Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica(Caribbean Coast, Pacuare)
Have you always dreamed of working with sea turtles? Would you like to volunteer in beautiful Costa Rica making a difference? This amazing conservation project with IFRE allows you to do just that!
Costa Rica is tropical paradise, its stunning coasts lined with unique, picturesque, and often nearly deserted beaches. These beaches are the nesting grounds for four different species of endangered sea turtles, and the perfect place for your volunteer abroad adventure!
Sadly, sea turtle populations are declining, and these ancient and amazing animals are endangered and need your help! They are hunted for their meat and their eggs are poached by humans who consider them a delicacy and an aphrodisiac.
Join this unique and seasonal sea turtle conservation volunteer project in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast and make a difference! You’ll team up with scientists and reformed former poachers who have seen the light and are now working hard to guard nests, gather data for scientific research, and ensure baby hatchlings make their way out to sea.
Are you interested in protecting the incredibly important sea turtles and fulfilling your love and passion for animals? Then contact IFRE today to learn how you can help save sea turtles in Costa Rica!
Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica: On going projects
As a volunteer, you’ll find yourself getting involved in a variety of different projects. Sea turtle season at this particular beach runs from March-October, and your duties will vary seasonally based on if eggs are being laid, babies hatching, etc.
Take a look at the exciting projects you’ll be participating in!
During nesting season, volunteers will accompany an experienced night patrol leader between 7 pm- 4 am, though your patrol will last an average of 4 hours. You will need to wear dark clothing and will walk an average of 14 km looking for nests and nesting turtles.
If a turtle is encountered, you will join the group in collecting important scientific data such as taking measurements of the turtle’s shell, marking the nest location, counting the eggs, tagging the turtle, etc.
Once the eggs have been laid, you and your fellow Costa Rica sea turtle volunteers will collect them to be brought to the safety of the hatchery where a new nest will be dug for them to incubate in.
To ensure poachers do not take the sea turtle eggs, the nests are relocated to a safe and protected hatchery where the babies can grow and develop in peace. The new nests must be protected from other predators such as ants, crabs, dogs, coatimundis, etc. At the hatchery, volunteers will help collect data such as nest temperatures, egg and hatchling measurements, and more.
When the baby sea turtles begin to hatch (60 days after the eggs are laid), the nests must be checked every 20 minutes day and night to see if the hatchlings have emerged. The babies have to be counted and the data recorded. You and the other Costa Rica sea turtle volunteers will then help take them to the beach at high tide and watch as they make their way out to sea!
The nearby village has a long history of hunting turtles and taking eggs, but through educational outreach the very people who used to be poachers have learned the error of their ways and are now actively helping save and protect the turtles.
Part of your volunteer work with sea turtles in Costa Rica will be educating the local community so they begin to see the value of these amazing animals beyond their meat, shells, and eggs. If poachers can become conservationists, just imagine the difference you can make through your own educational outreach efforts!
Daily Volunteer Activities/Operations
When you join sea turtle volunteering program in Costa Rica, you will also help pitch in performing a variety of duties needed to keep this operation running smoothly. You may find yourself doing things like cleaning, painting, gardening, or performing maintenance. Each year the hatchery is built anew, so if you arrive early in the season you may join in its construction.
Help keep the beach clean and clear of debris as part of your service work. Turtles get tangled in nets and plastic debris, and often end up accidentally ingesting plastic, leading to injury or death. Help keep their environment clean by picking up trash!
Rescue & Rehab
Help rescue endangered sea turtles! This project also operates a field rescue center for injured turtles. If an animal who needs help comes in during your time volunteering, you may be able to join in on the efforts to save it. These animals are usually examined, treated, held in tanks as they undergo rehabilitation, and released back into the ocean when they are ready to go free.
You’re ready to fly to Costa Rica and do your part to help save endangered sea turtles. That’s great, and we’d love to have you join us! But first, here’s some important information we think you should know about this project:
Prepare to Unplug
This project is located on a remote beach in the middle of the rainforest on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The ocean is to the front, and a canal is in the back, meaning the site can only be reached by boat.
