Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica

“A week of family volunteering in Costa Rica, contributing to important sea turtle conservation work, staying in a beach cabin, with early morning and night time beach patrols. A lot of work and a lot of fun. ”

Highlights

San Jose | One week of volunteering with sea turtles | Options for longer volunteering stays | Local community cabin accommodation | Local cooking | Monitoring turtle nests | Protecting turtle hatchlings | Turtle releases | Costa Rica Pacific coast

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Departure information

Tailor made: Flexible departures July - December (nesting season)
US pricing:
The currency converter above works on todays exchange rate. We do take bookings in USD but the price is set at a rate confirmed months in advance and is typically above the current exchange rate. Please inquire for details.
Accessible overview:
There are challenges associated with volunteer travel, and these can make accessible travel difficult. However, we are very keen to chat with travelers with specific needs to see if we can make a trip possible.
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Responsible tourism

Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica

Carbon reduction

Your vacation will help support local people and conservation. We must also reduce CO2. Learn about the CO2 emissions of this vacation and how to reduce them.

• For each traveler that goes away with us, we voluntarily plant a tree with our charity partners Tree Aid. Trees are planted in rural African communities and local people are taught how to sustainably use the trees to improve their economic situation - whilst also benefiting the planet.
• Where food is provided, it is locally produced and sourced, reducing food miles, supporting local industry and minimising single-use plastic
• As a traveler you will learn about the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, both pre-departure and through your volunteer project
• Accommodation is on-site, reducing the reliance on transport. When volunteers wish to go off site, this is encouraged to be in groups using local drivers
• Where possible, and without jeopardising safety or quality, transfers are done on a shared basis to reduce carbon emissions
• There are no boilers for heating shower water - water is heated by the sun
• The main project transfers from San Jose to the project site are done on public transport

Environment

Wildlife
The threat of extinction for sea turtles is very real. Projects such as this are playing an important role in stemming this decline. You will be working with a well-respected marine conservation and research organization, staffed by biologists and enthusiastic volunteers. Turtle protection is an important aspect of its work, but it also campaigns against pollution, unsustainable and inhumane fishing practices too.

Protecting the world
We are passionate about encouraging our travelers to be kind to the environment as they travel. Each participant receives advice about how to care for the environment whilst they are away. This includes water usage, how to avoid single use plastic, and electricity usage.

We insist that all participants bring their own water bottles when they travel with us, and clean free water is always available. We have even created a water bottle that can be purchased before departure and encourage people to use it at all stages of their journey including at the airport, on flights and whilst on their project. We are striving for all of our projects to be free of single use plastic.

Transport
We use public transport as our main means of transportation to the project sites. This reduces emissions and invests in the local economy and infrastructure.

Community

Meeting local needs
Many in the local community rely on the marine environment for their livelihood (whether through fishing or tourism). The work of charities such as this is essential to safeguard their future. The organisation provides some paid work locally, but has to rely on extra help from volunteers to be able to protect the turtles effectively. As well as protecting the turtles, you will also contribute directly to the local economy, eating, shopping and using leisure facilities in the surrounding area.

Cultural sensitivity
We emphasise the importance of showing respect for local people and their customs in our briefing material. Participants will work alongside permanent staff, forming close bonds and getting an insight into real life in Costa Rica’s rural communities. One of our greatest achievements on this project is for local residents to have chosen to help volunteer on this project to protect their environment. This has been a huge change, as traditionally they would use the turtle eggs for cooking or for aphrodisiac purposes.

10 Reviews of Family volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica

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In depth story review

“Ruth was really keen on working with turtles, and because we live by the sea in Whitby, we thought it would be really nice to have the sea by us again. And it is just a totally different country, different culture, sights and smells, so all that appealed to us. ”

Reviewed on 06 Dec 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Releasing baby turtles into the ocean.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take some board or card games, books, and a frisbee or ball for down time. Be careful swimming in the ocean as the rip currents can be pretty dangerous.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, the turtle project is really important to the local people and they are very supportive of the project. It definitely seemed to help the turtle population as
well!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Five stars - one of the best vacations I've ever had! We had fun with the other people who were working there at the same time, and there was plenty to do to
keep us busy, both working and playing. There are amazing caves you can walk to from the Hatchery and we also walked to a pizza restaurant in a tree house.
We had never done a volunteering vacation before but definitely will again.

