Costa Rican Sea Turtles

Expedition Briefing


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COVID-19 Enhanced Health and Safety Measures

This project has been amended to incorporate several health and safety measures to allow responsible fielding of teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please refer to the COVID Disclosure Form for more details. 

Before Fielding 
  • Vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all participants. Staying up to date with your vaccinations, including receiving booster doses if available, is strongly encouraged. 
  • Become familiar with and abide by the local COVID requirements up to date vaccinations, including boosters, mandatory quarantine, or other guidelines. 
  • Do not travel to your Earthwatch expedition or program if you: 
    • are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell), 
    • are confirmed or suspected as having COVID-19 within the past 10 days
    • have been in close contact with someone suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 in the past 10 days 
While in the Field 
  • Face masks will be required in line with local regulations and/or when instructed by project leadership. In areas or on projects where mask use is no longer required, the use of face masks will be optional. Any individual who wishes to continue to mask will be supported in that decision. 
  • Participants and project staff will continue to wash or sanitize hands frequently and maintain physical distance whenever possible. 
  • All team members will be asked to monitor their own health through daily health checks. 
  • Recreational activities may be limited or require additional face mask requirements to reduce the risk of exposure to team members or to the local community.
  • Meals and activities will take place outside whenever possible. 
  • Ventilation will be increased indoors and within enclosed vehicles whenever possible. 

Important Notice: The Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Field Station—the site of your Earthwatch expedition—has several additional policies in place for the control of COVID-19 transmission. As Earthwatch participants, you will be required to comply with these policies, including:

  • Participants must take a SARS-CoV-2 antigen test (home test) on the day of travel to the expedition (i.e. prior to boarding your flight to Costa Rica). If you are traveling in Costa Rica before meeting your team, testing should be conducted on the day of the rendezvous before joining the group. 

Participants must travel with and self-administer a SARS-CoV-2 antigen test (home test) once again on Day 3 of the expedition (3 days after arrival). Volunteers will be instructed to wear a mask when entering the biologists’ side of the field station until a negative test result is obtained on Day 3. KN95 (FFP2) or KN94 masks are strongly recommended. Masking will not be required at the volunteer lodging. Additional testing will be required should an individual exhibit symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during the expedition.

The Research

The project began in 1988–89 with the goal of protecting and monitoring the population of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that nested within Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas. The leatherback turtle is the largest of all the sea turtles, growing up to lengths of 3 meters (9 feet) , and can weigh as much as 916 kilograms (2,020 pounds). The leatherback turtle received its name from its carapace (shell) that, unlike other sea turtles, is made of leathery skin, not bone. Leatherback turtles are found in all the oceans of the world except for the polar oceans.

When the project began, and before the establishment of Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, almost all the leatherback nests laid within its boundaries were poached by humans who removed the eggs for consumption. Poaching was effectively eliminated in the early 1990s with the establishment of Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, but a number of other threats to the survival of the leatherback turtles have now arisen, including: incidental capture by commercial fisheries (Roe et al. 2014), boat strikes, predation of nests by invasive dogs and raccoons, and climate change (Santidrián Tomillo et al. 2012, Saba et al. 2012). In addition, leatherbacks frequently ingest plastic bags as they look deceptively like their main food sources: jellyfish. At this project, we continually strive to discover and implement new methods to eliminate and/or mitigate the threats faced by the leatherback turtles in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Since 2010, we have expanded the scope of our program to also include the East Pacific green (Chelonia mydas) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles that nest alongside the leatherback turtles in Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas.

Research Aims

On this project, the researchers study the population status, nesting ecology, and in-water behavior of sea turtles and assess the impacts of human activities on these species. Understanding their population status and nesting ecology has been integral to protecting their nesting beaches. In addition, identifying their migration routes and the effects of fisheries has been critical to the development of international treaties and conservation management strategies. We aim to inform and improve all conservation management strategies for Eastern Pacific sea turtles by continually uncovering more about the secret lives of these majestic animals.

This research has been instrumental in establishing and maintaining the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas and the Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Field Station. Additionally, it led to a management plan for the entire area that impacts all land development and water use. This national park is now being used as a model for beach protection and preservation in Costa Rica and throughout Central America. In addition, we are part of the Laúd OPO network ( and collaborate with all countries in the eastern Pacific to protect leatherback turtles throughout the region, both on the nesting beaches and in the ocean.