Essentially, you’ll be living without electricity while volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica. Solar power is present at the project but must be used sparingly and primarily for the operation of machines needed for work. You won’t have hot water, and you’ll be washing your clothes by hand.
There is a small village nearby, but there’s no store, so anything you need will need to be brought in. The good news is, you’ll be staying on a beautiful beach and be surrounded by a lush Costa Rican rainforest. Embrace it! Be prepared for a slower pace of life and enjoy immersing yourself in the natural world around you.
Before taking the boat to join IFRE’s Costa Rica Sea Turtle conservation volunteer project, pick up a few supplies. If you buy a local Kolbi SIM card in town before you come (make sure your phone is unlocked before you travel), you can use data to access the internet on the beach so you can stay connected to the outside world.
Get ready for crazy hours
The thing about working with sea turtles is you will be doing a lot of work both day and night. Patrols for nests are done between the hours of 7pm- 4am, and the nests in the hatchery have to be checked every 20 minutes both night and day. While you’ll be taking shifts, be prepared to stay up late, and keep some odd hours.
You might be a little tired at times, but there will also be times where not much is happening, and you can enjoy the beach and the jungle and rest. A little lost sleep is well worth the once-in-a-lifetime experience of volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica and helping to ensure the future survival of these endangered species.
This is the jungle
If you haven’t spent much time in the rainforest, there are a few things you should be prepared for. Its hot, and this project’s location experiences 100% humidity. Even when its not raining, everything will be damp, and your clothes and personal objects may suffer the consequences of this. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water and be sure to wear sunscreen.
There are a lot of insects in the jungle, and you’re bound to get bitten by some of them while volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica. You’ll be dealing with a lot of mosquitoes and sand flies, which are worse during rainy season. Bring along your own mosquito net to sleep peacefully and be sure to bring extra bug spray and anti-itch cream.
Volunteer Responsibilities & Impact
Your duties will vary considerably based on the tide, the season, the movements of the turtles, and a variety of other factors. Be prepared to pitch in wherever your help is needed performing night patrols, assisting in data collection, helping in the hatchery, performing maintenance, cleaning, gardening, helping rescue and rehabilitate injured turtles, doing beach clean-ups, releasing hatchlings, and more.
Your time spent as a Costa Rica sea turtle volunteer will have a profound impact on both yourself and the animals you will be working so hard to help save. The efforts of this project save countless turtles, helping ensure their survival into adulthood and the continuation of three extraordinary endangered species. You will never forget the calm determination of a nesting mother, or the hopeful moment you release your first hatchling out to sea.
Skills and Qualifications:
You don’t need to be a scientist to join IFRE’s conservation efforts. All you need is to be 18 years old and have a genuine desire to make a difference helping sea turtles and a love and passion for animals. We recommend Spanish language skills, as you will be working with local Costa Ricans.
You will need to be prepared to work in varying conditions, including extreme heat, humidity, rain, and at night. You should be in good physical shape to participate in volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica manual labor like in the construction of the hatchery.
Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica: Dates and Fees
IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.
Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.
We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.
Volunteer Program Fees (US$)
Mandatory Comprehensive Travel Insurance $3.49/day »
No Spanish Language Program with the Turtle Conservation Project
Program Fees Cover:
- Accommodation (host family)
- Food (only breakfast and dinnery)
- Program Orientation
- In-country support
- Personalized project
- Pre-departure information
- Certificate of completion
- Fundraising ideas and letters
- Discount for returning volunteers
Program Fees Exclude:
- Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
- Daily transportation
- Airport return transfer
Osa Peninsula (Airport Pick up and Transportation)
The Osa Turtle Conservation site is 100 miles from San Jose. Here are the details of the airport pick up and transfer fee.
