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Environmental Conservation Internships in Costa Rica

Environmental Conservation Internships in Costa Rica

Gain hands-on experience helping with environmental sustainability in Costa Rica, assisting conservationists in reserves, forests and greenhouses. Help to grow and maintain plants and organic gardens, research plant health and wildlife, and make a genuine contribution to conservation in Costa Rica’s stunning ecosystem.

Internship Highlights:
  • Gain hands-on conservation experience through gardening and tending to specific plants
  • Experience Costa Rica’s biodiversity and renowned cloud forests
  • Contribute to environmental sustainability in Costa Rica
Type of host organizations:
  • Private reserves
  • Sustainable eco-tourism reserves
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Fully hosted experience from US$1,399
Includes accommodation & meals
Typical schedule: Monday to Friday, 6 hours per day
Minimum duration 2 weeks, up to 24 Weeks maximum
Spanish language lessons available
Get job-ready with our Experiential Learning Curriculum
Internships align with UN Sustainable Development Goals
Eligibility requirements and Associated career paths
Eligibility requirement

Suitable for participants who are reasonably fit, as tasks will involve moderate physical activity. A background in biology or a related field is desirable but not essential and High School graduates aged 18+ are welcome to apply.

Language requirements

Suitable for interns at a beginner level of Spanish. The level of involvement during your internship will be influenced by your Spanish language proficiency. Interns must come prepared to interact with colleagues who may not speak English (as an English-language speaking Supervisor will provide guidance but may not be on hand constantly). All interns are encouraged to take advantage of in-country Spanish language lessons, which can be scheduled in conjunction with your internship schedule.

Associated career paths

Environmental Scientist (Policy/Planning/Law), Horticulturist, Soil and Plant Scientist, Ecologist, Biologist, Climatologist, Geology, Herpetologist, Habitat Specialist, Entomologist, Ranger, Forest Management, Agricultural/​Horticultural Scientist

Internship details

Gain hands-on experience helping with environmental sustainability in Costa Rica, assisting conservationists in reserves, forests and greenhouses. Help to grow and maintain plants and organic gardens, research plant health and wildlife and make a genuine contribution to conservation in Costa Rica’s stunning ecosystem.

This is an in-country internship, with accommodation and meals provided. Click here to view remote Environmental & Marine Sciences internships, which you can undertake from home.

Environmental Conservation Internships in Costa Rica are typically based at natural reserves that are involved in environmental research or sustainable eco-tourism. These reserves have a large focus on preserving the fragile ecosystem in protected areas, parks and foundations - 25% of Costa Rica is environmentally protected land, and this includes its stunning cloud forests, where interns can be based.

Interns should come prepared to assist a small team that works towards monitoring and maintaining plant life in reserves and greenhouses. You’ll be guided by local representatives who are passionate about the environment and conservation, assisting with seasonal tasks. Examples of such tasks can include:

  • Working in greenhouse nurseries, helping to grow new plants and propagate others
  • Helping to organize and run environmental informational workshops for the public
  • Maintenance of public and private gardens
  • Tending to medicinal plants
  • Install research cameras to analyze activity of wildlife such as deer, dantas, tapirs, snakes, and wild cats
  • Assisting in tracking various bird species and insects
  • Caring for butterfly farms
  • Organic gardening
  • Helping to maintain trails

Note that the tasks listed are examples of typical activities. The specific role that your internship will entail will be influenced by season and climate, in addition to the project priorities at the time of your involvement. Come prepared to be flexible and adaptable to conditions and site priorities. It’s important to be aware that conditions can be hot and physically demanding. Interns should be fit, have a genuine interest in environmental sustainability, and enjoy working outside!

Environmental Conservation internships in Costa Rica are suitable for participants looking for an introductory experience. Placements do not typically include research components but are rather focused on the day-to-day management, upkeep and operation of sustainable eco-tourism reserves. Long-term participants have increased opportunity to further develop their understanding and proactively initiate independent research. However, the placements themselves are not inclined to be intensively focused on data collection and research. If you have specific course credit requirements for an Environmental Conservation internship experience or would like the opportunity to be involved with research and data collection, please speak to the Intern Abroad HQ team for guidance and recommendations.

To learn more about the Environmental Conservation internship in Costa Rica, click here to read about Eva’s experience.

