At a glance
- Explore Costa Rica’s lush tropical dry forest and contribute to valuable conservation work. It’s the ideal volunteer conservation programme for wildlife enthusiasts and budding conservationists.
- You’ll work in the Barra Honda National Park. Completing bird and monkey surveys, reforestation work and many other activities which will undoubtedly set you apart as someone committed to solving global conservation issues.
- You’ll live in host family accommodation with other volunteers, giving you the opportunity to bond as a group.
16 or over
Is Conservation volunteering in Costa Rica right for me?
This environmental sustainability project is ideal for thrill-seekers. Living in the forest, trekking through dense vegetation, and exploring sprawling cave networks is an adventure lover’s dream!
Animal conservation volunteering work in Costa Rica’s tropical dry forest is also perfect for you if you’re interested in environmental science, at home or abroad. You’ll gain practical skills studying plants and animals, which is great preparation for a career in botany or zoology. You’ll also be working closely with some of the top minds in conservation.
You don’t need any skills or qualifications to join. You just need to be physically fit and comfortable getting your hands dirty doing practical work. Our local staff will be there to support you 24/7.
The project runs all year round, so you can join whenever it suits your schedule. The minimum duration is one week, but we recommend staying longer to fully immerse yourself in life in the forest and have an even greater impact.
What will I do on this Conservation placement in Costa Rica?
You’ll spend your days assisting with conservation work in Barra Honda National Park. Here are some of the tasks you’ll do:
- Help with biodiversity studies to develop effective conservation strategies
- Combat climate change and restore natural habitats through reforestation work
- Do maintenance work to keep the park running
Your work will focus on the following main areas:
A large portion of your time will be spent collecting data for biodiversity studies. You’ll work with experts to survey wildlife and record details about their behaviours and distributions. With this information, the park will be better equipped to develop effective conservation strategies.
You’ll collect data during hikes through the dense forest. Some of the species you’ll be surveying include:
- Howler monkeys
- Scarlet macaws
Human expansion and forest fires, exacerbated by climate change, have caused the destruction of a large portion of Costa Rica’s forests. This has a devastating effect for a range of species. With much of their habitat destroyed, many animal populations have been drastically reduced.
You will help restore the habitat of many species. By working in the park’s tree nursery, you’ll care for young saplings until they are strong enough to be planted in the forest.
This reforestation work also helps combat climate change, by increasing the number of carbon dioxide-absorbing trees in the area.
Barra Honda relies heavily on volunteer support to continue their conservation work. As a volunteer, you’ll help with the running of the park. This could include tasks like clearing trails, maintaining fire breaks, or helping with general camp upkeep.
Although these seem like more menial tasks, they play an important role in the overall functioning of the park. For example, clearing trails means people will be less likely to walk through vegetation and disrupt the habitat of indigenous species.
For this project, we’ve partnered with government-run Barra Honda National Park. This partnership ensures the park has volunteers to support their important work. It also means our volunteers work alongside and learn from park staff, who are experienced professionals.
Where in Costa Rica will I work?
This project is based in Barra Honda National Park, a wildlife reserve in the northwest of Costa Rica. The park is located in the Nicoya peninsula, about a 25-minute drive from the town of Nicoya.
You’ll stay in host family accommodation only around 1km away from the forest. This is the perfect place to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature.
During your free time, you can relax in a hammock, beneath the leaves of towering trees. Or challenge a fellow volunteer to a board game. With very little internet access, it’s the perfect opportunity to live in the moment, connect with fellow volunteers, and experience something completely different.
A typical day doing conservation work in Costa Rica
Your project work will run from about 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. You’ll usually have a long lunch break from 12pm to 3.30pm. These hours might be different for some early morning tasks.
You’ll start your day with breakfast at 7.30am. Once you’ve eaten your fill in preparation for a busy day, you’ll begin your work.
In the morning, you’ll usually do activities that involve more manual labor. This is to take advantage of the cooler weather before midday. This includes tasks like clearing trails or working in the tree nursery.
You’ll have a long break, giving you a chance to have lunch and relax before starting up work again in the afternoon.
Afternoon tasks include things like doing a monkey survey or setting up camera traps.
What are the aims and impact of Conservation volunteering in Costa Rica?
The main aim of this project is to support Barra Honda National Park, which relies heavily on volunteer assistance. In line with this aim, your biggest task is collecting data to help inform the park’s conservation policies.
Despite being a relatively small country, Costa Rica contains 5% of the world’s species biodiversity. This means that a wide range of species rely on the ecosystems here to survive.
Experts estimate that around 90% of the forest around the park has been destroyed. The animals that live here are threatened by deforestation and climate change.
To help address these issues, we’ve created a specialized management plan for this project. This plan outlines long-term goals that our volunteers strive towards. These goals are:
- Collect data on indigenous species to give insight into effective conservation strategies
- Plant trees to restore the tropical dry forest ecosystem
- Raise awareness of the vital role this ecosystem plays to reduce negative human impact
Join us in Costa Rica and help us work towards our sustainable goals.
We set out the aims and objectives of our projects in documents called Management Plans. We use them to properly plan the work you’ll do. They also help us measure and evaluate our achievements and impact each year.
Ultimately, our Management Plans help us make our projects better. This in turn means you get to be part of something that makes a real impact where it’s needed. Read more about our Management Plans.
Measuring our impact
Our projects work towards clear long-term goals, with specific annual objectives. Every volunteer and intern we send to these projects helps us work towards these goals, no matter how long they spend on our projects.
Every year we take a step back and look at how much progress we've made towards these goals. We put together a Global Impact Report, which documents our achievements. Find out more about the impact our global community of volunteers, interns and staff make, and read the latest report.
Food and accommodation
You'll stay with a host family, close to Barra Honda National Park. They will welcome you into their home, eager to share their customs and have you teach them about your own culture. We believe that this is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture of Costa Rica and have a truly unique experience.
We will always try to let you live alongside at least one other Projects Abroad volunteer or intern at the same host family. In some cases you may share a room with a volunteer of the same sex and approximate age. Your room will be modest, but comfortable, clean, and safe. Your programme fees include three meals a day.
Find out more about our accommodation.
Leisure activities and free time
With more than 25% of its land protected in national parks, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s paradise. It has everything from volcanoes to tropical rainforests, and magnificent waterfalls to beautiful sandy beaches. This tiny country is also renowned for its biodiversity and boasts an array of wildlife.
Most of our projects are based in the vibrant city of Liberia, capital of the Guanacaste province. A striking mix of old and new, Liberia retains a rich colonial history, as well as being home to an array of modern tech companies and shopping centres.
Liberia is also a fantastic starting point for weekend excursions. If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, you’ll be able to explore the nearby Santa Rosa and Rincón de la Vieja National Parks.
You're never far from the coast in Costa Rica. Spoilt for choice by the number of idyllic beaches, you'll have plenty of opportunities for water-based activities like surfing, swimming, or scuba diving in your free time. In Liberia, you can get to many of the nearby beaches with a short bus ride.
There will likely be other volunteers in Costa Rica with you. So you can choose to explore on your own or as a group.
Safety and staff support
Your safety and security is our prime concern. We have many procedures and systems to ensure you have the support you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind. Our Projects Abroad staff are available 24 hours a day to help, and will be on-hand to make sure you settle in well at your accommodation and placement. If you encounter any problems, they will be available to help at any time.
Find out more about safety and backup.
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