Costa Rica Fact File
General FactsPopulation: 4,755,234
Capital: San Jose
Area: 51,100 sq. km
Languages: Spanish (official), English
Religion: Roman Catholic (76%), Evangelical (13.7%), Jehovah’s Witness (1.3%), Other (5.5%)
Currency: Costa Rican Colon
Life expectancy: 78
GDP per capita: US$ 12,900
Literary percent: 96.3%
The Location of the Costa Rica Sea Turtle ProjectThe project is located on two pristine Costa Rican beaches - both on the Pacific coast.
Pacific coast nesting season is normally from June to December, with the heaviest nesting occurring during the months of September and October. Please be aware that nesting dates and numbers are never exactly the same each year. During the off-season of January-June, it is unlikely that you will see any turtles. However, the project needs volunteers in these months as much as they do during the nesting season to help with beach maintenance and preparing for the next nesting season. There are two project locations, and the exact location you will be at depends on the work that needs being done at either site.
All volunteers fly into San Jose, Costa Rica where you will spend your first day acclimatising to Costa Rica and receiving an orientation talk about the project. Your first night is spent in a local hostel in a shared dorm room. On your second day you will travel independantly by public bus to your project where you will be dazzled by beautiful tropical beaches and will begin working at the Sea Turtle Conservation Project.
Transfer times from San Jose to the project is around five to six hours
Pacific coast project sites are located within about a 20-30 minute walk of small local towns where you can find basic shops and local restaurants depending on the location. Other tourist services like banks and bars may be located slightly further away via taxi or local bus.
For this project you need to fly to San Jose, which has direct flights from many cities including Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Charlotte, Madrid. Volunteers should arrive Monday to Thursday for this project, they will spend one or two nights in San Jose before being transferred to the project.
Costa Rican beaches generally have a strong undercurrent so you are advised to swim with caution. However, they do make for excellent surfing and local surfing lessons are available. Depending on your exact placement location you will also be close to mountains, mangroves and tropical rainforest.
Accommodation at the Conservation ProjectVolunteers at the Conservation Project on the Pacific Coast live in shared houses that consist of shared bunk rooms, shared toilets and cold water showers, and a large common area only a few minutes from the beach.
You may spot native wildlife near the project and can doze off to the sounds of exotic birds and ocean waves. Rooms are well ventilated and whilst windows are screened it is recommended that you bring your own mosquito net.
Social activities such as movie nights and pizza nights are occasionally organized by volunteers. You can also go out for dinner to the local town on your nights off.
Temperatures are in the 80s to 90s during the day (high 20s to low 30s Centigrade) with high humidity and can get as low as the 60s (high teens Centigrade) at night. Volunteers are advised to bring light weight clothing that dries quickly.
Three meals per day are prepared by the project staff and are based on a Costa Rican diet of beans and rice. Breakfast is generally Gallo Pinto - a traditional Costa Rican dish of rice, beans and eggs. Lunch and dinner consist of beans and rice with salad and a meat or fish dish. Vegetarians and volunteers with other dietary restrictions can be catered for, just let us know in advance of your placement.
There are no washing machines or dryers at the project. Most volunteers wash their clothes by hand or take them into town where there are commercial laundry facilities. It is best to bring lightweight clothing as it dries more easily in the humid conditions.
Climate in the project areaThe climate on the beaches where the Sea Turtle Conservation Project takes place is very hot and humid with an intense rainy season. May to September are the rainiest months on the Pacific coast and November to January are the rainiest months on the Caribbean coast. This is also when the majority of the turtles lay their eggs.
Getting to the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation ProjectThe nearest airport to this project is San Jose, Costa Rica (Airport code SJO).
To help you find the best air fares Globalteer has formed a partnership with a division of The Flight Centre Group who will tailor make your travel arrangements for you at a competitive price.
You can contact them for a free, no obligation travel quote by calling 0844 560 9944 from within the UK, or if you are outside the UK you can call +44(0)203 056 1146. Make sure you mention Globalteer when you call and if you do purchase your travel through them, Globalteer will receive a small donation. However, don’t forget that it’s up to you to make sure your travel arrangements are right for you and your project.
Getting to the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation Project
Upon arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica, a representative will meet you at the airport and take you to a local hostal for your first night. The following morning our local partner will meet you to give you an orientation and assist you in taking a local bus to the project. Upon arrival at the project you will be met by a local representative. Travel time will vary depending on the beach where you will be working but approximate transfer times are:
from San Jose to the Caribbean Coast projects are from 5 to 6 hours
from San Jose to the Pacific Coast projects are from 5 to 6 hours
Visit our Costa Rica Sea Turtle Project Gallery
for more photos of the project.
