Costa Rica Green Sea Turtle Research Expedition

Will I love This Holiday?

Travel Style: Volunteer
Cost: $1,795 USD
Where: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Length: 8 Days
Physical Rating: Moderate
Right For: Solo travelers, small groups, families, tweens, teens
Children: 8-yrs+ ( 18 with adult) 
What: Sea Turtle Research. Volunteer Holiday
Group Size: Small (max 15)
Accommodations: Comfortable

The Scoop

1.     Get personal with wild sea turtles. As a volunteer, you will help the folks from a local conservation and researcher organization catch, tag, and gather information about the foraging, not nesting, green and hawksbill sea turtle population in the Golfo Dulce.

2.     Replant a mangrove forest. Help the conservationists from LAST (Latin America’s Sea Turtles) replant this vital habitat. 

3.     Live the Sweet Life: Pesticides kill sea turtles. Organic chocolate and coffee play a big part in the regions economics and wildlife conservation, learn how. Visit a farm and taste the results!  

4. Enjoy the OSA Peninsula: Discover why this is called Golfo Dulce, the Sweet Gulf,  and experience one the most beautiful and biodiverse regions of Costa Rica.  

5. Want to do More? Help with plastic removal from the beach, or rent at sit-on-top kayak and paddle around the Gulf.

Is This Trip Right For Me?

Help researchers study green and hawksbill turtles in the Golfo Dulce. Spend four days on the incredible Osa Peninsula catching and releasing turtles, restoring mangroves, and more. This hands-on experience is great for individuals, families (8 years and up), and small groups.

Costa Rica is a safe and beautiful country that receives more than 1 million international tourists annually. This is a fairly an active trip that requires some of physical fitness and an ability to manage sometimes challenging conditions including weather and heat, bugs, and long bus rides.

The accommodations are comfortable but plan to spend significant time on boats and on the beach while waiting for turtles to be caught.

Your Guides

This company was launched in 2008 as the world's first effort to protect sea turtles through (community based) ecotourism. Originally fiscally-sponsored by the Ocean Foundation and most recently Oceanic Society, it is now an independent 501c3 non-profit. Their programs provide support for important turtle nesting beaches and has helped save more than 1 million hatchlings. They are also responsible for the creation of a campaign working to end the demand for turtle shell products. School programs help teachers and students learn about these incredible animals and how to protect them. This trip will be led by Brad Nahill, a leader in sea turtle conservation for over 15 years and the author of The Worldwide Guide to Sea Turtle Tourism and is in partnership with Portland Community College (though is open to everyone). 



    You will be picked up at the San Jose Airport and taken to Hotel Rosa del Paseo in San Jose. Get a good night's sleep to rest up for the fast paced trip. (Dinner not included this first night and can be purchased at the hotel for $10).


    After breakfast, you'll head to the South Pacific coast in a private vehicle (about a 5 hour drive). Along the way, you will stop for lunch and take in the beautiful views. After settling in to your cabins, researchers from our partner Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) will give an orientation to the turtle research and train you in data collection techniques.

    This evening, relax and get a good night’s sleep. Overnight at Delfines de Golfo, a simple family lodge with electricity, private bath with hot water, and TV’s.


    Today is all about sea turtles. Head out in a shaded boat with researchers to help set nets in key turtle spots (timing dependent on the tide). Once caught, researchers will bring them to the beach where you will have the opportunity to help carry in the turtles, measure them, weight them, and perhaps even tag them. You’ll be looking mainly for green turtles and hawksbills, which are both endangered. In between turtles, take a swim in the beautiful Golfo Dulce or explore the coastline to look for macaws and sloths.


    Today, you will be protecting sea turtles by land, by supporting reforestation and organic farming. This morning, you will participate in LAST's mangrove reforestation program by working in the nursery and planting young trees. Mangroves are critical habitat for juvenile sea turtles, fish, and other ocean life and this area has lost much of its mangrove forests over the past few decades (the wood is popular for construction). We will also help in their small turtle rescue center if there are turtles present.

