaking. From triple tier waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches in Costa Rica to deserts, lakes and Machu Picchu in Peru, every day of my three short months combined to make it truly an experience of a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
The cost of the program is very high, which makes it difficult for young people to pay for it without significant help from parents, but the experience you gain from such a trip made it worth it for me.
Default avatar
Tory.PuraVida
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventure with Projects Abroad Conservation

I decided last year I wanted to make a difference and get away, after lots of research I found Projects Abroad and after some emailing with the staff chose to volunteer through one of the many programs they offer. My first choice didn't work but the staff at the PA office helped me find another I would enjoy, and it became Costa Rica's Conservation Project in Barra Honda National Park. Getting there was easy, the staff helped me the entire way and everything was organized. The accomodations were much better than I was expecting, a massive washroom attached to your shared room (bunk beds, shelving on one wall, windows, and a front porch area). The work itself ranged from being very physical, to relaxing-- the work in the tree nursery was quite relaxing after a morning of doing something more physical. There are some staff members that live on site with you in another building and they are great! In the free time the staff, and other volunteers will go play football (soccer), the staff will teach you about Costa Rica, help you learn spanish, and help you plan trips to see the country on the weekends. Being away from the cities means you really bond with the other volunteers and the staff it quickly became a second home. The food is AMAZING!! They provide 3 meals a day and they are big, most times you actual ask for less even with all the work you are doing. The chef, Meciel will make custom dishes for people who have dietary restrictions, or just don't really like something. I think the staff at the park really made my trip, I enjoyed doing work that improved the park, working with animals (bats, butterflies, Macaw conservation, and monkey observation), getting to explore the one of the man caves in the park, and living right in the National Park really teaches you a lot about yourself-- no internet in the park, no nearby cities (but some really cool villages), and surrounded by nature is awesome.

You get to see a million stars at night because there is no light pollution, you will see monkeys daily, beautiful birds singing in the morning, I recommend this trip to anyone!! You can be any age to go, I worked with people 18 years of age up to mid 50's.

What would you improve about this program?
The only critical feedback is while I was there, our supervisor would post what jobs people were doing in the morning but sometimes the jobs weren't posted until really late so if you do want to adventure down into the village for a drink you dont know if you are waking up early for the bird projects. But with what I have heard the problem has been solved with the new supervisor since I left.
Default avatar
ehart612
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Alternative Spring Break

After my initial Spring Break plans fell through I decided I wanted to do something more with my vacation than just lie on a beach with my friends- I wanted to give back. I was a little skeptical of volunteering abroad at first because I was essentially paying to volunteer, a concept I had never heard of before, but I just decided to go with it and take a chance. Once I was in Costa Rica and saw where exactly my money was going to I was elated that I could donate my time and money to such a great cause. Projects Abroad is a wonderfully organized volunteer program. Every single member of staff that I met was amazing and I learned so much from them while I was there. I felt so welcomed and like I was genuinely needed at my placement.
The other spring breakers and I participated in the Care program and spent the week working at a daycare, doing odd jobs for them and playing with the kids. I had the opportunity to practice my Spanish in every day conversations; an opportunity that I never got in my American classrooms. The work was definitely physically hard and exhaustive at times but we still had time to go out to the bars and restaurants and even to the beach. The other girls in my placement were from all over the world and I feel more knowledgeable about other cultures simply from living and interacting with them for the week.
I would recommend Projects Abroad to anyone looking to volunteer in a foreign country- you learn so much about yourself and people in general that the experience is not to be missed! The only drawback is the price (it is quite pricey) but the money is used for such a great cause that this issue can be overlooked. My only regret is that I was not able to spend more time in Costa Rica.

Default avatar
Kiwi
7/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Environmental project in Costa Rica

I spent two months in Costa Rica, originally I was supposed to be on the conservation placement for 2 months but like most volunteers, I changed after a month. While Barra Honda is an amazing park with so much to offer, the facilites are well below standard. The bunk rooms were filthy and there were at times 6 in a room with only one fan to share. We also had a volunteer who was causing trouble however due the lack of accommodation there was no where else they could stay except our room.

The staff are knowledgeable and really happy to talk to you about the environment. I learnt a lot and got to participate in a huge variety of projects. The work is physically intense so be prepared for that!

After a month I transferred to the teaching project in Liberia. The staff were amazing and really happy to help. I had the best time of my trip with the host family I was placed in. I met many other travelers and my Spanish improved drastically. We had some fantastic weekend trips away and enjoyed things like going to the movies together every week.

I would recommend anyone going to the Conservation placement to be prepared for some hard work! I would also suggest you do some time in one of the other projects as well.