Daily schedule at the Sea Turtle ProjectThe main conservation work takes place from June to December during nesting season. However, volunteers still can help during off-season with vital beach maintenance and hatchery construction work.
Volunteers will be expected to work during the day and at night with specific work schedules varying depending on the needs of the project. Each day, you will undertake a range of duties at the project – beach cleaning, maintenance on the hatchery etc and will normally also have one night shift to patrol for turtles on the beach OR a shift working in the hatchery to monitor nests and release hatchlings.
Occasionally if volunteer numbers are low and there is a lot of work to be done you may be required to do a shift in the hatchery as well as a night patrol on the beach.
A daily schedule includes:
9-10am: Cleaning Kitchen, Bedroom, Bathroom and Common Areas (Volunteers are expected to maintain the common areas clean)
11-1pm: Free Time
2-5pm: Hatchery Shift
9-12am: Night Patrol
*volunteers generally do EITHER the hatchery shift OR the Night patrol but not both.
Please keep in mind that the activities will vary depending on the time of year. The main conservation work done directly with the turtles takes place from June to December. If you come to the project at the beginning of the season or during the off-season you will be doing more preparation work to ensure that the facilities and beach are ready for the reception of nests in the hatchery.
If you come during nesting season most of your time will be spent on night patrols and transferring nests into the hatchery. Coming at the end of the season you will likely not see mother turtles lay eggs but will mostly be working to release hatchlings into the ocean.
Please be aware that nesting dates and numbers are never exactly the same each year so there is no guarantee you will see turtles during the start and end of the nesting season.
Volunteers will have one day off per week to enjoy the amazing culture of Costa Rica and the beautiful scenery, beaches, wildlife, waterfalls and rainforest near your project location. There are also many sightseeing and touring trips available before or after your placement throughout this amazing country including the following:
- Chill out on the beaches and rainforest of the Nicoya Peninsula
- Visit El Arenal, one of Central America’s most active volcanoes
- Enjoy wildlife and bird spotting in the Manuel Antonio or Corcovado National Reserves
- Marvel at the unique biodiversity of the Monteverde Cloud Forest
- Indulge in surfing and nightlife at the Caribbean village of Viejo Puerto de Talamanca
- Spot crocodiles, jaguars and sloths in the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.
- Bathe in the hot springs at Tabacon near El Arenal Volcano.
- Snorkel in crystal clear waters off Isla Tortuga or many of the other beautiful beaches
The Globalteer DifferenceThese days there are a great many opportunities to volunteer overseas, but not all organisations are the same.
Watch our short video presentation to see what makes Globalteer different from your average volunteering organisation!
Local expenses in Costa RicaThe official currency is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC). £1 = approx 800 CRC, US$1 = approx 500 CRC, AU$1 = approx 450 CRC. As accommodation and three meals per day are provided, volunteers may not need to spend very much money at the project. However, here are examples of items volunteers may wish to purchase:
Can of soft drink: CRC 800
Cup of coffee: CRC 2500
Meal at an average restaurant: CRC 5000
One hour internet access: CRC 250
Bus ride to nearest town: CRC 1000
Domestic bottle of beer (0.5 litres): CRC 1500
There are ATMs in the towns where the sea turtle conservation projects are located but we do recommend bringing US Dollars with you to change into Costa Rican Colones in San Jose as sometimes the ATMs are out of order. Please also remember to inform your bank that you will be travelling.
Visas for Costa RicaVolunteers from most countries will automatically be granted 90-day tourist visas on arrival at San Jose international airport. You must have a current valid passport and return ticket to exit Costa Rica. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your entry date. In the unlikely event that you are given a visa with a stay shorter than your placement, staff at the project will be able to help you organise a trip into neighbouring Nicaragua or Panama to renew your visa.
As these details change frequently, it is best to check with your travel professional for the latest information.
Tell immigration officials you are simply a tourist on vacation as the concept of volunteering is not clearly understood in Latin American countries and can be confused with working, for which a special visa is required.
You will need to complete a tourist card upon entry. These cards are supplied by airline staff on the plane to Costa Rica. Remember that you need to put tourism as the reason for your visit to Costa Rica.
You will be required to pay an exit fee of $29 upon leaving the country, although there are plans to include this in the price of all air tickets
Costa RicaAlthough explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonising Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due and it was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain.
Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.