    In the afternoon, there will be free time to take a swim, rent a sit-on-top kayak to paddle around on the gulf, visit Puerto Jimenez to souvenir shop, or other options. That evening, the group will gather again at the cabins for dinner. (B, L, D)


    Today, you will be studying hawksbill sea turtles, which are critically endangered around the world primarily due to the trade in products made from their shells. These turtles are also usually juveniles and are smaller than the greens, averaging 2-3 feet in length and 30-40 lbs. You will collect data including their length and width, check their shells for parasites (not a risk for humans), and weigh and tag them before releasing back to the water. In between turtles, you can take a swim in the beautiful Golfo Dulce, explore the coastline to look for macaws, sloths, and other wildlife, or help clean up plastic waste that washes ashore. (B, L, D)


    Visit a nearby organic farm to taste a variety of fruits from around the world and to learn about the origins of chocolate, which is native to this region. Pesticides and other chemicals from farms can cause illness in sea turtles, so supporting organic methods is an important way to protect the ocean. You will see the entire process of making chocolate, from growing cacao to harvesting, drying, fermenting and of course tasting, finishing up with a dark chocolate fondue. The afternoon is open to choose from a number of options. Dinner will be with the group at the cabins. Optional activities are not included in the trip price and we will share prices and options before the trip. (B, L, D)


    After breakfast, the group will pack up the bus and head back north to San Jose. The drive will be broken up with lunch and a walk along the way, getting back to the city in the afternoon. Feel free to take a walk in the city and visit a museum if time allows, before joining the group for a celebratory dinner on the town this evening. Overnight at Rosa del Paseo. (B, L, D)


    Rosa del Paseo provides a delicious breakfast for your last morning. After, head out for the airport in time for your flight, taking along your memories, photos, souvenirs, and stories to tell friends! You can also extend your stay and visit other parts of the country. (B)

What to Expect

Dates: December 7 - 14, 2019
$1,795 USD per person
Reserve Your Place: $300.00 per person

► $50 off per person for paying by check
► Additional discounts available for private groups of 6 or more

Includes: Guide, private transportation, accommodations, meals (except where listed), activities as listed, and a donation to turtle conservation.
Excludes: Airfare to Costa Rica, personal items, optional activities, and tips for the guide/driver.

► Minimum of 4 people total needed to confirm this trip. Individuals can join the listed date above.
► Minimum recommended age is 8 years old, under 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
► Group size is limited to 15 people maximum.
► Itinerary can be customized to meet your group's schedule or preferences.


Rosa del Paseo
Located in downtown San Jose on Paseo Colon, Rosa del Paseo is a charming small Victorian mansion built in 1910. The hotel is close to many city landmarks and is part of Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism for its green building practices.

Delfines del Golfo
A family-owned lodge in the small town of La Palma, located about a mile from Playa Blanca, where the research station is based. Delfines is on the edge of town in a secure spot. Each individual cabin comes with a private bathroom (with hot water), television, fan, and air conditioner. Some rooms come with bunk beds for kids. Meals are prepared on site and vegetarians are easily accommodated.

Wildlife You Might See

The wildlife may be working with: Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles

Other Wildlife You Might See
Marine Life:
spotted dolphin, spinner dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, whale, eagle spotted ray, sting ray. Humpback whale and whale shark are seasonal visitors.

On Land and in the Air: Costa Rica has 25% of the world's biodiversity. You might see a sloth, a howler, spider or other monkey or many other species. Costa Rica is also home to the largest population of scarlet macaws in the world. Consider staying a day or two extra to explore the peninsula's parks and nature reserves. 

About The Costa Rica Green Sea Turtle Project

The Program Partners

LAST. The mission of LAST, Latin American Sea Turtles, is to improve the conservation status of marine turtles in Latin America. For over 30-years, they worked to “create an environment where humans and sea turtles can live together in balance” with projects that include environmentalists, conservationists, in conjunction with local communities and volunteers.  

What is Special About this Project?

