Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica

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About

Maximo Nivel provides great volunteer programs Costa Rica—programs are available in the capital city of San Jose and on the beach in Manuel Antonio. Maximo is a locally-based organization and you work directly with local projects, get involved, and make an impact!

University credit is available for our service learning programs from our official School of Record: California State University-Monterey Bay.

Volunteer placements include:

  • ...and more!

Questions & Answers

From my experience plan 2 months earlier is good for volunteer:)
Yes, at least the basics. Try a few classes on online sites like Duolingo and/or a phrase book. It will make your life much easier and minimal communication is required. Don't expect most of the people we interact with to know English, apart the volunteer organization and travel agencies, or at least it was my experience in Costa Rica. And they will appreciate the effort !

Reviews

96%
based on 166 reviews
  • Impact 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.4
  • Benefits 10
  • Support 10
  • Fun 10
  • Facilities 10
  • Safety 7
Showing 1 - 15 of 166
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Nicholas
10/10

Manuel Antonio - Childcare

I am so glad that I decided to volunteer with children in Manuel Antonio! It is such an amazing experience! The kids are so fun and amazing to play with, but are also so grateful and polite to us volunteers. My host family is so kind! Our host mother prepares delicious meals for breakfast and dinner for me and my housemates every day! I was nervous about living with random roommates, but after several groups of people moved in and out of the house over my 15 week stay, I was pleasantly surprised with how kind and open-minded everyone was! I was also contemplating taking a spanish course during my time here, which I totally should have done, but even without taking classes, my conversational spanish greatly improved throughout my time! Manuel Antonio is such a beautiful place, and I wouldn´t trade this time for anything else!

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing! This program was amazing! I met so many great friends, and learned more than I ever have while traveling!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Don
10/10

Turtle Conservation in Ostional, Costa Rica

For this Turtle Conservation Project we traveled to Ostional on the Nicoya Penisula of Costa Rica. Ostional is one of the few places in the world where the Olive Ridley Sea turtles come en masse to lay their eggs. There can be hundreds of thousands of them over a 5 day period. Although one of these "arribadas" did not occur during the three weeks that I was there, we still had the opportunity to work on research projects with single turtles as they came ashore to lay their eggs. We also got a chance to collect data one of the endangered Green Turtles and one of the Leatherbacks which are also endangered. We also engaged in beach cleaning projects and in replacing some of the markers on the beach used to determine where the egg laying activity takes place.

The group of volunteers I was with came from several countries and ranged in age from in their teens to over 70 years old. It was great meeting all the new people, learning about their countries and experiences and just having fun working and playing togther. What a better place to enjoy downtime than at the lovely Costa Rican coast!!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Mark
9/10

Construction Project in San Jose

I came from Canada for a 3 week volunteer project. This was my first time traveling to Costa Rica and my first time traveling alone (even though I'm 47). On my first day, we had orientation where I met others from around the world who were here doing various projects. During orientation I realized that I knew far less Spanish that all the others, but I didn't let that bother me. Obviously the ability to speak Spanish is an asset, but with my basic knowledge, plus help from all my house mates and project crew, I survived just fine. Our construction project was at a daycare center in a relatively low end of town where we built an additional room for the kids. Although I have construction background, the others had never done anything like this and it was fun to work with them and see them learn while they are helping others. The main construction was completed before my time here, but we did tile setting, painting, electrical and we built and installed the doors etc. I found it quite rewarding that we were helping the children, and I could tell that they appreciated our efforts.
The crew at Maximo Nivel were very friendly and helpful and made sure we were on task. The tools and supplies are not equal to what I'm used to back in Canada, but that is part of the local TICO experience. My OCD was constantly challenged but I learned that perfection is over-rated anyways.
Outside of the construction project, Maximo Nivel offered free dance classes on Mondays and free cooking classes on Wednesdays, both of which I enjoyed. Our construction crew and my housemates often had lunch together and did other activities together as well. We did go-kart racing , volcano tours, river rafting, a weekend at Manual Antonio and more. I was surprised how easily I fit in with the "kids", considering I'm older than most, if not all, of the others around me.
My homestay family was great and the accomodations were comfortable (not a 5 star resort, but that's not why we're here).
I'm very happy that I chose to volunteer instead of taking just another vacation. This really helps to see the local culture while making a difference for others.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Charity
10/10

