Volunteer in Costa Rica to help mitigate the effects of climate change & improve access to education I Raleigh Expedition

Video and Photos

Trekking Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
Trekking Cerro Negro, Nicaragua
School Visit in Costa Rica
School Visit in Costa Rica
Digging in the National Park
Digging in the National Park
Team building activities
Team building activities
Sunset silhouette at the end of trek
Sunset silhouette at the end of trek
Blori Ñak school
Volcanic landscape in Costa Rica
Volcanic landscape in Costa Rica
Making tortillas in San Marcos Dos, Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

About

Join a 4, 7 or 10 week Expedition and visit one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, home to national parks, volcanoes and stunning beaches.

Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Our volunteers work alongside innovative young local people, leading the international fight against climate change. Additionally, indigenous groups in Costa Rica are among the most marginalised members of society and almost completely excluded from political, social and economic developments made.

You could work on three exciting and impactful projects:

Community project
Work with the local community to improve access to education for indigenous communities by developing the local infrastructure.

Environment project
Help conserve Costa Rica’s biodiversity and improve access to national parks.

Adventure project
Trek through rainforest and up volcanoes on a variety of stunning routes that tourists don’t get access to.

Highlights
  • Varied and unique programme
  • Personal Development
  • Be part of an international team of volunteers
  • Achieve real Impact
  • Immerse yourself in another culture

Impact

In 2018, we helped promote eco-tourism in Costa Rica by improving trails in national parks. We planted new trees in conservation areas and supported local environmental education. 21 communities improved their knowledge about climate change and what they can do about it.

2020 Programs now recruiting

Have a real volunteer experience you will never forget. Real people, real projects, real change.

We are now starting recruitment for our 2020 programs departing in February and June. Get in touch today to find out more.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

91%
based on 19 reviews
  • Impact 8.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 8.7
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 1 - 15 of 19
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Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences ever!

I had such an incredible time on Raleigh. I met people I didn’t think I’d ever meet and did things I never thought I’d get the chance to do! Honestly, couldn’t recommend enough! Working in an NRM project was so beautiful and trekking across Costa Rica was challenging but so rewarding! Working with indigenous communities was so eye opening and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to go there. I have made incredible friends that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life and I really hope that many more people will get to have the experience that I have had! The support and learning you receive throughout your Raleigh experience is invaluable. I feel I have developed so many different hard and soft skills, few of which I would ever have had the chance to develop had it not been for Raleigh. Thank you all so much!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
How much I learned in three months! I now know more about who I am and what I want to achieve in life! The most surprising thing was really how much you can be pushed to your limit and still succeed.
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Sophie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Fantastic Opportunity to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone in Costa Rica!

I first heard about Raleigh International through school and as soon as I decided to take a gap year following school, I knew I wanted to embark on a Raleigh expedition. It was the best decision I have ever made!
Spending 10 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with Raleigh allowed me to experience new cultures, learn valuable communication, problem solving and organisational skills and meet a whole host of people I would never otherwise have met. To say that I was taken out of my comfort zone during my expedition would be an understatement- a Raleigh expedition will completely propel you from your comfort zone!!! From reinforcing paths and fixing bridges in the heart of a national park to making dream comes true for the local people with the addition of a gravity water system to hiking across breathtaking landscapes, every day on Raleigh is different. Some days will be harder than others and everyone will likely be affected by illness and feeling home sick at some point but the support and safety in place mean that sooner rather than later you will be feeling elated and in awe of the experience you are living! The projects take venturers and volunteer managers off the beaten track and allow you to experience parts of the country you would never be able to experience if you were travelling on your own or with a tour company. In addition the projects present the unique opportunity to live and work alongside local people to contribute towards the UN sustainable development goals.
I had always been very shy and reserved at school and I lacked a significant amount of self confidence but following my Raleigh expedition I arrived home a completely changed person (for the better!). Although vastly different it equipped me with so many of the skills I needed to completely my pharmacy degree and go on to begin my career as a pharmacist and I’m sure the same would be true regardless of the sector that you go on to work in. I guarantee you will absolutely not regret choosing Raleigh International.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Embrace every moment- take pictures and live in the now. Use your time on Raleigh to reflect on the things that matter and to grow yourself as a person- write in a journal, say yes to any new experience, put maximum effort into every project but most of all; don’t forget to look up and realise where your are! Costa Rica is full of some of the most amazing landscapes and people you will ever see or meet and you will sorely miss them when you are back home!
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Megan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Costa Rica and Nicaragua

