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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 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 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.

As more communities have been made aware of the plight of the turtles, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of the hatchlings making their potentially treacherous journeys back into the sea safely. 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.

On the Caribbean coast, although the main objective of all the projects is of course turtle conservation, the project in Pacuare also focuses on self sustainable living. It is still getting started with projects constantly being improved and new initiatives beginning. Currently they are constructing a butterfly garden, and they have fish and shrimp ponds, a vegetable garden, and projects trying to reuse waste products. The main nesting season for the turtles on the Caribbean coast is from May to the beginning of August.

If you are located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica you will be working at Mato Palo or Buena Vista. The project in Buenavista runs all year round (note that in September and October – rainy season - that entry into Buenvista is dependable on the weather), with the peak turtle nesting period being August through to November. Please note that outside of peak season (ie January, February and March) there are few nesting turtles, but the project still needs volunteers to prepare for the upcoming season.

In Matapalo the Project runs from July to December, with the peak nesting season from August through to November.The baby turtles hatch within 45 to 60 days depending on species and incubation temperatures, generally hatching during the night although some people laid on the beach during the day see a little turtle head popping up through the sand!

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

The projects take place on isolated beach locations on the Caribbean or the Pacific coast. These are rural locations and 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. Hard work or not, spending your days and nights on tropical beaches is not too bad at all, is it?!

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 before the conservation projects started up the poaching rate was over 95%. This has now decreased to 10% but volunteers are needed to continue protecting these marvelous creatures. Not only will your efforts impact on turtle conservation immediately, but through assisting with the research and maintenance your work will continue to help these creatures survival well beyond your stay.

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 and various activities as and when required by the project. 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. So not only will your efforts impact on a day-to-day basis but you’ll be supporting the future of the turtles too!

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. In low season volunteers can participate in the construction of the hatchery it's hard manual labour but is imperative to the success of the project - without a hatchery no turtle nests can be saved. You might also be able to get involved in the sustainable living projects if you’re based at Pacuare – the butterfly or vegetable gardens, fish and shrimp ponds, or waste reusing projects. The main nesting season for the turtles on this coast is from May to the beginning of August.

You will be placed at the Caribbean or Pacific coast and your project will be allocated by the in country team, depending on nesting season, capacity of volunteers at the time and other factors.

As an optional extra you can extend your trip and include some Spanish lessons to help you get to grips with the lingo, setting you up perfectly for long evenings of practice with your new found friends. Unfortunately you still won’t be able to converse with the turtles, but feel free to try!

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 who come out to play at night. You should bring clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty, and a swimsuit or two is of course a must! You might also like to bring some work gloves (such as garden gloves) to wear while you’re at the project. You could then consider leaving these at the project for staff and future volunteers to benefit from.

You will be eating Costa Rican food usually consisting of rice, beans, plaintains, salads, some meat, fish and vegetables. Rice and beans are the staple food of Costa Rica and whilst they don't sound much, believe us they are very moreish and you'll definitely miss them when you leave. You’ll have three meals a day provided for you.


About your accommodation

Think pristine tropical paradise, think of stepping out of your every day life. Did Robinson Crusoe have air con, nice hot showers, an extensive menu of tasty nibbles and access to his mates on Facebook? No, he didn’t and neither, dear traveller, shall you! 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.

Accommodation facilities

On the Caribbean coast you will be placed at one of the following;

Gandoca: You will be staying in shared bedrooms in cabins or houses owned by local families. The cabins have electricity and running water, as well as western style toilet and cold water shower. You should bring a sleeping bag liner or a light blanket instead of a bulky sleeping bag; bed sheets will be provided. All homestays are located within Gandoca village and in the boundaries of the reserve. It’s a maximum 15 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.You will need to bring a mosquito net, but three tasty traditional Costa Rican meals a day are provided for you.

Pacuare: You will be staying in dormitory rooms (maximum 6 people per room) in cabins on the beach. Bedding is not provided, so you will need to bring sheets and a pillow, and a lightweight sleeping bag or liner. Each room has a bathroom with cold running water, a shower and western style toilet. Electricity in the area is only provided by generator, but sometimes access to fuel to run the generator can be difficult.It is imperative to remember to have your torch at the ready and leave the hairdryer at home! The dorms are just off the beach, behind some palm trees. There is a seating area, where you can hang out and relax with your fellow volunteers. During your free time you could head to the nearby town of Bataan to check your emails or do some shopping, or visit the beautiful Tortuguero National Park to see species such as jaguar, the ocelot, tapir, manatee, sloth, monkey, and 405 bird species. Although basic, the accommodation is pleasant and the setting beautiful. There is a dining room where three tasty traditional Costa Rican meals a day are provided for you.

