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

For the night patrol you have to walk the beach without any light, you will be accompanied by more experienced volunteers or staff.

The aim of the night patrol is to spot turtles laying the eggs so we can take the eggs to the hatchery deposit of being in low seasons, I was lucky enough to spot a turtle during my night patrol and I was allowed to take the eggs to the hatchery. That was amazing experience!!!

We were assigned to aid in the construction of the house for Lyjia, a local who is trying to move out near San Padre.

No power tools were needed in the construction, solely manual labor and some elbow grease. There were 4 different kinds of cement used in securing the cement blocks, in between blocks, and drywall. I've gotten accustomed to working with lumber so this was a change of pace. Rodrigo showed us the ropes of things and we quickly began work.

This was first trip alone into a place I've never gone before.

On the flight over to Costa Rica I met a few other uVolunteer participants, which was really comforting. We were met by a bunch of papers with names on them people looking for other people, and thankfully saw the uVolunteer logo. I was met by the coordinator who gave me a really useful orientation and kept reassuring me. Soon I was sent swiftly on my way to Playa Matapalo (by a very long bus ride).

Once a day someone has to go turn on the tap at the other end of the beach for half an hour so all the jugs can be filled up with drinking water.

The rest of the water for washing clothes, showering, etc has to be pumped up from a well a couple hundred meters away. I know that after reading this it all seems very primitive and uncomfortable but it isn't.

The best experience of my life! That is the statement I would use to describe my trip to Costa Rica.

It all started on July 26, 2009, when I flew into San Jose. I had no idea what to expect, and as a 16 year old, was quite nervous. I was welcomed warmly by uVolunteer. The next 11 days were spent at the Sea Turtle Conservation in Gandoca.

Spending three weeks in Costa Rica on Camaronal Beach and working with others from around the globe was one of the best experiences I've ever had abroad.

In a heartbeat, I would go back and continue to work with uVolunteer; spending three weeks in Costa Rica on Camaronal Beach and working with others from around the globe was one of the best experiences I've ever had abroad. In a heartbeat, I would go back and continue to work with uVolunteer.

When I arrived, it was very dark and I had a long day of travelling so went straight to bed.

In the morning, I took a few short steps to the beach and was absolutely stunned. The turtle reserve lies on one of the most pristine beaches I have ever seen, with roughly 2km of black sand in either direction, and it is bordered by picturesque mountains which seemingly rise right out of the ocean.

Staff members from uvolunteer were supportive from the very first moment I met them.

They picked me up at the airport and I was immediately comfortable and felt like I was in great hands. Meeting staff members from uvolunteer helping me understand a lot of things about Costa Rica as a country and all its traditions. Their presentation was informative, so it pays to pay attention.

Living at the uVolunteer dorm was also ridiculously fun and Dona Isabel, the house mom, is an absolute sweetheart and cooks amazing Costa Rican food.

uVolunteer had prepared me for culture shock beforehand, loading me with plenty of information about my projects and Costa Rica itself, so I clung to that as my volunteer coordinator, Laura introduced herself. I felt at ease as I met all the staff, Meaw, Suri, and Dona Isabel, they were all very friendly and welcoming.

It was enjoyable for me to observe a different country's school system and be able to reflect, compare, and contrast.

I greatly enjoyed working with the adult classes. They were so kind and welcoming to me, and quite appreciative of my time spent with them. Their true desire to learn English caused the classes to be quite rewarding. I enjoyed getting to know my two roomates and learn about their lives.

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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