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.
- 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
What's not included
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.
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 looking after sick turtles in a small marine turtle clinic adjacent to the project. 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, Junquillal, Zapotillal (Bahia Piratas) or Buena Vista. The projects in Junquillal, Zapotillal and Buenavista run 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 fewer nesting turtles, and the activity is mostly concentrated in Junquillal and Zapotillal (Bahia Piratas) but all three projects 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!
The project is approved by MINAET, which is the main body that supervises environmental affairs in Costa Rica, so it's a great, worthwhile project to get involved with.
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 taking care of sick turtles if you’re based at Pacuare. 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.
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.
Junquillal - you will be staying in a complex with three separate structures. Two are allocated for bedrooms. Bedding is provided so you will not need to bring bedding. You will need to bring your own towel. A mosquito net is not required. There is electricity at this project. Three meals a day are provided for you. In the village of Junquillal there is a small shop that offers essentials and provides Wi-Fi for the customers.
Time off can be spent in nearby Playa Grande or Tamarindo. 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.
Zapotillal (Bahia Piratas) - you will be staying in a house located on a private residential area about 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. Bedding and towels are not provided so you will be required to bring your own. A mosquito net is not required. Three meals a day are provided for you. At the entrance of the residential area there is a restaurant that offers Wi-Fi for the customers.
Time off can be spent at nearby beaches. The in-country team can help you to organise taxis to take you to the town of Matapalo and from there you can take local buses to the different beaches. 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.
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
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on email@example.com
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.