Volunteer Guide

National Office

National Director

José Pedro Sánchez Gómez

Address

Hábitat para la Humanidad- Costa Rica

Apdo. 179-4250

San Ramón, Alajuela

COSTA RICA

Telefax

(506) 447-2330

E-mail

hphcostarica@racsa.co.cr

volunteerhabitatCR@yahoo.com(Kelly Sumner, International Partner)

Directions

From the autopista/highway: turn into the entrance to San Ramón. Follow the main road until it dead-ends. Take a left and then turn right at the stoplight. Continue for 400 meters. The office is in a yellow house on the left, next to a bakery.

To arrive in San Ramón from San José:  buses to San Ramón will bring you directly in town.  However, you can also catch a bus that goes to Esparza, Puntarenas, Nicoya or Guanacaste and get off on the highway at the entrance of San Ramón. If you come on a bus directly into San Ramón, there is a bus stop right after the gas station.  Get off there and walk with traffic another block towards the church. 

Welcome to Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica!  We appreciate your willingness to volunteer and hope your stay is enjoyable.  Please feel free to ask us whatever questions you might have and communicate to us any problems that you encounter during your stay, so that we can rectify the situation. 

Construction: Habitat houses in Costa Rica are 48 square meters (6m x 8m or 8m x 6m). Houses are built of concrete block, re-bar, sheet metal roofing, and smooth cement floors.  The interior walls are made of Fibrolit (fiber-cement) with wood framing.  The house is divided into: living room/dining-room/kitchen, two or three bedrooms and bathroom. When you arrive, you may help the recipient families build their septic tanks and drainage systems, dig and lay the floors, lay concrete block and re-bar for walls, or help put on roofs.  You may not see the entire house constructed while you are here, as houses typically take 3 or 4 months to complete. Single volunteers usually walk or use public transportation to get to the site. 

Family Homestays: Many families are eager to participate in a cultural exchange with volunteers from other countries.  These families provide not only breakfast, dinner, and a bed, but also an insight into Costa Rican culture.  The price of a homestay varies slightly according to affiliate ($10-$12 a day) See Affiliate Specific Information for costs.

Meals: If you have special dietary needs, and will be staying with a family, please let us know ahead of time.  The family will provide breakfast and dinner.  Remember that Costa Ricans often do not understand a severely restrictive diet.  Requests for no beef, pork, chicken or fish can be met, but rice and beans will have to be your staple. Please contact the volunteer coordinator for dietary concerns. Costa Ricans drink water directly from the tap, and your family will make juices and drinks using this water.  All water in Costa Rica is purified and safe to drink. Bottled water is available in supermarkets.

Climate: The climate in Costa Rica varies.  We have two seasons: summer (January-April) is very dry and winter (May-December) is rainy.  Rainy season follows the general pattern of being sunny in the mornings, with rain in the afternoons.  October and November tend to have the most rain.  During the months of December and January it is generally very windy, and nights can be very cool in the highlands (where San Ramón and Cartago are located). The weather in Nicoya and Esparza is very warm (hot) year-round.

What should I bring?

Here are some suggestions:

Work Clothes: Bring jeans, quick-drying long pants, or shorts. Almost no dryers are available and you will have to rely on sun-drying. Also bring T-shirts, light weight long-sleeve shirts, work gloves, hats, and work shoes--many of the sites are muddy.  (NOTE: Habitat Affiliate t-shirts ($10), baseball caps and fanny packs ($7) and keyrings ($2), will be available for purchase).

Casual Clothes: A lightweight jacket for the evenings, lightweight dresses, shorts, casual shirts and pants, T-shirts, and any quick-drying clothes, sandals, and a swimsuit.  A lightweight raincoat is helpful most of the year.  *Cultural note:  You will generally not see Costa Rica women in shorts in the highlands, and not at night in the lowlands.   

First Aid Items: Bring LOTS of sunblock (the sun is very intense here), aloe vera for sunburns, lotion, insect repellent, and anti-itch cream. Remember your prescription medicines.  In addition, bring over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin, Tylenol, and Band-Aids which you normally use. Many pharmacy products are readily available here if needed. 

Personal Items: Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, shampoo, deodorant, and all the usual toiletries.  A pen, notepad, Bible, camera,  film, water bottle, English/Spanish dictionary, deck of cards, and a good book may make your stay more pleasant.