The team maintains a long-term database on the population biology and nesting ecology of leatherback turtles nesting on the beaches in the national park complex where you will work—one of the longest population datasets for sea turtles worldwide! Recent years have shown a dramatic decline in the number of nesting leatherbacks recorded, with some teams reporting zero throughout their time in the field (although they have seen other turtle species nesting). Scientists and policymakers need this information to understand impacts from poaching, fisheries by-catch, beach development and pollution over time. In addition, we now have enough years of data that we have been able to assess the impacts of climatic processes on the reproductive behavior and success of sea turtles. This information is critical to understanding how sea turtles will be affected by climate change. In addition, this information has led to current experiments conducted on the beach aiming to mitigate the adverse effects of the warming weather conditions on sea turtle nests and help create an updated nest protection protocol that will be used as a model to other sea turtle projects as well.

The team also works to involve the local community in our research and conservation efforts. We run a program to educate school children on the benefits of turtles and the natural resources of the area. Further, we have both a “Lights out” and a “No straw, please” campaign going as we try to educate visitors and locals about threats turtles face due to environmentally harmful human practices. In addition, we have created and supported local guide cooperatives, which provides income for several local families, as well as a cooperative of artisans who make and sell handicrafts created with renewable local resources.

We have helped foster a sustainable local economy that works in harmony with the management and protection of the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas and the leatherback sea turtle, and they look forward to ushering you into the community.

How You Will Help

On the first day, you will be oriented on how to assist the scientists in working with the turtles on the beach. Informal presentations about the main project, other research projects, and need for conservation may be given during the evenings prior to the activities.

  • Walking the beaches in search of nesting turtles and recording data on their nests. The number of leatherback, green, and ridley turtles seen per night varies, and you may walk up to 10 miles during the shift. Typically, participants will see anywhere from 1 to 5 turtles during walks, although it may happen that no turtles are seen at all during the night. During the 2021–2022 season, volunteers from each expedition did get to see turtles nesting (even if not always leatherbacks) and they got to help protect several turtle nests!
  • Collecting eggs from newly laid clutches in danger of tidal inundation or predation by mammals (especially raccoons) for relocation to the hatchery (depending on the season).
  • Assisting in scanning and reading the tags (PIT or metal depending on the species) of all nesting females and measuring their carapace length and width.
  • Counting eggs as the turtle lays them within the egg-chamber.
  • Helping to check each turtle for scars from boat-strikes or from interactions with fishing gear. If necessary, removing any hooks found.
  • Recording data 
  • Walking the beaches at dawn to verify the number of nesting turtles from the night before (approximately 10 kilometers [6 miles]; 2 to 3 hours).
  • Taking nest temperatures and recording location of nests.
  • Carrying equipment and assisting in excavations of hatched nests to obtain data on hatching success.
  • Cleaning equipment, preparing tags, and packing for the next night’s activities, and possibly getting involved with other research projects, depending on the expedition.
  • Assisting with the local education program, which includes visits by schoolchildren to the beach and hatchery. These activities are strictly dependent on school schedule and timing. You will be informed upon arrival if such events are planned during your stay.

Life in the Field


Research activities will mostly take place at night. Bright lights disturb sea turtles and disorient hatchlings, which can be deadly for them. Nesting females may return to the ocean without nesting, and young hatchlings may die from exhaustion and/or getting predated because of them not finding their way to the sea. These worries have caused many governments to impose very strict rules for light management on sea turtle nesting beaches.

The following rules apply to your expedition:

  • Photography is NOT allowed on nesting beaches at night. Therefore, cameras are NOT allowed on nesting beaches at night. This even includes cameras with high-speed film and no flash, as well as smart phones.
  • If you are interested in taking photos for a professional display, a government permit is required. These permits are difficult to obtain, expensive, and designed for large film crews. If you are interested in applying for such a permit, you must contact us at least 45 days before the expedition.
  • The project staff creates a shared folder each year containing photos from the current season that they will happily share with you. Proper copyright acknowledgement must be given at all times.
  • Flashlights and headlamps: Only red light is allowed to be used on the beach at night. The project will supply you with a red filter for your light appropriate for beach work if you need one. If you have your own red headlamp, we recommend bringing it. To preserve the serenity of the nesting habitat, flashlights will only be used when necessary for research tasks and cannot be used to aid in walking along the beach.