- Airport Pick, first night at a hotel in San Jose $45
- Sanjose to Punterenas by bus $8
- Punterenas to Osa by bus $6
You will pay your airport pick up/transfer cost directly to staff in Costa Rica
Pacuare (Airport Pick Up and Transportation)
Pacuare Turtle Conservation site is 80 miles from San Jose. There are two options for you to choose from.
Option one- organized by IFRE Volunteers
- Airport Pick, spend the first night in a hotel in San Jose $45
(If you arrive before 2 p.m. you can go directly to the project by taxi without staying in a hotel.)
- San Jose to Pecaure in a private taxi $150
- The boat transportation cost is 35$
Option two- travel by yourself to the project
If your flight arrives early in the morning, or before 10 a.m., you can choose to go to the project directly by public bus
- San Jose to Siquirres $6
- Siquirres to Las Vegas de Imperio $3
- The boat transportation cost is 35$
Bus Departure time from San Jose: 11 a.m.
Directions - traveling to your project
- From the Gran Terminal del Caribe of San José, take the 11:00 a.m. bus to Siquirres. You will arrive at Siquirres around 1:15 p.m.
- From the terminal at Siquirres walk to La Estación Intercantonal, also called Parada de los Calvos, (300m). (If you are not sure, just ask people where you can get on a bus to Las Vegas de Imperio).
- Take the 2:30 p.m. bus to Las Vegas de Imperio, getting off at the last stop.
- A staff member will be waiting for you there. The boat transportation cost is 35$ per person, both trips.
You will pay your airport pick up/transfer fee directly to staff in Costa Rica: Map
Gran Terminal del Caribe of San Jose: Map
The volunteering overseas in Costa Rica program fees will cover expenses that will begin on the first day of the program (usually the first or third Monday of the month) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses, which would typically be around $30 a day for room and meals at a hostel.
Accommodation and Meal
You’ll be staying at the project site, a remote beach near a small village only accessible by boat along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. You’ll be staying in simple, shared accommodations with fellow volunteers. You will be without electricity, but bedding is provided and we recommend bringing along your own mosquito net.
As part of your Costa Rica Sea Turtle volunteer program fee, you’ll be served three meals a day. It will be simple local fare, which typically includes rice, beans, salad, fresh fruits, and coffee. Mealtimes are a fantastic opportunity to connect with your fellow volunteers and local project staff, making friends from around the world!
Free Time and Weekend Exploration
Given the remote location of this project, you can expect to spend most of your free time on the beach and exploring the surrounding area. Besides three species of nesting sea turtles, there are sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, and more! This a community-based project in a small village where everyone knows everyone, so be sure to represent the project well and be on your best behavior.
When you have days off from volunteering with sea turtles in Costa Rica, there are countless other areas you might like to explore. Nearby Tortuguero National Park is another amazing place to encounter sea turtles. An amazing natural wonder, the park is a network of volcanic islands that collected sand from where the river meets the sea, eventually forming a series of beaches integral to the nesting of sea turtles.
Discover what to do in your free time while volunteering in Costa Rica.
Safety and in Country Support
Your safety is always our biggest priority here at IFRE. We will carefully plan your trip every step of the way, using our years of experience to ensure you have a safe, satisfying, and meaningful time abroad. Our in-country team will be right there in Costa Rica helping you whenever you need them.
Read more about IFRE’s dedication to safety and our in-country support.
Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica-FAQs
You’ve done your research and you’re ready to volunteer with sea turtles. IFRE can make your dreams of volunteering come true. But first, you probably have a few questions you need answered. Here’s a list of helpful information we think you should know when traveling with us:
Arrival and Departure
You will fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Provide your flight details to our in-country coordinator, and we’ll set up your airport pickup as part of your volunteer fee. We’ll have someone waiting for you when you land, and they’ll take you safely to your accommodations.
IFRE doesn’t offer departure transport services.