Parismina: You will be staying with a homestay host within the village which will be allocated by the project. The homestays vary in size and family members but you will be in a shared room with other volunteers with up to 4 in a room. Some houses are basic, but all families are given the oppurtunity to accept volunteers. Bathrooms are shared and have a western style toilet and also a shower, be prepared though as the water is cold! Mosquito net and fans are provided and you should also bring a padlock with you so that you can lock the room. Families will speak little English so it is a great opportunity for you to practise your Spanish! Three meals per day will be provided by the family and will be based on typical Costa Rican fare of rice and beans! 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 (what a way to get to the bank!) and 1.5 hours by bus.  

If you are staying on the Pacific coast you will be placed at one of the following;

Mata Palo – you will be staying in one of two rustic houses at the project which, whilst small, has clean and basic accommodation. Each room has bunk beds and there is electricity and cold water. No bedding is provided so you will need to bring a sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag with travel pillow and pillowcase. A mosquito net is required. Three meals per day are provided for you.

Time off can be spent in nearby Manuel Antonio or Dominical. Both towns provide you with the essentials you’ll need to kick back and relax and recuperate from all your hard work. Bars, restaurants, shops and internet cafes are all to be found on the main streets whilst surfing and beach chilling is ever popular on the beaches. However, the Manuel Antonio National park is the real hidden gem here and you’ll need more than your standard abacus to count every species of bird, mammal and plant inhabiting the park.

Playa Buena Vista – you will be staying at a wooden shack on an upper platform with bunk beds for volunteers. There is running cold water, a western style toilet, and shower facilities. (although water supplies are limited!). This is real back to basics living and there is no electricity - so leave the hair straighteners at home! As bedding is not provided you will need to bring a sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag with a travel pillow and pillowcase. A mosquito net is required. Three meals day are provided for you.

But it’s not all sweat and hard work! On your time off you can easily get to the sleepy town of Samara on foot. In town you will be able to enjoy some time on the beach surfing, swimming, diving, horse riding or just relaxing. Grab a cold beer over a nice meal at one of the restaurants knowing you’ve worked hard to deserve it. Shops and internet cafes are also available in Samara.

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 remember that you will need to be flexible.

Things to bring from home

  • Lightweight sleeping bag or liner, and a travel pillow
  • Towel and toiletries (although these can be bought in Alajuela if you prefer)
  • Mosquito net and repellent
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • Alarm clock
  • Books and playing cards are always useful for keeping you and your fellow volunteers entertained during your free time
  • It will get chilly at night, so a lightweight jumper or cardigan is a good idea
  • A rain jacket in case of impromptu showers!
  • Sun hat and high factor sun cream
  • Lightweight long sleeve tops for the evenings (keep the mosquitos away)
  • Lightweight long pants/ trousers to wear during your beach walks
  • Basic phrases in Spanish will help you settle in quicker; the more Spanish you know, the better!

Where is the accommodation?

You will be staying either at Pacuare or Gandoca in the Limon area on the Caribbean coast or at Mata Palo or Buena Vista on the Pacific coast.

How far is it from my project?

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

What you get

Next steps

Flights & insurance

Country information

I've done this trip. Write review >
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
Melissa-Rose Marsh gives this project
Here is what Melissa-Rose had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
The beach, and hopefully to see some turtles
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Bug spray. Open mind. Options
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Fun, challenging, exciting More info before you leave your country (know you can´t consume alcohol, etc).
Melissa Parsons gives this project
Here is what Melissa had to say:
What were the highlights of your trip?
The highlight was working with the turtles and getting to witness turtles laying their eggs and getting to release turtle babies into the ocean. Such a fantastic experience! I also liked the location of the project (Matapalo) as the beach was beautiful and barely touched by tourists. I enjoyed working with other volunteers and also the Costa Rican food!
Do you have 3 top tips for future travellers?
Be prepared to work any hour- day or night! Don't expect to definitely see turtles- you may not. Be prepared to help out around the house.
Give Us Up To 10 Words That Sum Up Your Experience:
Lots of fun and incredibly rewarding.

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.