The restrictions mentioned above only apply during nighttime activities. Photographs can be taken during all daytime activities, including nest excavations and morning walks. There is also a small chance of seeing a daytime nesting turtle. If this happens, we thoroughly recommend that you bring your camera to this once-in-a-lifetime experience, keeping in mind that all photography needs to adhere to Park regulations (e.g., no selfies with the turtle allowed).


It is the policy of the National Park that volunteers who have consumed ANY amount of alcohol* during the day cannot be permitted on the beach to participate in that evening’s turtle survey, for their safety and the safety of the turtles. Please respect this policy. 

If you plan to join the evening survey, be sure not to consume any alcoholic beverages during the day—not even a single beer or glass of wine at lunch. If you do consume alcohol during the day, you will be ineligible to resume surveys until the next morning.

*Minors (under age 18) are prohibited from consuming any alcohol at all during the entire expedition as per local law and Earthwatch policy.


Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

  • Day 1—Arrival and Orientation: After meeting the team at the Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Field Station, the project staff members will introduce themselves and provide an orientation talk. They will guide you in what to expect regarding park and field station regulations and rules, safety, eating arrangements, daytime activities, night work on the beach, and recreational time. That night the biologists will take you out on your first night patrol and hopefully you will see your first nesting sea turtle for the trip!
  • Days 2–8—Fieldwork: Work and activities will be posted at the station, and you will often work in small groups. An estimated schedule follows:
  • Night: We will spend around five or six hours on the beach per night, arriving three hours before high tide and staying for about three hours past high tide. With your team members, you will walk the beach collecting data on each nesting female observed. From November to mid-December, we will relocate nests into the hatchery, and from mid-December to February, we monitor nests in the hatchery and then release the hatchlings after we see them emerge from the nest. Depending on the tide, we will leave the beach between 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. If necessary, the night work is completed in two shifts (7:00–12:00 and 12:00–5:00).
  • 5:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.: Volunteers on morning beach surveys will leave around 5:00 a.m. You will walk up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) while counting nests, fixing markers, and doing other fieldwork.
  • 11:00 a.m.–Breakfast: We eat together each day and discuss the previous night's turtles and plan for the day. You can walk the quarter mile to Kike’s (the restaurant where we have most meals) or go in the project van.
  • 12:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m.: You will generally have free time during this period. We organize activities for volunteers to go on tours and other excursions that we offer. These are dependent on availability, but may include a tour of a local estuary or snorkeling and swimming at Playa Carbón.
  • 3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.: Those visiting nests to measure temperatures leave at 3:00 p.m. and work for a few hours on the beach. Other groups will fix markers and perform any hatchery maintenance work. Maintenance work on the hatchery and excavation of hatchery nests will be done during the afternoon. If nests are found the previous night, nest marking, relocation, and excavations will occur. These duties typically take one or two hours.
  • Other work relating to student projects will occur on an as-needed basis and will be posted along with other daily activities. When available, groups may have the option of a day excursion to the fishing village of El Jobo to assist boat-based research being conducted by a partner organization of The Leatherback Trust. 
  • 6:00 p.m.: Each night, we will have dinner together at Kike’s. Some evenings, either before or after dinner, depending on the work schedule, a staff member will present a slideshow or give an informal talk on the research.
  • Day 8—Evening: On Day 8, we will share a wrap-up dinner and take a trip to a beautiful spot to enjoy a breathtaking Costa Rican sunset.
  • Day 9—Departure: It is best to arrange late morning flights because you may be on the beach until early morning. It is not possible to stay at the accommodations past 2:00 p.m. on the day of departure.

Accommodations and Food

* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or single's accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.

Your team will stay at the Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Field Station, located in Playa Grande just behind the beach.