Gifts: Many volunteers in the past have asked about giving gifts to the families or to Habitat personnel.   The stated national policy of Habitat for Humanity Costa Rica is to ask volunteers not to give personal gifts to anyone connected to Habitat for Humanity. Contact Kelly in the national office for more information. We publish a wish list for the office and for the construction operation.  If you would like to make a financial gift, please direct it to the affiliate so that it can be distributed equitably among the entire family of Habitat Costa Rica. We would like to ask you to comply with this policy for the following reasons:

  1. Often even a small gift can be very divisive within the Habitat family – suggesting favoritism and causing lasting enmity (this has occurred more than once and yet the gift-giver is not usually aware of the situation)
  2. The attitude that befriending a North American will be financially rewarding is reinforced by gift-giving. 
Affiliate Specific Information
 
Afiliado Regional de Occidente:  San Ramón
Directors

 Eduardo Blanco and Johnny Castro

Address

 Hábitat para la Humanidad- Afiliado Regional San Ramón

 Apdo.  401-4250

 San Ramón, Alajuela

 Costa Rica, América Central

Telephone

445-9071 / 447-2404 FAX

E-mail

hphsanramon@racsa.co.cr

Directions

The office is located 25 meters west of the Municipal Market (there will be taxis lined up on this edge of the market).  The office is on the second floor.   

To arrive in San Ramón from San José :  see directions under arrival to National Office above.

Important Phone

Numbers

Doctor Phillips (bilingual):  445-7042

Taxi stand:  445-5110

Bank

The ATM machine at the Coope San Ramón across from the church on the south side and the one at the Mutual de Alajuela work with US cards.  Any bank will change USD.

Homestays are available in San Ramón for $12/day, or $270/month including breakfast and dinner. 

The Occidental Affiliate is based out of San Ramón (pop. 60,000), but also serves the communities of Palmares (pop. 25,000), Grecia (pop. 56,000), Alfara Ruiz, and Naranjo (pop. 35,000). San Ramón is known to locals as "The cradle of presidents and poets" because it is said that more presidents and poets have come out of San Ramón than any other town in Costa Rica. These communities are mostly geared toward agriculture production, especially coffee. There are also numerous small businesses in town, and many people from San Ramón commute daily to San José (about 1 hour southeast). After five years, Habitat had completed more than 150 houses in this region, and was in the process of constructing 24 more.

Hotels:

La Posada

Tel: 445-7349

Recommended, centrally located hotel in San Ramón and includes breakfast. Price: $16/night for Habitat volunteers

Directions:  400 metros al norte de Periféricos, dobla a la izquierda.  (Stay on the main road into town from the highway.  Go past the main church. Three blocks past Periféricos supermarket turn left.  The hotel will be on your left.)

Other options, however, La Posada is the recommended  hotel.

Hotel Gran                   445-6363

Hotel El Viajero            445-5580

Hotel Washington         445-7349

Hotel Nuevo Jardin       445-5620

Nicoya Affiliate

Affiliate Coordinator

Henry Casares

Address

 Hábitat para la Humanidad Costa Rica                                                                                                  

 Apdo. 34                         

 Nicoya, Guanacaste

 Costa Rica, América Central

Telephone

 686-4652

E-mail

hphnicoya@racsa.co.cr

Directions

 100 meters east of Hotel Las Tinajas

 To arrive in Nicoya from San José :  bus to Nicoya.  Alfaro bus company (222-2750):  Calle 14 and Avenidas 3&5.  Seven buses run the route daily.  6 hour ride.  $5.25. 

Homestays are available in Nicoya for $10/day, including breakfast and dinner. 

The Nicoya affiliate was the second regional affiliate to open in Costa Rica, and includes Samara, Ojancha, and Santa Cruz. The population of Nicoya and the surrounding area is approximately 25,000, and features many of Costa Rica's largest beach resorts. If not working in tourism, local economy is focused on fishing and agriculture. In its 3 years as an affiliate, Habitat has finished 41 houses (35 in central Nicoya and 6 in Samara) in the Nicoya Peninsula and was constructing 2 more.

Hotels and homestay alternatives:

Hotel Las Tinajas  

685-5081,   $8.00

100 metros al este del Supermercado Periféricos.  (1 block east of Periféricos supermarket, downtown Nicoya) 

Affiliate Regional Pacífico Central:  Esparza

Director

 Francis Tapia

Address

 Hábitat para la Humanidad- Costa Rica

 Apdo. 01-5500

 Esparza, Puntarenas

 Costa Rica, América Central

Email

francis_tapia@hotmail.com

Telephone

 636-4440

Directions

 From the autopista/highway:  from the light go two blocks toward the center of town and make a left.    The office will be on the left-hand side and shares the building with a lawyer, Lic. Franklin Garita.

To arrive in Esparza from San José:  any bus that goes to Puntarenas or Nicoya will pass the entrance to Esparza.

Homestays are available in Esparza for $12/day, including breakfast and dinner. 

