You are about to discover a new culture, accomplish something unforgettable, and explore what Costa Rica has to offer!
Experience volunteering in beautiful Costa Rica and find out for yourself about living the Pura Vida! Most projects (except Turtle and Coffee Projects) are based in and around the capital, San Jose. You'll join volunteers from around the world in helping local Costa Rican communities reach their full potential.
Everything here is fantastic! I don't want to leave!!! We have caught so many turtles and seen so many babies hatch! The whole place is beautiful and having a really great time!.
Claire | Costa Rica Volunteer
GVN staff were great. All the information before the program was worthwhile and informative. The contact in Costa Rica was excellent; the partner always rang and popped by to check everything was OK and she was able to arrange, change and adapt with ease.
Nicole | Costa Rica Volunteer
Just Choose a Project and Apply!
Local Costa Rican food is provided twice a day. Costa Rican food is a fusion cuisine. It combines elements of culinary traditions from Africa, Italy, France, China, and Spain, flavoured by traditional grains (rice, corn, and beans), roots sweet potatoes), spices (coriander, garlic, annatto, saffron, parsley, oregano, thyme, nutmeg, salt, and pepper), oils (olive oil, vegetable oil, and lard), sauces (Soy, and Worcestershire), fresh fruit, and vegetables. The food is mild to slightly seasoned.
Volunteers will be accommodated in a local family-stay. All families selected for this are pre-approved, and the program fees cover breakfast and dinner from Monday through to Sunday. Most family-stays include a shared room and shared bath facilities, and many of the families have been hosting volunteers for years. A laundry service is available for an extra charge.
GVN Projects: Only US $250 application fee + US $500 per week (for the first four weeks of placement), and $200 per week of placement after this. This includes accommodation, meals (as specified below), coordination, supervision, training, airport pick up and it is due at least 10 weeks prior to your arrival.
Orphanage and Childcare
Are you able to give hugs, wipe away tears and smile and laugh until it hurts? Do you want to help some amazing, but underprivileged children? Join up with one of our childcare placements and provide children with love and attention, where volunteers assist the children with their homework, organise educational activities and help take care of their basic needs.Volunteers are encouraged to use their skills and interests to develop music and dance, jewellery making, aerobics and arts & crafts work shops. Alongside the orphanage work, volunteers may also work in shelters, community centres or childcare facilities in impoverished housing areas, always working alongside severely underprivileged children.
Are you passionate about preserving the planet's vulnerable species? Do you like long walks on the beach? Volunteers in our Turtle Project will work with the endangered Olive Ridley, Leatherback Black and/or Green turtles along the gorgeous coastlines of Costa Rica. The programs give you the chance to make an important contribution to the preservation of these species, assisting local communities who carry out conservation work and gaining first-hand knowledge into Costa Rica's biodiversity and culture. Join our partner and play your part in ensuring these beautiful creatures survive and thrive for generations to come.
Hablas Inglés? (Do you speak English?) There are few more valuable skills in this increasingly globalised world than to be able to connect and communicate with visitors to your region. At our teaching English placements volunteers will teach children of all ages, and will also participate in cultural activities and recreational games. Our teaching placements are all situated in impoverished housing areas, and teaching normally takes place in a small community centre or Church.
Are you a coffee connoisseur? A java junkie? Then join our Coffee cooperative program, where volunteers will assist with the sustainable production of coffee in a rural farming community, in the mountainous region of Costa Rica. Volunteers will assist with coffee-picking in the fields, roasting the beans and packaging the final product, alongside wider agricultural activities. As well as the agricultural side of things, volunteers can also get involved in marketing the coffee product to the market and get involved with the wider community. So sign up now and go get caffeinated!
Healthcare - Medical
Are you medically trained or currently in training? Prepared to share your skills and knowledge? Do you feel inspired to help the most vulnerable Costa Ricans stay healthy? Volunteers work in a medical setting, such as an ambulance service or a hospital. This project is for med students, pre-med students and qualified nurses or doctors. Volunteers for these projects require at least intermediate Spanish as the staff they will work with have limited English. Notarized documentation of your medical school, nursing school, or other medical credentials will be required.
Healthcare - Occupational Therapy
As a volunteer in the Occupational Therapy Program, you will be providing your skills, patience and understanding of intellectual diversity in an international setting. OT placements include a school for disabled children as well as other projects. Volunteers will work with program coordinators to arrange and run workshops and classes in the following areas: knitting, cooking, horticulture, arts and music. They will also provide general help to the individuals attending the school such as assisting during class time as well as helping with daily physical therapy activities. Volunteers may also help with seminars aimed at the families of the autistic children to help them better understand and cope with their condition.