Please secure a tourist visa by visiting Costa Rican immigration office in your home country. You can also get a visa stamp up on your arrival at the airport, depending on your nationality. However, we suggest you to get visa before your departure to Costa Rica. According to Costa Rican law, a 90 day tourist visa is available. You can extend for more 90 days by visiting immigration office while you are in the country. Research the visa policy at the official Immigration site of Costa Rica
Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica: Vaccination
You’ll need to get up to date with your vaccines before you travel, so meet with a doctor at least several weeks before your trip to discuss what you’ll need.
You can also find the information on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canada or in Travelers' Health United Kingdom. You should be up to date on your routine vaccines, as well as Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid.
For further readings:
Safety tips for your volunteer abroad trip
Can I volunteer at the project year-round?
No, the project is only offered during turtle season, which at this location is March-October. Early season volunteers will help construct the nursery, and patrol for nesting mothers. After 60 days the eggs hatch, so in May the hatchlings start emerging, but nesting mothers are still coming in. Near the end of the season, you’ll have hatchlings, but no more mothers.
What kinds of sea turtles will I be working with?
Three different varieties of sea turtles nest at the beach where IFRE’s Costa Rica Sea Turtle Volunteer project is located. These are the rare Hawksbill, Green Sea Turtle, and Leatherback. The leatherback, a massive turtle which can reach over 7 feet in length, is the primary species which nests at the beach, and the main sea turtle you will be working with.
What should I wear?
Dark clothing is needed at night for beach patrols to avoid disturbing the turtles, and you’ll want long sleeves and pants for mosquito protection. Closed toed shoes that can get wet, like crocs, are recommended. For night patrols you will absolutely need a headlamp with a red light, so as not to disturb the eyes of the turtles.
During the day you’ll wear shorts and t-shirts, and you’ll want to bring a raincoat or poncho for rainy season. Since the climate is so humid and you’ll be washing clothing by hand, we highly recommend packing light weight, fast-drying fabrics for your Costa Rica sea turtle conservation volunteer trip. The project is on the beach, so you’ll also want a couple of swimsuits, a fast-drying towel, flip-flops, and a pair of sunglasses.
Why Volunteer With Turtles in Costa Rica?
Volunteering with sea turtles on the Caribbean coast is an amazing opportunity to fulfill your passion for animals and observe these amazing creatures as you help their entire species survive into the future.
Gain practical experience doing scientific research
You will work under the guidance of staff and biologists performing important data collection. You will learn many scientific techniques like tagging, biometrics, tissue sampling, relocation, etc. If you are pursuing a career in the scientific field, this looks amazing on your resume!
Help protect endangered species at a grassroots level
All sea turtles are in danger of extinction but given the traditional beliefs and practices of the people on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica,the animals who come here to nest are in even greater peril. By educating and partnering with the local communities who were responsible for the hunting and poaching, IFRE stops the problem at the source.
Immerse yourself in nature
At our volunteering with sea turtle project in Costa Rica, you will be immersed in a tropical paradise. With no electricity or modern distractions, you can truly appreciate nature and all its wonders.
Travel to beautiful Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a traveler’s paradise. Pristine beaches, rainforests alive with a dizzying array of plants and animals, beautiful mountains, and friendly people await you!
Make your dream of working with sea turtles come true
If you’ve always dreamed of watching a nesting sea turtle mother lay her eggs or watching a baby turtle hatch from an egg and make their way courageously out into the ocean, this is your chance!
Contact IFRE today to get started planning volunteer with turtles in Costa Rica!
Other Wildlife Volunteering Opportunities in Costa Rica
You can fulfill your passion and love for animals in a variety of ways in Costa Rica. You can
work at a sanctuary in Natuwa,
help protect turtles on the Osa Peninsula,
help with wildlife research, and much more.
Contact IFRE today to find the perfect wildlife project for you!
Other Wildlife and Sea Turtle Projects Worldwide
The world’s animals are in danger everywhere, and IFRE works hard to ensure critical species survive and thrive into the future. If you’re interested in protecting wildlife somewhere other than Costa Rica, have a look at the list below for some of our most popular wildlife projects: