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Eco-Voluntourism with the AmaTierra Foundation

Promoting Sustainable Community Development and Cultural Eco-Tourism in Costa Rica

Transform your Costa Rican vacation into an unforgettable experience with the AmaTierra Foundation. As an Eco-Voluntourist, you will support sustainable community development in our rural mountain county of Turubarres while helping to integrate local cooperative enterprises into Costa Rica's up-and-coming cultural eco-tourism industry.

What is Eco-Voluntourism?

Voluntourism is a service-oriented practice growing in popularity around the globe in poor and conflict-stricken travel destinations. Where traditional tourism caters to travelers who seek to experience the best a destination has to offer, Voluntourism fulfills a tourist’s desire to make a lasting positive impact upon the local population and community. Voluntourism provides much-needed services while offering a very personal cultural exchange, creating long-lasting ties between foreign tourists and local community members.

Website defines Voluntourism as the "conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel — arts, culture, geography, history and recreation — in that destination." The AmaTierra Foundation takes Voluntourism even further, incorporating a vital ecological aspect to provide the local community with sustainable social impact while engaging participants' need for service, contribution, travel and fresh cultural experiences in a foreign destination.
AmaTierra Foundation Eco-Voluntourists experience Costa Rica in a unique way, making a direct impact toward the well-being of the country's poorest rural county through volunteer activities that integrate participants into the colorful local community while also providing opportunities for exciting tourist excursions to nearby attractions.
Experience the best Costa Rica has to offer and join thousands of international voluntourists taking part in one of the fastest growing trends in tourism -- become an Eco-Voluntourist with the Amatierra Foundation today.

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About the AmaTierra Foundation

With the support of local residents and international volunteers, the Amatierra Foundation was created in 2007 to help empower the people of Turrubares through a number of new opportunities and cooperative community programs. As the vision continues to unfold, local community members, foreign residents and municipal government officials have come together to strategize ways to engage the community and develop projects that will best serve the people of the Turrubares county.
The principal projects of the AmaTierra Foundation include:

  • Recycling and Sustainable Practices
  • Cultural Eco-Tourism Development
  • Environmental Education
  • Artisanship and Handicrafts
  • Spanish-English Language Exchange (New!)
  • Organic Agriculture Education and Implementation (New!)

Fundraising efforts are in their initial stages as we are working to register as an official non-profit in Costa Rica and in the United States as an organization with 501(c)3 status. We are continuously grateful to community members and former AmaTierra guests for their generous contributions to the Foundation.

Yoga studio at Amatierra
Sound therapy at Amatierra
Relax time at Amatierra
Great food at Amatierra


Amatierra Foundation News

AmaTierra Foundation Update

The AmaTierra Foundation is celebrating Environment Month here in Costa Rica throughout the month of June by organizing a Recycling Contest in the local elementary and high schools, where each class is competing to see who can recycle the most paper, aluminium, plastic and glass for the next three weeks. The winning classes from each school win a trip to the beach for a day of surf lessons, soccer, lunch and fun in the sun. Check the newsletter next month for photos and info on the winning group and their upcoming beach trip!

Amatierra Foundation June Update

On May 15, despite heavy rains, twenty-five Turrubares community members showed up for our mini environment fair. After presentations by the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Tourism (MINAET), and Aaron Sutch, Masters student in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development program at the University for Peace, participants went home with lots of new information, environmental posters and recycling instructions to  improve environmental consciousness in our community. Thanks to all of those who helped make this event possible.

And  a big thank you to all former AmaTiera guests for your continued contributions that help make these and other community events possible.

Muchas gracias!

Student Leadership Strengthens Recycling and Waste Management Program

Supported by the local municipality, high school student groups, community business owners, and the residents of Turrubares, our first project is a waste management and recycling program. We are working hard to replace the traditional and ecologically harmful process of burning trash with more sustainable means of waste disposal, such as composting and recycling.

We're off to a great start, with recycling receptacles now installed in the central park of San Pablo and in the community high school.  The local elementary and high schools have organized student groups to head the community recycling project, sorting recyclables and leading the educational campaign so that the recycling and waste management program becomes a sustainable community project created by and for the people of Turrubares.