Making An Impact

I really enjoyed my time in Costa Rica. My host parents and the Maximo Nivel staff were so kind and welcoming from the first hello to the last goodbye. I met other volunteers who became close friends in such a small amount of time and we hope to continue our friendship after our departure from Costa Rica. The project I participated in was childcare. I had so much fun playing soccer, doing art, and teaching them yoga. I was still able to communicate with the children and teachers, despite not being able to speak spanish fluently. The children were so vibrant and eager to learn and play. I really feel like I made an impact. I also had the opportunity to do some week night and weekend excursions. I definitely recommend the Calypso Tortuga Island boat trip, the Toucan Rescue Ranch (they have sloths!), and rappelling down waterfalls at Lands of Love. Overall, this was such a learning experience for me as I got to immerse myself in a different culture, and see life like a local. My advice to prospective volunteers would be to come with a purpose, build relationships, and be ready to step outside your comfort zone.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Isabella
10/10

Life Changing Experience!!

I volunteered through Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica for 5 months and it was the best choice I have ever made! I worked alongside nurses and doctors in a retirement home and learned so much! As a nursing student, I felt the medical project really helped me become eager to learn more about healthcare in poverty countries. The staff was beyond helpful and so compassionate, they always made sure I felt at home and never had any questions! Even my host family felt like real family by the end of my trip. My housing was beautiful as well, and I still keep in contact with the family! I highly recommend volunteering through Maximo Nivel, they are an outstanding organization. Even if you can only make time for a week, take the chance and do it anyways. It truly is life changing!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Timothy
10/10

I Had a Blast!

I had a great time here and definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to help out and have fun at the same time! There's so much to do and I wish I could stay longer! I did the holiday club and Casa Nazareth projects. The holiday club was great way to have a blast while helping the community, and I got to meet all kinds of awesome people. The Casa Nazareth project was so meaningful and I learned a lot in the field of healthcare. I took the Spanish lessons here and I think it really improved my language skills. Additionally, I loved my host family and had such a great time learning about them and practicing Spanish. If I had any advice to other participants, I would definitely tell them to plan to stay in Costa Rica for as long as possible! There's just too much to do in just one week, I'm sure people are bound to regret not staying longer; you can go on tours, ziplines, cruises, and so much more!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jorjia
10/10

A life-changing two weeks

I was fortunate enough to take part in the Holiday Experience and the Childcare Program in San Jose. Coming here, I was super nervous about travelling alone to a country I was not familiar with and could barely speak the language. Thanks to Maximo I was never alone! I met some great friends on my very first day and saw so much of Costa Rica with them.

The Maximo Staff were so helpful in organising volunteer activites, activities outside of volunteering and were always willing to help in any way they could - whether it was recommendations or just a general chat. The Maximo facility was a cool place to hang out, eat and use WiFi.

The Childcare Project was so much fun! The kids are always so enthusiastic and willing to get to know you. We organised craft activites, soccer games and indoor sports. Even though there was a strong language barrier I still got to know them so well and enjoyed my time with them.

Costa Rica is a must do! Aside from volunteering there are so many weekend/ half day trips. There is always the opportunity to be doing something or going somewhere. I would definetly recommend.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Joshua
10/10

Holiday and Childcare Program

I had the opportunity to become involved in Maximo Nivel's program here in Costa Rica for two weeks. I was intending on only doing the childcare program, but ended up being a part of the Holiday Program as well.

