Wildlife & Culture of Costa Rica

Experience some of the best of Costa Rica’s Wildlife and Culture. You’ll spend 2 nights working with giant leatherback turtles at research station on the northern Caribbean coast. The turtle work includes helping to measure the turtles, collect the eggs and move them to hatcheries, and working with hatchlings (if present). In addition, you'll visit a remote indigenous community, hike the rainforest, go to a unique butterfly farm, and more.

This trip is led by SEE Turtles Director Brad Nahill, in partnership with Portland Community College. Profits from this trip will help to save at least 100 hatchlings at a turtle nesting beach per participant.

Date: May 21 - 28, 2017

Price: $1,895 per person ($300 to register)

Discounts Available:

  • Early bird discount of $50 for the first 8 to register
  • $50 off for paying by check
  • Monthly payment plans are available until 3 months before trip departure

Includes: In-country transport, meals, lodging, activities, guides, and a donation to turtle conservation.

Excludes: Airfare to Costa Rica, personal items, and tips for guide and driver.


  • This trip is in partnership with Portland Community College but is open to adults anywhere (the trip is not specifically for students).
  • Group size is limited to 15 people maximum.

Contact US TO:   

  • Register by mail or phone (online registration not available for this trip)
  • Request More Info
  • Ask A Question
Name *

Or call with questions: 800.215.0378




Fly into San Jose International Airport (SJO) anytime on the first scheduled day. Our guides pick you up from the airport and take you to Rosa del Paseo, a comfortable hotel in downtown San Jose. If you arrive early enough for dinner, the hotel will prepare a buffet of local dishes. Get a good night’s sleep tonight, as the adventure starts early the next day. (Dinner is not included in the trip price and costs roughly US $10.)


Wake up with a delicious Costa Rica breakfast buffet of eggs, gallo pinto (their famous breakfast rice and beans), fresh tropical fruit, and more. After breakfast, board your private bus for a 4 hour ride to the Caribbean. You’ll pass through the country’s largest national park (Braulio Carillo) along the continental divide and then descend into the Caribbean lowlands and eventually along the coast.

After we arrive, we will head to the beautiful Cahuita National Park for a picnic and to swim in the warm water. Wildlife including sloths and capuchin monkeys are often spotted at this park and there is an option to snorkel at the coral reef (depending on weather).


Wake up early this morning to hop on the bus and head into the Talamanca highlands. We’ll board a canoe for a ride upstream to a Bri Bri village, at one point right along the border with Panama. At the village, we will be shown the organic chocolate and bananas that they grow for export along with medicinal plants. We will have a traditional lunch and then fresh chocolate dessert. We’ll be back to the hotel late afternoon and have a free evening.


This morning we will head to the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge for a guided rainforest hike where we will see many species of wildlife and learn about this fascinating ecosystem. After, we’ll have lunch at Maxi’s, a wonderful Caribbean restaurant right on the beach. Then we will head north to the turtle research station. The bus will drop us at a small dock along the Tortuguero canals, where a boat will meet us to take you us the station. Once you arrive, settle into your cabin and later, the researchers will give a presentation on sea turtles and a training. After dinner, you will head out for your first night of patrolling for leatherbacks!

Please note: The station is fairly remote and isolated. The rooms are very basic and volunteers are expected to participate in cleaning up dishes after meals. The station has limited electricity, no hot water, and no internet. Bathrooms are shared. Meals are basic and often include a meat like chicken or beef along with rice and beans, cabbage salad, and plantains. The station is in the rainforest, which can mean insects in the room (mosquito nets are provided).


Today will be unscheduled to rest up for another night of turtle patrols. Each patrol is four hours walking the nesting beach in search of the giant leatherbacks. Tasks involved in the research include measuring the turtles length and width (no small task with a giant leatherback!), moving the eggs to a hatchery (where they are protected), and observing the condition of the turtles. 

Optional activities today include visiting the project’s small turtle museum, walking the beach or rainforest, or relaxing in the hammocks. The project may have other volunteer activities you can participate in as well. Swimming is not allowed due to currents.


This morning, pack up your belongings and after breakfast, catch the boat back to the dock to meet your bus and driver. We will head back inland to the Sarapiqui region for the evening. There is an optional night rainforest activity or you can explore the private rainforest reserve of the resort. Overnight at Sarapiqui Rainforest Lodge. 


After breakfast, we will visit a local school for a traditional dance and to learn about Costa Rica’s impressive educational system. After, we will head to Jardin Pierella, a unique butterfly farm to learn about these fascinating insects and other wildlife. You will see hundreds of butterflies, poison dart frogs, giant walking sticks, and likely sloths and other wildlife. The wonderful family who runs this farm will prepare a delicious traditional lunch. 

After lunch, we’ll board our bus again and return over the forested continental divide to San Jose (2 hours) where the group will have time to rest up and enjoy a celebratory dinner at a wonderful Asian fusion restaurant called Tin Jo. Head to bed early to be awake in time to head to the airport for your flight the next day. Overnight at Rosa del Paseo Hotel. 


Return home with a new appreciation for the hard work of conservation and to share your experiences. You will be taken to the airport in plenty of time to catch your flight or feel free to extend your stay.

Is This Trip Right For Me?

Costa Rica is a safe and beautiful country that receives more than 1 million international tourists annually. This trip goes off the beaten path for 2 nights at the rustic and remote Las Tortugas Research Station. This is an active trip that requires a level of physical fitness and an ability to manage sometimes challenging conditions including weather and heat, bugs, and a schedule that may be fluid based on conditions on the ground. 

Click here for our full terms and conditions.

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Photo credits: Neil Ever Osborne