Reviewed on 08 Oct 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


One night we were walking along the length of the beach in the dead of night and could clearly see the Milky Way illuminated and lots of shooting stars,
whilst holding the hands of my three little girls and my husband - it was the most magical experience we had and an overwhelming sense of peace and
happiness. We absolutely loved the whole experience being on the Turtle Conservation project - the joy on my children's faces seeing a turtle laying eggs was beautiful and one morning we got a knock on the door at 6am and run down to the beach to be greeted by hundreds of newly hatched baby turtles walking
across the sand and into the sea. We made some truly incredible family memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to be hands on and go with the flow. The more you put in, the more you will get out of the experience. Our three young children (7, 10, 12) learnt to
wash up their own plates after the communal meals, and had to get used to waking up at different times in the night to go on patrol, plus sometimes having to be up at 7am to check the rain gauge. Take part in the activities offered - the beach cleans, the recycling afternoons, the tree planting sessions and go on some of the local excursions offered - we took a lot from seeing local football tournaments, visiting the local fishing community, attending the local school's end of year talent show and doing voluntary work at the office. All the extra activities and experiences gave us a far better insight into life in Costa Rica and
the Conservation efforts the local community were doing.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes! We could see the money going directly into the local community - from the Cabana Hires, all the cooks and assistants, the locally sourced food, the taxi
drivers, the research projects and all the supporting staff - the money went directly into the community. Also the trips organised - exploring the Mangroves
by boat, experiencing the fishing village community and their 20 year efforts into protecting turtles, visiting the man that recycles for the whole area in his
own home, working in the nursery to help grow more trees - we knew our tourist dollar was helping people directly and not going into a multi national vacation
chain.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was a totally life enriching experience for the whole family. My children learnt more in one month in Costa Rica than a years worth of school, and took so
much from the experience. It really was a once in a life time experience and we are grateful for Responsible Travel for giving us this incredible opportunity

Reviewed on 04 Sep 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Coming across Olive Ridley turtles nesting at Playa Costa de Oro and collecting the eggs to put safely in the hatchery. Also one night we came across some hatchlings on the beach - beautiful.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared for beach patrols at any time of the night and to walk for two hours looking for nesting turtles. We went for 2 weeks at the end of August and saw 6 turtles. There were definitely more in the second week. The eggs in the hatchery hadn't yet started to hatch. I went with a 6 year old and 8 year old and they both loved it. Embrace opportunities to visit other sites, e.g. the fishing village, and to help with local projects, e.g. at the tree nursery at the office.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - we helped with a local reforestation project, collected litter along the beach and helped protect the turtles and their eggs from poachers. We also helped with local initiatives such as planting by the bus stop to encourage local people from dumping litter there.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Totally life changing experience.

Reviewed on 27 Aug 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


-We were super blessed to have witnessed every part of the life cycle of the Olive Ridley turtle and even had the chance to see a green turtle!
-Seeing a mummy turtle crawl her way out of the ocean, under a starry sky, and being present during her birth process is simply magical.
-To assist in the egg collection or triangulating the nest for research/monitoring purposes were fascinating and humbling.
-We were very lucky to also witness 2 natural nests hatch and got to see the cutest little hatchlings make their way down to the ocean. A memory I will -never forget and one that literally brought me to tears in the moment.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


We were told that our children have been the youngest volunteers at this project ( 5yrs old), but they were absolute troopers! WE warned them about eating whatever you get, waking up in the night to go "save" the turtles and how we have to keep ourselves busy and they took it in their stride!

