Costa Rica Volunteer Vacation

Trip Length 10 Days
Group Size 8–12
Activity level
Starting from $2,590
Departures Sep 2021-Oct 2021

Do hands-on good for 10 days in beautiful Costa Rica, helping sea turtle conservation and more from coast to cloud forest.

Visit Costa Rica to encounter the rugged, rain forested landscapes, jungles, stunning coastlines, and rich wildlife including spider monkeys and quetzal birds. Help protect its biodiversity by participating in sea turtle preservation on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Along the way, we will visit Carara National Park, home to many scarlet macaws, and Marino Ballena National Park, named for the humpback whales that migrate there, and assist these two Costa Rica national parks with maintenance activities.

Our volunteer work will focus on protecting endangered sea turtles which nest in Costa Rica. Project work will consist of late night and early morning beach patrols to locate, excavate and relocate sea turtle nests to a protected turtle hatchery. Projects will include working in and around the turtle hatchery, recording scientific data, as well as beach cleanups inside the project area and surrounding rivers and beaches.

This REI volunteer vacation is offered in partnership with Conservation Volunteers International Program. Find out additional details about the trip on the ConservationVIP® website.

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Trip Highlights

  • Travel with purpose in Costa Rica, volunteering in two national parks
  • Watch over beaches and care for a hatchery to protect endangered sea turtles
  • Experience lush, varied ecosystems, including cloud forest and transitional rainforest
  • Venture into the highlands, home of the remarkable resplendent quetzal
  • Spot wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, macaws, agoutis and flashy tropical birds


This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members may be novices in good physical condition. Volunteers should be comfortable hiking up to five miles most days on rolling or mountainous terrain with some steep ascents and uneven and muddy trails. On this trip there will be also be much time spent walking in sand, making hiking distances seem further. To assess your fitness, volunteers should comfortably be able to hike stairs with a day pack weighing approximately 10–15 pounds or work in your yard all day moving plants, shoveling soil and pruning trees.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest beginning a regular exercise regimen at least three months prior to departure. No previous trail maintenance or restoration experience is required.

  • Hiking
  • Stewardship

What's Included

All meals from lunch on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 10; accommodations as noted on the itinerary (hotels and lodges); trip leadership and support staff; all ground transportation as noted; any park or other admission fees or permits as noted on the itinerary; gratuities for services provided to the group.


Hotels, 9 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Costa Rica Welcome

Welcome to Costa Rica! Arrive into San Jose by 3pm and transfer on your own to our first nights accommodations. A group orientation is held at 5pm in the hotel where we’ll get acquainted with our ConservationVIP® trip Leaders and fellow volunteers and receive an overview about the exciting week ahead. After the orientation, the group will share its first dinner together at the hotel. Dinner included.

Day 2

Cross the Crocodile Bridge & Volunteer Amongst Scarlet Macaws

After breakfast, we will load up our gear, board our private bus and drive for approximately 1.5 hours to the Carara National Park near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Carara National Park is a favorite with bird watchers and home to many scarlet macaws. We will cross the Río Grande de Tárcoles via the Crocodile Bridge at the main entrance of Carara National Park where our first volunteer project will begin. We will work with our Costa Rica nonprofit partner, ProParques, along the accessibility trail. After lunch, we will drive to Dominical, along the Central Pacific Coast where we will check into our hotel before dinner. All meals included.

Volunteer activity: 4 hours; Driving: 5 hours, broken up with the work project.

Day 3

Marino Ballena National Park and Journey to the End of the Road

After breakfast we will drive south for half an hour to Marino Ballena National Park for another volunteer project with ProParques. We will spend the morning clearing underbrush, maintaining trails or cleaning the beach. After lunch, our bus will take us on a 3-hour drive to the end of the road in southern Costa Rica where we will check into our lodging for our five-night stay in Punta Banco. In the evening, we will have an orientation briefing on the volunteer work projects ahead. All meals included.

Volunteer activity: 4 hours; Driving: 5 hours, broken up between the work project and lunch.

Days 4–7

Sea Turtle Conservation Projects on the Pacific Coast

During these volunteer project days, the group will participate in late night and early morning beach patrols to locate, excavate and relocate sea turtle nests to a protected turtle hatchery. Project work will also include working in and around the turtle hatchery, painting signs, recording scientific data, as well as beach cleanups inside the project area and surrounding rivers and beaches. All meals included.

Volunteer activity: Projects will vary trip to trip and timing of patrols will depend on the tides.

Day 8

Mini Road Trip into the Quetzal Highlands

After breakfast and morning volunteer projects, we will say goodbye to our Punta Banco partners and journey north to the highland forest area near Cerro de la Muerte. This region is very likely the best place in the world for observing resplendent quetzals, birds so spectacularly beautiful there were considered divine entities by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. We will have lunch along the way and then drive to our hotel in Cerro del Muerte. All meals included.

Driving: 8 hours, broken between lunch and interest stops.

Day 9

Hike, Volunteer and Seek Quetzals in the Tropical Cloud Forest

In the morning after breakfast, we will hike along the trails within Los Quetzal, cleaning paths as we go. After lunch we will drive to our hotel in San José, approximately 3 hours away. Our hotel is in the old historical section of San José where we will have our final dinner together, sharing memories of our past days together. All meals included.

Hiking: 2.5 hours; driving: 3 hours.

Day 10

Morning Coffee & Grand European Vibes in Old San José

The Costa Rica Volunteer Trip ends this morning. You may transfer to the San José airport for homeward-bound flights or opt to extend your stay in Costa Rica. Breakfast included.

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

You might also consider

Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (emailed prior to departure date)
  • Mandatory Evacuation Insurance
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.