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Sea Turtle conservation in Costa Rica


Price above is guide only. Choose start date for your price.



Interested in preserving these little swimmers and enjoying a unique way of life?

This is a great opportunity to get involved in helping to preserve this amazing endangered species and gain an insight into marine biology as well as receiving specific training which will enable you to help with research and data collection. You will play an important role in helping to safeguard the existence of this species by cleaning beaches in preparation for the nesting season and taking part in regular beach patrols – don`t forget that these will take place during the night (spending your nights on Caribbean or Pacific beaches - hmmm doesn't sound too bad does it?)

Fancy learning some Spanish to give you a good start in country? Why not add on two weeks Spanish Language school before you start your volunteering. Call us now to find out more.

Trip highlights

  • Spending your days (and nights!) on stunning beaches - and your evenings helping ensure the survival of these wonderful creatures
  • Sampling the local food - beans and rice may not sound much but when you're in Costa Rica it tastes great!
  • Experiencing a totally different and laid back way of life -unless you're lucky enough to usually live on a tropical beach of course

What our projects say

  • i-to-i volunteers are a great asset to our efforts in conservation. Not only are they are committed to do the work at the projects they also help the local economy
  • The fact that i-to-i sends us volunteers year round helps us carry out the work at the various stages within the season. This contributes to motivate our permanent staff and helps them commit more enthusiastically knowing they count with volunteers from around the world that came all the way to Costa Rica to help them
  • i-to-i volunteers have helped us reduce the level of sea turtle nests being poached, increase the number of adult turtles and eggs being protected and have release higher numbers of baby turtles to the sea

Fast facts

Project duration: 
Min 1 week - Max 4 weeks
Location of project: 
Pacuare, Gandoca Manzanillo or Parismina on the Caribbean coast, Mata Palo, Junquillal, Zapotillal or Buena Vista on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica
Arrival airport: 
San Jose (airport code SJO)
Turtle beach patrols, monitoring nests and recording
Working hours: 
6 days a week, a mix of day and night work, with shift durations between 2 to 8 hours. All other time is free
Getting to the project: 
On site or a short walk
Minimum Age 17

What's included

Various shared accommodation - shared room in dormitory or homestay
All meals
Airport pickup: 
Included on arrival date - ask us for details if you're arriving early
In-country orientation
Pre-departure helpdesk, Local in-country team and 24 hour emergency support

What's not included

Flights, Insurance, Visas, Return Airport transfer, Local Transport


Day 1 (Sunday) – Arrival into San Jose airport (airport code SJO)

You will be met at the airport by a member of our friendly i-to-i Costa Rica team, and taken to the Alajuela Backpackers hostel, where you’ll be spending your first 2 nights in Costa Rica. If you arrive before 6:30pm a dinner is provided for you, or money towards a meal of your choice, and the rest of your time is yours to spend as you chose – exploring Alajuela’s bars and shops, getting to know your fellow volunteers or catching up on some sleep!

If you are on a flight departing Mexico on Saturday evening that arrives into San Jose at 00.10am on Sunday morning your airport pick up will be included however you will need to pay for an additional night’s accommodation - please arrange this with our office in advance.

As you are not able to check into your room before 2pm on the arrival day, anyone arriving earlier than 12 midday that would like to have a room available for them will need to pay for an additional nights fee for accommodation - please arrange this with our office in advance.

Day 2 (Monday) – Orientation

At 8:30am a member of the in-country team will pick you up from the hostel and take you to the i-to-i office for orientation. This will give you a good insight into Costa Rica - the culture, things to do and see, what to do in case of an emergency and much more! It can also be a good way to meet other i-to-i travellers and ask any questions you may have. You’ll then be given some lunch and will have the afternoon free to explore or relax. The team is on hand to point you to the best places for your chosen activity and get the most out of your time in Alajuela.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – Transfer to the project

Today you will transfer to either the Caribbean or the Pacific coast for your time on the turtle project. If you are travelling to the Caribbean coast then the transfer to your turtle project will take between 4 to 6 hours and will normally be on public transport.