We loved every minute of it and really enjoyed the absence of internet, reception, modern amenities and stress. It's not for everyone, but it was for us.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The transfer (journey) from San Jose to the project site was a real adventure - taking 2 public buses with local people and really down to earth. But probably one of our easiest transfers with our kids, due to the many things they could look at and experience. The food prepared by the lovely and friendly local woman were amazing! We ate so well and felt pretty healthy from all the fruit and veg! Most of the nights were local dishes (tortilla/plantane chips, salad, veg, rice, beans, fresh juice, chicken), but they even made an effort for the Westerners and brought us lovely pizzas and spaghetti bolognese!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


We initially booked this trip because we are outdoorsy people and love doing adventurous activities together, but also because our children grow up in a very privileged part of the world and we want to teach them that THEY are the future and that they play an integral part in what happens to our planet and it's biodiversity. Children must SEE to understand and they must EXPERIENCE to become passionate. We have all come back, changed. Not just relaxed, revived and closer as a family, but our perspectives have changed. We realise that there are bigger fish to fry in the world and that small things here in our sacred bubble are simply "first world problems" and that we'd rather focus on the more important things in life. This is exactly what our trip to Costa Rica achieved. Thanks again for adding value to our lives and making this vacation possible. Highly recommended!


Reviewed on 13 Jan 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Working with the turtles, the contact with them, releasing the hatchlings, knowing that you're doing something helpful for sea turtles.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to live in a basic and hot place and then enjoy!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, you can do a good job for the turtles.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The whole family had a really great time with lovely people, very helpful and friendly and with much contact with turtles, adults and hatchlings.

Reviewed on 02 Nov 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Oh my goodness, so many! The friendliness of the people, the beautiful surroundings, we were on the beach surrounded by lush green. The musical cacophony of all the surrounding wildlife. Holding a baby turtle for the first time, watching 126 of them crawl to the sea, knowing that you have helped them have a chance at survival. Being mesmorised by the Mummy turtle, while she lays her
eggs and knowing you are part of something fantastic, when you count them and protect them. The fantastic conversations you have on night patrol. The wonderful knowledge of the project coordinators and how they make you feel like family. The monkeys in the trees, throwing their discarded almond shells on our heads. My sons constant state of excitement, at everything he was surrounded by and holding a turtle egg. That type of experience, could never be taught in a classroom.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do not go with any preconceptions, relax and go with the flow. The projects are organised, however, nature is unpredictable and the more fluid you are as a person, the more enjoyable you will find it. Bring a really fantastic night camera.
There was so much wonderful stuff that happened at night, however, you
can't use a flash at night, in case it disturbs the turtles, so if you can invest in a good night camera, it will be worth it. If you are going with children, remember, your children will mirror your response. There are a lot of late night patrols, and they will get tired as the week goes on, especially, if they are playing in the sea in the day time. However, if you are motivated, they will be motivated. My son, never waivered from wanting to do the night patrols. Maybe, bring some energy
boosting treats for them, as some patrols are longer than others. Make sure you invest in good waterproofs, as the reason Costa Rica is so green, is due to it's sunshine and wonderful downpours. Also, a good pair of waterproof walking shoes. At night, even if is not raining you may have to walk through a slight bit of water. Lots of socks, if you don't want to put on damp socks the next night.
Learn a little bit of Spanish, not so much that you will have difficulty getting around, more so, because, everyone is so friendly, that it is lovely to engage in banter with them. Always keep a bit of money for the end of the project. I found everything was organised really well throughout, however, a slight hiccup on my last day meant I had to pay for a coach. This wasn't a problem for us, however,
there was a guy who was also returning on that day, who had no money, if we hadn't helped him out, he would've been stuck. Make sure you have everything you need, as you are in quite a remote part. I brought a few snacks with me
and that kept my hungry son going in between meal times and when I didn't
want to get out of bed yet! Just enjoy it!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, even more than I originally thought. The food was cooked by the locals and
it was wonderful being able to share their food all together. The food was absolutely delicious. The accommodation we stayed in was a place owned by a local, who rents it out. The project itself, has locals involved. We went on night patrol with a few. The transportation and first night hotel is either family run or someone from the community.


