Volunteer Programs in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for having progressive environmental and social policies, and Costa Rica is widely considered one of the planet’s most sustainable countries. It is also a safe country—so peaceful a nation, the government disbanded the Army way back in 1948. At the same time, Costa Rica is still a developing country with a low national income and a number of socio-economic issues. This means Costa Rica offers a wide variety of ways to get involved in volunteer abroad projects, contribute to sustainable programs, and provide help to vulnerable populations. There’s a lot to do in a country like Costa Rica—and international volunteers are needed!

Costa Rica is a small Central American nation bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. With a population of just 4.5 million people, the entire country is only the size of a typical U.S. city. Costa Rica is home to lush green mountains, coffee plantations, cool cloud forests, humid rainforests and white and black sand beaches—Costa Rica never disappoints.

Where to Volunteer in Costa Rica

Maximo Nivel offers volunteer abroad projects all over Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose is the cultural, economic, and political center of the country with a population of just over 1 million people. It is one of the major international travel and study abroad destinations in the world, and where most volunteer programs are organized. Other places in Costa Rica, where Maximo Nivel offers volunteer projects, include Guanacaste (beach), Manuel Antonio (beach), Monteverde (Cloud Forest reserve), and Parismina (beach). These are more rural areas and provide a very different, more off-the-grid experience than the city of San Jose.

Working with Kids

It is important to note that although Costa Rica is known for being one of the more developed countries in Latin America, about 1 in 5 people live in poverty. One of Costa Rica’s most urgent social issues is the large number of undocumented immigrants from Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, and other countries. Children from these poverty-stricken families sometimes do not receive the attention and support necessary for proper development, and kids are often neglected while parents find ways to financially provide for their families.

Volunteers help to care for underprivileged children in community centers, shanty towns (“precarios”), and at limited projects in government-run orphanages. Volunteers mostly focus on keeping children engaged in activities, homework, and play time. It’s also important to help with cleaning and hygiene issues. Volunteers help the staff at our project sites provide love, support, and individual attention to each child. We encourage you to use your skills and creativity, be open-minded, and be ready to pitch-in and help out!

Volunteer working with children in Costa Rica

Teaching English

Costa Rica is a top tourist destination and tourism accounts for 11% of the country’s employment. Those without English language skills are at an incredible disadvantage. Many people dream of learning English to advance their academic and financial standing. As a volunteer at Maximo Nivel, you can help make that dream a reality. Teaching English volunteers are placed in underprivileged schools and communities, working with adults and kids who want to learn English, but who don’t have the financial means to do so. Work varies at these projects, but generally consists of creating lesson plans, teaching classes, one-on-one tutoring, and organizing educational games and activities. You may also work in support activities such as cleaning and fixing up the teaching areas, fundraising, and collecting donations of books and other materials.

Volunteer Teaching English in Costa Rica

Sea Turtle Conservation

Known for being one of the most bio-diverse countries, Costa Rica is home to 5 of 7 sea turtle species in the world. Each turtle species faces threats from poachers, habitat destruction, and commercial fishing. Conservation volunteers can help reverse the risk of extinction by taking an active role in protecting our sea turtle friends. Volunteers work alongside biologists, researchers and local residents to manage turtle nesting grounds. You take part in nightly beach patrols, tagging and counting turtles, relocating nests into hatcheries, beach cleanup, and other support activities and outreach programs. Join the movement and help future generations of sea turtles flourish in their native land.

Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Organic Farming

Industrial farming damages the environment and threatens human health with air pollution and water pollution. Our eco-agriculture projects place volunteers in the Monteverde Cloud Forest or Brunca region of the Talamanca mountains where you work with local coffee growers who practice sustainable farming. Responsible farming takes more human labor, so volunteers are always needed and truly appreciated. Volunteers work in every step of coffee production including picking, weeding, planting shade trees, roasting, and even packaging. You also provide support for reforestation efforts and various community activities. Take part in the production of some of the highest quality coffee in the world, and learn to reap what you sow.