If you are travelling to the projects on the Pacific coast you will be located at either Mata Palo, Junquillal, Zapotillal or Buena Vista with the transfer taking between 5 to 6 hours. Don`t forget to bring your music to listen to or your books!

We do not transfer you to your project after orientation due to the duration of the journey and the remoteness of the projects - we always try to avoid you arriving at night.

Later that day you’ll settle into your new home and unpack. One of the team will take you to meet the project staff (where possible) and get you introduced and settled in. Take the time to get to know everyone and how things work – it’s your quickest route to getting the most out of your trip.

If you are lucky you may even be put on a shift to work in the evening – it could be a hatchery watch or night patrol!

Day 4 (Wednesday) onwards – Project work and enjoying Costa Rica!

During your time at the project you will get involved in lots of activities such as night beach patrols, collecting turtle eggs, gathering measurements and data of turtles and new hatchlings, general maintenance of the hatcheries and other activities requested by the project.

You’ll be working different shifts, with a mixture of day and night shifts, 6 days per week. Please note that volunteers get one day off for every 6 days worked – therefore if you are only booked for a one week placement, you will not get a day off in the 4 days that you are at the project.

You’ll feel like a real part of the team and in your time off you’ll definitely appreciate having an opportunity to relax in paradise.

Your final day (Sunday)

Your last night will be back at the Alajuela backpackers hostel which is just 4km from the airport for your onward or homeward bound flights on Sunday. Alajuela Backpackers offers transfers back to the airport depending on departure time.


What does the project do?

Almost all marine turtles are considered endangered species. In the past there has been considerable poaching of turtle eggs which were then sold or consumed, thus leading to the turtle species becoming endangered. Much work has been done by local communities with various projects being set up to help preserve this species and to help to limit the amount of poaching. However, these initiatives do not receive any government funding and rely heavily on the help of volunteers.

The main objective of the projects is to protect the marine turtle nests from human poachers, animals and more recently from the erosion of the beach.

Caribbean coast: although the main objective of all the projects is of course turtle conservation, the project in Pacuare also focuses on looking after sick turtles in a small marine turtle clinic. The main nesting season for the turtles on the Caribbean coast is from May to the beginning of August.

Pacific coast: the projects in Junquillal, Zapotillal and Buenavista run all year round with the peak turtle nesting period being August through to November. Ouside of peak season there are fewer nesting turtles and the activity is mostly concentrated in Junquillal and Zapotillal.

In Matapalo the Project runs from July to December, with the peak nesting season from August to November. The baby turtles hatch within 45 to 60 days depending on species and incubation temperatures, generally hatching during the night.

The project is approved by MINAET, which is the main body that supervises environmental affairs in Costa Rica.

What’s the project like and who is it for?

The projects take place on isolated, rural beach locations on the Caribbean or the Pacific coast. These offer basic accommodation in a paradise setting. This is for anyone who loves being outdoors, living a unique way of life, loves conservation and the thought that they will be helping to preserve an endangered species. You will need to be flexible due to the demands of the project and have a good level of fitness - the work can be demanding and please be prepared for long night walks on the beach until the early hours on night patrols.

Why does the project need volunteers?

Turtles are under threat in Costa Rica and volunteers are really needed to help out with conservation efforts. This is your opportunity to play a part in an ongoing struggle to save a remarkable piece of Costa Rica's heritage. Turtle poaching is very common in Costa Rica and since the conservation projects started the poaching rate has decreased from 95% to 10%.

Activities and schedule

You will be working on night patrols to watch for turtles coming up onto the beach to lay their eggs, data and measurement gathering, transfer of eggs from nests to hatcheries, beach cleaning, general building and maintenance work of the hatcheries which are used to save the turtle nests. You’ll also be helping collect and transfer information about the conservation work to local communities and government bodies and supporting fundraising for the project.