At the station, you’ll have access to a kitchen, dining area, and lounge/classroom area. You can also enjoy a number of amenities in your free time. The freshwater swimming pool at the station is open during the day, and the beach, only 25 meters away, provides a pleasant spot to relax during your time off. One hammock will also be set up to hang at the station. We have a large library of paperback books. Many visitors also take walks through the local habitats to bird watch.

You may do laundry by hand in an outside washbasin, but keep in mind that things dry very slowly due to the humidity (especially in October–December). A laundry service can also be provided for a fee (typically about US$3–5 for a small bag of clothes).

From December–February, there is nominal rainfall in the local area. We experience water restrictions during this dry season and so we ask all volunteers to please conserve water whenever possible. This may include shorter showers and restrictions on washing clothes.


The station has three bedrooms for volunteers. When possible, people of the same gender will share these rooms, or they will be used to accommodate couples. The number of volunteers per room will depend on the size of the team. Each room has bunk beds. Privacy in the house is limited and depends on the number of volunteers at the station.

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgment. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


The station has two bathrooms for volunteers, each of which has a toilet, hot water, and a spacious shower. Sinks and mirrors are located outside the toilet areas. Both bathrooms are unisex and shared by everyone.


You can charge digital cameras or other electronic equipment at the station, and it has air conditioning. Voltage is 120, 60 hertz, generally with flat two-pin plugs and some three-pronged plugs.


A wireless Internet connection is available. You may bring your own laptop, but we caution you to take responsibility for any expensive equipment you bring along.

Telephone Dialing Codes: When calling Costa Rica from an international phone, dial 00506 and then the number. When calling within Costa Rica from a domestic line, omit the 506 and dial the local number. When calling another country from Costa Rica, dial 00, followed by the other country’s country code (e.g., 1 for the U.S. and 44 for the U.K.) and the number. PLEASE NOTE that all landline phone numbers in Costa Rica are preceded by a 2, and all Costa Rican cell phone numbers are preceded by an 8 (following the country code 506 if necessary).

Check with your cell phone provider to obtain any carrier- specific dialing codes you may need; many providers have dialing procedures that differ from these directions.

Please note: Earthwatch encourages volunteers to minimize outgoing calls and immerse themselves in the experience; likewise, family and friends should restrict calls to urgent messages only. Emergency communications will be prioritized.


We’ll eat breakfasts and dinners at Kike’s, a local restaurant about a quarter mile away from the field station, but we typically will not have sit-down lunches. If you wish to make something to eat at lunchtime, some staples will be provided at the station. Volunteers on past expeditions have generally found that two meals per day are sufficient.

Local dishes tend to include meat and fish, and while vegetarian meals are usually available, the restaurant can’t offer much variety. Vegan meals can be more difficult to arrange, depending on what the restaurant has available. If you prefer several small meals or need snacks, you may wish to bring your own supply to supplement the menu.


The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Fruit, pancakes, eggs, vegetables, toast, French toast, omelets, and rice and beans. Fresh fruit smoothies are also available.
  • Lunch: You might want to bring your own snacks to eat between breakfast and dinner. Basic food items such as sandwich materials, fruit, cookies, crackers, and cereal will be available at the station.
  • Dinner: Vegetables, rice, beans, salad, meat, poultry, fish, pizza
  • Snacks: You may prepare your own sandwiches, cookies, crackers, cereal, biscuits, etc. (a small grocery store near the station sells food and bottles of water inexpensively).
  • Beverages: Fruit juices, coffee, soft drinks, and water. The tap water is potable, and we encourage drinking tap water over bottled water to reduce plastic consumption and aid in our conservation mission. Please bring two water bottles that you can refill and carry with you in the field.

Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut, or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms.

Project Conditions

The information that follows is as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that conditions may change.

Temperatures are usually in the mid-80s to upper-90s°F (30–35°C) during the day, but cool off significantly in the evening, usually to about 60°F (20°C). The rainy season runs from July to mid-November, with dry, hot, and windy conditions the rest of the year. Volunteers on expeditions in November will experience rain and high humidity, so we recommend a light rain parka and a light, long-sleeved sweatshirt for cooler nights. The dry season extends from December to the end of March, when it tends to be warm, windy, and dry. Rolling hills and grassland surrounds the beach.


