Costa Rica – Pacific Sea Turtle Volunteer Program – Videos

The Romelia Wildlife Reserve, in the secluded, lush Nicoya Peninsula, dedicates itself to protecting the coastal ecosystem and habitats of nesting sea turtles. As a volunteer, you’ll be at the forefront of these sea turtle conservation efforts, becoming an environmental steward and experiencing first-hand the natural beauty and biodiversity of Costa Rica.


Program Highlights:

  • Make the most of your program’s first week in San Jose by fully immersing yourself in Spanish language and culture.
  • Take part in critical sea turtle conservation initiatives on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
  • Engage in hands-on activities such as measuring sea turtles, releasing hatchlings, beach cleanups, maintaining trails, and providing support for environmental education.
  • Reconnect with nature by living and volunteering in a pristine, remote wildlife reserve
  • Experience the rich biodiversity of Romelia, home to over 57 bird species, 26 reptile and amphibian species, and 26 mammal species
  • Add Spanish classes before you volunteer with one of the best schools in San Jose.
  • Discover the natural beauty of Costa Rica in your downtime, with nearby attractions like the Montezuma Waterfall and Reserva Cabo Blanco


Your Schedule at a Glance – minimum two weeks commitment (itinerary subject to change):

Arrival Day, Sunday: Arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). A representative will transfer you to your new host family in San Jose, followed by an orientation meeting about your schedule, safety, traveling, and volunteering in Costa Rica.

Week 1, Monday – Sunday: Spanish Immersion Week:

Our Spanish language immersion course at one of the best schools in the country marks the beginning of your first week in Costa Rica. Live with a local family and gain essential Spanish skills to travel around easily, interact with staff and other volunteers. This includes:

  • Lodging with a host family in a private room
  • Breakfast and dinner throughout the week
  • 20 hours of Spanish lessons, 5 hours a day (Mon-Thu)
  • 2-6 students per classroom with one instructor
  • Latin Dance and Costa Rican cooking classes
  • Spanish classes run from 9 to 12 noon, with one hour for lunch, and continue from 1 to 3 pm (total 5 hours a day, Mon-Thu).
  • Evenings and weekends are free to enjoy the city or travel in Costa Rica, see tour options below.
  • The long weekend: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are open during the long weekend, giving you the chance to explore the wonders of Costa Rica and choose from many tour options with our team.


Week 2, and beyond: Sea Turtle Volunteer program:

Monday to Friday: The transfer day to the program is Monday. Transportation to the program site is approximately 5 hours and involves the following transfers which are included for GoEco volunteers: a private van ride from San Jose to the ferry, followed by a ferry journey to Paquera, another private van ride from Paquera to Montezuma, and finally a 30-45 minute walk down the beach to the secluded reserve. If you have heavy luggage which you cannot carry for this length of time, our team can assist in hiring a horse for $10 paid locally. On-site orientation is on a Monday or Tuesday depending on your travel day duration, followed by meaningful volunteer work at the sea turtle project through-out the week.

Saturday-Sunday: One day off a week is guaranteed for volunteers on usually a Saturday or Sunday. Volunteers can negotiate time off as a group together with the local coordinators on site, taking into account the workload assigned. Transfer back to San Jose is on your last Saturday at the program. You will spend one night in San Jose with our host family, and on Sunday, catch your flight home.


Important Note Important Note – Spanish week and Transfers: The Spanish Week and local transfers are included for all volunteers who have registered to join this program after October 1st, 2023. Volunteers who registered before this date, the Spanish week was an optional add on and local transfers to/from Montezuma and San Jose are organized locally with our team.


We highly recommend! 
Planning to come for one month or more? Combine this project with our Animal Rescue and Conservation program, for a diverse wildlife experience. We will assist with the transfers.


Location icon Location of the Project: Romelia Wildlife Reserve, Nicoya Peninsula (Pacific Coast)

Project length Project length: Minimum 2 weeks – Maximum 12 weeks

Arrival Airport Arrival Airport: Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)

Volunteer Work Volunteer Work: Beach patrolling, beach clean-ups, nest relocation, building hatcheries and assisting new hatchlings.

Age Age: Min 18.

Number of Volunteers Number of Volunteers: Up to 10 international volunteers.