Career Benefits

Environmental Conservation interns learn from a qualified and experienced supervisor, and can be involved in:
  • Working in greenhouses

  • Environmental workshops for the public

  • Organic gardening

  • Tending to medicinal plants

  • Install research cameras to analyze wildlife activity

  • Wildlife tracking

  • Caring for butterfly farms

  • Trail maintenance

Professional development opportunities:
  • Cataloguing plant, insect and wildlife species

  • Learn about forest and greenhouse management

  • Experience sustainable tourism practices

  • Gain work experience in greenhouses and natural forests

  • Gain practical skills and boost your employability, with guidance from Intern Abroad HQ’s Experiential Learning Curriculum to support your learning and cultural intelligence.

Costa Rica photo gallery

”My goal for my Environmental internship was to pinpoint where exactly my interests lie. This internship has helped me discover what area I want to continue my studies in, and how this can forge a path for my future career in Environmental Conservation. Exchanges like this have proved incredibly beneficial, as it has given me the opportunity to gain a more worldly perspective, which will only make my skills more universal.”

Read reviews from our Costa Rica Interns

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Program fees

It’s free to apply for this internship. Once we have reviewed your suitability and accepted you onto this program, you’ll need to pay a deposit of US$449 to confirm your place. The remaining balance of your Program Fee (less your initial US$449 deposit payment) will be due no less than 60 days before your internship start date.

Duration
Program Fee (USD)
2 weeks $1,399Equivalent to $99/day
3 weeks $1,694Equivalent to $80/day
4 weeks $2,039Equivalent to $72/day
5 weeks $2,153Equivalent to $61/day
6 weeks $2,294Equivalent to $54/day
8 weeks $2,526Equivalent to $45/day
10 weeks $2,764Equivalent to $39/day
12 weeks $2,948Equivalent to $35/day
16 weeks $3,425Equivalent to $30/day
20 weeks $3,793Equivalent to $27/day
24 weeks $4,160Equivalent to $24/day
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Dedicated support before, during, and after your internship
  • In-country guidance for social and tourist activities
  • Sourcing and securing your internship placement
  • Personalization of your internship plan
  • Coaching from your supervisor
  • Documented portfolio of your experiential learnings
  • Academic credit facilitation
  • International reference letter
  • Certificate of Internship Completion
  • Visa (if required), flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check
  • Transfer back to the airport at the end of your internship program
  • Optional extras, such as language lessons
  • Souvenirs and leisure activities during your free time
  • Personal spending money to cover basic expenses such as drinks, snacks, laundry, public transportation, and any meals not included in your Program Fee
  • A deposit of $449 USD is required to secure your internship
  • Balance of your Program Fee is due 60 days before your internship start date.
  • All payments attract a 5% transaction fee to cover international banking fees and currency charges.
  • Terms and Conditions apply.

Arrival and Orientation

Internships in Costa Rica begin every Monday. Exceptions may be made to this when start dates are shifted to avoid public holiday disruptions or closed when the program has already reached capacity. The minimum duration requirement is 2 weeks up to a maximum duration of 24 weeks.

Airport pick up and accommodation are included in the Program Fee. The accommodation is covered from the Sunday night before the Monday start date - interns are required to arrive no later than the Sunday before their Monday start date, as all orientations are held on Mondays. If arriving earlier than this date, interns will be required to cover the cost of an “out of hours” airport pick up.

The typical port of entry is the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO). If you are planning to spend time independently in Costa Rica prior to your internship and will not require an airport pick up, we can discuss alternative arrival logistics with you.

Upon arrival, interns will be met, greeted, and transferred to the accommodation. The last night of the accommodation is the Saturday night of the final week, leaving interns free to depart on Sunday. Extra nights of accommodation can be arranged in advance, if requested, and are subject to availability.

Orientation covers important details for your internship, including introductions, information about culture, customs, rules, expectations, safety, language lessons, cultural excursions, and more. Your specific internship placement orientation will follow the general orientation, as you’ll be shown how to travel to and from your internship and be introduced to the team you’ll be joining.

Please note that all participants are advised not to book flights until they have first registered to confirm their internship placement.

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Accommodation and WiFi

All interns in Costa Rica are accommodated in various homestay accommodations. Interns are matched to an appropriate host family, taking into consideration convenient proximity to their internship placement. Typical host families in Costa Rica usually comprise of two parents and children or a single parent with children (the ages of a host family’s children can range from young and still living at home, to adults living independently). There are usually 1 - 2 bedrooms in most home-stays and everyone has their own bedroom (unless special requests are made in advance to share with a friend or partner). Bathrooms are shared. Living is comfortable and home-stays offer electricity, running water and western bathrooms. However, showers can be low pressure and unheated/tepid. WiFi is provided in most of the home-stays but it is important to note that it is not guaranteed.

