+44 1672 519 922

Costa Rica Plastic Oceans Gap Year

Spanish, conservation + community


Itinerary Options

Let's go

Looking for more flexible dates?See our current dates

Let us know your details below and we'll be in touch with options?

Costa Rica Volunteering and Spanish

Preserve the turtles and tackle the plastic

Embrace the ‘pura vida’ and join a team of volunteers on a planet-saving adventure that’ll take you right to the heart of Costa Rica, where you’ll meet a nation of fiercely proud and fun-loving ‘Ticos’ (Costa Ricans’ name for themselves).

It may be small, but this peaceful, sun-drenched corner of Central America holds over 5% of the world’s biodiversity, boasting more national parks per square metre than any other country in the world, both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines and punctuated by coffee growing mountains and active volcanoes.

Your time will be spent on the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s north west Pacific coast where you will concentrate on the effects and solutions of plastic waste to turtle, forest and beach conservation, before nipping inland to tackle a cloud forest adventure, learning to speak Spanish and surfing one of the top 10 surf destinations in the world.

Venture out to Costa Rica to contribute to vital turtle and beach conservation whilst learning to surf, speak Spanish and experience the adrenaline filled cloud forest.

Costa Rica's Program Itinerary

This program delivers a dynamic and varied experience as it includes contrasting locations and projects enabling you explore the coast line and cloud forest whilst contributing to turtle and recycling conservation.

Please note the order of events may change depending on the time of year.


Santa Teresa

Welcome to Costa Rica
Upon touchdown you will travel by bus and boat to the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Utterly beautiful so stay awake.

Your ultimate destination is the Jakera Camp, based in the lively beach town of Santa Teresa, world famous for surf breaks across beaches so pristine, uncrowded and seemingly endless that they are regularly listed in the World’s 10 Best Beaches.

After a day of surfing, sunbathing, Spanish lessons and volunteering, you’ll have time to explore the town which comes alive with funky surf shops, cafes, restaurants and nightspots for every taste and budget.


Jakera Camp
Your base in Santa Teresa will be at the house called Jakera Camp which is just a 10 min walk from the beach. This is a buzzing place - lots of bungalows dotted around the tropical gardens and central hub where you eat and chill out.
Single sex dorms, with bunk beds, western style WC and showers with hot and cold water.

While you are here you will meet other volunteers from all over Europe, creating a great social scene. You all live together but do separate projects.


Breakfast and lunch only.
Dinner is not included. Most volunteers either eat in one of the local restaurants or cook whatever they want in the camp kitchen.

Wk 1

Jakera Camp Spanish + Surfing

Settling in week
During your first week you'll combine Spanish lessons, designed to help you interact with the local community, with surf instruction, so you can take advantage of the beaches on your door step.

Spanish Lessons
You will have two x 45 minute Spanish lessons each weekday, tailored to suit all levels.

A surf instructor will teach you the basic skills required to get you surf safe.

Wk 2 + 3

Jakera Camp Spanish + Plastic Projects

Spanish and Conservation
During these weeks you will combine Spanish with a mix of the following:

Beach and plastic projects
The beaches around Santa Teresa are stunning and have been awarded the "Blue Flag status" which enables them to get international recognition so they can attract more tourists and investment. However, keeping the standards high is an ongoing battle so your help is required with the community led, weekly beach clean-ups. In addition to this Leap volunteers help out at Bionics (a re-cycling centre set up by Pharrell Williams) with a mission of turning the plastic waste into consumer goods including clothes.

On other day you will help build recycling points along the beaches, paint signs and help with other inspiring plastic projects such as the Lego project which converts bottles into life guard towers and bottle tops into cool household accessories.

Wk 4

Cirenas Turtle Conservation

Turtle Conservation
Cirenas stands for 'The Centre for Investigation of Natural and Social Resources. They work in a number of special areas around Costa Rica to protect beaches, forests and rural communities. Through us you have the chance to help them on their Playa Manzanillo Sea Turtle Conservation Project along the coast from Santa Teresa. It is an utterly stunning reserve which includes a farm, forests, rivers and an untouched beach.

Protect and Conserve
Here you’ll be helping protect the eggs and hatchlings of Olive Ridley, Black Turtle, Hawksbill and Leatherback species, who visit this ‘semi-intensive’ nesting beach at night to nest. The main objective of the project is to protect adult female turtles and their nests, from human predators, wildlife and flooding.

You will spend 3 nights and 4 days here working for between 4-6 hours per day. Your jobs will include; hatchery maintenance, beach cleaning, night patrols to look for nesting female turtles (in season), transport of food and water, collection of data and releasing baby turtles in to the ocean (in season).


