Volunteering in San Jose

Making a difference to the local communities of San Jose, Costa Rica

Why volunteer in San Jose, Costa Rica?

San Jose, the capital city of this stunning and incredibly biodiverse country, is privileged by having a very central location, which makes it the perfect launching point for both long-term and weekend travels to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts!

Rain forests, mountains, volcanoes, and beaches are all within a two to four-hour drive. But San Jose itself has a lot to offer! Great shopping, cinemas, restaurants, nightlife, historical museums, markets, theatres and all the conveniences of a cosmopolitan city.

And there’s so much more!

Guillermo G.

Coming into Costa Rica I was nervous about trying to immerse myself into the culture, but the country was so welcoming with so many adventurous things to do there was no way to be bored here. Helping the community was truly life-changing and was a truly humbling experience.

San Jose Volunteer Projects

Construction & Community Development

Get ready to make a difference in community development by helping to create infrastructures such as housing, schools, churches, and community centres.

Location: San Jose

Duration: 1 – 12 weeks

San Jose Volunteer

This beautiful city is Costa Rica’s cultural hub and it’s home to the country’s history, showcasing exquisite architecture, historical monuments, parks and museums, a bustling nightlife, traditional dishes and dining opportunities for every palate, friendly locals, and a wonderful array of activities and attractions. 

This is a truly cosmopolitan city nowadays where visitors of the entire world converge and come to see the history of this country reflected on a mix of buildings of European inspiration, but built with a profound Costa Rican sense of style.

Some of the main attractions in the city include the Central Park, Morazan Park, National Park, Spanish Park, Democracy Plaza, the Jade Museum and the National Theatre!

Besides this, San Jose is an amazing place to try some of the local delicacies from the Costa Rican cuisine, which is a fusion of culinary traditions from Africa, Italy, France, China, and Spain. The most common cultural dishes are called Gallo Pinto and Casados. Gallo Pinto consists of rice and beans seasoned with coriander, onions, and sweet and salty Lizano sauce, and it is usually served for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs, and a cup of Agua Dulce (pure sugarcane diluted in hot water) or coffee. A Casado is a dish of white rice and black or red beans, pork or chicken, a small portion of cabbage or green salad, and fried sweet plantains.

There are a number of other traditional dishes that you can try while you are in Costa Rica such as tamales, picadillo’s, chiles rellenos, vigaron, chifrijo, chicharrones, arroz con camarones o mariscos mixtos, and sopa negra.

Volunteering in San Jose

San Jose also offers something truly unique given its amazing location. Irazu, historically the most active of all Costa Rica volcanoes, is only 30 kilometres away! This colossal giant reaches 3,432 meters above sea level and thanks to its height, on a clear day, both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans are visible from its peak. Don ́t miss out on visiting this National Park and the main crater of the volcano, where you can see a stunning, sulfurous, turquoise-green lagoon measuring more than a kilometre in diameter and some 300 meters in depth.

What else?

We also have an institute located in the San Pedro neighbourhood, a short 10-minute bus ride from downtown San Jose. The district is surrounded by universities and offers a relaxed student vibe. Within walking distance, there are a variety of restaurants, gyms, malls, and markets. You may also enjoy the bars, live music, and dancing in this neighbourhood.

Our institute, which is open 7 days a week, offers both indoor and outdoor study areas, WIFI, snack bar and it serves as a great meeting place for our students, interns, and volunteers from all over the world where you can get to know each other, plan activities, and practice Spanish.

By joining us you can also benefit from many free activities such as free salsa classes, cooking lessons, Tandem Spanish Conversation Program, a free walking tour and more.

San Jose Highlights & Excursions

San Jose is centrally located in Costa Rica which means it ́s not only the main hub but also the starting point for most tourist activities since you can easily visit most attractions from here on a day tour. Whether you are planning on a day trip activity or travelling further and exploring the rest of the country we’ll help you organize your tour around this truly diverse country that offers something for everyone!

Whether you are looking for culture and history, adrenaline activities, relaxing times by the beach, trekkings, amazing food and drinks or chilling by the beach, there ́s something waiting for you here! Tours and trips can be easily booked through our on-site travel partner, M&J Travel Services (http://www.mjtravelservice.com)

Arenal Volcano

Located in northern Costa Rica, Arenal Volcano is one of the most popular destinations in the country offering access to the rainforest, waterfalls, a volcano, the country’s largest lake, and a diverse selection of hotels!

