Join a team of volunteers on an adventure that’ll take you right to the heart of Costa Rica, where you’ll meet a nation of fiercely proud and fun-loving ‘Ticos’ (Costa Ricans’ name for themselves).
It may be small, but this peaceful, sun-drenched corner of Central America holds over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, boasting more National Parks per square mile than any other country in the world. And with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, the geography is punctuated by fertile coffee-growing mountains and active volcanoes.
From the mountains of San Jose to the Nicoya Peninsula and up the Pacific coast you’ll protect endangered turtles, learn Spanish, surf and help preserve precious ecosystems. It certainly gets our vote.
Your adventure begins in Costa Rica’s bustling capital, San Jose, a city perched in the mountains of the central region.
It’s a perfect place to catch your breath and acclimatise to the temperature and time zone before heading west on a logistical adenture, by car and boat, to reach the dramatic Nicoya Peninsula and its hip town of Santa Teresa.
Your base will be at ‘Jakera Jungle Surf Camp’ based in the lively, hip beach town of Santa Teresa, world famous for surf breaks across beaches so pristine, uncrowded and seemingly endless that it is regularly found on internet lists of the World’s 10 Best Beaches.
Jakera have created a beach side, jungle paradise, (which includes a swimming pool, no less), overlooked by a rich tropical forest bursting with wildlife including capuchin and howler monkeys.
From this base you'll get stuck into surfing, Spanish lessons and volunteering, before exploring the town which is alive with funky surf shops, cafes, restaurants and nightspots for every taste and budget.
The Montezuma Sea Turtle Conservation Project is located approximately 17 km up the coast from Santa Teresa.
The project is run by a local NGO called 'The Association for Volunteers for Service in Protected Areas' (‘AVSO’) who work in a number of special areas in Costa Rica to protect beaches, forests and rural communities.
Set on top of the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, Monteverde is a world above the coastal towns that dot the country's famous shoreline. It is a place of cloud forests, coffee plantations, monkeys, mist, and friendly locals. The town of Santa Elena is small and quaint, filled with tasty restaurants and folksy artisan shops, while the nearby rainforest hosts a remarkable amount of biodiversity.
Due to its high altitude – some 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level – Monteverde is privileged to receive a steady supply of clouds and the life-giving moisture that they contain. This moisture, often in the form of fog, catches on the branches of the tallest trees and drips down to the other organisms below. This helps to support a complex and far-reaching ecosystem, one that harbours over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, 420 of which are orchids alone.
You’ll be protecting the eggs and hatchlings of Olive Ridley, Black Turtle, Hawksbill and Leatherback species, who visit these ‘semi intensive’ nesting sites at night to nest. The principle objective of the project is to protect adult female turtles that frequent Buenavista, and their nests, from human predators and wildlife, natural events such as beach erosion and flooding due to high amounts of rainfall in nesting season.
Teams travelling in January, July and September will help to care for and monitor the hatchling turtles, guiding them down the beach and into the sea, experiencing one of the most thrilling wildlife encounters in the natural world.
If you are travelling in April, you’ll help ASVO prepare for the start of a new breeding season. This includes constructing a new nursery for turtle hatchlings, painting beach signage and removing turtle obstacles off the sand.
Having been introduced to the amazing beaches of Santa Teresa, and adjoining Playa Hermosa and Playa Carmen, the recreational opportunities are clear. However, beaches need to be maintained to keep them clear of debris that not only looks unsightly but can cause harm to people and wildlife.
Formed in response to water and beach pollution, this government-backed initiative aims to reward communities that adhere to their guidelines on conservation practice. By awarding the Blue Flag, the communities gain international recognition for their beach and can attract more tourists and investment. But, like all good things, it’s an on-going battle and Leap volunteers are needed to keep up the good work with weekly beach cleanups.
You will help with the upkeep of Santa Teresa’s neighbouring tropical forest, cleaning debris from streams and maintaining the visitor trails. Keeping pathways and signage clear, helping to dispose of rubbish and monitoring the use of specific trails is important. It is also a great opportunity to learn about the biodiversity of flora and fauna in this special part of the world.
Guided hikes will take place during the day and night, when you’ll go in search of wildlife. During some of these walks, you’ll engage in poaching patrols and help remove harmful plants.
During week 1 we have organized a surfing course so you can safely take advantage of the surf whist living here.
On the Monday and Tuesday, you will receive 2 surf lessons from professional surf instructors. As well as showing you the basics – or taking you to the next level – they will teach you basic safety principles taking into account local issues such as ripe tides. Wednesday to Friday, you will have your own board and can enjoy surfing as a group under supervision from your Team Leader. The Team Leader is there to ensure you respect the safety principles taught during the previous two days.
Also, during the first week, you will be taken on two ‘welcome caminos’. One will be through the local village of Santa Teresa so you get your bearings, see the local shops, services etc and the second will be a ‘jungle trek’ along a river, which runs past the camp, and into the lush tropical forest.
Every day during weeks 1-6 at the camp, Monday to Friday, there will be 2 x 45 minute Spanish lessons slotted in between your surf or volunteering time.
These lessons will be tailored to suit all levels from beginner to intermediate and are designed to help you interact and immerse with the local community and our volunteer partners.
Spanish lessons are recommended but optional if you would prefer to spend more time volunteering.
In week 8 you'll be given a 4 day treat to visit and explore the cloud forests of Monteverde.
This internationally recognised environment is ready to be explored, trekked through or zip wired across. A great adventure.
You ‘ll be busy 5 days a week for the majority of the day BUT your weekends and evenings are your own to let your hair down. Costa Rica is a traveller’s paradise, with lots in store:
Surfing Blessed by one of the best surf breaks in the world, Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast attracts thrill seekers from far and wide! Along the coast there are a number of beaches great for all levels – from beginner to pro.
White Water Rafting Right across Costa Rica there are rivers (and rapids) prime for adventurous spirits. If you’re fighting fit and insured to raft on Class III and IV rapids, the wild and ever changing Naranjo River offers a high octane route through pristine jungle gorges and farmland. If you’re after a more relaxing experience we’d recommend the Savegre River, which provides an altogether more manageable class of rapids. Budget about $85 for a day.
Catamaran Cruise There are several catamaran boats, which sail from Quepos, offering nature or sunset themed cruises along the coast. Budget about $70 for a day trip.
Kayaking & Snorkelling Manuel Antonio National Park is a wonderful environment to explore from the water, strong waves and currents make this a challenging paddle along one of the most beautiful parts of Costa Rica’s coastline and nearby islands.
Whale and dolphin watching Dolphins can be seen in Costa Rica’s waters year round and the country also boasts one of the world’s longest whale watching seasons.
We have four different teams departing for Costa Rica each year: January, April, July and September. Typically programs are ten weeks long, taking in all the sights and experiences you'll find described on this page with plenty of downtime for you to explore the country as you please.
The exception to this is the July departure date, which is a six-week program and aims to pack as much into that shorter period as possible. It's an ideal fit for that gap between A-Level exams and results day, or for those on university summer holidays.
However we are very flexible. If you want to join any of programs for shorter, longer or even on different dates? No problem, get in touch and we'll help you sort something out.