Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Costa Rica
Numerous and varied work exchanges, wildlife and biodiversity conservation programmes, hostel work, and even a small house sitting market, make Costa Rica one of the best places to volunteer in Central America.
Grassroots Volunteering in Costa Rica
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Formally The Ara Project, this non profit is focused on reintroducing the macaws to their former ranges, throughout much of Costa Rica, and they couldn’t do the work they do without the incredible donations of time and energy their many volunteers make. Working here will give you an opportunity to get up close with some incredibly beautiful and charismatic birds, meet people from all over the world and experience Costa Rican life and culture in a remote area. And, of course, you will be making a difference to the survival of two endangered species of macaw. They welcome dedicated, motivated, team oriented, responsible individuals, aged over 18, physically fit and with a positive attitude. Experience working with birds and Spanish (or English if you’re a Spanish speaker) are advantages and they expect the same kind of commitment you would give a paid job. A minimum stay of one month is required but longer stays are preferred.
Where: Ara Manzanillo is located within the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, south of the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in southern Limón province near Panama.
Accommodation & Costs: They ask for $300 per month (reduced if staying three months) to cover the basic lodging and volunteers are responsible for their food expenses,estimated at around $40-$75 per week.
Barking Horse Farm
Barking Horse Farm have combined their volunteer programme with that of Establo San Rafael (see Other Opportunities below) but offer three distinct volunteer options themselves. There is a fee free three month option for an experienced horse person to work as a trail guide and assistant riding instructor. Two more volunteers are taken on for a minimum of two weeks at a time to care for the grounds of the farm and the farm animals (goats, chickens, geese, rabbits). In the house you will also be cooking. There is a fee of $100. Lastly, interns can learn natural horsemanship, working hands on with all 15 of their horses on a daily basis, though this is quite expensive at $1000 per month for room and board..
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Escuela Futuro Verde
Founded by two mums when their daughters were reaching school age, Escuela Futuro Verde grew from educating three students in one of the founders’ home to an international school with 120 students from 18 countries. They offer an array of volunteer opportunites such as assisting classroom instruction, organising after school programs, or leading outreach efforts with educational organisations in the region. Some knowledge of Spanish and teaching experience is required.
Hostel Work Exchanges
We have seen Federico, who runs Hostel Casa Del Parque, a small hostel in San Jose, advertise regularly for responsible volunteers with qualities in sales and customer service to help with reservations, check ins/outs, tourist information, some answering phone calls and emails and social media. In return they provide a dorm room bed, free laundry, wifi, and usage of common areas and hostel supplies plus US$30 per week towards food. One month minimum commitment required.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Costa Rica
Establo San Rafael, a farm and equestrian centre in Puriscal, practices natural horsemanship techniques and offers horse riding vacations. They have a couple of volunteer positions. The first is for someone with a decent understanding of natural horsemanship to work as a trail guide assistant for six months. The second volunteer takes daily care of the horses, cleans the barn and scoops poop. There is a two week commitment for this position and it can be done by a friend of the first volunteer that would like to learn natural horsemanship. Volunteers get their own room but have to feed themselves. See Erin and Simon’s volunteer experience below for a first hand account.
El Puente (The Bridge) is an expat started non profit that offers educational assistance, food, and microloans mainly to indigenous people in Costa Rica. Cooking, serving, building, and teaching are just are just a few ways to engage with their community. There is no fee expected from volunteers who want to pitch in for a while but they should be self funding, including arranging their own accommodation in nearby Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, on the Caribbean shore in Costa Rica.
Green Life Volunteers is a local Costa Rican Volunteer Service Organisation placing volunteers in different projects throughout Costa Rica. Almost all of these projects are run by Costa Rican non profit organisations who are in need of manpower and know how. They particularly try to focus on conservation, sustainability, and development projects. For example they place volunteers on projects which focus on research and protection of endangered species, such as sea turtles and snakes, or improving sustainable development by helping kids and adults to learn English, and other languages, and by helping out at organic farms and reforestation projects. Stay a week and their fees are a bit steep but prices fall considerably for additional weeks. Host family accommodation and meals are provided.
Help Exchange Networks in Costa Rica
Volunteer Latin America – https://www.volunteerlatinamerica.com/volunteer-abroad/costa-rica
Workaway – https://www.workaway.info/hostlist-CR.html
Hovos – https://www.hovos.com/host/Central-America/Costa-Rica/
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in Costa Rica
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free $25 Airbnb credit from us here.
A Day in the Life of an Equestrian Intern in Costa Rica – Erin and Simon helped out with horses at an equestrian centre in a rural part of Costa Rica.
A Week-In-The-Life of Inge: Volunteering in Costa Rica – Inge sheds some insight into seven days of her life as a volunteer at a Zoo.
Volunteering With Turtles In Costa Rica – Chris asks his friend to piece together a guest post between tanning sessions on her experiences working with turtles in Costa Rica.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Linda Martin