For weather and region-specific information, please visit and search for your project location.

Essential Eligibility Requirements

All participants must be able to:

  • Move in soft sand for most of the night (walking a total of more than 10 mi/16km for 4–6 hours per night). This activity is quite strenuous and may take place under difficult conditions (high tides, rain, high humidity, etc.); consider doing preparatory back, calf, and thigh strengthening exercises well before participation. See the packing list for suggested footwear for these walking conditions.
  • Enjoy being outdoors and be able to handle all types of weather.
  • Endure tropical (hot and humid) work conditions.
  • Shift their sleep cycles throughout the duration of the expedition; we will work through the night and catch up on sleep during the daytime.
  • Stay with the team and avoid obstacles while patrolling the beach in the dark or very low light.
  • Communicate with team leaders and fellow team members by voice, rather than visually, in the dark or very low light.
  • Get low to the ground, often on one’s knees or belly, to excavate turtle nests if and when needed.
  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Take an active role in one’s own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Always comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures.
  • Be able to effectively communicate to the staff if experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds, often in close proximity, for the duration of the team.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is not your own.

Health and Safety


The project will have cell phones and two-way radios for communication among the team while conducting fieldwork.

A doctor’s office and a dentist’s office are within five minutes of the project site. Anyone with an emergency can receive care at a clinic within 15 minutes of the site and a hospital within 45 minutes, in Santa Cruz.

Physician, Nurse, or EMT on Staff: Project staff members are not medical professionals.

Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up to date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) and you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or regions where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.

Please note that the Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas requests that each volunteer be approved by a medical professional to participate in this project. To fulfill this request, please have your doctor or primary care provider complete the Doctor’s Signature Form and submit it to Earthwatch as soon as possible.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is required for all participants. Staying up to date with your vaccinations, including receiving booster doses as applicable is strongly encouraged.

Project Risks and Precautions


Walking in soft sand on the beach can be strenuous, especially at night in the dark. You must be in good physical condition and have good vision. Comfortable, closed-toe footwear (such as sneakers or hiking boots) and socks are essential to reduce the risk of broken toes, blisters, twisted ankles, and other injuries. Some of the field biologists recommend Crocs sandals with thick socks as a possible option.


Venomous snakes are present in the area but are notably rare. The venomous snakes present in Guanacaste are coral snakes, the fer de lance (terciopelo), and the Central American rattlesnake (cascabel).

Bees and bugs are plentiful, though insects are not as bad on the Pacific side of the country due to the wind and dryness. Mosquitoes in the accommodations are quite common. Sand fleas are possibly present on the beach during night patrols. People who have adverse reactions to insect bites are advised to bring anti-itch ointments and/or oral medication. Those with insect allergies should bring the proper emergency kits and inform staff of the problem and the location of the kit.

The Manzanillo Tree, also known as “Beach Apple”, can be found in the area. Please stay clear of it, as all parts (bark, leaves, sap, and fruit) are highly toxic.


Dehydration, heat exhaustion, sunburn, and other heat-related illnesses can occur, but you can protect yourself by drinking sufficient water, wearing high-SPF sunscreen, and wearing appropriate clothing. Dehydration from sweating can be a problem; please bring your own water bottles that you can easily carry and refill them with electrolyte-replacing packets if necessary.


Digging up nests with your hands while kneeling in the sand is physically tiring and could cause muscle sprains or strains.


The station is guarded and locked at night, and a fence surrounds the entire complex. You should store valuables securely in your own locked suitcase. While we have a locked safe where you may store money and passports, regular access is limited.


You may swim in a nice pool at the Goldring-Gund Station during recreational time, although we will not swim as part of the research activities. Dangerous rip tides and high waves may occur off the local beach. In addition, sharks and crocodiles may also come near shore. As a result, we strongly discourage swimming in the ocean at Playa Grande. Doing so is at your own risk and not endorsed by the project. Body surfing is prohibited. Always alert project staff when, where, and with whom you plan to go to the ocean. Snorkeling may be possible as part of optional excursions that may be offered during the expedition. Depending on availability, these may include snorkeling from the shore at the nearby Playa Carbón or off of a boat while assisting sea turtles research being conducted near the fishing village of El Jobo. Snorkeling is a physically demanding activity with inherent risks. Snorkeling activities, when offered, will always be supervised by a PI or suitably qualified field staff member, and all snorkelers must remain in buddy pairs. Weather and marine forecasts will be monitored ahead of any organized outings, and swimming or snorkeling will not take place under adverse conditions. 