This experience for me came when I needed it the most. The experience in leadership and team work that I gained on expedition I could take with me back into my day to day life.
The friendships I built through out this trip were life changing everyone had a different impact teaching me something new and helping me develop as a person. I felt safe though out and all of the instructors where amazing. The amount of effort put in to make sure we were safe and enjoying are experiene was above and beyond what I expected. I pushed my self mentally and physically at times especially during trek. However your group was always there to support you though the tough days and where there to celebrate the wins. Would definitely recommend Raleigh international (I want to do it all again)

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Ella
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Community and Adventure Projects in Costa Rica & Nicaragua

Undertaking a 7 week expedition with Raleigh to Costa Rica and Nicaragua was the best thing I could have done with my year out. It not only gave me the chance to give back in some way and create lasting positive change, but also took me on a journey of personal development.

I lived and worked alongside the community of Los Llanitos in Nicaragua, to help them create a 7 km gravity-fed water system. Being fully immersed in the life of a rural Nicaraguan community was one of the best parts of my expedition, allowing me to build friendships and learn about a completed new culture, diversifying my knowledge and improving my Spanish to no end!
Although one of the most challenging experiences of my life to-date - expedition helped me develop a new confidence and willingness to challenge myself and others everywhere I go. I would recommend Raleigh expedition to anyone.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would stay for the full 10 week expedition - wouldn't want to miss a thing!
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James
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A life turning point!

I'm not sure I really knew what I was letting myself into when I signed up for a Raleigh Expedition. However, what I can say is that I definitely didn't expect the most memorable experience of my life so far. I contributed to something genuinely meaningful - whilst part of an incredible, internationally diverse team of other young people. Not only that, it felt adventurous, fun and it created a change within me - it made me who I am today. Costa Rica and Nicaragua were incredible countries to visit. Seeing the issues they face with my own eyes, and working collaboratively alongside volunteers from those countries really opened my mind to what you can achieve together. Nothing is impossible. I can't recommend this programme highly enough. If you do it, I think it's likely it will be a turning point in your life, just as it was in mine.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to future volunteers on a Raleigh Expedition: don't count the days, make the days count.
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Josh
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Raleigh Expedition was the best thing I could have done

Beyond just giving me the chance to experience an absolutely amazing part of the world, and work on projects I knew were bringing about real positive change, my Raleigh Expedition completely transformed me in so many ways.

It developed huge new confidence and willingness in me to try new things and confront challenges, at a time when I had never done anything remotely like it before. Through it, I've made such a wealth of friends around the world who I'm still in touch with, and it's led to opportunities in my career that I never could have anticipated, for which I'm still so grateful for.

No matter where you're at, if you want to make a really fantastic change not just to others but to yourself, or if you want to start exploring the world or get actively involved in charitable work but you just don't know where to start, I can't recommend Raleigh enough. It is an awesome experience.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Being able to see both coasts of Costa Rica (the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea) from the peak of Mount Chirripo, whilst on the group trek during Expedition.
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Julian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience, amazing organisation - real impact

I had an amazing time with Raleigh in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The in-country team were fantastic - really motivated to make sure that everybody on the programme was well supported and inspired to challenge themselves and make a difference. The whole experience was unique - we got to live and work with real local people to address real challenges.

Working with the indigenous people of Costa Rica was inspiring - the communities were really remote, walking several hours through the rainforest to get to the village where we lived. We got to support the Cabecar people to get a basis education - previously they got their classes in falling down builiding or sometimes under a tree. Now we helped the community to build a new school, set up a parents group and inspire the children to go to school. Its an experience I'll never forget.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The kindness and generosity of all the people I met
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Jamal
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience!

It was a great experience!

Getting to visit a country that is completely new to me. Immersing myself with the culture and lifestyle.

Pushes you to the limit with each phase of the expedition. Each phase there is something to take away.

Community Phase: this is where I practised my language skills it was fun learning Spanish to use for my daily conversation.

Trek Phase: Personal Favourite one of the most amazing and breathtaking sceneries I have come across. Always

Environment: This project was relaying and creating a new pathway so that tourist are able to visit the park and encourage ecotourism in the future so that it becomes more sustainable for the future.

People: This is the best of all, you meet different people from all over the world and you make new friends then continue it on to be a long-lasting friendship.

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Joanna
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

10-week Expedition as Project Manager

Before I signed up with Raleigh International, I wasn't really sure where Nicaragua is and the only thing I knew about Costa Rica was #PuraVida. The last time I had slept in a tent was before puberty and my Spanish skills were pretty much non-existent. So it's safe to say that I had absolutely no idea what to expect!
During our 2-week induction training someone said that during the phases we will experience our "highest highs and lowest lows" and boy, were they right!
I did the 260-km Trek in Nicaragua and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Yes, mentally and physically challenging, but walking through the breathtaking landscape of Nicaragua and getting to know locals on the way was truly humbling. In the evenings we'd ask in the community if there was a nearby plain in which we could camp and most of the nights we then ended up sleeping in someone's garden or even house, just because they loved to share!
My second and third phase were Natural Resource Management in the Rincon de la Vieja National park and it was there where I learned what it means to be connected to Nature.
We helped the Park Rangers with their day-to-day work and also improved the infrastructure in the park and my favourite project was turning some forgotten Hot Springs into a nice-looking Tourist Destination.
One of my favourite aspects was spending time and getting to know the In-Country Volunteers, who were more than willing to share about their lives, their countries and their language.
13 weeks later I feel like I am a new person! I am more self-aware, more confident, can put on a 20-kg backpack in less than 10 seconds and can comfortably have a whole conversation in Spanish!
To anyone who wants to challenge themselves, have an impact on the lives of young people and experience new cultures - Sign up!

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Jodie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience

I went on a 10 week expedition to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2011. I loved being able to work on 3 different types of projects in two countries whilst working with community members to make worthwhile impact. The trek was incredible (a mixture of fun and challenge) and let us see parts of the country many other visitors wouldn't get the chance to. I've also made some life long friends from around the world.

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Laura
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most amazing experience of my life!

What can i say? 15 years on, my Raleigh expedition is still a defining part of my life. I made some firm and lifelong friends, but meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds also really helped to develop the networking and interpersonal skills that I rely on in my subsequent career (as a lawyer).

The experience of living and contributing to a community so very different to mine rocked my world. I'll never forget my Nicaraguan "family", receiving piles of ripe mangoes for an English lesson well delivered, the experience of pulling water from the well to "shower" in the open air under a hail of twigs from cheeky boys in the trees above, nor watching the sun rise over the steaming rainforest from the verandah of the village chief's house after 10 exhausting days of trekking through paths few other non-indigenous feet had trodden.

Raleigh taught me the power of my own self -belief - and awoke a thirst for new travels and experiences that has stayed with me. I recommend it to you without hesitation!

What would you improve about this program?
It is great!
Chloe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience

My experience with Raleigh was truly life changing. It made me challenge myself and achieve things that I did not think I would be able to. I took part as a volunteer manager and felt that the training and support from the in country staff was excellent. The safety standards were exceptional with a strong emphasis on preventing accidents but also ensuring that we were confident in what to do in the event of an emergency and having had to put these into effect I felt completely able to deal with the situation. We got to work in some of the most outstanding scenery in Costa Rica and meet some amazing members of the community. The experience has truly changed my outlook and made me want to be a more active citizen and carrying out further volunteer work is now an integral part of my life.

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Richard
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Nicaragua

After a few years working in the NHS, as a Paramedic, I felt what I d always dreaded would happen. Everything seemed like a predictable treadmill. I d been interested in Raleigh since I first heard about them about 20 years ago and being able to mix the two, as a Raleigh medic and working on a Raleigh expedition. I did feel a bit older than most of the other VPMs but that wasn t a problem. Raleigh use Nurses, Doctors, and Paramedics as Medics. In reality though, it is a very small part of the overall experience because most of the work is whichever project you are on. And I mean work! It was not a holliday. I had arrived in central america a little earlier and had felt a connection with the people in Nicaragua, so I asked to work there. The first phase was a Trek through Nicaragua, and none of us will ever forget that. I remember, at a villiage in Nicaragua, which had taken hours of walking throught the heat, dropping my back pack, which by then felt like a lead weight, and collapsed beside the shade of a small house. Then one of the pigs, which walk freely around the village saw me get my lunch out, and came over expectantly sticking his snout in my face and 'oinking' at me. I am an animal lover but this was not a time for generosity. We were exhausted. After overcoming a few setbacks we finally arrived at lake next to a volcano and spent the night there before meeting the bus the next day and returning to field base. The next two phases were helping on a water and sanitation project in Nicaragua. In the end, we helped dig about 5km of trench, which eventually supplied clean water supply to each of the houses, about 12 in our village. The host families were beautiful, honest people. I often think of the contrast between a hectic western life, and living in nature, sitting outside, talking, in the candlelight, maybe with the sound of birds or rain, after a hard days work. Raleigh was everything I was looking for. I d love to do it again, but as any Raleigh alumni will know, whichever expedition destiny has in store for you will be a unique. For me, there wil always be Raleigh expeditions, but none like Costa Rica and Nicaragua 14 G & H.