Are you handy with a hammer? Skilled with a screwdriver? A dab hand at painting? Then sign up to help build a better future for our Costa Rican friends. Volunteers in our construction program will assist in projects based in and around San Jose. You will be helping local tradesmen and other volunteers create a tangible legacy of your time spent volunteering. It may be a renovation or a completely new build but whatever project you work on, your time and efforts will be greatly appreciated. So get ready to roll up your sleeves, get dirty and help the locals build for their future!
Healthcare - Health Education
Are you strong and compassionate? Can you smile through adversity? Then you are needed to assist with our Healthcare program. Volunteers will work in either a residence for HIV positive people, or in an assisted living facility for very low income elderly residents. While this is a very rewarding position, volunteers should prepare themselves mentally and emotionally to work with terminally ill patients. This is a position for volunteers with big hearts, big smiles and the temperament to cope with the demands involved. You'll be warmly welcomed and richly rewarded for your kindness and attention.
Costa Rica Application Form
Our vision is to connect people with communities in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable women and children. We do this by supporting the work of local community organizations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.
We are excited to get your placement under way where you will:
Be a part of GVN's efforts to inspire learning, innovation and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world. Work with exceptional grassroots projects in community development, conservation and wildlife, personal development, fundraising and physical challenges.
Have the 24/7 support of a non profit with 14 years experience in placing 20003 volunteers that will provide you with an affordable and rewarding placement.
Volunteer with a world-class organization which is recommended by Bill Gates and CNN.
Be a part of progressive non profit that has raised over $2 million to help women and children in need.
Have the comfort of knowing that GVN staff have collectively flown over 1 million miles to ensure you get a quality placement.
Make a long-term impact in your community of choice - it's not just a vacation.
How GVN works...
The first step is to fill out an application to see if we have a place for you. Then if your application is successful you will be accepted and we will then get to work organizing your placement.
GVN is a registered Charitable Trust, so volunteers finance themselves, or can fundraise online with our unique GVN platform, with US donors receiving tax receipts. The Program Package provides you with all that is listed below, along with personalized support from our expert staff and the knowledge that you'll be working with a reputable and registered charity with over 14 years experience in the field.
At the heart of our work is the communities our volunteers work to support - we ensure that these communities truly benefit from your time in Costa Rica and that the Program Package fully supports you financially while you're volunteering.
GVN Projects: Only US $250 application fee + US $500 per week (for the first four weeks of placement), and $200 per week of placement after this. This includes accommodation, meals (as specified below), coordination, supervision, training, airport pick up and it is due at least 10 weeks prior to your arrival. If signing up closer to the time, special arrangements can be made for the due date.
The Program Package also includes a project donation, which supports the work the GVN Foundation does in addressing nutrition, education and healthcare needs, as well as supporting longer-term development approaches, including income generation activities and microfinance.
Your program package includes:
Personal support from your Program Specialist throughout the preparation process.
Your Program Guide, with all the details on Costa Rica and your placement.
Fundraising strategies and access to our crowd funding platform where you can raise up to 100% of the cost your trip, with tax receipts for your US based donors.
Access to Your Own Online Journal: which helps you to communicate effectively and easily with your family and friends back home.
Opportunities for Preferred Pricing and Personalized Service when booking Airfares: through our travel partner GYT Flight Centre who go the extra mile to support GVN volunteers.
Accommodation: Family-stay or on reserve accommodation.
Meals: 2 meals daily (breakfast and dinner)
Airport pickup: On arrival date.
Training: In-country orientation and training.
Supervision: In-country staff supervision.
Support: Pre-departure personal support from your volunteer coordinator, 24/7 in-country support from partner, and 24hr emergency line.
Extra: Spanish lessons (one week), weekly Salsa lessons, internet usage at our partner's headquarters, a monthly volunteer party, and a certificate of completion from our partner organisation.
An opportunity to debrief and provide feedback
Free access to GVN Changemakers program which alerts you to future internship/job opportunities at GVN.
A Letter of Completion in Volunteer Service.
The opportunity to stay connected with your project.
Global advocacy and fundraising campaigns to continue your part of the movement for social change with an international non-profit that has granted over $2 million to our partner organizations.
The program package does not include: Flights, insurance, visas, vaccinations, lunches, project transportation, departure from the program.
