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Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in Costa Rica

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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:

The Ara Project

The Ara Project is a Costa Rican licensed, government supervised, conservation organisation operated by the non-profit organization Asociación El Proyecto Ara. Its primary purpose 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 at The Ara Project 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: Currently, volunteers can work at either the Punta Islita Breeding and Release Centre, or the Manzanillo Release Centre.
Accommodation & Costs: They ask for $300 per month to cover the basic lodging and volunteers are responsible for their food expenses,estimated at around $40-$75 per week.

Volunteering in Costa Rica


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Barking Horse Farm

Barking Horse Farm offers two different volunteer options: a workstudy programme for those who have experience with horses but not with natural horsemanship, and an internship position for more experienced riders. Workstudy volunteers should stay for a month and have some general horse handling and riding experience. Interns should already have Natural Horsemanship experience.

Where: Puriscal.
Accommodation & Costs: Room and board is provided to workstudy volunteers for a fee of $150 per week. This fee includes one or two private/semi-private lessons per week, riding time (depending on the season, at least three to four times a week), food and lodging. Free room and board is available for interns who can commit to a three month or longer stay. They also accept interns who can only stay for a shorter time for a fee of $300 per month to cover your food expenses.

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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.

Where: Montezuma.
Accommodation & Costs: EFV no longer provide housing to volunteers but can assist with finding accommodation locally. A $150 donation is required.


Other Opportunities to Volunteer in Costa Rica

The last time we tried to check Establo San Rafael's details they seemed to be having some problems with their website. Our anti virus programme wouldn't let us in so we couldn't quickly confirm the last details we had on them are still accurate, but they do seem to still be active and running a Work Study Programme. Our last information was that this farm and equestrian centre in Puriscal practices natural horsemanship techniques and offers horse riding vacations. They also welcome volunteers, particularly those with good internet skills to help promote the farm. Otherwise the tasks include helping out with the animals - goats, birds, dogs, cats, etc - and with the horses, cleaning stalls, grooming and fixing things around the farm. Good basic horse skills needed. The minimum stay for volunteers is one to three months or longer. Costs were $20 a day including accommodation, meals and riding. 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. Volunteers can help to preserve medicinal plant knowldge passed down through the generations, or help on one of the other projects serving the community. Our last details date from 2013 and their sporadically updated Facebook page last saw activity in 2015, but last we heard there was 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 organizations 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

Workaway -
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HelpX -


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.


Volunteer Experiences*

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