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Connie
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

5-week programme with Raleigh, July-August 2014

The main gist: I had a wonderful time with Raleigh in Costa Rica, and despite several logistical things going wrong and lots of frustration, it was a really valuable experience.

The first couple of days were spent doing induction and training at Field-base and a short practice trek for an hour or so to get to 'jungle camp' - a kind of mock scenario for our actual trek at the end, and a team building exercise. Quite a memorable night because it started pouring with rain, I got thoroughly drenched, and it didn't stop for about 4 days.

The whole group of about 60 was split into 4 teams for the 3-week projects; mine was sent to build a classroom in an incredibly remote place called Blori Ñak, which has a tiny school and is in the Chirripo indigenous reserve. Some of the people living there didn't even speak Spanish, but they speak an indigenous language called Cabecar, which we tried to learn a few words of.

The main aim of our project, to build a wooden classroom/building for the school, essentially failed. Building materials were slow to arrive, we didn't know what we were doing a lot of the time and had relatively little direction from the local builder who was meant to be overseeing us. A lot of time was spent waiting for things to happen, or for materials to arrive, and in some ways you could see it as wasted time. But we filled it with other things, like playing football - sometimes with the kids in the school - and getting to know each other. Our team were much more cohesive than any of the other groups by a long way, probably because we had to make an effort to enjoy the time together that we couldn't use to work on the project.
Did we make a difference to the local community? In the grand scheme of things, probably not. We only managed to start the building, laying the floor boards and some structural posts, but even if we had finished the project, our interaction with the local people was fairly limited, which was a shame. The 3 weeks were full of frustrations, but an interesting experience, with lots learned and gained from it. I'd say I learnt more about myself than I helped anyone in Blori.

Then - my favourite part of the trip - we set out for 5 days trekking, with the same team. We walked about 15km each day in quite mountainous terrain (avg. altitude was about 1500m). Such beautiful views and in some places you could see out to the Pacific coast to the West. Hard work and tiring, but so worth it.

Finally, we spent 3 days on an island off the Pacific Coast called San Lucas, which used to be a maximum security prison but is now a nature reserve. This was the 'Survival Challenge', which was essentially just a bit of fun and a kind of fake desert-island situation; we did team games and survival skills like building a fire and skewering fish to cook for ourselves. A lovely end to the 5 weeks, which had ups and downs but overall was wonderful.

What would you improve about this program?
More organisation for the projects.
- better communication with local partners (e.g. the builder we were working with)
- contingency plans if things go wrong - we were just stuck there for 3 weeks feeling useless when we could have been put to use doing something else
- more teaching about methods and practices of sustainable development
Default avatar
Carl
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Costa Rica & Nicaragua Volunteering Experience

I went out on the 7 week expedition to Costa Rica and Nicaragua from the 4th July to the 20th August 2016.

I was unsure about whether I had made the right choice in going and anxious about what to expect and whether I would enjoy it. Fortunately, all my worries were for nothing and I had a thoroughly great time over the 7 weeks. Although challenging, the experience was also fun and very fulfilling.

I went on the Baricifico trek from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and then the WASH programme in La Montana, Nicaragua. The trek was tough at times, particularly through the Costa Rican jungle, but was full of fun moments and, on completion, gave me one of the best senses of achievement of my life. Similarly, in Nicaragua, the satisfaction gained from bringing fresh, clean water to an extremely grateful community was immense. The locals were so friendly and staying in their homes whilst we worked on the project was great fun.

It is so easy to make great friends on a Raleigh expedition and I am still in touch with several of them now. Moreover, what I learnt from my expedition and the character it gave me will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What would you improve about this program?
Maybe slightly cheaper

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About Raleigh International

We believe young people everywhere are able to change the world. So we create youth-driven change that lasts. We empower young people with the skills, experience and connections to be leaders of change. One of the first Gap Year Association...