Accommodation upgrades are available at an additional cost, for those who would prefer more independent accommodation and social interaction with other travelers. Interns who have confirmed their participation may opt to arrange hostel accommodation, in either a dorm (sharing a room with 4-8 beds) or a private room. Dormitories provide lockers, so that guests may securely store their personal items. Bathrooms are typically shared. Amenities include WiFi and a common area for guest use. Please note that hostel accommodation is subject to availability (depending on the location of your internship) and includes daily breakfast only. Interns who are interested in arranging an accommodation upgrade are welcome to speak with their Internship Program Manager for more information.

Meals

Internships in Costa Rica include two meals per day, served at the home stay. A typical Costa Rican breakfast is provided and may consist of bread, spreads, fruit and eggs accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner commonly consists of meat (often chicken), soups, pastas, starches and vegetables. Please be sure to let us know of any specific dietary requirements that you have in advance, so that we may ensure your hosts are aware and make recommendations accordingly.

Spanish lessons

Internships in Costa Rica require interns to have varying levels of Spanish language proficiency, from either a confident level of basic Spanish to a more developed grasp of intermediate language skills. The definition of having basic Spanish skills (Level A2) includes the ability to exchange brief information with questions and answers, use and understand simple language in daily situations and cultural aspects.

Keep in mind that despite you level of proficiency, a language barrier can still be encountered to a certain extent. Interns should be prepared for the very natural and normal frustration of not always understanding what is being said around them. Most interns are able to have a successful internship experience and it is essential to come prepared and willing to surmount a language barrier, as opposed to being intimidated by it.

We strongly recommend that all interns take advantage of the affordable language lessons offered exclusively to Intern Abroad HQ participants by our host organization in Costa Rica. These can be arranged directly with the local team once registered for the program (ask about online Skype lessons) or at the orientation in-country. Language lessons are tailored to each individual’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday.

Weekends and travel

During the weekends, free time is available to relax, engage in tourism activities and explore other parts of Costa Rica. The program is based in the canton of San Ramon, in Alajuela Province. This is 55 km/34 mi northeast of Puntarenas (the nearest coastal town), 58 km/36 mi from the capital city of San Jose, and 31 km/19 mi from Juan Santamaría International Airport. The Pan-American Highway is easily accessible to the south and a northern route provides direct access to the popular tourism destination of Volcan Arenal.

Popular tourist attractions in and around the Alajuela Province include visiting Poás Volcano National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Los Ángeles Cloud Forest and La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Within the city of San Jose, there are various museums and galleries, such as the Precolumbian Gold Museum, Jade Museum, National Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and Design - just to name a few!

Our local team in Costa Rica are also able to assist interns with trip bookings, to experience more of the country. These can be coordinated directly once you’ve registered to confirm your internship program. Options include:

  • Tortuga Island: This sightseeing full-day trip includes return transportation from local pick-up points, guides, snacks and entertainment, catamaran tour, and lunch in Tortuga Island. Located within the Gulf of Nicoya, Tortuga Island is a paradise archipelago which has maintained the Ecological Blue Flag status for more than twelve years. The turquoise waters are beautiful to swim in and the trip is not to be missed while you’re exploring the coasts!

  • Poás Volcano National Park, Doka Coffee Tour and La Paz Waterfall Garden: This full day excursion covers some of the region’s highlights. You’ll want to bring your camera and comfortable walking shoes for the three adventures, all across different eco-systems. Within La Paz Waterfall Garden, you’ll have a great opportunity to check out some of the amazing wildlife. There’s a hummingbird garden, serpentarium, aviaries, butterfly garden and tropical frog exhibit.

  • San Luis Canopy Tour: This tour departs from San Ramon and only takes half a day. Enjoy views of the Cataraticas River, bring comfortable clothing and a sense of adventure! There are 12 cables on this zip-line tour, with lengths from 56 to 550 meters, connected across 18 platforms. You’ll also get to experience the Tarzan swing and Superman cable - woohoo!

Essential country information

Capital San Jose
Population 5.094 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00
Weather and climate:

Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° north latitude, fairly close to the equator. Although you get much cooler temperatures in the mountains above 2000 meters, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 21.7°C (71°F) and 27°C (81°F). The coolest months are from November through to January, and the warmest months are from March through to May. San Jose stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 20.6°C (69°F).