Volunteering in Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

Famous for its biodiversity, Costa Rica is home to several species of endangered sea turtle. Poaching and predators have forced native sea turtle numbers into decline but, with your help, we can reverse this trend. In Costa Rica, sea turtles are hunted for their meat and shells, and turtle eggs are a local delicacy believed to have aphrodisiac powers. Based on the beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, volunteers work with the local organizations to maintain protected sea turtles habitats and hatcheries.

As a turtle conservation volunteer, you will have an authentic back-to-nature experience, living in rustic beach dorms. It’s similar to camping on the beach in very basic conditions — there is limited electricity, no cellphone network and water is carried in daily by volunteers.

Program Video

The project has daytime and evening elements: during the morning, you will conduct activities such as documenting breeding, nesting and incubating turtle numbers, manning the hatchery and releasing newborn turtles. In the evenings, you will patrol the beach in search of newly-laid eggs that you will move to the artificial hatchery for documentation. You will also keep a watchful eye out for poachers and predators.

Read more about volunteering in sea turtle conservation and download our information brochure.

Quick facts

  • Program: Volunteer Costa Rica
  • Location: Playa Buenavista
  • Minimum Duration: 2 Weeks
  • Language Requirement: English
  • Airport Pick-up: Yes, for $75
  • Travel Insurance Not included
  • Suitable for Groups: Yes
  • Region: Alajuela
  • Project Site: Turtle Camp
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Accommodation: Beach Campsite
  • Meals: 3 Meals Daily
  • Start Dates: Every Other Friday
  • Suitable for Families: Yes

Your role as a volunteer

Sea turtle conservation volunteers live and work on a beach in Costa Rica, maintaining the beach project site and hatchery, documenting turtle numbers, releasing offspring and patrolling the beach for predators and poachers. You will also help compile vital data about sea turtles as part of an international monitoring project while protecting endangered turtle species for generations to come.

Tasks may include:

  • Building and maintaining artificial hatcheries
  • Transferring eggs and releasing newborn turtles
  • Researching and documenting important data
  • Site construction and infrastructure maintenance
  • Transporting food and water to turtle campsite
  • Assisting with shopping trips for supplies

Work schedule

Sea turtle conservation volunteers work six days per week, both in the daytime and at night. Research and maintenance tasks are carried out during the day and patrols take place in the evenings.

Journey to work

The turtle conservation work takes place on the same beach where volunteers live.

Closed dates

The turtle projects are open all year round.

Project Photos

Project Location

Project Reviews & Testimonials

You might get frustrated with people waking you up at some ungodly hour of the night to start your hatchery-watching shift, but you'll never tire of the gorgeous sunrises.

You'll probably never want to eat rice and beans again after having it up to three times a day, but you'll always wish you could fall asleep listening to the waves crashing on the beach right outside camp.

It's very simple living, with no electricity whatsoever, but you learn to live without it, quite fast.

And there's plenty of clean running water and candle light. You'll sleep in the upstairs of the tree-hut in either bunk beds or a matress on the floor, with a maximum of 16 other people. It's tight up there so it really is only a place to lay your head.

No electricity or hot showers, and sleeping arrangements are very cozy to say the least! But you get used to it very quickly.

Your working hours are from 8-10am and 3-4pm, and this will include shifting sand (great for muscle tone), cleaning the beach and camp, digging up turtle nests and turning on the water. In between there is lots of time for sunbathing, reading, playing cards, surfing, or just chilling out.

During any free time you may have you are free to sit on the beach, enjoy the sun or go for a swim.

The organization was so well prepared and found me at the airport with no problems. Meaw, my greeter in San Jose, spoke English and was so warm and friendly with me that any fears of a language barrier disappeared.

What a strange feeling walking up and down the beach at 8:00PM to 12:00AM with nothing but the stars and moon lighting your way.

When I saw my first turtle I knew that coming to Gandoca was a great idea. I was totally clueless to how magnificent they were how huge they were and what an incredible process they go through to lay the eggs.

I learned so much about Turtles and their predicament while being in Camaronal.

Even though my majors are not science related, I have always loved science, and for me to combine using foreign languages and seeing the relationship of the station to the surrounding communities and to the turtles themselves was very interesting. I thought that for such a young refuge, it has already come so far in trying to educate the population about the situation, and to try and enforce and demonstrate the benefits of tourism over poaching.

From the moment I got there to the minute I left, I found something every day that intrigued me and kept me busy.

I had night patrol 6 days of the week, where I would dig up the turtle eggs, and relocate them. The park managers would then measure the turtles and record anything important. I felt very blessed at the project, as on the first night I saw a Leatherback turtle - which at the time of my project was extremely rare.

I barely slept the night before I arrived and when Laura and Meaw came to pick me up, I was dead tired and almost incoherent.

But I was soon energized by the arrival of other volunteers into the pickup van.All my concerns about the performance of the program were swept away, and I found myself relaxing and enjoying the presence of other likeminded volunteers, all of whom were eager to get out there and start making a difference in Costa Rica.

The physical work was a challenge as I normally do no exercise whatsoever, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

You feel like you've earned your relaxation time afterwards so you appreciate it a lot more. Another massive bonus was the beautiful setting' the lack of other tourists meant you felt really secluded and relaxed. Surfing was also so much fun to try.

When I arrived in Costa Rica I didn't really know what I was going into, all I knew was I was going to Playa Buenavista to save sea turtles.

The uVolunteer staffs were very helpful and accommodating and thanks to them the travel to the program was seamless. I was picked up at the airport along with several other volunteers who were picked up from other places in San Jose.

Costa Rica Information Brochure

If you are interested in joining the program in Costa Rica, you should download and read our destination guide.

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