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One of the best ways to experience Costa Rica is to volunteer. Not only is volunteering a great way to help foster local economies in a sustainable way, it also opens the door to a potentially life-changing travel experience.

Costa Rica is justifiably famous as a leading "voluntourism" destination, particularly because of the wide range of programs it offers: animal lovers can help baby sea turtles scamper out to sea, tree huggers can help plant new life in the forest, green thumbs can try their hand at organic agriculture... there are opportunities for everyone. Here are our top five picks.

Teach English
Although you may take your mother tongue for granted, English opens doors throughout the world. To gain valuable teaching experience while potentially changing someone's life, check out the programs offered by Amerispan Unlimited and Sustainable Horizon.

Save the turtles
Baby sea turtles are just about the gosh darn cutest little things you have ever laid your eyes on, though there are tragically less and less of them with each passing year. For a chance to help give these little guys a fighting chance, consider a volunteer placement with Pretoma.

Help kids
Few things in life are as rewarding as putting a smile on the face of a child, especially one who is in desperate need of your help. If you want to get involved in youth work, a good point of contact is Amerispan Unlimited.

Protect the forest
If you are an aspiring forester, or simply want to feel good about saving the rain forest, consider a placement with the Bosque Eterno de los Niños (Children's Eternal Forest). There are opportunities here to learn about trail maintenance, surveying, administration and wildlife management.

Go organic
Organic farming is the wave of the future, so why not take some time to learn how to grow a better tomato. One of the country's best volunteer-run farms is Finca la Flor de Paraíso, which offers training in a variety of agrarian disciplines.

© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Volunteering in Costa Rica’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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