Join one of our locally-led volunteer programs in Costa Rica and work on projects which focus on fighting gender inequality, teaching English to children, and upskilling communities – while exploring the unique tropical terrains of Costa Rica’s Central Valley.
Whether you’re looking to volunteer with children at a local school or facilitate women’s empowerment workshops, when you join a community volunteer program in Cartago, Costa Rica you’ll be contributing to locally-led sustainable programs that empower the communities we work with.
Our volunteer programs in Costa Rica focus on:
Surrounded by farmlands and active and inactive volcanoes, our base is located in the original Costa Rican capital of Cartago. Situated in the Central Valley, Cartago is 45 minutes outside the capital of San Jose to the west and 2 hours to the beach to the east. Joining a volunteer program gives you the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world who are there for the same reason as you — to make an ethical impact and develop valuable skills to make them more effective changemakers in their own communities.
Because all of our programs are locally led, you’ll work in collaboration with community leaders, government organisations and NGOs. Throughout the duration of your volunteer program, you’ll enjoy homemade Costa Rican cuisine and learn about the language and culture of Costa Rica first-hand. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn Spanish and enjoy the pura vida lifestyle that Costa Rica is famous for.
It’s no coincidence that our volunteer programs in Costa Rica are rated so highly. We take every opportunity to make sure that our programs are the best by:
When you join a volunteer program in Costa Rica, you’ll contribute to the following UN SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, and Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
You’ll have plenty of free time during your volunteer program – which means plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding areas. You can even spend some time before or after your program visiting different parts of Costa Rica or its neighbouring countries (travel south to Panama and Colombia, or north to Nicaragua and Honduras). If you’re looking for beaches, you’ve come to the right place. Head to Punta Uva beach, where you’ll find kilometres of white sand lined with palm trees, excellent surfing conditions, and eateries. Or take a trip to the vibrant town of Puerto Viejo, where the famously advanced surfing spot known as Salsa Brava can be found. If you’re looking for something more off the beaten track, head to the neighbouring beach towns of Cahuita or Manzanillo.
You could head to the capital city of San Jose for the weekend. Book a walking tour or spend the day exploring the sites of the city – visit a museum, admire the architecture, and take note of the birdlife while enjoying a picnic in one of the city’s many parks. Known for producing some of the world’s highest quality coffee beans, coffee lovers can book a tour of one of the local coffee plantations.
Included in all our volunteer programs are GVI Experiences – a selection of exclusively curated cultural activities. Learn how to cook Costa Rican food, white-water raft down the Pacuare River or hike through a rainforest to a waterfall. These are just a few examples of what you could experience when you join a volunteer program in Costa Rica.
If your interests lie in conservation, head over to our Planet site where you’ll find a range of sustainable volunteer programs focused on marine, wildlife and rainforest conservation. From assisting with the conservation of critically endangered hawksbills and endangered green sea turtles and gathering valuable data on jaguars to conducting research on birds, when you travel to the rainforest of Costa Rica you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to conservation projects.
We even have a wildlife volunteer program designed for teens between the ages of 15 and 17. GVI has been operating volunteer programs for under 18s since 2012, so you’re in safe hands with us. We treat health and safety as a priority, with greater supervision applied to our teen programs than our other volunteer programs.
See what you could get up to on a gap year in Costa Rica here: What to do in a gap year in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is one of only 25 countries in the world that have managed to close the educational gender gap – meaning that an equal proportion of women and men receive an education in Costa Rica. The country also spends more money on education than any other Latin American country. By volunteering in Costa Rica, you’ll be at the forefront of activities that are aimed at achieving the UN SDG 4: Quality Education.
Our volunteer programs in Costa Rica focus on supporting the education of school-aged children through extra-curricular activities. Here you’ll work alongside school teachers and your fellow volunteers to plan and deliver educational activities that assist children with learning English.
