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Cocoa Plantation in Nicaragua

Internship and Volunteering Possible
Mentored internships and volunteer placements are possible at a cocoa plantation at Rio San Juan in the south of Nicaragua, for instance for students of agriculture, biology or food technologies. You will get lessons on 5 days per week for 2 hours per day from a cocoa farmer who will teach you everything about the cultivation of cocoa and its further processing to make chocolate. As a tourism student or volunteer you can also join the development of options of rural tourism.

What is your placement organisation doing?

The remote region at the Rio San Juan has a humid tropical climate which is ideal for the cultivation of cocoa. 146 cocoa farmers are members of a cooperative, producing a total of around 1000 quientales (around 50 tons) of cocoa per year, mostly for exportation. The Fincas of the farmers have an average size of 1 to 5 manzanas (square measure which is used in Nicaragua; 1 manzania is around 7000 sqm or 1.7 acres); some few fincas have up to 10 manzanas. The fincas are distributed around a large area around Buena Vista. Most cocoa farmers use principles of organic farming and it is the plan that all of them implement such principles in the near future.
Cocoa is harvested throughout the year. The main harvest season however is in December. A cocoa tree can carry up to 150 fruits (mazorcas). There are different species of cocoa trees and the mazorcas can be of different colour including yellow, red and purple. If it is maintained well, a cocoa tree can be productive for up to 50 years. The cocoa fruit is an oval pod with a length of around 30 cm (1 foot). Inside, there are the cocoa beans which are covered by a sweet and juicy jelly, which can be eaten, but which is not used as a commercial product. The desired produce are the cocoa beans which are further processed at the Centro de Acopio (collection centre).
The first step of the processing is the fermentation. At a minimum temperature of 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 Fahrenheit), the cocoa beans are fermented for 8 days. After this, they are dried for 18 to 20 days. If the weather is too humid and the beans cannot achieve the intended drying stage, they have to be further dried using an oven. The last step is the quality control where the level of remaining moisture is measured, which should not exceed a certain threshold. Samples are also ground to cocoa powder and tasted. Then the beans are brought to Matagalpa to the storage facilities of the buyer, "Ritter Sport".

How can you get involved?

In Buena Vista, you can get to know the work of the cocoa farmers and learn everything about cocoa. You will work on tree care, help with the harvest, and you will learn about cross-breeding of the cocoa plants. You will assist in removing unnecessary organic material between the cocoa trees, compost cocoa pods after the removal of the beans, and bring the beans to the further processing.
But how will the beans finally become cocoa powder and chocolate? Some of the cocoa farmer's women workers have joined forces to produce pralines and chocolate bars, always trying out new recipes. You can peel and grind cocoa beans to make cocoa powder that you can use to make chocolate products following recipes or experimenting on your own.
As a tourism intern or volunteer, you can further assist the cooperative to be successful with their "Tour de Chocolate", which is a tour offered to tourists. You can also teach English at the village.
On a Tour de Chocolate, tourists visit a cocoa farm. They will get explanations about everything; they can try the fruits and ask questions. To reach the farm, it is necessary to cross a river using a zip-line. This is fun for tourists, but for the local cocoa farmers it is just the only option to cross the river. After visiting the cocoa farm, the Centro de Acopio is shown, where the production processes are explained. Then Doña Elia shows how to make chocolate. It is relatively fast for her to prepare a hot chocolate drink, but when the tourists have more time, she can also make pralines or chocolate bars. The tour takes around 8 hours. There are two English-speaking guides in Buena Vista.
Volunteers who are interested in tourism can assist with marketing of the tour. A difficulty is that there is no coverage for mobile internet in Buena Vista.
Language: It is possible to be in Buena Vista even with no or very little knowledge of Spanish. Sometimes this might be a little challenging as the translator is not around all the time, but it will work out! You can also learn Spanish from a local Spanish teacher while living at the community.
Info Box
Location: Buena Vista, Nicaragua
Availability: All year, Start date flexible
Minimum Duration: 1 Week
Maximum Duration: 12 Months
Language Requirements: English
Further Languages Of Advantage: Spanish
Room with Host Family
Supervision Possible: Yes
Qualification Of Supervisor: Cocoa Farmer
Minimum Qualification Of Intern:
Further Contribution To Project: Is included in the accommodation cost
Volunteering Possible: Yes
Required Qualification For Volunteer: None
Further Contribution To Project: Is included in the accommodation cost
Professional Conduct, Do you have the "right" attitude?
The accommodation is with the cocoa farmer family on full board..

