A Guide to Volunteering in Costa Rica

Volunteering | © Sarah Cheetham/Flickr
Volunteering | © Sarah Cheetham/Flickr
Volunteering and ecotourism are gaining momentum as popular ways to travel abroad. Venturing off to a foreign country on an adventure where you will also have the opportunity to give back to the local community, lend a helping hand in an environmental conservation project, take care of sick, injured, or abandoned animals, or utilize your specialized skills in medicine or education to improve the lives of others is an experience unmatched by any other. There are many wonderful non-profit organizations and programs in Costa Rica; find out how to choose one.

Getting Started

While Costa Rica is a booming tourist destination with hundreds of hotels and resorts, first-world amenities and luxuries, no army or military conflict, and exquisite nature and wildlife, it is still a developing country and there are plenty of people and animals who would greatly appreciate a kind and compassionate helping hand. However, there are a few thing to consider before jumping on an airplane to Costa Rica to volunteer.

It is important to choose a volunteer project that involves something you are passionate about or interested in, as this will make the experience significantly more rewarding for you and for those whom you are helping. While there will be challenging and trying times during your volunteer commitment, you don’t want it to feel as if you are going to a job you can’t stand. This should be a positive, rewarding, and exciting opportunity, not a dreaded one. So, if you don’t love children, don’t work in an orphanage or at a local school; if you don’t love the sun and the ocean, stay away from coastal projects.

It is also very important that you conduct thorough research to ensure that the program you choose is legitimate, responsible, organized, and safe. You can find out all of these things out by exploring the non-profit’s website, directly contacting the organization, reading reviews, reading forums and blogs, and trusting your gut instinct when you explore all of these avenues. This kind of information should be transparent on their website and in their communication with you.

We must take care of our fur friends © Frontieroffical/Flickr

Some Reputable and Popular Opportunities

There are great efforts being made to promote conservation, sustainability, ecotourism, and animal care in Costa Rica. There are also wonderful efforts to teach English, provide exceptional healthcare to everyone who seeks it, renovate and construct important infrastructure within small local communities, and help families in need through childcare, elderly care, and special-needs care. If you’re not sure where to begin, the following are some reputable organizations that you can look into.

Be a sloth mom © Frontieroffical/Flickr

Costa Rica Rescue Center

The Costa Rica Rescue Center is “is a non-profit organization that gives animals a second change at life. Our dedicated staff and selfless volunteers work tirelessly to help these animals heal, keep them safe, rehabilitate them, and eventually re-lease them into their natural habitats in the Costa Rican rainforest.”

Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center

This center “provides a safe haven to animals that need refuge because of loss of habitat, accidents… or hunting.” Volunteers are always needed to help prepare food for the animals, feed them, clean the cages, build and repair enclosures, plant trees, garden, and help build and clean roads.

Corcovado Foundation

The Corcovado Foundation “is a non-profit volunteering and conservation organization, with a fantastic reputation for community engagement. Our conservation programs are based in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, known as the Osa Peninsula, which is famous for its intense biodiversity and pristine wilderness. Our volunteer programs are open to volunteers from all around the world and include teaching environmental education in rural schools, sea turtle conservation, working to support the Osa Rural Tours Network, and protect Costa Rica’s rainforests.”

ASVO (Association of Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas)

This association “has been active in the conservation of national parks, beaches, and communities in Costa Rica for more than twenty-five years.” ASVO works in 28 different areas in Costa Rica through a number of different projects that include sea turtle conservation and environmental education in rural communities.

Costa Rica Humanitarian Foundation

This foundation “is a non-profit organization committed to developing creative and economic solutions to a wide range of social problems in Costa Rica. The CRHF provides opportunities to exchange friendship, goods, services, and financial resources for critical needs among different cultures, socio-economic classes, and language groups.”

Amigos of Costa Rica

Finally, this is a non-profit organization “that supports sustainable development in Costa Rica in four primary areas of focus: education, capacity-building, conservation, and science and technology.” Their website has links to all of the programs they support. You can donate monetarily to any of the programs, or you can go directly to the website of the program you are interested in and learn how to volunteer there.