You will be working 6 days a week which will be a mix of day and night patrols; as it is 24/7 you will need to be flexible. You might also be able to get involved in taking care of sick turtles if you’re based at Pacuare.

Project resources and advice

Whilst taking part in the turtle project, you’ll need to wear dark clothes on the night patrols and avoid wearing mosquito repellent as it deters the turtles. We’d recommend you looking into alternative methods of mosquito repellent though (such as wrist bands) as there are plenty of mosquitoes in the area, particularly at night. You should bring clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty, and a swimsuit or two. You might also like to bring some work gloves (such as garden gloves) to wear while you’re at the project.


Tell me more

Think pristine tropical paradise, think of stepping out of your every day life. If you have a genuine interest in nature and conservation and are happy to spend time in the close company of like-minded individuals, giving the project of your best and with a bit of physical labour thrown in, you will love your stay in Costa Rica.

Depending on the location projects will either be on site or within walking distance.

Please note that our in country team will allocate the coast and the specific project depending on nesting season, capacity of volunteers at the time and other factors, so please you will need to be flexible.

In the Limon area on the Caribbean coast:

Gandoca: shared bedrooms in cabins or houses owned by local families. The cabins have electricity, running water, toilet and cold water shower. You should bring a mosquito net and sleeping bag liner, bed sheets will be provided. Three tasty traditional Costa Rican meals a day are included. All homestays are located within Gandoca village and a maximum 15 minute walk to the research station. During your free time you might like to go on local tours to the jungle, the Laguna or to the organic farm.

Pacuare: up to 6 people shared dormitory rooms in cabins on the beach. Each room has a bathroom with cold running water, a shower and toilet. There is a seating area, where you can hang out and relax with your fellow volunteers. There is a dining room where three tasty traditional Costa Rican meals a day are provided for you. Although basic, the accommodation is pleasant and the setting beautiful.

Parismina: up to 4 people in a shared room within the village with a homestay host. Bathrooms are shared and have a toilet and shower. Mosquito net and fans are provided, but bring a padlock so you can lock the room. Three Costa Rican meals per day will be provided by the family. All the homestays are located within the village centre. Please note however that the nearest bank is in Siquirres which is 10 minutes by boat!

Mata Palo or Buena Vista on the Pacific coast:

Mata Palo – accommodation based in one of two clean rustic houses. Each room has bunk beds and there is electricity and cold water. Three meals per day are provided for you.

Playa Buena Vista – you will be back to basics staying in bunk beds in wooden shack with no electricity. There is running cold water, a toilet, and shower facilities. Three meals day are provided for you. You can easily get to Samara town on foot and enjoy beach surfing, swimming, diving, horse riding, the restaurants, shopping or just relaxing.

Junquillal - you will be staying in a complex with three separate structures. There is electricity at this project. Bedding and three meals a day are provided for you and a mosquito net is not required. Bars, restaurants and entertainment are nearby in Playa Grande or Tamarindo.

Zapotillal (Bahia Piratas) – accommodation is based in a house located on a private residential area 500 metres from the beach. There is one house for eating meals and staff lodging, and one house for volunteers' lodging. The volunteer house has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, fans in every bedroom, electricity and indoor plumbing. A mosquito net is not required. Three meals a day are provided for you. Bars, restaurants, shops and internet cafes are all to be found on the main streets of the most popular beaches such as Tamarindo and Playa Grande.

You should bring a lightweight sleeping bag or liner, a pillow and a travel pillow and a mosquito net and repellent as these may not be provided in some accommodations. You should also bring a towel and toiletries, a lightweight jumper, a rain jacket and a torch.