Canopy Zipline

For those who enjoy adrenaline-pumping experiences, ziplining, sky tram tours, and high hanging bridges offer intense experiences with views to match. Lots of options in all regions of the country.

Tortuga Island

Depart for the Catamaran Island Cruise, a 1-day boat tour in the calm waters of the Gulf of Nicoya. Sail past 23 islands en route to the famous Isla Tortuga. On the island, swim, snorkel, play volleyball, kayak, or just relax in a hammock.

White Water Rafting

A journey of unsurpassed beauty and exploding whitewater. For the adventurous beginner and experienced rafter alike, the class III/IV rapids fill you with adrenaline as you paddle hard! 

Half day City Tour of San Jose

Set out on a half-day excursion to see the National Museum, the National Theatre, San Jose’s famous Central Market, and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Enjoy half-day hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park. The national park abounds in diverse flora and fauna including howler, squirrel, and white-faced monkeys; two-toed sloths; coatimundis; iguanas; and over 350 species of birds.

Get Your Scuba Certification

Manuel Antonio is located on the pacific coast of Costa Rica and is home to the best beaches in the country. The scuba course takes place in the Manuel Antonio National Park, which is home to a bustling tropical marine oasis.

Volunteer Accommodation

You will be staying in a traditional family-stay where you will be placed with a pre-approved middle-class Costa Rican family. They ́ll have breakfast and dinner with you seven days a week so you will have the chance to share a true cultural exchange experience, learn from the local culture and even practice some Spanish with them! If you are in a shared room, you can expect to stay with 1-3 other people of the same gender and similar age.

Our host families live in the San Pedro area of San Jose and are approximately 10-60 minute walking or by bus from our main institute, so very centrally located.

If interested, additional housing and upgrades to private rooms or other types of accommodations (student residence, hotels and backpackers are available at an extra fee).

Know Before You Go to San Jose

Visa Requirements

Packing List

Code of Conduct

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Costa Rica safe to visit?

It is considered one of the safest countries in the world! However, you should always be paying attention and be on the lookout for pickpockets or similar petty thieves. 

We take our volunteer’s safety very seriously and we ́ll give an in-depth induction upon arrival. Please check our Safety Tips as well.

What is the weather/climate in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is known for its warm tropical weather. Temperatures in San Jose range from 22-32°C (72-90°F) year-round. ‘Green season’ lasts from May to October with the wettest months being September and October. ‘Dry season’ is from November to April.

Costa Rica Temperatures

What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency is the Colon, but U.S. dollars are accepted in all places of business. 

It is fairly easy to exchange other currencies and ATMs are also available throughout the country.

MasterCard & Visa are usually accepted.

Which Electrical Plugs are used in Costa Rica?

All city-based accommodations have electricity available 24 hours a day. Electricity throughout Costa Rica is 110V, 60Hz – the same frequency used in North America. Be sure to check your electronics and small appliances for compatibility, and purchase any adapters or converters necessary.

Electrical outlets are both 2-prong and 3-prong. Please note that 2-prong outlets are the most common in Costa Rica.

What is the language in Costa Rica?

The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish although there are at least five living local indigenous languages spoken by the descendants of pre-Columbian people. 

What should stay in your hand luggage when travelling?

All valuables should be kept in your hand luggage, not left in your checked bags.

Volunteering Safety Tips

  • Be sure to keep track of your belongings at all times.
  • Keep your belongings on your lap while riding the bus.
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • Use busy and well-lit streets when walking and never walk alone after dark.
  • Only use official taxis and public buses.
  • Keep small change in your pockets and hide large bills.
  • Be vigilant when using an ATM.
  • Never count your money on the street or in public.
  • Take special care with your camera, laptop, jewellery, purse, and electronics.
  • Save your project manager’s number on your phone and make sure to provide us with a copy of your emergency contact person at home.

We will review safety again in detail during your orientation.

Costa Rican Vaccinations

Please consult with your private physician or doctor in regards to what immunizations or vaccinations are needed.  

Our recommendations:

  • Hepatitis A&B: Recommended
  • Typhoid: Recommended
  • Rabies: Recommended
  • Yellow Fever: Costa Rica is NOT at risk to yellow fever but if coming from a yellow fever country you need this vaccination together with proof of having it.
  • Routine vaccinations including measles