Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation and Research - Loop Abroad

Summer programs
Costa Rica Sea Turtle Conservation and Research

Applications are open for Summer 2022

SAVE $100! Make your deposit by Oct 31, 2021 and qualify for our Early Enrollment Discount!

Loop Abroad offers both a one-week and a two-week version of the Sea Turtle Conservation Costa Rica. These programs are open to participants age 16 and up.

Your group will work with LAST, Latin American Sea Turtles, helping with their sea turtle conservation projects on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. Each program also includes assisting in a local one-day spay and neuter program, which your tuition dollars help to support.

As part of the Osa In Water project, you will help with projects including:

  • In-water monitoring of sea turtles
  • Rescue and rehabilitation center
  • Mangrove reforestation program

You’ll learn all about sea turtles and sea turtle conservation in your time volunteering with this internationally respected organization, and you’ll help to support their important conservation work with your tuition dollars.

Who It’s For

This program is designed for participants interested in learning more about sea turtles or conservation work and getting hands-on experience. Participants must be at least 16 years old. Most are 16 to 22.

There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Each group of up to 24 students will share site staff and classroom time, and work together on projects on-site. All programming is in English – no Spanish skills are required (but if you have them, you’ll have some opportunities to use them!)


  • Live on the beach in the beautiful Osa Peninsula in Western Costa Rica
  • Enjoy exploring nature from kayaking adventures to national park hikes
  • Participate in a dog and cat spay-neuter campaign
  • Observe sea turtles in the wild
  • Help to monitor wild sea turtles from the boat, in the sea, and on land
  • Get practical training in data collection to prepare yourself for your career or studies working with wildlife
  • Learn about sea turtles from staff biologists at this respected conservation effort
  • Learn and practice some Spanish! (no Spanish language skills required)

Dates open for application

Summer 2022

Two Week Program: 

  • Jun 26 – July 9, 2022
  • July 10 – July 23, 2022

One Week Program:

  • June 12 – 19, 2022

 apply now

These program sessions are covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

*The dates above indicate the day you must arrive in San Jose and depart from San Jose, which may mean leaving the US the day prior or returning the day after, depending on your flight time and beginning travel location.The Osa Peninsula is a long drive from the San Jose airport. For this reason, we cannot accommodate students arriving and departing outside of the required arrival and departure days.

*Please note that there is no group flight for this program. Students will be picked up and dropped off at the San Jose airport. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

Want to travel longer with us? Add another two-week program!

This program is a full adventure on its own, but it can easily be combined with a veterinary medicine course in Costa Rica, Panama, or Belize with minimal travel time and extra costs. Combine any two programs and save $100 on each program tuition!

See all the programs you could link together!

Hours and Credit

You will receive a certificate for 40 service hours per program week upon completion.

Most of your classroom and fieldwork time on this program is spent participating in research. Students can calculate their own record of research hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

The Sea Turtles at LAST

This project does not have captive sea turtles or tanks – the sea turtles you will be researching, looking for, and working with are wild animals. As such, you will learn the proper way to capture, assess, and release sea turtles for their monitoring, health, and safety.

The Osa In-Water project was founded in 2010, after WIDECAST was successful with the same in-water monitoring method in 2007 in Cahuita, in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica. The dynamics of the local sea turtle populations is poorly understood, and while some information on females has been gathered from nesting beaches, little is known about population structure, genetic origin and in-water habitat use.

Sea turtles spend only 1% of their lives on the nesting beaches and due to this behavioral pattern, mainly only adult females are studied. Very little information is available about juvenile populations and sex ratios of adult populations.

Therefore, more in-water work is needed to increase knowledge about habitats used by sea turtles in different life stages in order to assess the types of threats they are exposed to.

On the Osa Peninsula, LAST is working mainly with the Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Pacific Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), also known as the Black sea turtle. Both species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The Pacific Green sea turtle is ranked as “Endangered” and the Hawksbill sea turtle as “Critically Endangered”, which means if we don’t take serious measures, it is very likely that they will become extinct. For that reason, every helping hand is welcome! 

This project is hard work. You will be out in the water and on the beach at all times of day helping with different aspects of sea turtle conservation. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are willing to put in the work, the experience will be extremely rewarding.

Groups and Staff

Groups will have a maximum of 24 students each. During your program, you may be split into smaller groups throughout the day to work on different aspects of the research and conservation projects in smaller groups.