4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I wish I had, had the chance to stay longer, it is such a wonderful experience. The fact that you are able to live within the community, right on the beach and take part in some wonderful hands on research. You are involved completely right from the start, from handling the eggs, baby turtles, to washing the equipment the next day. It really was a fantastic vacation.

Reviewed on 12 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Watching turtles laying their eggs and releasing newly hatched baby turtles into the sea

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Keep packing to a minimum - lightweight quick dry clothes - and take walking shoes for the beach.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. Our accommodation was owned by local people who lived on the same land. All meals provided by local women. The project definitely reduced our environmental impact as tourists and the whole project was aimed at supporting conservation

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Absolutely to be recommended. An amazing experience for all of us. Our daughters (age 14 and 9) enjoyed every minute. It's a vacation we will always remember.

Reviewed on 05 Oct 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Going out on patrol late in the evening, with clear skies and being able to see the whole Milky Way and shooting stars, following by finding a turtle and
rescuing the eggs as the turtle was laying them. Building the shelter next to the hatchery was great fun and a fabulous team bonding experience for us a
family together with the other volunteers. Being on beach patrol at sunrise and seeing a Sea Turtle making its way back into the ocean having just laid its eggs
was also a magical moment.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Buy very lightweight long trousers for the evening / late-night patrols. Don’t wear shorts as you will likely get eaten alive by bugs. Come stocked with snacks if
you have young children. Make the effort to go on every single patrol you are given. Keep asking how you can help and be as involved as you can be.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes very much in terms of supporting sea turtle conservation and also the environment re:the beach clean. The only local people we saw were the guide and some kids and our cooks. We would have liked to have had more involvement with the local community.


4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Absolutely amazing. Memories that will last a lifetime.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole vacations was an amazing experience, from seeing the turtles and collecting the eggs to visiting the school for a celebration day and learning to surf.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Learn some Spanish, get stuck in and if you love turtles and wildlife this is your perfect vacation!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes in all respects

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Our children have given it 5 stars and have talked about it constantly. It has changed their out look, which was the aim of the vacation!

Reviewed on 19 Oct 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


This project and experience was absolutely amazing. As a family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children, 8 & 10 yrs old) we decided it was important to not just have a vacation but to do something that would play a part in making a different to our
environment for the future. Our 8 year old son, in particular had an interest in Turtles so we decided this would be a great project to work on. We weren't disappointed. The location was stunning, remote (so off the tourist route, which
we loved) and gave us an feeling of living a little like a local family and we loved being constantly in the outdoors. Our children met & played with the local kids which was incredible and everyone was so welcoming. The turtle conservation work in particular was incredible, the night patrols & hatchery work made us really appreciate the work undertaken by all volunteers and the project team and we felt honoured to think that we made a little difference to the
Olive Ridley Turtle Conservation program.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Don't expect the luxury's of home and know that you will quickly understand and appreciate you can enjoy a pure, happy time without not not much at all. All facilities and services are available and the food it terrific given the location. Go into the vacation with a open mind, be prepared to muck in, learn heaps, have fun and you won't be disappointed. As a family we were made so welcome by volunteers and locals alike. We had plenty of time during the days to do what we wanted and we never got restless, infact we go into relax & go slow mode quite quickly and the days just flew! Having the Spanish language wasn't essential but was helpful in getting to know the locals.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, we felt the project really gave back to the local community and respected their lifestyle & views. We stayed in a family cabana as part of a local families property and they were so helpful, kind & generous. We understand that our fees went to paying them for our stay. We learnt a great deal about the environment & the turtles and that the project did everything it
could to reduce environmental impacts ie composting, lighting, etc. The project provided a presence on the beach but not in a way that dictated to took over from the way the locals live there lives. There are some really dedicated local people who believe in the cause and are so grateful for the support they receive from volunteers.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Amazing, so humbling, incredible to think we could do a little bit to help and have fun at the same time. As a young family, our kids really have an appreciation for conservation work, have a deeper connection and understanding that animals and the environment require our help to keep it safe, they realise the human impact on the environment isn't always positive and that it requires true dedication & a commitment to make a difference.

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