What you get

Next steps

Flights & insurance

Country information

I've done this trip. Write review >
Keely Belvin gives this project
Here is what Keely had to say:
Jacqueline Stanley gives this project
Here is what Jacqueline had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
When I first got to Costa Rica, I was so excited to be somewhere other than USA. I didn't realize that when I stepped off the bus at Verdiazul in Playa Junquillal, it would become my home for the next three weeks. Everyone there became my family. I had a mom, a little brother, and many volunteers who became my best friends. Then there are the turtles. I went during the low season but we still did patrols every night and checked the hatchery every day. My second week I was there, we came across a sea turtle (I think Negra) and she was huge. Never would I have thought a turtle could be so big, but she was. We stayed and watched her for hours, waiting for her to find a spot to lay her eggs. I learned that sea turtles are very picky about their spot. Anyway, once she started digging, we knew it was almost time. Our patrol leader put on his glove and got ready to catch her eggs. It felt like a miracle once the perfect white eggs started to be laid and our leader caught them and put them in the bag. We counted 112 eggs in all. Another turtle experience I had was releasing baby turtles that had hatched one day. There is nothing like seeing small, tired, baby turtles try and walk down the long beach to get to the ocean and then get swept away by the waves never for me to lay eyes on them again. It's incredible and something that should be experienced by everyone. Those were only some of the things that I loved about doing the turtle project. There is so much and if you want to know more, contact me.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
WEAR SUNSCREEN! I don't care if you never burn, wear it. You will have to work every day, even if you are burnt so instead of putting yourself through that misery, just wear sunscreen. WEAR BUG SPRAY!! That is probably one of the most important tips because bug bites are horrible in Costa Rica. I counted 102 bites on just one leg... Not fun. I would wake up in the middle of the night needing to scratch my bites because they itched so badly. Just wear bug spray. BE IN A GOOD MOOD!! I know it might be hard, especially if you are doing patrols every night, but try to be happy. If you're grumpy, it makes others grumpy and it makes the days longer and more tiring. Also please remember that you made a commitment to the project when you paid so before you start saying how you don't need to do any of the work that your leaders are giving you because you're a volunteer, please realize/remember that the work you are doing is helping turtles survive in a very harsh world. It's hard work but it pays off in the long run.
Charlotte Towers gives this project
Here is what Charlotte had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Don´t panic. Take time to see the country. Relax and enjoy
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
More confident, crazy, happy, friendly, amazing, challenging
Gemma Hardy gives this project
Here is what Gemma had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Take a head torch as a spare, take spare food
Anna Teresa Villanueva gives this project
Here is what Anna Teresa had to say:
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
a: Learn the language b: Study your commute/transport in advance. c: Let go and trust the people you are with
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
An Amazing experience
Charlotte Higgins gives this project
Here is what Charlotte had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
The Turtles & the People.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
1) READ LIGHT 2) Water Proofs 3) Warm chlothing in Rainy Season
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
A roller coster, that takes you from all angles!!!
Louis Thibault gives this project
Here is what Louis had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Seeing turtle lay eggs, releasing babies back to the ocean
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Mosquito nets, pack light, bring books
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
A worthwhile and rewarding experience
Theo Wilson gives this project
Here is what Theo had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Turtles. And meeting people
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Mosquito repelant. Note books. Map
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
An unforgetable, eye opening time.
Natascha Zinn gives this project
Here is what Natascha had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
As I arrived on my trip, the first thing I saw were baby turtles who were released into the ocean!
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
1. Just don't freak out at your first day! It needs some time to adjust to your new environment. 2. Don't flip out about what to bring with you. The packing list of i-to-i includes pretty much everything :) 3. Just simply enjoy the time in your volunteering-countries
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
It clames you down, far away from fast moving world.
Hope Nolan gives this project
Here is what Hope had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
Meeting new people. Working on beach (beautiful). Working on project. Seeing turtles.
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Micro fibre travel towel (normal towel never dries). Closed toe water shoes. Drawing pins to put mosquito net up.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Soul cleansing

We work in partnership with hundreds of established projects that are run by local communities. The information on our website comes directly from the projects and we work with them to ensure this information is as accurate as possible. However, due to the very nature of the projects themselves the exact details of what happens on a daily basis can change with little or no notice. If you have travelled with us and have any updates to this information, please let us know.