Housing and Meals

You will be living at the OSA in Water project at LAST (Latin American Sea Turtles) on the Osa Peninsula. A Loop Abroad staff member will be on-site 24/7 to help you each day and in case of emergency. Housing will include simple, shared rooms: rooms are shared with other Loop Abroad students of the same gender. Bathrooms are shared and have cold running water. Wifi is available, but you should not plan to use wifi dependably for high-bandwidth tasks such as attending virtual meetings or streaming video, as it will be shared by a large number of students using it at the same time.

Housing has screened windows and fans. You will be asked to bring a mosquito net as well in order to help assure you are protected from mosquitoes in the evenings.

Please note that because summer is the dry season, you will be asked to stick to quick showers and limit laundry to a maximum of once per week.

All meals are included in your tuition. We can accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets and food allergies with advanced request.

Please note that this is a project on the beach on a peninsula known for spectacular wildlife and conservation, and as such it offers simple, rustic lodging and food.


Two-week program: Regular tuition for the two-week program is $3,450 $3450 – SAVE $100 when you enroll by October 31!

One-week program: Regular tuition for the one-week program is $2,450 $2450 – SAVE $100 when you enroll by October 31!

Tuition does not include international airfare. 

There is a $100 tuition discount for combining this program with another 2-week program.

During COVID-19, conservation efforts around the world have suffered as they have lost the funding and help often provided by tourists and visitors. Your participation in this program helps to support this important sea turtle conservation effort in a fragile time. Your support truly means the world to organizations we work with. There is so much that we can learn from their experts on staff!

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Tuition is all-inclusive less airfare. Tuition does not include medical insurance (the policy we suggest is under $25), passport, snacks, and any COVID vaccinations or testing required for travel.

This program requires you to pack certain items you might not already have and may need to purchase for the trip, including: headlamp, extra headlamp batteries, waterproof watch, a mosquito net, reef-safe sunscreen, a dry bag, and a snorkel and mask.

Airfare is not included. There is no group flight for this program. We will have multiple pick-up and drop-off times at the San Jose airport on arrival and departure day. Your transportation between the San Jose airport and the program location is provided and included in your tuition.

COVID and Safety

All participants will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. All participants will adhere to the Loop Abroad COVID policy which includes providing a negative COVID test within 2-3 days prior to travel, wearing a mask when flying and when interacting outside of your “travel pod” (your group and staff), daily symptom report, testing if symptoms are present, and testing before return to the US. Loop Abroad had ZERO COVID cases in 2021!

If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we offer a full refund of all tuition paid, including the deposit.

Want to travel with us longer?

Link this program to another two-week program and save $100 on each tuition. Costa Rica programs are an excellent choice to combine with Panama, as air travel between the two locations is short and convenient. This program can combine with:


Costa Rica is a popular travel destination for visitors from the US because of its wildlife, beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests. Travelers find it both safe and welcoming.

We have worked with Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) to design a sea turtle research program for you that will give you hands-on experience guided by local experts. While you will experience living on a beach on the beautiful Pacific coast of Costa Rica, this hard-working program will not be a relaxing beach vacation! You will, of course, have time to explore the area and enjoy the beach, but there is a lot of important work to do when it comes to sea turtle conservation. We’ll be starting early in the morning each day!

The Osa In-water project is located in Playa Blanca on the Dulce Gulf of the Osa Peninsula. The region is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world including the Dulce Gulf, one of 4 tropical fiords worldwide. Surrounded by different kinds of beaches, mangroves, and estuaries, the Gulf creates unique habitats for permanent and migratory species. More than 40 different fish species, as well as dolphins, whales, whale sharks, and sea turtles thrive in various ecosystems of the Gulf. The Osa Peninsula hosts a large variety of tropical ecosystems, providing habitats to numerous animals like scarlet macaws, monkeys, sloths, wild cats, and other wildlife, and countless tropical plants. A truly lush nature that still needs to be explored and researched is waits here for volunteers. The exceptional natural surroundings make conservation work an exciting and enjoyable experience!

LAST is part of WIDECAST, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which is an expert network of biologists, managers, community leaders, and educators in more than 40 nations and territories who are all committed to the recovery and sustainable management of depleted sea turtle populations.

LAST asks important questions to guide their research:

What would a sustainably managed sea turtle population look like? What would it look like to a government? To a fisherman, a coastal community, a child? To an hotelier, a dive operator, a tourist? What would it look like to a reef, a sea grass bed, a sandy beach?

From the perspective of sustainable development, a sustainably managed sea turtle population would be defined as a population that meets the ecological, economic, socio-cultural, political, aesthetic, and spiritual needs of the present without compromising the ability of the population to fulfill these needs in the future.