We recommend you allow a weekly budget of US $40 for your other expenses such as bottled water, lunch, personal items, beverages, transportation, and entertainment.
Tell me more about Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known as Central America’s jewel. It is a country of four million people, renowned for its diverse natural beauty; rainforests, volcanoes, beaches and lagoons. Amidst the political instability of many nations in Latin America, Costa Rica has a thriving democracy and Costa Ricans promote peace and freedom of speech.
Tell me more about the partner organization?
Our partner organization was founded in Peru in 2003, with their Costa Rica office opening in 2006. In addition to international volunteer programs they also have TEFL/TESOL Certification programs in Guatemala and Costa Rica, and offer English and Spanish courses. Their aim is for volunteers to experience Costa Rica's beautiful surroundings and build their proficiency in Spanish while at the same time helping an impoverished region of the country.
Are there holidays or festivals I should be aware of when traveling?
The country just about closes down during Semana Santa (Easter Week) and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day tends to be an unofficial holiday, especially in San José. Various towns celebrate their own saints’ days, like San José’s Day (Saint Joseph’s Day) is March 19, while Virgin of Los Angeles Day (the patron saint of Costa Rica) is August 2. Juan Santamaría’s Day on April 11 celebrates the national hero who helped see off William Walker in 1856, and Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day) on October 12, as elsewhere in the Americas, is a national holiday.
What age do you have to be to volunteer in this program?
To be a volunteer on the Costa Rica program with GVN you need to be at least 18 years old, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
What kind of volunteer work is available?
Volunteers will work in turtle reserves located along Costa Rica's Pacific and Caribbean coasts, working with the endangered Olive Ridley and Leatherback (Baula) turtles. Volunteers will be working on nightly beach patrols, tagging and relocating nests to nurseries amongst other tasks. There are also opportunities to volunteer in one of our childcare, construction, teaching, healthcare and ecological zoo programs.
When will I know specific details on the placement?
After you have joined the program, you will be sent the program guide with more details about the program and your Program Specialist will begin making arrangements for your placement. Once you’ve confirmed your placement, you’ll be put in touch with our partner organization.
What language do I need to know to participate in the program?
Volunteers need to be able to converse in English, with basic Spanish also a requirement for the turtle program, as you will be working with local staff who speak very little English. For those volunteering in the healthcare programs, volunteers will need to have a reasonable level of Spanish. We recommend volunteers try and learn at least a little Spanish before traveling to Costa Rica, however lessons will be provided for volunteers in the first week as part of your program fees.
How safe is it to volunteer in Costa Rica?
As in many countries, foreigners are perceived as wealthy in Costa Rica. Although the people are generally warm and friendly towards foreigners, as well as appreciative of the work done by volunteers, not every individual is the same. We work extremely hard to ensure you are placed in safe environments while volunteering and security policies are in place to achieve this. However, as in any situation at home or abroad, there is no way to erase all potential threats. Costa Rica is generally considered a very safe country, and what crime does exist tends to be opportunistic rather than violent. The main thing travelers have to worry about is pick pocketing. In downtown San José you need to be wary at all times. You should not leave anything of value in a parked car - even locked in the trunk - day or night. Volunteers will be given further safety advice in their orientation session.
Tell me more about flying into Costa Rica.
Volunteers need to fly into San José’s Juan Santamaría international airport (SJO). You will be picked up from the airport by our partners.
When do I need to arrive in Costa Rica?
Volunteers need to arrive the Sunday before the Monday you start your placement. Placements start on every Monday of the month year round.
Tell me more about the Spanish lessons
Included in your program fee, you will be given 1 week of Spanish lessons upon arrival. These last for 1-2 hours a day, and can be scheduled in around your volunteer schedule. After this, volunteers have the option of using our free Tandem Exchange with a local Costa Rican student. Volunteers will meet up with their exchange students and practise English and Spanish with each other.
What are the living arrangements when volunteering?
Volunteers will be accommodated in a local family-stay. All families selected for this are pre-approved, and the program fees cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner from Sunday through Friday (leaving Saturday). Most family-stays include a shared room and shared bath facilities, and many of the families have been hosting volunteers for years.
For those volunteering in the Turtle conservation program, you will be accommodated in either a local family-stay or on reserve accommodation, and you will be located on either the Pacific or Caribbean coastline, depending on the turtle season.
Where will I be located?
The turtle placements are located on Costa Rica’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts, according to the season, at different conservation beach areas. Most projects are located close to conveniences like internet cafes and volunteers can visit nearby beach towns during their free days.