Northern Highway Up and Running: Pursuing Cross-Sector Collaboration to Maximize Social Opportunities

We are in the process of collaborating with Peace Corps volunteers and a community cooperative initiative to help localize development and ensure its benefits are both sustainable and broad-reaching for all social sectors of Turrubares county.

Now that the highly-anticipated new highway from Santa Ana to the Central Pacific coast is up and running, Turrubares is more connected to the map than ever, with property sales and tourism opportunities rapidly on the rise. The AmaTierra Foundation seeks to support these new opportunities for growth and development while empowering local artisans, farmers and small business owners in their community endeavors.

Who We Are at the AmaTierra Foundation

Tara Ruttenberg is Founder and Co-Director of the AmaTierra Foundation and also serves as Project Coordinator for all AmaTierra Foundation programs. Tara recently completed an M.A. in International Peace Studies at the United Nations' chartered University for Peace in Costa Rica and holds a Bachelors Degree in International Politics with a Certificate in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, 2007. Tara has lived, studied and worked in Costa Rica for four years and most recently served as the Summit Manager for the 2009 Summit of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace. Her interests include Latin American politics and sustainable social development, yoga and surfing. Tara is the daughter of Jill and Bob Ruttenberg, owners of AmaTierra Yoga Retreat and Wellness Center.

Dan Shapiro is Co-Director of the AmaTierra Foundation and serves as Voluntourist Coordinator for all Foundation projects. Formerly the manager of AmaTierra in 2007-2008, he helped to found the Amatierra Foundation and organize some of the earliest projects.  He holds a BA in Spanish from Georgetown University, where his passion for Latin America and commitment to international development and sustainability began during a year abroad in Santiago, Chile.  Dan currently lives in San Francisco, but he maintains strong ties to Turrabares County and continues to be active in guiding the Foundation’s work.

Relax time at Amatierra
Great food at Amatierra

Eco-Voluntourism Opportunities

As an Eco-Voluntourist with the AmaTierra Foundation, you will work one-on-one with community focus groups geared toward one or more of the specific community projects listed above, collaborating with students, community leaders and local government officials to strengthen existing projects and develop emerging initiatives from the ground up. Eco-Voluntourists contribute to the AmaTierra Foundation through daily interaction with Turrubares residents and community projects, importing new ideas and skills to strengthen these efforts.
Turrubarres is not a traditional tourist zone, which enhances the authenticity of your cultural exchange, while still accessible to exciting adventure activities such as horseback riding, zipline canopy tours, natural hot springs, hiking and exploring lush, uncrowded terrain.


To maintain continuity and protect the quality of our projects, we require  a 2-week minimum stay for all Eco-Voluntourists. Additionally, you are responsible for raising a minimal one-time project fee of $250 before you arrive to support future projects and ensure the sustainability of the Eco-Voluntourism program.
Choose one of two housing options:
1. Private Guest Room at AmaTierra Yoga Retreat & Wellness Center. Enjoy all hotel services and amenities, including yoga classes, full breakfast, and gourmet dinner daily. $795 per week plus one-time project fee of $250

2. Shared housing in San Pablo de Turrubares, kitchen available for cooking. $300 per week plus one-time project fee of $250

If you are interested in joining us as an AmaTierra Eco-Voluntourist, please contact Tara Ruttenberg by email at

*Full-Day volunteer projects also available for AmaTierra guests and other interested volunteers who want to help but are unable to stay on as Eco-Voluntourists.

Internship Openings

In our current stage of development, we are looking for bilingual Spanish-English voluntourists and interns able to commit to at least a 2-month service term who have experience initiating and developing sustainable community projects in one or more of our principal project areas:

  • Recycling and Sustainable Practices
  • Cultural Eco-Tourism Development
  • Environmental Education
  • Artisanship and Handicrafts
  • Spanish-English Language Exchange
  • Organic Agriculture Education and Implementation
Yoga studio at Amatierra
Sound therapy at Amatierra

*Please note that we offer a significantly discounted room and board rate for this longer-term commitment. If you are qualified and interested in this position, please contact Tara Ruttenberg by email at to discuss the details.
Can't come to Costa Rica this month but still want to help? Donate to the AmaTierra Foundation! We need your support and are grateful for your generosity in order to ensure the success of these essential programs. Please write us at to inquire about donation options.