I. World Unite! Service Package

Mobile/Cell Phone Users: If you don't see the rates for your desired duration of stay, hide other (shorter) durations of stay.
  up to 60 Days
61-90 Days
91+ Days
 wu servicepackage
1 Person
590 EUR 690 EUR 790 EUR
2-4 Persons
(Rate per Person)
500 EUR 600 EUR 700 EUR
Convert rates to USD, GBP, CAD, AUD and other currencies

The World Unite! Service Package includes:

  • Individual Consultation and Preparation prior to your arrival
  • Access to the World Unite! Online Resource Centre which has Preparation Materials including Intercultural Preparation, compiled particularly for your destination (PDFs, Videos)
  • Preparation Session via Skype, together with further participants
  • Assistance with visa extension in Nicaragua or arrangement of visa (depending on duration of stay) and other official permits (if required), but not the official government fees for it/them
  • Bus ticket from Managua Airport to the the bus stop which is closest to the location of your placement. We will give you a detailled description which bus to take and where to go. You will then be picked up from the bus stop where you leave the bus and will get transfer to your accommodation (e.g. by bus to Chinandega, pick-up from there and transfer to Estero Padre Ramos). Return travel in the same way is also included.
  • Personal support staff at your location and at our international office
  • Orientation and Introduction in León
  • Accompanying you to your placement on your first day
  • 24 Hours emergency support by local support team
  • 50 USD Contribution to your project
  • Local SIM Card with 250 C$ air time
  • Issuance of Confirmations/Certificates for your university, scholarship, insurance, etc. and filling out/signing Internship Contracts for your university
  • Costs for 10 seedlings of indigenous trees that we plant on the slopes of Kilimanjaro

The Rates do NOT include:

  • Accommodation and Meals (see below)
  • Travel to/from Nicaragua (you book it on your own; we can assist you)
  • Official fees for Visa (see below)
  • Insurance (Travel Health Insurance, Liability Insurance, Travel Cancellation insurance; you book it on your own, we can assist you)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Vaccinations
  • Local Transport (Estimated amounts see below)
  • Please note that for supervised/mentored internships, some organizations charge further contributions. You find this information in the "Info Box" below the respective internship description.

II. Accommodation Costs

In Estero Padre Ramos (Marine Turtle Project):
Accommodation at the Finac Ecológica on Full Board:
In case of duration of stay of 1-8 weeks: 160 EUR per week (incl. project contribution)
In case of duration of stay of 2 months and longer: 200 USD per month for accommodation + additional project contribution of 100 USD per any month started
The revenue generated by short-time volunteers is a fundamental part of the funding of the project. Short-time volunteering is seen as part of the project's eco-tourism offers.
In Nicaragua Libre (Internship Tourism Development):
Host family of simple standard on full board: 150 USD/month
In Rio San Juan (Cocoa plantation):
Host family of simple standard on full board: 220 Nicaragua-Cordobas per day
All other locations:
We will communicate the costs to you!

Overview of other costs:

  • Visa 10 USD on arrival at the airport for most nationals for a maximum of 90 days. Any extra month 20 USD. If you stay for more than 180 days, you need to leave Nicaragua and go to Costa Rica. When returning to Nicaragua, you get an additional 90 days for 10 USD.
  • If meals are not included: around 70-150 EUR /100-180 USD)/month
  • Small local expenses (e.g. Internet, local transport): around 30-50 USD/Month (Estimate)
  • Insurances around 30-50 USD/Month


How do I pay?

Once all your questions have been answered and you confirm that you want to participate, we will email you an invoice. You can pay it via bank transfer, credit card or via Paypal. You will pay a deposit of 200 EUR / 250 USD when the invoice is issued. One months prior to your arrival you will pay the remainder for your Service Package.
The payment modalities for rent and possible further costs (e.g. internship supervision fees, as stated in info box of the respective project description) depend on your host country and placement. We will inform you beforehand. In many cases these costs are paid on site, but for some countries and placements they need to be paid partially or fully in advance.

Other Projects That Might Interest You:

These projects are suggestions for alternatives that may interest you or those that could be chosen as COMBINATIONS. The combination of projects in different organizations is often possible and usually cheaper than two individual bookings. Please contact us to know more! Check out our other listings in the areas of "World Learner" and "Active Travel" at your travel destination to make your stay even more interesting.

Learning Spanish in León!

Learning Spanish in NicaraguaLearning Spanish is always helpful, and you can choose the intensity of your lessons. We recommend, however, a maximum of 10 hours per week. These are individual lessons with a teacher. Sometimes, students of similar knowledge levels can take lessons together. The cost of lessons does not vary according o the number of participants though.
The cost for Spanish lessons: 1 Student 8 EUR
Check "Language Training Required" in the registration form and specify the number of hours desired (minimum 20 hours).

Travel Health Insurance

We recommend the following travel insurance that is meant specifically for participants of internships, volunteering, language study, working holiday, and courses abroad. It is available for travelers of all nationalities and usable for all countries, except your home country. You can also add a journey liability insurance.
Just click on the link, fill in the form and you will get a confirmation email.
You will fly to Managua, from where you take public transportation. We will provide detailed instructions for you to reach Buena Vista.

Getting To León

nnicaragua map
You book your flight to the airport of Managua (MGA). Also compare airfares to popular holiday destinations in the Caribbean and southern United States (e.g. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, Panama, Santo Domingo, Cancún), from where you can book a cheap flight at or to Managua. From Managua airport you will be picked up and brought to Leon.
In the case of other locations in Nicaragua, we give you detailed information about travel. In most cases, you take a bus from Managua Airport and then you are picked up from the bus station near your place of work.

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