What’s Included

Accommodations Accommodations: A private room while staying with a host family in San Jose and a shared dorm in a volunteer house during the project.

Food Food: Two meals per day during orientation week and three meals per day during project

Airport Transfers Airport Transfers: Airport pickup upon arrival to San José and transfer to the home-stay.

Orientation Orientation: On-site orientation in San Jose before departing to the volunteer location.

Support Support: Comprehensive and professional pre-departure travel guidance, 24/7 GoEco emergency hotline, experienced local field team.


What’s not Included

  • Flights, visa (if required), travel health insurance and personal expenses
  • Lunch during your stay in San Jose
  • Daily transportation by bus to/from the language school (approx. $1-2 USD per day)
  • Transportation to volunteer site from San José after orientation week (around $20 for a public bus /ferry or $60 for a private transfer/ferry, one way)
  • Departure transfer from homestay to airport on the last day (around $35, if desired).
  • Help with carrying luggage from Montezuma to Romelia (around $10 and only if it’s heavy).

The volunteer program takes place in the Romelia National Wildlife Park, near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. This remote coastal jungle boasts a rich ecosystem, with over 57 species of birds, 26 species of reptiles, and 26 species of mammals.

The volunteer base 30-50 minutes walking distance from Montezuma, a popular tourist town (5 hours from San Jose), accessible via a boat/ferry ride across the Nicoya Gulf.

Since 1998, the Romelia Wildlife Reserve protects the diverse flora and fauna of the area, covering around 224 hectares. The program focuses on protecting coastal and marine ecosystems, particularly the nesting areas of sea turtles, during their prime nesting season of July to December. As a volunteer, you will gain the opportunity to join a dedicated team of conservationists and experience a remote jungle ecosystem teeming with wildlife. Your volunteer work tasks may include:

  • Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching Monitoring: Patrol the beaches in the early morning and evening with an experienced squad leader and search for nesting females along the 6 km-long beaches. Activities during patrols include making carapace (shell) and nest measurements, collecting and tagging eggs, and moving them to the hatchery. During hatching seasons, you will help monitor the nests in the hatchery every 10 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes at night. This includes the counting and releasing of hatchlings at suitable beach locations. These combined efforts help reduce nest density and curb illegal egg harvesting.
  • Beach Clean-ups: Take part in organized clean-up activities to remove litter and debris from the beach. Contribute to the preservation of marine ecosystems and protecting wildlife.
  • Facility Maintenance: Assist in the maintenance of facilities used for sea turtle conservation. This may involve cleaning tanks, repairing enclosures, and ensuring a safe and functional environment for the turtles.
  • Environmental Education Support: Support the environmental education program by assisting with presentations, workshops, and educational activities. Help raise awareness about the importance of conservation and sustainable practices.
  • Trail Maintenance: Contribute to the maintenance of trails within the refuge. Clear vegetation, repair pathways, and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors.
  • Help with Research Activities: Work alongside local research assistants to support ongoing research projects related to sea turtles and their habitats. Assist with data collection, entry, and analysis.


Important Note: Please note that the activities may vary each week, and the local team requires volunteers to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the project. The longer you stay volunteering with the program, the more involved and diverse your activities become.


Arrival Day: Upon arrival, volunteers will register, receive their keys, meet staff, tour the station, and get a brief about the project over dinner.


Example of the Daily Schedule (subject to change):

08:00: Breakfast (Coffee, fruits, breads)
10:00: Morning work (1-2 hours): station maintenance, beach clean-ups, data entry, varying with weather
12:00: Vegetarian lunch (rice, beans, picadillo, soups, and guisos)
15:30: Afternoon work (1-2 hours): similar tasks as in the morning
18:00: Self-serve dinner time with cookies, pancakes, and coffee
19:00: Nightly patrol (4 hours), contingent on tide, moon cycle, and daytime activities. On weeks with early morning activities (05:30), there are no night patrols.
Weekends: Volunteers have one day off unless it coincides with turtle arrivals. In such cases, they will shift the day off.


Seasons: The Romelia project runs throughout the year, with the turtle nesting period spanning from May to late November/early December. The height of this season lies between August and November when turtles continue to nest and hatchlings emerge.