LAST seeks to bring the best science to legislation and policy, education and outreach, for training and professionals, conservation and advocacy, and to research and population monitoring.

This program is designed to both ask big questions and empower you to make more informed choices everyday – choices rooted in the belief that decisions today create the choices and opportunities of tomorrow just as the decisions of past generations painted the landscape that we see today.


This itinerary is subject to change but should give you a good overall sense of the program. Above all else, we want to keep you safe during your program and minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19. To accomplish that, we will:

  • Require students and staff to wear face masks at all time and to use hand sanitizer regularly
  • Provide housing that is only for Loop Abroad students and staff
  • Provide private transport from and to the airport that is only for Loop Abroad students and staff
  • Limit travel during the program – all curriculum/research portions of the program, including housing and meals, take place at LAST
  • Keep our fun excursions outdoors

You will arrive in San Jose on the first day of your program and meet your group. We will then travel together to LAST. (We will advise you on what time to arrive if you’d like to minimize waiting time to meet your group.) It is a long drive from the airport – we have private transportation for our group.

One-week Program Itinerary

The one-week program gives you a short version of the Sea Turtle Conservation Costa Rica program. It’s perfect for participants who can’t travel for a full two weeks but still want a full travel experience.

You will learn all about the sea turtle conservation project and the work done at LAST, and have two full days of working on turtle research. This includes boat capture, monitoring and health tracking, and ocean release as well as beach monitoring. You’ll have two full days working on other aspects of the conservation project, including the mangrove reforestation program, which is vital for turtle health. 

One day of your program will be spent assisting in a local cat and dog spay/neuter campaign. Then, we’ll have a chance for fun activities to explore Costa Rica, such as a day hiking and exploring in the national park and a kayak tour of the area.

Two-week Program Itinerary

Our regular two-week program is a full itinerary that lets you gain a deep understanding of the LAST conservation project and feel at home on the beach where you’ll be living.

You will learn all about the sea turtle conservation project and the work done at LAST, and have four full days of working on turtle research. This includes boat capture, monitoring and health tracking, and ocean release, as well as beach monitoring. 

You’ll also have four full days working on other aspects of the conservation project, including the mangrove reforestation program, which is vital for turtle health. 

One day of your program will be spent assisting in a local cat and dog spay/neuter campaign. We will help provide you with the training you need so that you can be as helpful as possible during this important project and get the most out of it. 

This longer program also gives us a chance for fun activities to explore Costa Rica, such as a day hiking and exploring in the national park, a kayak tour of the area, learning some Spanish, and a visit to a local chocolate farm. The two-week program is perfect for students who want more research hours and a chance to build a deep connection to sea turtle conservation.

We will return to San Jose on the final program day for departing flights. 



There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help.

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 1 at 11:59pm Pacific Time! The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or to one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The round of applications due March 1 will cover in-person programs or internships that start between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023. This cycle encompasses Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Academic Year 2022-2023 programs.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Loop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one online program of your choice starting January 2022 or later. Applications are due November 30, 2021.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. You do not need to be enrolled in an online course to apply. You can apply for the scholarship first and make your online course selection after you receive a decision about the scholarship. (Note: if you make any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded up to the value of one online program of your choice, not including an online semester.) 

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

How to apply:
In order to apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Submit the application to the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on instagram ( and make an instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post.

Announcement of Award: The scholarship winner will be notified by November 25th.

girl elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her in order to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad online program of their choice. If the chosen winner has already made payments toward his or her Loop Abroad tuition, those payments will be refunded in full.

Scholarship is non-transferable. If student cannot attend, scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.


The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receiving any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs or 2-week travel programs.

The next round of applications for the Gilman scholarship open in January 2022. The deadline will be in March. At that time, you can apply for scholarships to use on any program starting between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarship:

The Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs of 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

Applications for the 2021-2022 school year are closed. 

The Fund for Education Abroad:

The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial need who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate on any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000 and can be applied for programs that run for at least 28 days.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 will open November 16, 2021 and be due by January 20, 2022. Students may review the scholarship and apply here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include: Travel Video Contest:

The 2020 Travel Video Contest gives students the opportunity to win a scholarship by sending in an original video discussing:

  • How COVID-19 has impacted your international education or cultural exchange experience abroad
  • Your ideal international education or cultural exchange after Covid-19

There are several prizes available ranging from $250 to $4,000.

In order to apply, students must create a 4-minute video and submit an online entry form. Tips and tricks for filming a video entry can be found here. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

Submissions are due by October 13, 2021. Apply here.

Get more details about this program…

"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"

Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Wright State University, Dayton, OH

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