Volunteer in Organic Farming in Costa Rica

Building & Construction

If you enjoy working with your hands and love to literally see the impact you’re making, then volunteering in construction is the right project for you. With or without construction experience, our construction foreman leads volunteers in building and renovating community centers, orphanages, and assisted living facilities–these are some of Maximo Nivel’s highest impact projects! Construction work is physically demanding and includes digging, removing dirt, mixing cement, carrying brick, painting, and various other activities as needed at the site. Get dirty, work hard, and have fun while contributing to the development of facilities that directly impact the well-being of local people.

Volunteer in Building and Construction in Costa Rica

Medical

Costa Rica’s government provides universal healthcare to its citizens, however some areas still have limited access and not enough resources and staff. If you’re passionate about accessible healthcare for all people, making community impact, and helping vulnerable populations, a medical volunteer project in Costa Rica is a great place to begin.

Maximo Nivel’s Medical Specialist leads volunteers at assisted living facilities for HIV patients, homes for the elderly, and rehabilitation centers. We also provide limited volunteer placements at our ambulance project. Volunteers shadow medical professionals and help provide general check-ups, take blood pressure and other vital signs, organize patient records, and prepare materials and equipment. Volunteer groups can also get involved in medical campaigns providing medical services, distributing supplies, and teaching good hygiene in underprivileged communities.

Medical and Healthcare Volunteer in Costa Rica

Healthcare

Healthcare projects in Costa Rica usually focus on the elderly and special needs populations. Volunteers work with general patient care, physical therapy, and provide other support and assistance as needed. Working with these often stigmatized populations improves their overall care, and gives emotional encouragement and companionship where it’s needed most . Volunteer tasks include assisting during mealtimes, conversation-talk therapy, exercise workshops, arts and crafts activities, as well as sorting and distributing medicine. The most important qualities our healthcare volunteers possess are compassion, understanding, and kindness. Being “different” or “disabled” is never easy in any society and as a volunteer, you can help show these amazing people how truly special they are.

Make a commitment to better yourself and to better the world at Maximo-Costa Rica

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What our Volunteers in Costa Rica are saying…

“I had a wonderful time at Bebitos doing childcare project in Costa rica. I had the opportunity to work with kids mainly at the age of 4-6. It was an amazing experience and a very emotional one as well. I had to take care and entertain the chidlren while having support from local staff. Every day we had to do something cretive thus improving the skills of the kids. They gave me a lot of love and even I was working with them for only a week I improved as a person so much. The way how they made me feel cannot be described but it has to be experienced. I stongly recommend to everyone to visit the Bebitos childcare project in San Jose Costa rica! Excellent time of my life!”
“I spent one month in Costa Rica doing the sea turtle conservation and childcare projects. I met so many incredible, like minded individuals who I volunteered alongside. The staff at Maximo Nivel was incredibly supportive and easy to work with. I decided to change my projects and project start dates multiple times, and they eagerly helped me to do so. The sea turtle project was in Junquillal. I and eight other volunteers lived in dorm style housing. The accommodations and food were better than expected. We did a lot of work each day, but it was all worthwhile when I got to see 130 baby sea turtles hatch and be released into the ocean. If you choose to do this project… you should come prepared to work hard, but it is a once in a lifetime experience that I would definitely recommend. After two weeks of the sea turtle project, I did childcare for two weeks. I was placed at a daycare in an impoverished neighborhood of San Jose. The children and staff were incredibly welcoming.Each day, I would prepare one learning activity to do during class time. The rest of my time was spent playing and talking with the kids. Though it was exhausting, I would absolutely do it again. I truly received more from these children then I gave to them. In summary, though it sounds cliche, this trip was life changing. I cannot recommend it enough.”
“This was an amazing experience. I traveled to Costa Rica on a solo mission for personal growth reasons and am leaving with so much more than that. This was a very humbling experience and you really feel the impact you are making with the families you work with. The support from the staff is also wonderful. I know that my experience here will stay with me for the rest of my life. You see just how much the families appreciate what you do for them. You are teaching them skills for a better life, and that is immeasurable. I loved it!”
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