For those working on the non-turtle programs, volunteers will be based in and around San Jose.
How do I get to the project?
You will be met at Costa Rica’s international airport and transferred to the capital San Jose, about 20 minutes away. The cost is included. You will then be taken to your accommodation ready to begin your orientation the following day.
For those volunteering on the turtle program, volunteers will spend 2 days of orientation in San Jose before boarding a public bus that takes you to your project site.
Please note: Your daily transportation to and from your project site by taxi or bus is not included in the fees.
How many volunteers are there on the site at the same time?
The number of volunteers varies greatly from project to project, and depends on the time of year you choose to travel. Numbers can be anywhere up to 30 volunteers at each site, however, we cannot guarantee that you will be placed with another volunteer.
Are we able to do any sightseeing?
Volunteers will be given an orientation of tourist places when you arrive. You can travel by local buses to most of the tourist attractions. Any sightseeing will be at your own expense and days off for sightseeing can be negotiated with the partner.
Due to the isolated nature of the turtle reserves and the fact that volunteers work 6 days a week on the turtle program, we recommend that you allow yourself time to see more of Costa Rica either before or after volunteering.
What hours am I expected to take part in the program?
Volunteers will work Monday- Friday for roughly 3-4 hours a day. For those on the turtle program, volunteers will work 6 days a week, with one free day to leave the reserve. Depending on the season, volunteers may work night and day, doing shifts of 2-4 hours and then resting. The hours of work can vary due to the nature of the program. Days off are negotiable with the director of the project.
What is the course content of the training/orientation session?
The welcome pack contains the following information: safety in Costa Rica, travelling around, registration with the Embassy (if required), culture shock, what it means to volunteer in conservation, rules of the National Park, work involved in turtle conservation, revision of the code of conduct or termination of contract, and what to do in case of a natural disaster. On arrival to the turtle reserve you will be given a more detailed orientation about the work required by a park ranger.
How do I pay my fees?
Your program fee is payable to Global Volunteer Network 10 weeks prior to the 1st of the month you wish to volunteer. Please note, your placement is not confirmed (i.e. secured) until your program fee has been received. Please note that all charges incurred by the payment of the program fee are at the volunteer’s expense, e.g. if a bank transfer incurs a bank fee at the point of origin, that is at the expense of the volunteer. Seventy percent (70%) of the program fee is refundable until two calendar months before the 1st of the month you are due to begin your program. For example a volunteer with 15 July 2013 as their start date would need to submit their refund request form by the last day of April 2013 to be eligible for a refund. Refer to GVN's Legal Terms of Service for full details.
What clothing is appropriate for the program?
Dress needs to be conservative, and light loose clothing is advisable as it is most comfortable in the heat. For those working on the turtle program, it is best to wear clothes that will cover and protect you from the sun and mosquitoes. Bring very light cotton clothes because it could be very wet. Dark clothing is also required, as you’ll often be working at night.
Are there any more expenses when I arrive?
You need extra money to travel locally if you wish to. You may also need to cater for other expenses like bottled water, personal costs, beverages, and entertainment. Please note: Your daily transportation to and from your project site by taxi or bus is not included in the fees.
Do I need an entry visa (and how do I obtain this)?
Depending on your nationality and length of stay you may not need a visa to travel to Costa Rica. You will need to contact your nearest Costa Rican Embassy to find out the requirements.
Is there any time of year when I can't volunteer?
No, the program is open all year round.
What is the climate like in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica has a tropical climate, and temperature really depends on the altitude. It has distinctive dry and wet seasons.
What immunizations/vaccines will I need?
There are no required vaccines for Costa Rica, but we advise volunteers to get immunized against Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis A & B, booster doses for tetanus, polio and measles. Volunteers also need to take anti malarials and protect themselves from mosquito bites - as Malaria and Dengue Fever is present. Some of these can be taken in oral form so please do discuss all options with your doctor to see what is best for you.
Can I bring my family/children to this program with me?
It may be appropriate to bring children with you for this project, and this will be considered on a case by case basis. It is fine to volunteer as a couple.
How does GVN choose volunteers for this program?
Each GVN program has different criteria depending on our partner's requirements. Every application is reviewed to ensure that the minimum requirements (as set out on the program page) are met. Next we look to see what skills or experience you have that relate specifically to the program. We are also interested in any previous volunteer experience you may have (either local or international), travel experience, and your particular interest in the program.
After reviewing your application, should we require any further information from you, we will email you to request this.