Cirenas' volunteer house is a rustic, cool bungalow just a 10 mins walk from their private beach. Bathrooms have flushing toilets and cold water showers.


3 meals a day provided.

Wk 5

Jakera Camp or Samara Beach Turtle Conservation

Turtle conservation continued
During this week you will refocus your time back onto the turtles who nest at the nearby beach of Playa Carmen. This is a community run project who always need help - or head to the remote turtle sanctuary at Samara Beach.

Here you will help identify the nests and escort the hatchlings down into the water when needed. Alongside directly helping with the turtles you'll also spend your time helping to conquer the huge amount of plastic pollution, keeping the beach environment free from litter and obstacles. As well as being dangerously consumed by the turtles, the plastic strewed on beaches can confuse and divert hatchlings trying to reach the water for the first time.

Wk 6

Monteverde Cloud Forest Adventure

Venture Inland
Set on top of the spine of Costa Rica’s continental divide, Monteverde is a world above the coastal towns that dot the country's famous shoreline. It is a place of cloud forests, coffee plantations, monkeys, mist, and friendly locals. The town of Santa Elena is small and quaint, filled with tasty restaurants and folksy artisan shops, while the nearby rainforest hosts a remarkable amount of biodiversity.

Due to its high altitude – some 4,662 ft (1,440 m) above sea level – Monteverde is privileged to receive a steady supply of clouds and the life-giving moisture that they contain. This moisture, often in the form of fog, catches on the branches of the tallest trees and drips down to the other organisms below. This helps to support a complex and far-reaching ecosystem, one that harbours over 100 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, tens of thousands of insect species, and over 2,500 varieties of plants, 420 of which are orchids alone.

Trek and Zip Wire Under The Canopy
You will have the chance to explore this internationally recognised environment from trails and trams, along canopy tours or inside museums.

On a daily basis you will walk and explore this amazing location - 2 guided half day hikes are included on day 2 and 3. There are also some amazing optional extra activities like their famous zip wire, horse riding and a coffee tour.

It is a 6-8 hour drive from Santa Teresa, which includes a 2 hour ferry. You will spend about 3 nights, 4 days here during this week.

Guest house in dorm style rooms. Bathrooms, with hot showers.


Breakfast and lunch only.

Dinner will be extra in one of the local restaurants.


COVID-19 safety measures in place

One happy social bubble
On arrival the team will talk you through the camp and town rules, so you know what is expected of you, so you stay safe and limit the chance of infection or transmission to you or others.

If at any point you feel unwell with any covid symptoms (flu like feelings, loss of taste/smell, new continuous cough etc) you need to let the staff know immediately so they can take the necessary action, get you tested and isolated in camp if required.

As you know there is always a risk of catching covid, which the FCDO advice highlights, but by following these instructions you minimise the risk to yourself and others in your team. Respectful teamwork with regard following covid protocol has never been so important, to protect you and others, in order to also avoid covid disrupting your or anyone else’s program.

Please note: If anyone consistently flounces the covid safety rules, undermining the team’s safety, then you may be asked to leave the program with no refund.


Add on Independent Travel

Combine with Guatemala and Mexico

What we are finding is that our teams never want to come home post program and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - certainly making the most of their gap year. We can easily support this through our Leap VIP travel resource which every leaper has access to.

Costa Rica is the perfect spring board for travelling on to Guatemala or Mexico with flights being reasonable and readily available. If you fancy heading slightly further afield you can head on down to South America to complete your gap year in Peru, Ecuador or Colombia to name a few. Please give us a shout and we can tell you more.

Costa Rica Leapers learning to surf on beach.

Options and costs

Please note:

Call us on 01672 519 922 or email to find out about wait lists and any cancellations.

Whats included?

Your food

Please note that we only provide breakfast and lunch at the Jakera Camp in Santa Teresa and in Monteverde. While in Santa Teresa previous Leapers have chosen to combine eating out in with cooking in the house kitchen which is fully equipped and has everything you need, so it's possible to eat cheaply and cook easy food. When in Monteverde you will have to budget for dinner in a restaurant, no self catering option. There are lots of 'eating out' options to suit every budget.


Flights: £800 but this is fluctuating at the moment, so we will keep you posted

Book Now

Request more information

Beach Life

Bliss. You will be living right on the beach down the road from a hip surf town.

Social Life

The house can accommodate up to 40 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

The Bigger Picture

Be part of the worldwide push to protect the turtle and preserve the forests.

Surfing & Spanish

Big part of the program and lifestyle here. Can't do without trying both.

Monday to Friday

Expect to be busy with your Spanish and projects 5 days per week for about 5 hours a day.


Weekends will generally be free time. You’re welcome to stay and chill at the Jungle Camp or head off for a change of scene.