This is in water monitoring. Foraging sea turtles are mainly found in shallow (<100 feet), hard-bottom substrates or seagrass beds in coastal areas and in some cases around coral reefs. By sampling the Golfo Dulce, it is possible to gain information on the demographic structure of the population, such as the abundance of immature, adults, male and non-breeding females, and their behavior.

It is vital to the protection of the sea turtles to understand their habits, preferences and life cycles. The statistics gathered also tell about the turtle’s health.

The Osa In-Water Project is located on Playa Blanca, close to Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula in the southern Pacific province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The surrounding landscape of Playa Blanca is a lot of flat farmland, however most of the Osa Peninsula is under some kind of protection. The reason why is because this area is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots worldwide, with a vast variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects.

The Golfo Dulce, the body of water between the mainland and the Osa Peninsula, is one of just four tropical fjords worldwide and hosts a fascinating variety of marine life, including sea turtles, dolphins, and at some points during the year humpback whales and whale sharks.

Possible Volunteer Activities 

1. In water turtle monitoring. Help set nets to catch wild green sea and hawksbill turtles. This entails long stretches on the boat. The turtles are wild, researchers have to wait until they appear.

2. Untangle turtles from nets. Bring ashore. Work with the researchers to take their vitals: measuring the tail, the shell, attaching an ID tag and taking a tiny tissue sample (no, this does not hurt the turtle) and recording all the data. What tasks each volunteer does depends on skill level and ability. You are working along side   

3. Help restore a mangrove forest, an important part of the sea turtles habitat . Much of the area’s mangrove forest was lost in the last decades. You will be helping to plant young trees. There is also a turtle rescue here. If there are rescued recovering turtles at the time, you may have an opportunity to work with them also.

4. And other tasks as possible or necessary. 

How This Trip Makes a Difference

As a sea turtle volunteer you not only help with vital sea turtle research,  you will be staying in small lodges owned and run by local families, visiting local farms, eating locally produced food - all of which directly benefit the local economy. The communities depend on the sea turtle tourism, and sea turtle survival depends on the communities. And you will be part of their community and the sea turtle conservation family.

Additionally: A fee is paid to the local partner as well as a donation to the local conservation organization to help save at minimum 100 hatchling sea turtles. 

Wildlife and the Environment

This is one of the most beautiful and biodiverse regions of Costa Rica. You will be helping to add to the world's knowledge of sea turtles, supporting the work of fisherman/conservationists and local researchers, and your visit directly provides money for the conservation of sea turtle hatchlings, but that's not all. The survival of the peninsula's plants and animals and the health of the gulf itself is dependent on its treatment by humans.

Where hunting, fishing and poaching were once foundations of the local economy, today responsible wildlife and nature tourism helps to create a sustainable dependency between the local people and the wildlife. Sharks and dolphins, whales and other marine life depend on the clean, relatively quiet waters of the Golfo Dulce protected by the peninsula on one side and the Costa Rican mainland on the other. On the peninsula's western side, the Parc Nacional Corcovado is home to coatis and collared peccaries, scarlet macaws, and howler monkeys, ocelots and Agoutis, and more. The peninsula is small, and wildlife is notoriously indifferent to park borders. Eyes open! 

Local Community

One way to make sure that the local community is benefitting from the preservation of sea turtles and their habitat is through wildlife and nature tourism. You will be staying in the small lodges owned and lovingly run by local families, a circa 1900 restored and a converted Victorian manor in San Jose. These local families welcome you.

Farming is an essential part of the local economy. Some farmers have committed to healthier produce AND a more robust environment by using organic methods. Interspersed with your sea turtle work you will have the opportunity to visit a local chocolate farm. Chocolate was one of the most important discoveries in the New World. But be aware: once you have seen for yourself how it is transformed from bean to desert, and tasted this incredible confection, you may be spoiled for life. Your cloud forest eco-lodge is another organic farm where coffee and tropical fruits are grown. Here too, part of the tour is "sampling" your host's produce. 

More Holidays You May Love