Traveling with a family offers up many challenges but with the right mindset, it can create wonderful opportunities. Costa Rica is the adventure capital of the world with activities such as white-water rafting, surfing, zip-lining, canyoning, horseback riding, all possible within a single national park… But it is also a country that is striving for environmental awareness and passionately protects its biodiversity. Additionally, supporting education and welfare in its community. So, how about you introduce your children to something more than just some fun and combine a great time with education and even some hands-on experience in a valuable organization! Here is our list of the best family volunteer vacations!
Please note! We offer this information for those looking to learn more about family volunteering in Costa Rica. We do not offer these specific programs in our packages.
Family volunteering with Turtles
Did you know Costa Rica’s beaches host 4 kinds of sea turtles during nesting season? The Leatherback Turtle, the Olive Ridley Turtle, the Green Sea Turtle and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Your children will love working with animals and know they are doing something of great value.
Those who aren’t afraid of hard work, can head to La Tortuga Feliz, a non-profit organization located in Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. They have a national and international volunteer program that aims to protect the sea turtles as well as the local community. The local people are on guard patrol to protect the turtles and eggs from poachers.
This conservation program is ideal for families with older children who don’t mind getting their hands dirty and walking along the beaches for several hours (in all weather conditions!) looking for nesting turtles and collecting eggs to bring to the hatchery.
You can also travel to the Pacific Coast and find similar volunteer opportunities. Great conservation programs are put in place by the Corcovado Foundation, for example. Here you can combine some experience at the Sea Turtle Conservation Program with hiking the stunning and remote Corcovado National Park. Note that this program too requires children to be 18 or older. If you would like to have a lasting effect on this program, why not adopt a turtle?
Volunteering near the iconic Arenal Volcano
Volunteer in Costa Rica and still leave room for adventure travel! When in La Fortuna, you can still enjoy activities like rafting, sky treks and sky tams, waterfall rappelling, hanging bridges tours and many other activities. But Arenal National Park is also home to Vida Campesina. This is a great place for kids of all ages to be part of a local community and benefit from a valuable cultural exchange. The volunteer program at Vida Campesina includes experience in organic and environmentally friendly farming, cooking typical Costa Rican food, handling and taking care of cows, goats, sheep and chickens. Your children might also enjoy learning Spanish and they will become familiar with Costa Rican traditions and lifestyles.
Children helping children
Looking for some volunteering opportunities close to the stunning Guanacaste beaches? Then Liberia could be a great option for you and your family. A great way for your children to see the world from a different perspective, is to play and learn with children with another cultural background. One such organization is Instituto Estelar Bilingue, a language school in Liberia, Guanacaste. They are dedicated to teaching English to the local community as well as teaching Spanish to tourists which is often arranged with a homestay family.
Other than providing education to the local community, Estelar also founded Club A. Club A organizes educational and dynamic activities for a group of kids living in an impoverished neighborhood within the Liberia area. the school’s principal and founder, Bethany Kirk, along with a group of volunteers, visits the children every Friday from 3 to 4 pm. This is a great volunteering opportunity for those who can’t spend weeks tied to a specific program. Even better? There is no program fee! Just go have some fun with the kids. Do you have any toys or maybe children’s books you no longer use? Bring them along and donate them to the school! Another way to get a richer experience as well as to contribute to a local family, is to select a homestay rather than just a hotel. Estelar can provide you with a list of families who are part of the homestay program.
Visit an orphanage in Costa Rica
If you and your family possess a basic knowledge of Spanish, you might want to visit one of the orphanages. Most of the time the organisation will need help with teaching children some basic English, playing with them, help the staff prepare the meals and guide arts and crafts programs. My Costa Rica supports a small orphanage in San Jose by the name of Blanca Flor. As part of the Pack for a Purpose program, we encourage our clients to bring items with them listed by the orphanage as essential. You are also free to pay a visit to the kids and deliver the supplies yourself. Read more about the Pack for a Purpose program and how you can contribute!
The Monteverde Cloud Forest – Combine Adventure with planting trees
The Cloud Forest is not only spectacularly beautiful and ideal for children who want to spot animals and take a dazzling canopy tour, there are also fascinating volunteer opportunities.
Monteverde is home to The Children’s Eternal Rainforest – a private natural reserve that seeks to conserve the rainforest as well as educate children and adults on the importance of doing so. Several programs and partnerships are set in place with local elementary schools.
What can your children learn here? Well, they can benefit from a nature immersion tour where they learn all about the reserve and its efforts. The animals it protects, the plant species it is home to and the value of reforestation. You will even help plant new trees!
Manuel Antonio National Park – Kids Saving the Rainforest
When it comes to children contributing to a better world, there is a rather unique organization that deserves a place on this list. Kids Saving the Rainforest was founded in 1999 by, you guessed it, kids. What better place to teach your family about conservation, animals and environmentalism than at an organization that was founded by two 9 year olds. This Wildlife Rescue Center opened its door to animals back in 2010. They are dedicated to the rescue, conservation, and rehabilitation of wildlife. They are most famous for their Saving the Sloths Program!
Volunteers will be introduced to the basics of zoo-keeping in a tropical environment. This may include maintenance of facilities (cleaning, repairing, building, …) as well as diet preparation. Whatever projects the organization needs help with at the time, can be your job for the week! Your free time you can spend exploring Manuel Antonio National park or enjoying some family quality tin eat one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica!
Having a lasting impression is possible here as well since you can adopt a baby sloth! My Costa Rica has adopted little Chicles, a two-toed sloth found holding on to his dead mother, and will sponsor him until he gets released back into the wild. Read all about this program and the sponsoring opportunities!
Volunteering in Costa Rica – Practicalities to consider
Is a trip to Costa Rica with your family beginning to sound a bit more culturally valuable than you first thought? We hope so. It is a great way to meet like-minded people and to leave a more positive impact during your travels. The list of volunteer abroad programs is almost endless and your choice will depend on what your family will benefit most from as well as some practical consideration like:
- Program fee (always check what is included! Meals, accommodation, …). Some volunteer placement programs will be a bit more expensive than others. This depends on funds they need to keep their project running. Some projects would charge nothing at all because they need help more than they need funds.
- Ask if you can contribute in other ways. Some organizations are short on supplies rather than funds and would welcome your help as well as some items to help their project along. Ask for a list!
- Have a good look at the program and request more information. Some volunteering programs, like La Tortuga Feliz, may sound very interesting, but certain programs can be pretty demanding in terms of physical activity.
- Inquire after a minimum duration of stay. Some projects would accept help even just for one day but others would require a stay of a week or more minimum. If you are planning for an extended stay, you can often negotiate a discount.
- Last but not least, what projects are most interesting and what destinations would include the best activities for your family to enjoy.
The main question … Are volunteering holidays in Costa Rica safe?
Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America and in many respects even safer than most regions of the US. To ensure safety for you and your family while volunteering, it is always good to double check with the organization you choose what extra precautions should be taken. For extra tips on traveling to Costa Rica, check out our safety article!
Experience a different side of Costa Rican culture and get some volunteer experience while you enjoy a unique Costa Rica vacation!