If you want to escape the madding crowds and experience the real off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica, the following places can be merged into an itinerary that will help you see and experience some truly fascinating places that most visitors miss.
At Maderas Rainforest Conservancy on the Caribbean Coast, La Suerte Biological Field Station Lodge  has 10 kilometers of rainforest trails open to ecotourists, as well as ecology workshops.
Finca Luna Nueva Lodge  is an organic biodynamic herbal farm in the Northern Zone that welcomes visitors for hikes, tours, and classes on sustainable living.
The Santa Juana Mountain Tour  offers a chance to interact with a Central Pacific mountain community, integrated into an ecotourism project that is a model for how things should be done.
Part of the Punta Río Claro National Wildlife Refuge in the Golfo Dulce region, the Punta Marenco Lodge  welcomes ecotourists and serves as a center for scientific research.
A resurgence of cultural pride, assisted by tourism efforts, is opening the indigenous reserves to respectful visitation and an interest in traditional crafts.
In the Central Highlands, visit the Beneficio Coopedota , which handles the coffee beans for 700 local producers. The visit includes a plantation tour, video, and tasting. At the Albergue Hacienda Moravia de Chirripó , local indigenous people perform traditional shows.
The Reserva Indígena Kèköldi , on the Caribbean Coast, is home to some 200 Bribrís and Cabecar people. Reforestation and other conservation projects are ongoing; tourists are educated on indigenous history and traditions. Reserva Indígena Talamanca-Bribrí and Reserva Indígena Talamanca-Cabecar  protect the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous people. Reserva Indígena Yorkin  welcomes tourists and leads hikes.
The three indigenous communities of the Malekú Reserva Indígena , in the Northern Zone, provide traditional music and dance performances, cultural presentations, and a museum on indigenous culture. A volunteer and study program at Rustic Pathways (U.S. tel. 440/975-9691 or 800/321-4353, www.rusticpathways.com/costarica/maleku.php ) contributes to and learns from the Malekú culture. Centro Neotrópico Sarapiquís  is a scientific research and educational center with a Museum of Indigenous Culture, an archaeological dig, and a reconstruction of an Indian village.
Reserva Indígena Boruca  welcomes visitors in South-Central Costa Rica, but tourist facilities are minimal.
On the Caribbean Coast, ANAI (Asociación Nacional de Asuntos Indígenas, tel. 506/2224-3570, www.anaicr.org ) works to protect the forest and to evolve a sustainable livelihood through reforestation and other earth-friendly methods; sign up for one of its Talamanca Field Adventures trips.
Hacienda Lodge Guachipelín , a centenarian working cattle ranch, offers more than 1,000 hectares in Guanacaste, plus a 1,200-hectare tree-reforestation project.
From Buenos Aires in South-Central Costa Rica, you can take a Jeep-taxi to Durika Biological Reserve , a well-run commune deep in the mountains on the edge of La Amistad International Park. The rugged drive is not for the faint-hearted, but once there you can participate in a reforestation project, and even help milk the goats.
Sea Turtle Conservation (tel. 506/2297-6576 or 800/678-7853, www.conserveturtles.org ) needs volunteers to assist in research, including during its twice-yearly turtle tagging and monitoring programs. Volunteers are also needed on the Caribbean Coast for the Marine Turtle Conservation Project (contact ANAI or ATEC to see how you can help, tel./fax 506/2750-0398, www.ateccr.org ), which conducts research and protects the turtles from predators and poachers. Pacuare is now the most important leatherback site in Costa Rica; the Pacuare Nature Reserve  protects the eggs of leatherback turtles during nesting season. The Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Ostional (tel./fax 506/2682-0470, adiotort [at] racsa [dot] co [dot] cr, www.ostionalvolunteer.com ), on the Nicoya Peninsula, oversees turtle welfare and accepts volunteers to assist with turtle programs. As of 2010, Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA, tel. 506/2241-5227, www.pretoma.org ) had freed more than 100,000 turtle hatchlings to the sea. Volunteers are needed.
Rancho Mastatal Environmental Learning Center and Lodge , in the Central Highlands, welcomes volunteers. This 219-acre farm and private wildlife refuge offers environmental workshops and language courses.
Spend the day at Aiko-Logi-Tours , a 135-hectare sustainable farm and rainforest on the Caribbean coast. Volunteers are welcome to work on various eco-oriented projects. Punta Mona Center for Sustainable Living and Education , a communal organic farm and environmental center, accepts volunteers and internships. It teaches traditional and sustainable farming techniques and other environmentally sound practices.
On the Nicoya Peninsula, volunteers are needed at the Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary , a rescue center for animals. It focuses on education, as well as rehabilitation of animals on a 31-acre rainforest plot linked to Cabo Blanco.
Travel to San Isidro El General  in South-Central Costa Rica and volunteer at Finca Ipe (www.fincaipe.com ), a self-supporting commune and 12-acre farm. La Gran Vista Agro-ecological Farm (tel. 506/8924-8983, www.lagranvista.com ) teaches sustainable agricultural practices and relies on volunteer labor. At Finca Tres Semillas Mountain Inn (tel. 506/8371-5869, www.experiencecostarica.org ), volunteers teach English to local children while learning about organic farming and sustainable living practices.