Why Volunteering In Costa Rica Should Be Top Of Your Bucket List

Costa Rica - behind those two words is the land of "Pura Vida", a tropical paradise that will capture your heart in an instant. With lush rainforests teeming with exotic wildlife, breathtaking volcanoes waiting to be explored, and pristine beaches beckoning you. If you’re searching for an extraordinary adventure - Costa Rica has got it covered.

Beyond its breathtaking beaches and lush rainforests, this vibrant country offers an incredible volunteering experience like no other. From sea turtle conservation to sustainable agriculture, community development to environmental education - there are so many ways you can make a difference while soaking up the sun in Central America.

Unsure if Costa Rica is for you? Here are eleven reasons why volunteering in Costa Rica should be at the top of your bucket list:

Costa Rican beach sunset shots volleyball group fun

1. Sloth Shenanigans

Anyone else think sloths are their spirit animal? Just me? I can’t lie, the chance to see sloths in their natural habitat is the only reason I need to book flights. There are six species of sloth in the world, two of which can be found in Costa Rica: Brown throated sloths (also known as three toed sloth) and the Hoffmann’s two toed sloth. 

Despite how irresistibly cute they are, please note that you cannot pet, touch or hold sloths in Costa Rica. No “sanctuary” or sloth tour should allow you to do this as it is extremely bad for the sloth’s health. 

The best places to find these fuzzy friends in the wild however, are Manuel Antonio National Park, Tortuguero National Park, and Cahuita National Park. Just remember to remain respectful, forget using flash photography and allow them to continue their slumber in peace. 

Costa Rica sloth hanging off a tree

2. "Pura Vida" Spirit

Costa Ricans live by the motto "Pura Vida," which means pure life. They use the term to say hello, goodbye, or simply to let others know everything’s good. You will see and hear the phrase all over the country, but to locals it’s more than a phrase - it’s a way of life.

Locals strive for a stress free, laid-back life and believe that “Pura Vida” perfectly captures this attitude. Costa Ricans feel that if more countries grasped this concept, the world would be a lot happier. To be grateful for the things we do have in life, instead of dwelling on the negative things that we don’t. 

Embrace the country's laid-back vibes and warm hospitality as you immerse yourself in the local culture with Workaway. Whether you're sharing stories with locals, savouring delicious homemade cuisine or volunteering, the Pura Vida spirit will leave an irreplaceable mark on your heart.

diverse hippie community sitting on the grass over a bonfire and listening to a woman's sharing

3. Live Like a Local

Talking of Pura Via, we have over 200 hosts in Costa Rica! This means there is a plethora of projects to suit all types of people. By volunteering in Costa Rica with Workaway, you can live like a local, explore Central America on a budget and make unforgettable memories.

From yoga retreats to animal sanctuaries, hostels to permaculture farms - Costa Rica has it all. Overwhelmed where to start? Take a peek at our guide to the different types of volunteering which includes a fun quiz to help you pick your next project! 

Costa Rican farm experience with local farmer smiling and holding baby goat in fields

4. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve 

Roughly a quarter of Costa Rica is made up of protected jungle, with one of the most epic areas being Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Described by CNN as one of the 15 most beautiful places on the globe, it is considered one of the most magical places in Costa Rica.

As a haven for nature enthusiasts, it welcomes over 70,000 scientists and tourists each year who are excited to explore the area’s 2,500 plant species, 100 mammal species, 400 bird species, 120 reptilian species, and thousands of insects! 

It is also home to the continental divide, a line that divides the continent into the Pacific and the Caribbean. There is even a viewpoint in the Monteverde Cloud Forest called “La Ventana” (the window), where visitors can see the Pacific side of the country to the left and the Caribbean side to the right!

With so much flora, fauna and fun to be explored, Monteverde is also an exciting area for volunteering in Costa Rica. From English practice to butterfly conservation, farms to hostels, check out our hosts in Monteverde here.

solo woman traveller in Monteverde cloud forest reserve waterfall walk

5. Witness an Arribada

Year after year, sea turtles return to the same beaches to lay their eggs. One of the most spectacular examples of this is known as an “arribada”. It involves a mass synchronised nesting where hundreds of thousands of sea turtles lay their eggs under the new moon

One of the best places in the world to witness this natural phenomenon is Ostional beach on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The best months to see the most impressive arribadas are from September through November but as they follow the lunar cycle, you’ll need to time your visit accordingly. 

The size and duration varies depending on the season. In the dry season (January to April) arribadas are usually smaller and shorter. In the wet season (August to December) up to 300,000 turtles may lay their eggs on the beach! 