Backpacker favourites:

  • Downtime in one the local yoga retreat.
  • Spend a day white water rafting
  • Kayaking & snorkelling around the coast line.
  • Jungle canopy tour - best do this in Monteverde.
  • Whale and dolphin watching.
  • Horse ride through the forest.

Jungle Surf Camp - it's so much more.

Our Costa Rica program is run by the dynamic Chris Patterson who together with his wife, family and team have created the Jungle Surf Camp on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Chris has run travel and Spanish courses since the 1990’s and has become increasingly passionate about the crisis of plastic waste in our waters and the damage it is doing. Seeing dolphins and turtles time and time again, washed up on the shoreline wrapped up in discarded fishing nets was enough to break him into action.

So, Chris now welcomes volunteers into his home, lovingly named the Jungle Surf Camp, who will set about learning Spanish with the aim to get out into the community to bang the drum about plastic. Backed by the Oceans of Plastic campaign and documentaries he wants our leapers to teach, explain and steer changing attitudes.

Practically, he has set up village recycling stations and organises rubbish collections, he encourages supermarkets to stop using plastic bags and beach bars not to use plastic drinking straws…simple initiatives but together will help enforce the message and give practical meaning to the bigger picture. Community beach clean-ups are also now part of everyday life and blue flag awards are being handed out.

Chris has also built a great relationship with Cirenas – one of the leading private reserves tackling the plight of the turtle on the Pacific coast. They now take our volunteers as part of their program, as they have consistently turned up and got stuck in.

Chris and the combined efforts of all the volunteers are making a difference but it can't stop now the momentum is rolling...

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our Leapers have been getting up to...

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

Watch our videos

Costa Rica Plastic Oceans

Spanish + surfing + turtles + environment

Costa Rica Plastic Oceans

Leap team highlights

Costa Rica - Plastic Ocean's Team

Team highlights

"One of my favorite memories from my trip to Costa Rica was the first time I released a baby turtle into the ocean"

I was immediately lucky because most baby turtles crawl out of their nests in the dead of night, so you don't get to enjoy the sight of seeing them walk to the water when it's so dark out.

When I saw my first baby turtle it was just before the sun went down, so it was still incredibly bright out! Watching all the babies push their little flippers against the sand as they fight to get to the water is something else. They are so excited to be alive! It's something so wonderfully inspiring that I will always remember.

- Madison

"This experience was life changing."

Although this is from a personal point of view, i wanted to share the great personal development this trip gave me. I believe travel and unknown/unusual environments affects and shapes any individual.

It altered my being in a way i find hard to articulate, it changes you and challenges you that no 9-5 working existence ever could.

- Olivia

"You changed my life"

I love Jakera more than anything and you guys changed my life so much. I am forever in debt to all the things I have learnt here and the people I have been lucky enough to meet. Thank you to every single person at Jakera.

- Jack R

"Best food!"

The best food I have ever eaten in my life

- Jack

"The Leap were very thorough"

I spoke to The Leap and they gave me thorough information regarding what to take and what to expect. If I didn't have anything Chris at Jakera would always help me get what i needed.

- Kit P

"You felt prepared"

The daily schedule was always written out at the start of the day, so you felt prepared for what was happening when.

- Mimi

"Easy Peasy with The Leap"

You guys always answered questions so fast! Zoe is outstanding!! Made travelling during a pandemic easy peasy

- Hanna


Hi to all at The Leap,

This is a bit late but a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in organising Herbie Purces Costa Rica trip. In his own words “it was insane”.

So wonderful they had a “normal” experience in abnormal times.

Our thanks again

- Gwen Purce

"I cannot recommend enough to all of my friends"

To everyone at The Leap

Archie had the most wonderful six weeks, probably the best he has had so far in his life! We are so glad we choose The Leap to begin his adventures traveling. He said all the Leapers were great people and really fun to be with. The experiences were just incredible and learning about the plastic and turtles fascinating. I think he has made some friends for life and if he ever returns from his travels we will hear lots more about it. Archie really liked Amelia and said she was fun, supportive and a wonderful leader. Just a really fabulous experience which I cannot recommend enough to all of my friends. In a couple of years my daughter will be coming to join a trip on The Leap. Thank you so so much.

- Henrietta Mogg

Get in contact

With the covid travel experts

Worried about how to travel and plan your gap year through this pandemic?

We can help. We have sent lots of gappers away through the last 12 months and can confidently call ourselves Covid Travel Experts. Get in contact to start the ball rolling.

Or give us a call on +44 1672 519 922

And chat with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team

Opt in below to help us keep track of your planning, so each time you talk to us you can pick up where you left off.

Yes please, let's keep life simple.