When available, you may have the option of assisting current research being conducted by a partner of The Leatherback Trust near the fishing village of El Jobo, this as part of an optional recreational excursion. There is a risk of sprains, strains, or breaks from stepping in and out of the boat, or during adverse sea conditions. Hazards may result from falling overboard. Some volunteers may get seasick; please bring seasickness medication as a precaution. Boarding and stepping out of watercraft and/or sitting onboard when the sea is choppy may cause problems for those with mobility or spinal conditions. These volunteers should consider participation in this optional excursion. In addition, volunteers with back, knee, and hip problems, or pregnant women, may face difficulties or discomfort not only when they step on board and leave the boat, but also during navigation under choppy sea conditions. Life jackets and appropriate footwear must be worn at all times while on deck and the vessel is underway.


We will work for about 6 hours each night and a few hours each day, which interrupts regular sleep patterns. Sharing quarters with many other people and sleeping during daylight hours may also impair sleeping. Earplugs and eye masks may help. Also, your hard work will tire you out, which will greatly help with falling asleep in these conditions.


Consult your local travel physician well in advance for personal recommendations for immunizations. Beyond routine immunizations (e.g., measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DPT), varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot), Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines may also be recommended for travel. Playa Grande, Arenal and San José are not considered malaria-risk areas; malaria prophylaxis is not needed. However, mosquito-borne diseases like Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya have been reported in the region. The best protection against infection is to limit mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts and long pants) and using insect repellent. The CDC recommends EPA-approved mosquito repellents containing 20% concentrations of DEET or natural repellents made with lemon oil eucalyptus. Our team has tested lemon oil eucalyptus repellents at Playa Grande and found them to be quite effective—and friendly to local ecosystems! Mosquito repellents based on Picaridin are also now available in the U.S., although we have not tested these.


COVID-19 is an infectious disease. Although most people who have COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness, it can also cause severe illness and even death. Some people are at increased risk of severe illness. The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person via close contact, primarily through exposure to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Medication availability and treatment for COVID-19 varies from country to country and specific treatment options may not be possible in your destination.

Projects and participants fielding with Earthwatch commit to a number of enhanced safety measures as described in the COVID Disclosure Form. Enhanced safety measures may include physical distancing, wearing face masks, regular hand washing and surface sanitizing, heeding advice from project leadership or local authorities, adjusted logistics, and monitoring one’s own health throughout the expedition. If you get symptoms of COVID 19 or test positive while traveling you may be subject to quarantine and other local regulations that may disrupt your travel plans. Please plan for extended travel days. 

Travel Planning


The Liberia International Airport, also known as Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport, Costa Rica

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


You are responsible for reviewing and abiding by the local COVID guidelines and regulations for your destination. This may include proof of testing upon arrival or departure, up to date vaccinations against COVID-19, including boosters, mandatory quarantine, or other requirements. 

For information regarding Costa Rica, please visit:

The Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Field Station - the site of your Earthwatch expedition -  has several additional policies in place for the control of COVID-19 transmission. As Earthwatch participants, you will be required to comply with these policies (see COVID-19 Enhanced Health & Safety Measures). 

Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination, and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and, again, 90 days prior to travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting 6 months prior to the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers canceling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up to date visa requirements at the following website:

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


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  • Dornfeld et al. (2015) Ecology of solitary nesting olive ridley sea turtles at Playa Grande, Costa Rica. Marine Biology.
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  • Robinson NJ et al. (2014) Multidecadal trends in the nesting phenology of Pacific and Atlantic leatherback turtles are associated with population demography. Endangered Species Research.
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  • Shillinger GS et al. (2012) On the dispersal of leatherback turtle hatchlings from Mesoamerican nesting beaches. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 279:2391-2395.
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Costa Rican Sea Turtles Gallery

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