This also means volunteering in Costa Rica is perfect for those interested in marine conservation. From protecting turtle eggs, monitoring nesting behaviour, and supporting hatchling releases to coral reef monitoring, beach cleanups, and promoting marine conservation awareness.

newborn tortoise walking past the beach and towards the water in Costa Rica arribada

6. Sand, Sea and Surf

Volunteering in Costa Rica gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on marine life and catch some epic waves in between! The country boasts 1,016 kilometres of coastline on the Pacific Ocean side and 212 kilometres of beaches on the Caribbean coast. Although the surf is consistent, from May to September is considered the surf season. 

Popular surf spots include:

  • Playa Grande: Located north of Tamarindo, it's popular with all experience levels and sea turtles too!
  • Playa Tamarindo: Famed for its laid back vibes, it's considered one of the best surf spots in the country and hosts several national competitions every year.
  • Playa Jacó: One of the best surf spots in Costa Rica for beginners. The bustling beach town is perfect for those who like to surf but also party. 

Why just visit these spots, when you can volunteer too? Check out our guide to volunteering for surf enthusiasts for everything you need to know about combining waves and Workaway.

solo workawaying woman smiling and carrying surfboard while walking across the beach with sun shining down

7. Volcanic Adventures

It’s not just about the sea and surf, Costa Rica is also home to dozens of majestic volcanoes! Whether you want to hike to marvel at the bubbling lava or conquer the ash-covered slopes by volcano boarding here are four of the best volcano sites for you to add to your Costa Rica bucket list:

  • Arenal Volcano: Located in Arenal Volcano National Park, Arenal Volcano is one of the country's most iconic volcanoes. Although it entered a resting phase in 2010, the area still offers stunning views of the volcano and opportunities for adventure activities like hiking, hot springs, and canopy tours.
  • Poás Volcano: Situated in Poás Volcano National Park, is famous for its striking turquoise-coloured crater lake. As well as admiring the active main crater, you can walk through the surrounding cloud forest, and take in breathtaking panoramic views from the park's observation deck.
  • Irazú Volcano: Rising to an elevation of over 11,000 feet (3,400 metres), Irazú Volcano is the tallest volcano in Costa Rica. Located in Irazú Volcano National Park, it offers visitors the chance to explore the moon-like landscapes of its main crater and enjoy stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside.
  • Rincon de la Vieja Volcano: This active volcano is situated within Rincon de la Vieja National Park. You can embark on hikes through the park's trails, witness the volcanic activity, and even indulge in rejuvenating mud baths and thermal pools.
back of solo traveller holding victory signs and posing in front of volcano crater

8. Live Your Digital Nomad Dreams

If sloths, sea turtles and surfing haven’t sold you on Costa Rica already, you may be interested to know it is one of the best destinations for digital nomads. With political stability, strong healthcare and adventure on your doorstep it's easy to see why many remote workers choose Costa Rica for work and play

Popular destinations for digital nomads include: 

  • San Jose: As Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose offers an abundance of coffee shops, coworking spaces and cultural experiences. 
  • Samara: A coastal town on the Nicoya Peninsula, Samara offers laid back vibes as well as a close-knit community of expats and digital nomads. 
  • Playa Hermosa: Literally translating to “beautiful beach” The city has consistently ranked among the best places in Costa Rica! Here you can balance your screen time with scuba diving, sailing or surfing. 
  • Puerto Viejo: As the driest part of the country, San Viejo is perfect for sun worshippers to enjoy the Caribbean coast and nature enthusiasts to explore the nearby Cahuita National Park or Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. 

If you’re thinking of volunteering in Costa Rica and checking out the destinations above, make sure to tick the box for “digital nomad friendly” when filtering the host search results! 

group of workawayers and locals and dog smiling shot on beach with trees

9. Become a Coffee Connoisseur

Thanks to the warm climate, soil enriched by volcanic ash, mountainous regions, and heavy rainfall, Costa Rica boasts superior conditions for growing some of the best Arabica coffee beans in the world. By volunteering in Costa Rica, you can discover the secrets of Costa Rican coffee production firsthand. Dive into the world of aromatic beans, learn about sustainable farming practices, and even participate in the coffee-making process. 

Here are the most popular destinations for coffee connoisseurs in Costa Rica:

  • Central Valley (Alajuela, Heredia): The Central Valley region, including towns like Alajuela and Heredia, is a prime area for coffee production. Here, you'll find numerous coffee farms and plantations where you can learn about the cultivation, harvesting, processing, and roasting of coffee beans.
  • Monteverde: As mentioned, Monteverde is not only famous for its biodiversity but also for its coffee plantations. Here you can learn about shade-grown coffee, observe the traditional methods of coffee cultivation, and understand the crucial role of the cloud forest ecosystem in coffee production.
  • Naranjo and Tarrazú: Also located in the Central Valley, the regions of Naranjo and Tarrazú offer a rich coffee culture and a chance to observe small-scale coffee farms and family-owned plantations. Engage in hands-on experiences such as picking coffee cherries and witness the artisan roasting techniques that create Costa Rica's renowned coffee flavours.
  • Turrialba: Turrialba is a scenic region known for its volcanic and agricultural landscapes as well as coffee plantations. Learn about the unique microclimates that contribute to the distinct flavours of Turrialba coffee, support coffee farmers and gain insights into the traditional and sustainable practices employed in coffee cultivation.
shot of hands showing raw coffee bean fruits

10. Volunteering with Indigenous Communities

There are eight groups of indigenous peoples in Costa Rica, comprising around 114,000 people, or 2.4% of the population. These groups are the Huetar, Maleku, Bribri, Cabécar, Brunka, Ngäbe, Bröran and Chorotega.