For the Holiday Program, Maximo worked with local daycare and nursing home facilities where volunteers, such as myself, were able to go and interact in various ways. On the first day of the Holiday Program, we were actually able to do a beautification project, in which we visited Ositos Daycare and helped clean up, paint, and improve the visual and overall quality of the playground, allowing kids to fully enjoy their time. Not only that but we were also able to return to the same daycare and entertain the kids as well. Some were able to teach them a little bit of English and/or draw and write with them. In complete honesty, there was a mutual learning experience. We taught the children a few English words, and they, in return, taught us a few Spanish words. The nursing home was just as enjoyable, and being in an environment where we were welcomed and loved despite our short time there really lifts spirits. The project manager there said it best: "You will leave here with your hearts filled with love."

The Childcare portion of my stay here was definitely an experience that I am happy to have had. Many facilities in Costa Rica have a ratio of 20 kids to 1 teacher, and being able to help those teachers was the least we could do. During this week, we assisted in playing with the kids, completing activities, watching over them during the times they were at the playground, and at times, feeding them. The kids always have love in their hearts, and if you take the step to return that same love to them, the experience will not only be worth it, but you'll wish that you can stay longer. :)))

What would you improve about this program?
The program was very good in my opinion. I believe that Maximo Nivel is doing an excellent job working with the locals and providing volunteers with the materials and necessities required to make the experiences proceed smoothly.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Andres
10/10

Costa Rica Experience

As my very first time volunteering abroad, I have to say this was one of the best experiences of my life. The program Maximo Nivel has a staff that has no competition when it comes to support and care because they are the best ones out there. Costa Rica is a beautiful place that everyone should come and visit in their lives. Safety is the top priority here and not once have I had the feeling of being unsafe. My host families were amazing here in the city and also at the project location. The Turtle Conservation Project is an experience that is a must do. To be able to see and help out the beautiful creatures of the sea, is an honor that I will never forget. I highly recommend anybody who is deciding to volunteer abroad, GO TO COSTA RICA and do the Turtle Conservation Program, you will not regret it!!!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Connor
10/10

Ostional Turtle Conservation

Had an amazing experience. For a first time solo traveller, it helped ease the worries of travelling alone and language barriers of a foreign country. Maximo Nivel was very supportive and helped me experience more than I would've imagined. All the staff I had the opportunity to meet were very kind and helpful, it was an fantastic experience, like none other. Not only was the host in San Jose very kind and cooked delicious meals but made us all feel very welcomed and safe. This program provided great information with travels and where to get needs. The staff in Ostional were amazing, truly some great people who really loved what they did and had a good time doing it, I would love to go again. They were friendly helpful, and really helped us to quickly learn so we could make an impact. I always felt welcomed and safe no matter where I was, I was with other new found friends from this program at all times and it made the travelling much more fun and comfortable.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jenny
10/10

An all round incredible experience

From start to finish, this program was a fantastic experience.

The communication and preparation before I arrived in Costa Rica was brilliant, and when I finally got here I felt so welcomed and supported. The team at Maximo Nivel are all incredibly helpful and really want you to get the most out of the experience, even though I was only able to stay 10 days - I took advantage of the opportunities offered in the San Jose office such as salsa classes and the free coffee. My host mum, Vicky, was also fantastic...you can tell that Maximo seek out individuals who are warm, welcoming and (as a bonus) excellent cooks!

My project was a daycare centre in Purral, and I had the most amazing time there. My first day was their Christmas party - and it was manic! However, it was a perfect example of how hard the staff at the daycare work, and how much they genuinely love and cared about the kids there. I spent my mornings getting covered in paint and glitter, being used as a human climbing frame, and laughing and dancing with the kids...truly the best few hours of any day!

I am a teacher back home and speak some Spanish so felt comfortable leading some games and activities - but there was never any pressure for me to do this. The main thing I felt I was able to contribute was an extra pair of hands for the thinly stretched regular teachers, whether it was with reading stories, playing games, or lining up the toothbrushes for the kids after the meal they get at midday. Top tips for any childcare project - learn their nams as soon as possible, don´t wear clothes you care too much about, and jump in with confidence and energy!