The Central Pacific affiliate office was opened in July of 2000 and through February 2002 had completed 70 houses. This affiliate includes not only Esparza (pop. 21,000), but also the nearby communities of Barranca and Miramar. Esparza is located 20 kilometers from the city of Puntarenas, a port which is a gateway to the beaches of southern Nicoya Peninsula.

Hotels and homestay alternatives

Cabinas Cristal

Tel. 635-57-08, Price: 5,000 colones/person/night

Directions:  1.5 blocks north of Coopersparta R.L.

Rooms in the Cabinas Cristal are clean, airconditioned and have televisions.  The cabinas are located near the center of town. 

Hotel Córdoba 

Tel.  635-5014, Price: 2,000 colones/person/night

Directions:  1.25 blocks north of Coopersparta R.L. .  You might have to ask for this one!  The cabins are actually on the eastern side…just ask!  Located close to the center of town.

Rooms are basic but clean. 

Hotel Castańuelas

Tel: 635-5105, 636-6777, Price:  single: 3,500 colones   double:  5,000 colones   triple: 6,000 colones

Directions:  The hotel is on the autopista/highway just west of the stop light.

Rooms with either airconditioning or fan. 

Hospedaje El Compadre Parmenio

Tel: 636-65-45, Price:  7,200 colones/night

Directions:  Located on the autopista/highway west of town.  Thus, you will pass it on bus if coming from San José or San Ramón (it will be before you get into town and on the left side).  It is painted a burgundy color.

Rooms are clean and basic.  Swimming pool, ping-pong tables, and breakfast included.

Hospedaje El Encanto

Tel:  635-50-46, Price:  double (double bed and a single): 5,000colones   single(double bed): 4,000colones

Directions:  Located on the autopista/highway west of town.  There is a white wall and entrance with a bright sign.

Rooms are nice and very clean.

Afiliado Cartago

Director

Helen Diaz

Address

Apdo. 1903, Cartago 

300 norte de l Banco Credito Agrícola de Cartago, contiguo a la casa de la Cultura (segundo piso)

Telephone

591-9867

E-mail

hphcartago@hotmail.com

Directions

To arrive in Cartago from San José :  SASCA  (233-5350) runs several buses an hour that depart from Calle 5& Avenida 18 between 5am and midnight for approx. 50cents.  There is also the option of a collectivo (shared taxi) which leave from Avenida Central and Calles 11 & 13 and cost approx. $2/person.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Homestays are available in Cartago for $12 per day, including breakfast and dinner. 

The Cartago Affiliate started building its first houses in January 2001, in the cites of Cartago and Paraiso. It also includes the towns of Tres Rios, Turrialba, Cervantes, and La Union. After its first year, 16 houses had been completed and 6 more were in progress.
Cartago was the original capital of Costa Rica, and one of the first settled communities in Costa Rica. It is located 14 miles east of San José in the Valle de Guarco and has a population of about 120,000.

Hotels:

Montańa Linda-Orosi

$12 per night with breakfast and dinner, hostel style.  20 minutes from work sites.

Afiliado Monteverde

Affiliate Coordinator

Kim Gram

Address

Apdo. 86, Santa Elena, Monteverde, Puntarenas

Continguo a la clinica veterinaria, centro de Santa Elena

Telephone

645-6776

E-mail

habitatmonteverde@hotmail.com

Homestays are available in Monteverde for $12 per day, including breakfast and dinner. 

Monteverde is unique in Costa Rica because it is a region that was settled by the American Quakers in the 1950s. It is also one of the most touristed regions of the country as it holds a beautiful virgin cloud forest. Habitat Monteverde is the only affiliate that has been approved to build with Habicon. Habicon is a prefabricated construction system--concrete pieces will be manufactured in Cartago, and then transported to the worksite to be assembled. This system was developed by the Technological Institute in Cartago, a premier Costa Rican university that is striving to create the strongest house for low-income families. Habicon houses are advantageous in Monteverde because they are earthquake resistant, can be built on an incline, and the floors do not touch the ground, which will prevent the foundation from getting wet.

 

Afiliado Alajuela

Affiliate Coordinator

Kim Gram

Address

Barrio Montecillos: contiguo a la comandancia, dentro del Comedor Rostro de Maria, Alajuela

Telephone

 

E-mail

habitatalajuela@yahoo.com

The Alajuela affiliate is located in the largest city and capital of the province with the same name. It is located about 20 minutes west of San José , the capital of Costa Rica, and one mile from the international airport.  The town is still celebrating the recent championship win of La Liga, Alajuela's Division 1 soccer team. Other important events include Juan Santamaria Day, held April 11th in honor of Costa Rica's National Hero, and the Mango Festival, in July, highlighted by parades, music, food markets, and arts and crafts fairs. In the center of the town you will find the central park and cathedral, topped with a red dome, a national landmark. 

Home