Do I have to be from New Zealand to volunteer through the Global Volunteer Network?
No, our volunteers come from all around the world.
Can vegetarians be catered for in this program?
We are able to provide vegetarian food - please indicate on your application form if you would like this. You may need to supplement your diet with some snacks.
Who organizes my visa for my volunteer placement?
You do, if you need one. Our program guide has links to Costa Rican Embassies throughout the world.
Do I need travel insurance?
All GVN Volunteers must have insurance. You are free to take out insurance cover through any provider of your choice. However, as some policies do not cover volunteering, we recommend you check you are covered during your volunteer placement.
For your convenience we have arranged a comprehensive package specially designed for volunteering. It includes excellent medical and accident coverage as well as “loss of deposits” cover which covers fees paid to GVN, airlines etc. If you would like to learn more just follow this link: http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/insurance/
About Costa Rica
Costa Rica is bordered by Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the south, and by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the North Pacific Ocean to the West.
It features a diverse geography of mountains, craters, sandy beaches and great flowing rivers.
Development in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is considered one of the most stable and historic of democracies, with one of the highest life expectancies and living standards in the region.
Amidst the political instability of many nations in Latin America, Costa Rica has a thriving democracy and Costa Ricans promote peace and freedom of speech. Costa Rica, as a nation has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. The honour of that sought-after accolade was given to Costa Rican former president Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez in 1987, for his tireless efforts to bring peace to the Central American region during the 80s, when those nations were politically shattered by civil wars.
In the mid 1800's Costa Rican farmers began to plant coffee. The high altitude lands were blessed with excellent volcanic sediment which made coffee plantations thrive throughout the Central Valley. Coffee soon became the most important product in the country's economy. The export of "the bean of gold" as it soon became known, to Europe and the United States, earned Costa Rica a solid reputation as an excellent coffee exporter.
Coffee still remains core to the country's economic stability, alongside other agricultural exports such as bananas, sugar and beef. However, there has been an increased focus on high value added goods and services, such as microchips and tourism in recent years.
Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged socio-economic groups within Costa Rican communities, focusing primarily on orphaned children, rural communities and school children.
Volunteers on the turtle programs are able to work with the endangered Leatherback (Baula) and Olive Ridley turtles along the unrivalled stretch of gorgeous Pacific and Caribbean beaches Costa Rica has to offer.
As a volunteer in Costa Rica you can provide love, affection, education and support to orphaned children. You will help to improve education in schools ensuring children learn and flourish. As a volunteer you can practice and teach preventative healthcare, and HIV care. Depending on your interests you can also contribute to building projects in impoverished communities, or in a coffee plantation project. You will also provide education, inter-cultural exchange and understanding in Costa Rican communities.
What else can I do in Costa Rica?
Volunteers will also enjoy the cosmopolitan feel of the modern San Jose, the gateway to the natural rainforests and beaches of Costa Rica.
Volunteers can explore the city of San Jose, visit the Central Market or Artisanal Market, take a canopy tour, explore the region by taking part in a tour to a waterfall or visit a coffee plantation. And if all that's not enough for you there's always bungee jumping!
Spanish Lessons and Tandem Exchange Program
For your first week you will take Spanish lessons provided by our partner. These are taught by professional teachers, either certified in teaching Spanish as a foreign language or with their Masters in Education, and you will have two hours of lessons per day, either in the mornings, so that you spend the afternoons at your volunteer placement, or vice versa. Volunteers will also be provided with a Native Spanish Program book.
For the remainder of your stay you will take part in our partner's Tandem Exchange Program. This program pairs volunteers learning Spanish with a Costa Rican student who is learning English at their headquarters in San Jose. This way you practise Spanish with your partner for one hour a day, as well as provide invaluable practice for the Costa Rican student learning English. It's also a great way to get to know local students in San Jose. If you wish to extend your formal Spanish lessons beyond your first week, this can be arranged for an extra fee.
Please note that for the turtle and coffee programs the Tandem Exchange Program is not available as volunteers in these programs won’t be placed in San Jose. Intensive Spanish sessions before/after the program can be arranged.
Online Spanish Lessons
Global Volunteer Network has established a partnership with the Spanish school Instituto Exclusivo, which offers GVN volunteers a 5% discount off their online Spanish lessons. This is not like other courses which give you pages of web material or recordings of various phrases to repeat. You will speak to, and see your instructor as he/she is giving you a private lesson, tailored to your level of Spanish. Learn spanish before you go