I would definitely recommend this experience to everyone - Maximo will support you through it all to allow you to learn more about yourself and make a difference to the wonderful people they work with.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would suggest is (if it´s available) a more comprehensive guide to the main bus routes around San Jose and/or a map of the city...a few times, I needed to take a different route and this was quite tricky without having the basics there already.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Renee
10/10

Extremely Rewarding

I completed three weeks of childcare volunteering with maximo nivel and there is nothing I can say more than how amazing it was. The childcare was far away from the city in a poorer area and while considered unsafe, I didn't experience anything negative. Everyone is incredibly warm and welcoming, it makes transition into a foreign country that much easier. The children are the sweetest gems I've ever met and while the language barier can be challenging at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It helps to take lessons or know some basic spanish as everyone predominatly speaks spanish. Maximo also offers free salsa classes and cooking classes which are great. One person I'll never forget is my host mom, she is the kindest and sweetest soul. Always went out of her way to make sure we were well fed and comfortable. Keeping an open mind throughout the entire time helped avoid going through any tough experiences. Other than that if you're considering a trip like this definitely go for it, when will you ever be able to sip sangrias on a beautiful carribean beach one day and help out the kindest and sweetest kids on the next.

What would you improve about this program?
Volunteers should all be able to meet each other as a whole.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
10/10

Childcare in San Jose

I worked at a local daycare in San Jose for a week in Costa Rica. I cannot say enough about my experience! The staff is very supportive and you leave with an experience like no other. I recommend taking the Spanish classes, even if you are only there for a short time. During my week at the daycare, the kids taught me Spanish. Even with the language barrier, I was able to communicate with the staff and the kids. The kids are so appreciate of everything and really enjoy volunteers coming to hang out with them. My host family was very accomodating and helped me with any questions I had. My family memories were making Santa faces with the kids out of paper plates. Also, I enjoyed when the older kids and I would help each other learn the others language (I helped them with English and they helped me with Spanish). I will never forget this experience and look forward to doing it again!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
10/10

Healthcare and Spanish in Costa Rica

Through Maximo Nivel, I was in Manuel Antonio and San Jose, each for 4 weeks. The Spanish teachers at Maximo are so wonderful. I had no experience with Spanish before arriving and I learned so much in just four weeks. I feel confident living day to day life in a Spanish speaking country. I feel like I have the preparation and materials to continue learning Spanish with confidence. In San Jose, I volunteered with a healthcare project and had a very humbling and eye opening experience. I loved working with the patients and I felt supported by the Maximo Nivel staff. The field managers, supervisors, and the rest of the staff at Maximo Nivel in both Manuel Antonio and San Jose were very supportive and helpful through the duration of my stay. I have plans of volunteering and taking classes with Maximo in the future, and I cannot say enough good things about this organization.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Ebonie
10/10

Medical catargo

During my time in costa rica doing my medical program I have had the best time you get to learn so much, make life long friedships, be provided with endless support and make a difference. I am so happy to be able to come on this journay as it is something I will never forget.

This program has made a life long impact as not only have my nursing skills improved I have learnt how lucky we are.

I would reccommend this to everyone because its a once in a life time experience which has been a blast, for furture volunteers it ,ay be scary but it will be amaing and by backing out you will have so many regrets. I was so scared when I first got here I thought I had made a mistake by coming her but now I dont want to leave. the staff are amazing and provide so much support so there is no need to be afraid just take the jump and do it.

I feel so blessed to be able to do this I have made so many memories with patients, other volunteers, friends and staff.

What would you improve about this program?
I have no comments its amazing. There are no faults in this program its full of learning opportunities, support and new friendships
Yes, I recommend this program

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About Maximo Nivel

Máximo Nivel (Maximum Level)—The Intercultural Center of Latin America

Máximo Nivel is a family-owned, social enterprise founded in 2003. Our three intercultural centers are locally-based organizations focused on international education and cross...

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