Volunteering in Costa Rica
When people hear “Costa Rica”, they often envision flying through the treetops of a green rain forest canopy, soaking up the sun on gorgeous beaches, steaming plates of beans and rice, and countless species of exotic wildlife. And they’re right to do so! Costa Rica’s natural beauty and friendly people (known as “Ticos”) are two of the main reasons it’s one of the most popular destinations in Central America. It’s a country pushing hard to become the first developed country in the region. Volunteering in Costa Rica is about as laid back as you can imagine (Ticos are legendarily relaxed people) and an exceptional experience, for first time volunteers and veterans. Pura vida!
Fast Facts on Costa Rica
Capital City: San José
- San José is located in the central part of the country
Currency: Costa Rican colón
- Find your currency’s exchange rate here
Languages: Spanish is the official language
- English is widely spoken, but knowing at least basic Spanish will help you here
Population (2016 World Bank estimate): 4.8 million
- About the same as the population of urban Barcelona, Spain
Size: 19,700 square miles or 51,100 square kilometers
- About the size of the state of West Virginia (USA) or the country of Denmark
2018 Global Peace Index Ranking: 40 out of 163 nations (High)
- For comparison: USA (121 – Medium), Canada (6 – Very High), United Kingdom (57 – High)
Our partner NGO supports an huge number of projects spread out across the country for individuals volunteering in Costa Rica. Sea turtle conservation on the coast, animal rescue centers in the rain forest, and educational and health care projects in more populated areas; Costa Rica has something for everyone! In most instances, on projects that have multiple locations, placements will occur at the location most in need of volunteers at the time. Occasionally, volunteers will be given the opportunity to select which location they prefer.
In most cases, volunteers will live with a host family. This gives them a incredible opportunity to immerse themselves in the beautiful culture of Costa Rica while sharing a home and meals with local Ticos. You’ll learn to appreciate the laid back lifestyle of this tropical paradise while helping to improve communities, the environment, and quality of life for the animals our projects support.
Animal Rescue Center
Does helping provide care for some of the most interesting and beautiful animals on the planet peak your interest? If so, then volunteering in Costa Rica with our animal rescue center projects is sure to be an amazing experience! You’ll spend your days looking after exotic species that have been brought to one of our partner’s rescue centers for care due to injury, being orphaned, or deemed unwanted as a pet.
It’s said that the most important thing you can give to a child is your time. That’s especially true for underprivileged children. Teaching in Costa Rica is one of the best ways to experience local culture and make a significant impact in a short time. Even if you’ve never taught before, this project provides the perfect opportunity to help improve a child’s life and education.
Do you think little kids are the cutest thing ever? Obviously! If spending time and caring for the littlest of humans makes you absurdly happy, then this project was made for you! You’ll spend your time volunteering in Costa Rica helping underprivileged kids with their communication skills and overall development. It’s guaranteed to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Sea Turtle Conservation
If you love being at the beach, are working hard, enthusiastic, and love turtles; then volunteering in Costa Rica on the GOAT Volunteers’ Sea Turtle Conservation projects will be a dream come true! With projects on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, you’ll have the opportunity to help clean & protect sea turtle habitats on the beach, promote turtle conservation education, assist with research & monitoring, and (depending on the season) ensure newly hatched, baby turtles have a safe journey into the sea/ocean.
When an overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is negatively affecting the planet, environmental conservation should be at the top of our “To Do” lists. And that’s exactly what this project is all about! Millions of people take beach vacations every year. The impact of those tourists leaves a lasting, negative impact on the local environment and wildlife. The Environmental Conservation project aims to combat that impact with the help of eco-conscious individuals volunteering in Costa Rica. Why not work on your tan and help the environment at the same time? It’s a win-win!
Are you a veterinary student, aspiring veterinary student, or practicing veterinarian? Or, are you someone who just loves animals and wants to ensure their health & well-being? If so, we need your help volunteering in Costa Rica! As a developing country with a significant population of domestic animals; including many roaming the the streets, veterinary services are always in need. The local clinics supported by this project double as pet stores as well to help finance their operations. You’ll have the opportunity to observe (and possibly assist, depending on your experience & the clinic’s needs) veterinary procedures. In addition, you’ll help with cleaning and maintaining the clinic and pet store, assist with grooming, provide customer service, and feeding the pet store animals.
GOAT Volunteers offers two different health care projects for volunteering in Costa Rica. Volunteers have the choice of working in an elder care or hospital setting. Unlike our health care projects in other countries, individuals without health care experience can volunteer in some cases in Costa Rican health care projects if they have aspirations of working in the medical field (see project page for more details). Experienced medical professionals provide much needed volunteer support to the local health care teams.
Included: Airport arrival transport • Pre-departure information • In-country orientation, training and coordination • Accommodation: private or shared room (location dependent) in a host family house or volunteer dorm-style facility with a fan • 3 meals per day (in most locations*) • 24/7 emergency phone
*In the volunteer houses in Jacó & Heredia, volunteers receive breakfast and lunch. Dinners are not provided as most volunteers choose to eat at local restaurants or cook for themselves and food waste became an issue.
NOT Included: Flights • Travel insurance • Local transport • Return airport transfer • Personal expenses • Bank/wire transfer fees
For custom lengths of stay not listed, please contact us for pricing.
All projects incur a $250 application fee. Please see the The Fine Print page for more information.
The climate of Costa Rica is considered Tropical and is characterized by two main season: dry and wet. GOAT Volunteers projects are located throughout the country in various geographic regions and elevations which results in weather varying significantly between project sites.
Dry Season: December to April
Wet Season: May to November
The wet season in Costa Rica runs parallel with the Atlantic hurricane season, resulting in almost-daily rainfall.
Temperatures, humidity, and rainfall vary throughout the country with the Pacific and Caribbean coastal regions differing from each other as well as with the in-land mountainous regions. This creates a series of micro-climates across the country making each region of Costa Rica different from the next in terms of weather.
Special Considerations | Volunteering in Costa Rica
Please keep in mind that, while it is the most developed country in Central America, Costa Rica is still a developing country. That means that infrastructure, amenities, and sustenance will likely differ from what you’re accustomed to. Many of the roads are dirt and in poor condition, which increases travel time. Depending on your placement, supermarkets and large stores can often be few and far between. Most shopping will be done at small, roadside shops and stalls. Meals will be basic, but tasty.
Proof of Onward Travel
Costa Rica requires proof of onward travel (i.e. plane/bus ticket) out of the country prior to arrival. Please be sure to have this readily available when arriving at the airport when flying to Costa Rica.
Documentation of yellow fever vaccination is required to be granted entry into Costa Rica if entering from certain countries in South America or Africa. You can find a list of these countries at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page for the yellow fever virus.
Volunteers on projects working with animals are encouraged to consider vaccination against rabies. Rabies is found on all continents except Antarctica and is fatal if not treated quickly after a exposure.
Activities available to volunteers vary by placement location. Costa Rica is famous for its beaches, waterfalls, and national parks; so these provide a wide array of opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the country. All activities are optional and may incur additional costs to the volunteer.
For additional information, please visit our Resources page.