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

This and that about Projects Abroad

My first few days were a little bit too uneventful. Projects Abroad staff gave a quick intro to the town of Liberia and then let me go on my own. I didn't speak much spanish and was a bit shy about finding my own way around.

Once I met other volunteers and started my placement, however, things picked up a lot. I would suggest doing the care program, teaching program, or conservation program as those are the ones with the most impact.

The friendships were great. A much younger crowd than I expected, but it was nice that we were most single travellers looking for friends along the way.

The schedule is pretty relaxed and weekend travel can be more expensive than you planned for if you aren't careful. I got lucky and was able to both take spanish lessons and volunteer while I was in Liberia, Guanacaste with Projects Abroad. I think for some of the people who only took spanish lessons, the days were a bit long.

Overall, living with my host family was the best part. I played with the kids in my family everyday and they helped me tremendously with my spanish skills. My lessons were also great being that they were one on one and my teacher was really invested in my learning.

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

Volunteering and experiencing Pura Vida in Costa Rica!

In Costa Rica I spent one month in Liberia (the second largest city in the country) teaching English in both an elementary school and an adult classroom. The second month I spent working conservation in a national park called Barra Honda. This included work with different species in the park as well as general maintenance and research work for the park service.
Liberia is crazy. It is a really strange cross between being very modern and Americanized, and being a typical Costa Rican town. For example- there are many signs in English everywhere, and they have a McDonalds as well as many other American fast-food places, and they have more technology some places than you'd expect, but- the only food you can order some places is rice and beans, everything is in Colones (the currency of Costa Rica), the owners of stores mostly don't speak English, and the locals really seem to resent foreigners.
That said, I am lucky to have taken Spanish since 4th grade and all throughout high school- so I was actually one of the best Spanish speakers out of all the volunteers that I met. This was infinitely helpful for me, especially when teaching English and communicating with my host family.
My mother, Carmen, and father, Luis spoke no English at all, and my sister, Maria Jose, was actually almost fluent in English (but she was almost never around!). Anyway, living with a host family was an incredible experience if only because it integrated me into the culture that much more quickly. I really felt like I became part of the family, and I learned a lot about so many topics I had never come into contact with having lived in the U.S.

Teaching English was actually very difficult. I am not sure what I was expecting, but teaching English to kids and adults who have never had it before is a nightmare.I actually spent most of my placement in a school which had never had an English program before. So, another volunteer (from Holland) and I had to kickstart the program with our own lesson plans and ideas from scratch. It was a great experience for me, but I'm not so sure how much the kids got out of it. Schools in Costa Rica are fairly disorganized, and it was hard to get kids to listen and pay attention. All the time, kids would just be chasing each other around, leaving the classroom, hurting each other, and just adamantly not listening. This was made even worse by the fact that other teachers and staff members just didn't seem to care about the kids or their education. Definitely a different world, but also ridiculously hard to adjust to considering my private school education in the suburbs of Washington DC.
I also taught adults, though. Twice a week I went to my "community class" at night at a local elementary school and taught a class of complete beginners. I was given a little more of a "curriculum" with lesson plans for this one, and it did help that it was a class of adults who were actually interested in learning. We didn't get very far (i was only there a month) but I did manage to teach them the alphabet, the verb "to be", negatives and questions with "to be", and some vocabulary and verbs to go with them. Teaching in Liberia was a mind-blowing experience. So difficult, but so worth it.

In my second placement in Barra Honda National Park we did a number of things within the park as well as maintenance of the camp area where we lived and work on the park futbol field. I was able to do research on butterflies and bats in the park by catching and identifying different species in order to determine which habitats and elevations were most appropriate for each. Barra Honda was definitely very challenging physically- but it was so nice to know that I was assisting the park service in making the park experience better for its inhabitants as well as visitors to the area. Barra Honda is actually famous for its caves! So one day I got to explore the biggest cave (that is open to tourists) with one of the guides and it was incredibly cool! I also got the experience of marking a trail, using a machete for the first time, climbing up a waterfall, and sleeping under a mosquito net. Also, Barra Honda provided an opportunity for a lot of introspection on my part, as it was a very remote area and we had limited access to any towns, internet, tv, or phone service.

I also got the opportunity to travel around with other volunteer friends of mine quite a bit on the weekends as well. We went to several beaches in a few Pacific towns as well as one Caribbean town. I also climbed an active volcano, and went horseback riding, tubing, on a zipline canopy tour (!!), and to hot springs.
It was great to be able to utilize the public bus system right alongside the locals and to be able to negotiate our way to different locations and deals everywhere we went.
Systems don't work the same way in Costa Rica as they do in the U.S., and it was exciting (and scary) to have to figure out everything on the go, with a backpack on my back.