By volunteering in Costa Rica you can immerse yourself in the fascinating culture of these indigenous communities. Learn ancient traditions, participate in traditional ceremonies, and lend a helping hand on community projects.

Many of these rural communities and indigenous reserves offer projects focused on community development. For example, the BriBri and Cabécar communities in Talamanca are eager for volunteers to support cultural exchange, infrastructure improvement projects, and educational support.

It is also the perfect opportunity to try off grid living as many of these communities are located deep in the rainforest, miles from public transport or modern technology. 

Check out these hosts for some inspiration:

 Costa Rica

  • Sustainable project Sustainable project
  • Cultural exchange Cultural exchange
Become your highest vibration through community at our eco-village in Bribri, Costa Rica
Hola! We have the pleasure of co-creating with an indigenous family up in the sacred indigenous reserves of the Bribri tribe 🌿. My name is Harmony and my partner is Vlad, we are looking to invite a few high vibrational beings to join us on this ......

 Costa Rica

  • Sustainable project Sustainable project
Jungle meets farm life in the Caribbean of Costa Rica
Conscious Farm in the Talamanca mountains in the caribbean of Costa Rica Hello I am Kory, I operate a farm in the Talamanca mountains. WE are not on the Pacific side as the map shows. We are at the top of a mountain in Valle La Estrella . We Are ......

 Costa Rica

  • Sustainable project Sustainable project
  • Language exchange Language exchange
Support our small non-profit offering community in the rural Southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica
We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization pioneering innovative, off-grid building techniques in under-served communities, such as underground homes and earthships. Our approach integrates sustainable agriculture and food production to create ......

11. Learn to Speak Spanish

Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. Out of a population of 5 million people, over 4 million are considered native Spanish speakers. So what better way to brush up your Spanish skills, than with Workaway? 

Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn a language quickly, as you will be surrounded by native speakers giving you endless opportunities to engage in daily conversations, interact with locals and immerse yourself in the culture. Costa Ricans are patient, friendly and encouraging, making it easier for those learning Spanish to gain confidence and improve their grammar and pronunciation

As a tip you can use our “find a language buddy” tool before you go. This will help you learn a few basic phrases before your Costa Rican adventure. Fancy teaching a language instead? Workaway is also one of the best ways to travel the world as a language teacher. Not only does it provide hands-on experience that will boost your CV, but it will help boost your confidence in the classroom too! 

group of hostel travellers lounging in public area on hammocks and on benches while smiling and chatting with each other

12. It’s One of the Happiest Countries in the World

Finally, who wouldn’t want to volunteer in Costa Rica when it's one the happiest, healthiest and most sustainable countries in the world? Did you know that, according to the Happy Planet Index (HPI), Costa Rica is the happiest country in the world, four years in a row? By comparison, the U.S. is #122! 

It was also named the happiest country in Latin America for the second year running in the UN-sponsored World Happiness Report.

People living in Costa Rica have a higher well-being than the residents of many rich nations, including the USA and the UK. Costa Ricans have a longer life expectancy thanks to an active lifestyle and healthier diet, as well as an ecological footprint per capita that’s just one third of the size of the USA’s. 

Furthermore, the country abolished its army over 70 years ago and committed itself to fostering a peaceful society. The budget previously dedicated to the military is now dedicated to security, education and culture. What’s more Pura Vida than that!?

two workawaying men running through the jungle holding freshly harvested mangoes and laughing

Hopefully now you agree Costa Rica deserves a prominent spot on your bucket list! From its breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity to its warm-hearted people and commitment to sustainability, Costa Rica offers an unparalleled destination for those seeking a meaningful travel experience.

Whether you choose to support wildlife conservation, community development, or any other form of volunteering in Costa Rica, the country will welcome you with open arms. Trek through the lush rainforests, surf until sunset and make a positive impact on the lives of others - all before bed time.

Join Workaway to start planning your volunteering adventure in Costa Rica today, and get ready to create lasting connections, contribute to a better world, and discover the true pura vida spirit of this remarkable country.

three workawayers marvelling at hilltop sunrise from their camping tents
travel guidecosta rica

About Lauren

Growing up in a small coastal village in Scotland inspired Lauren to seek adventure and challenge the norm. Armed with just her backpack and trusty travel companion Darren, she quit her day job to liv... show more...

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