Voluntourism, or volunteer vacations, is a fast-growing travel trend. More than 1.6 million travelers are spending $2 billion on volunteer vacations each year.
Opportunities to volunteer are available to travelers of all ages: from high school students to entire families, from young working adults to retired senior citizens. The only requirements are a desire to help others and a sense of adventure…oh, and a few hundred dollars.
Voluntourism opportunities abound in Costa Rica. And if the idea of paying to volunteer seems counterintuitive, keep in mind everything your fees might cover: assistance with pre-departure needs, a partner to liaise with, airport pick-up and arrival assistance, accommodation with a host family, daily meals, medical, life and travel insurance, on-site orientation, Spanish classes, and on-site partner support.
A Travel Experience for Every Type of Volunteer
Volunteer opportunities vary widely by skill. Orphanages, caregiving for elders, turtle conservation and teaching English to children and adults are all areas where travelers can volunteer their time in Costa Rica.
Some communities need other specific skill-sets as well, such as construction, sports and physical education and mother and infant nutrition education. Still looking for a way you can help? How about jaguar research and conservation? Most voluntourism companies and NGOs offer opportunities for individuals and groups. A couple offer trips specifically for families as well.
How to Choose a Voluntourism Opportunity
Ideally, local communities will benefit from voluntourism. Unfortunately, there are companies and NGOs with poorly designed programs that may hurt a community instead of supporting it. Like all travel planning, you’ll need to do your research. Start by reading this guide to get an idea of how voluntourism works.
When you’ve chosen an organization or voluntourism company, get in touch with the program manager. In addition to standard questions about accommodations, logistics and nature of the work, confirm that most of your fees are going to the community’s sustainability and development, where it can do the most good.