Note: It’s important to know that while the seasons stay mostly the same all year, factors like water temperature, late rains, and changes in the weather can affect how many turtles come to Romelia beach. During the busy times, you may see around 4-5 turtles each night, but we can’t promise this will happen every time. Some nights during the busy season, you might only see 1 turtle nesting, and sometimes we might not see any at all.

During the non-nesting season (January-April), night patrols cease, and the focus shifts to the hatchery. Volunteers ensure that all eggs have hatched, carry out an exhumation and data collection process for those that didn’t hatch or died in the nest. Afterward, the hatchery’s sand is replaced to prepare for the upcoming turtle season, with careful attention to remove any plastic or other contaminants. This task is physically demanding and can extend beyond a month. Additional duties during this period include beach cleaning and community work.


Alternative Placements: This volunteer program fills up quickly! In case your requested date is full, we can also place you with excellent Sea Turtle conservation programs in Ostional (open all year round), Montezuma (open all year round), or the Caribbean Coast (open from March – August each year).

Internet icon Internet: The program lacks Wi-Fi connectivity. Mobile phones with a SIM card might offer restricted access to the cellular network (SIM cards are available for purchase in San Jose). For Wi-Fi access and additional amenities such as restaurants, clinics, and supermarkets, the nearest towns are Cóbano and Montezuma.

Laundry icon Laundry: A sink for hand washing clothes and drying line are available on site.

Accommodations icon Accommodations: During orientation week, you’ll stay with a welcoming host family in San José, just a short bus ride away from the language school. They will provide you with a comfortable, private room in their home. Once you move to the volunteer program station, the accommodation is basic but comes equipped with all essential amenities. The volunteer dormitory features seven beds, two toilets, two showers, a living area, dining area, and a kitchen. Please note that the station does not have a refrigerator, and electricity is available for an hour each day through a transformer. We encourage volunteers to bring their personal chargers to ensure they can keep their devices powered during their stay.

Food icon Food: While staying with our host family in San Jose your first week, you’ll be provided breakfast and diner. During the volunteer placement, you’ll enjoy three meals a day, every day of the week, prepared by friendly local cooks. They can accommodate dietary restrictions, including allergies, and offer a variety of Costa Rican dishes, mainly vegetarian. You’ll also have access to fruits and cold water outside of mealtimes.

  • GoEco interview
  • This project recommends all participants to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
  • Minimum age of 18
  • Basic Spanish knowledge. Beginners should be prepared to enroll in additional weeks of Spanish lessons for an extra fee.
  • National Police Clearance Document
  • Travel and health insurance with reparation costs included
  • Physically fit: the three-four hour night patrols and daytime monitoring require hard physical work
  • Good eyesight for night patrols conducted with special artificial lighting
  • Comfortably able to walk 5-15 kilometers per night (even when it’s raining)
  • Adaptable to high temperatures and humidity
  • Ability to cope with remote locations and rustic living conditions (volunteer dorms offer bunk beds, shared showers and toilets)
  • Flexible and open-minded in order to carry out a variety of tasks, depending on the project needs

Local activities

Volunteers can enjoy various activities during their free time with close access to Montezuma town and stunning beaches. Extra activities are not included in the program fee and thus volunteers have the freedom to choose to spend their free time as they wish. Activities available in the area: Montezuma waterfall, Cabo Blanco Reserve, El Chorro waterfall, Boat trip to Tortuga island, Horseback riding, Zip lining, Yoga and wellness retreats, Surf lessons.


Tour options

We recommend traveling around Costa Rica before or after your volunteer placement. You can either explore the country on your own or simply join a tour. Here are a few popular options that you can book with us in advance (subject to availability):

  • Arenal Volcano and hot springs, one day (transportation, lunch & dinner & entrance to springs )
  • Doka coffee plantation, Poas Volcano & & La Paz waterfalls (transportation & lunch)
  • Irazu volcano, Orosi valley & Lankester gardens (transportation, tour & lunch)
  • Sun & white sand beaches (Carara National Park, Punta Leona: includes breakfast, lunch, transportation)
  • Manuel Antonio National Park, lovely beach on Pacific coast (includes transportation, breakfast, lunch).
  • White river rafting (includes transportation, breakfast & lunch)

Volunteer Experiences

Volunteer Experiences

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