When you join a teaching English and community development project in Costa Rica, you’ll have the opportunity to work on a classroom-based childhood development program focusing on topics like English language learning, life skills like physical activity and teamwork, as well as conservation education.
On our volunteer with children project, you’ll work with GVI staff, interns and other volunteers to provide free English education classes to members of the local community. We work with ongoing curriculums to introduce English vocabulary and discuss sustainable development topics like environmental awareness. Based on the needs of the community, the specifics of the classes – such as the time schedules, ages and levels of English language competency – change over time.
Volunteering in Costa Rica means you’ll contribute towards making quality education accessible to the broader community – and you’ll learn to speak Spanish at the same time! This type of volunteer work in Costa Rica gives you the chance to:
Because we’re committed to ethical and sustainable solutions, we’ve transitioned away from working with orphanages, and each of our Costa Rica volunteer programs follows our strict stance on orphanage volunteering, as well as our Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Policy.
While the closing of the educational gender gap is cause for celebration in Costa Rica, there are still many opportunities to address UN SDG 5: Gender Equality within the business sector. On a women’s empowerment volunteer program in Costa Rica, you’ll assist with community development workshops, leadership training and education programs geared specifically towards educating and uplifting women. We believe that empowering women is a key contributing factor to sustainable economic development. We’re proud to work with community organisations at each of our bases to address women’s empowerment locally, addressing key issues with long-lasting results.
Learn about the culture of Costa Rica while working with local women in our women’s empowerment volunteer program. Facilitate English-language lessons and alternative-income projects with local women that will assist them in starting – or improving on – their business in the tourism sector. This allows them to broaden their business horizons since they can offer goods and services to English-speaking tourists – who are a big part of the global tourism industry.
Each volunteer program in Costa Rica comes with the GVI promise that you’ll:
If you’re looking for something longer and more career-focused, join one of our internships in Costa Rica. Whether you’re deciding which career path you want to follow or looking to gain invaluable work experience in your field of study, our internships will provide you with practical on-the-ground experience. We offer the following community internships in Costa Rica:
GVI offers some of the most highly rated internship abroad programs in the sustainable development sector. Depending on the kind of internship you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with our sustainable development partners, or lead a research or data collection project of your own. No matter which internship type you select, you’ll be part of impactful work that’s led by the communities we work alongside.
Q: What languages do I need to know to volunteer in Costa Rica?
A: GVI volunteers are required to be able to speak and read English. When volunteering in Cartago, you’ll also need to have a grasp of Spanish so that you can meaningfully engage with community participants during your project. Participants who aren’t already fluent will be able to take Spanish lessons on the GVI base if these aren’t already offered as part of your GVI program.
Q: What costs do I need to consider when volunteering in Costa Rica?
A: How much you spend while volunteering in Costa Rica depends on your personal preferences. GVI covers your accommodation; meals while on the project; and all the necessary training, equipment and materials you’ll need on your volunteering in Costa Rica trip. Your fees also include any specified program excursions and activities.
You may need a visa to travel to Costa Rica (depending on the country you are travelling from).
The costs you’ll need to cover once in-country include any extra excursions or activities you choose to take part in, Spanish lessons (if not included in your program), and additional drinks and gratuities.
You can get in touch with GVI’s support staff to find out more about project- and travel-specific details for our Costa Rica volunteer programs.
Q: How is volunteer health and safety ensured on GVI’s Costa Rica volunteer programs?
A: Our Costa Rica volunteer opportunities take every necessary precaution to ensure volunteer health and safety. Our strict Health and Safety policy places the well-being of our volunteers at the top of our list of priorities. All staff on our projects are our own, which means that they’ve been through our rigorous health and safety training. During orientation, every volunteer also receives general and country-specific health and safety training that allows them to have the safest – and most exciting – volunteer experience.
While volunteering in Costa Rica, participants take part in volunteer activities in groups and are supervised by trained professionals.GVI has been running community-based projects for over 20 years in locations around the globe. We’re committed to sustainable development, so you know your contribution will last.