About the culture: Costa Ricans call themselves "ticos" and they are totally laid back. It is such a shock to arrive in a country where people just aren't WORRIED about things. They go to bars almost every night, they take naps whenever possible, and they always say "tranquila" (calm down) to people (me) who are too preoccupied with something that they think doesn't matter.
Beyond being relaxed-they love futbol (soccer) a lot and are intent on living the good life. They eat white rice and beans with every meal, as well as (sometimes) some meat and sometimes "salad" (tomatoes, cucumber, and possibly lettuce). The national slogan of the country is "Pura Vida", which means pure life. At first I kind of thought Pura Vida was just some sort of a marketing term to attract tourism, but the longer I spent with the Ticos, the more i felt pura vida to be truth.
Honestly- pura vida infiltrated my every action. Even after just two months I'd say im much more relaxed now, and much more able to take on new challenges without worrying as much. I believe in the concept of Pura vida more than anything else, and I believe in seeking it in whatever way possible. I think that is what it is supposed to be. I'm really happy to have learned about it through experience. So interesting.
Also- Guanacaste, the province that I lived in, makes the majority of its money on tourism. Tourism is a BIG deal there, and many people aspire to get jobs in tourism because they pay better and they are rather abundant. The tourism extends from the beautiful beaches, to the volcanoes and the endless miles of national parks that the country (and Guanacaste specifically) has to offer. Most of the locals think the tourism is great (because it gets them money!), but many others really resent the influx of foreigners that create need for English to be spoken and luxuries to be created in resorts and such that go way above and beyond anything that they are used to. By the end of my trip, I actually began to resent the tourism too...I just felt that my way of seeing and experiencing the country was far superior to lounging by the pool somewhere. I appreciate the income that tourism creates, but I do believe that it may be ruining Costa Rican culture, slowly but surely.

All in all- my experience with projects abroad was AMAZING and i would recommend it to anyone!

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

The Summer of My Life

I am a high school student in NC and my friend and I traveled with Projects Abroad for the past two summers. The first to Mexico, an amazing experience, and last summer to Costa Rica. Firstly, Costa Rica is the most incredibly beatiful, diverse place I have ever traveled to and the "ticos" (Costa Ricans) are all amazingly friendly and I completely and immediately fell in love with the place. I was in Projects Abroad's High School Special, which places only high school students from all different places around the world together. In the two weeks that I was there, I honestly got closer to these people than I am to some of my best friends. Also, the staff of Projects are all amazing. Luis and Andres were always there for any questions or to help with anything we needed, and Gunar was the funniest man I think I've ever met. At the day care, where we spent our first week, the kids were so fun and the owner was so sweet. At Barra Honda, the National Park where we spent our next week, we went on an at least 3 mile hike everyday. I also saw some of the most amazing things ever there, from huge groups of butterflies and tarantulas, to iguanas, bats and even one kinkajou. The landscape was beautiful, we were completely surrounded by enormous trees, calcium waterfalls, and the top of Barra Honda hill, which is basically only rock with an abundance of beautiful yellow, red, and purple bromeliads. Over all, this trip provided the most amazingly incredible summer that I have ever had. As soon as I got on the plane I was homesick for Costa Rica

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Kelly
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Greatest Summer of my life!

I had such a good time on my trip to Costa Rica. I did a 2 week summer program and by the end I wished I had stayed for longer. The first week I stayed in the Barra Honda National Park and that was quite a cultural shock. But the staff were very supportive and I met many great friends on the trip as well! (Some of which I have visited since, and still stay in contact with after 2 years). The second week we stayed with a host family and volunteered at a day care. This was such a great experience and I really learned a lot about the Costa Rican culture. Even with the language boundaries ( I suggest maybe taking a small course or brushing up on a few words.. I didn't so I had to carry a dictionary with me everywhere!) I still was able to communicate and develop a bond with my host family. The city was quite safe for such an undeveloped country and I never once encountered a time where I felt a risk. If you have the chance to take this, or any other projects abroad trip I HIGHLY recommend it! It was such a great time as I got to experience so many new things and have so much fun and at the same time I felt I was making a difference in the community. So, DO IT!

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PuraVida
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Projects Abroad Costa Rica

The program was amazing, each day was a new learning experience. By the end of my two month stay I felt as part of the community. I would recommend this program to anyone. I was able to get school credit for the spanish classes I took and volunteer hours for the classes I taught. I was even given the opportunity to teach the local police english classes! On the weekends I could travel and even went to other countries such as Nicaragua. The experiences was amazing and I would do it again in a heart beat.