Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. Even though the country has only about 0.25% of the world's landmass it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. Both tropical plant and animal species abound in Costa Rica. The country is home to more than 200 species of mammals and more than 800 species of birds.
Volunteers joining this program will be working at an animal rescue center, a temporary or permanent home for the ill, injured, and orphaned animals. A perfect program for wildlife enthusiasts, this month-long volunteering project will enhance your ability to be interactive with the animals while working closely with an experienced team. With a focus on monkeys, sloths, other mammals, birds, and reptiles; the center provides veterinary services, round-the-clock care, and comfort to animals that would otherwise be unable to survive in the rainforest of the Caribbean.
This animal rescue center covers an area of 49 hectares of primary forest; this untouched property is the ideal place to locally release many of the animals as it gives them the best chance of a clean and naturally safe environment with little chance of interaction with humans in the future.
The project is located 4km away from Puerto Viejo and 220km from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. By shuttle/bus it takes around 4 hours from San Jose to reach Puerto Viejo and from here around 10 minutes to head to the project.
Volunteers must be 18 years or older at the time of joining the project, and must be ready to commit at least 4 weeks for this program. You need to have an open mind and a flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment. The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference. Participants must be fit and healthy at the time of joining the program and should be prepared to work outdoors and get their hands dirty. Participants in the program should have a keen interest and love for animal conservation work. Participants should have no criminal convictions and should provide a clean criminal background check report. Tuberculosis test is mandatory for joining this program.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
Volunteer tasks can vary on a daily basis and volunteers need to be flexible and open-minded. Volunteers should also be proactive and bring in new initiatives and ideas to the project.
• Cleaning and preparation of the facilities and different areas
• Maintenance of pathways and areas around animals
• Diet Preparation and assistance to the keepers
• Attending to visitors, guiding them
• Training and Observation
• Help caring for animals
Volunteer Work Schedule
Given below is a suggested plan, and might change according to circumstances.
Day 1, Saturday : Arrival day in San Jose, pickup from airport and transfer to hostel accommodation for the night.
Day 2, Sunday: Arrival day in Puerto Viejo. Volunteers are dropped to the bus station from where they take shuttle to Puerto Viejo.
Day 3, Monday: Volunteer training begins every Monday at 11:00 am. On this day, you will be introduced to the other volunteers, join a tour of the Center, and get all the information you need to fully start your volunteering the next day.
Days 4 to Day 23, Tuesday-Sunday: You'll be working at the project site on all weekdays. The work can include a broad range of tasks, from doing the dishes and cleaning up after the animals, to building and remodeling enclosures, or baby-sitting a new arrival to ease the stress of their new environment.
Weekends are not necessarily off as it varies depending on the work you have been assigned to do; in your free time, you can enjoy the beautiful beaches of Puerto Viejo.
Days 24 to Day 30, Monday-Sunday: In the last week, you will stay at the release center where you will be assisting with the necessities of the day, many of them will be accompanying animals into their reintroduction process, visual tracking, and making written comments for a final report on the state of the reintroduction.
Day 31, Monday: End of the program. From the release center, you will travel back to the Rescue Center.
Being an International Organization, we try to make sure that our volunteers are given the kind of comfort and flexibility they seek. In terms of airport pick up, stay, local travel or work and even city tour, we help our volunteers and facilitate everything for them.
Volunteers are picked up from the San Jose International Airport by the local coordinator or representative. Those volunteers who are arriving overland or are already in Costa Rica will be picked up at a meeting point decided beforehand in San Jose.
Upon arrival in San Jose, participants are picked up from the airport and provided accommodation for a night in a hostel. Upon arrival in Puerto Viejo, volunteers will spend the first 3 weeks living in the rescue dorms at the project site and the last week at the release site. Those participants doing the program for more than 4 weeks, will continue to stay at the rescue center for the subsequent weeks.
There are shared dorms at the rescue site and each room offers 4 single beds with quality mattresses, mosquito nets, individual reading light and plugs to charge electronic devices and a large capacity lock. Every room has an attached bathroom as well as a hot water shower. WiFi is available and there's a common area where volunteers can relax.
At the release site, there are shared dorms with shared bathrooms and hot showers. Volunteers will be in charge of daily cleaning, and preparing their meals. Communal kitchen is there with all basic facilities. No phone signal/ internet facilities will be available.
All volunteers are given an orientation before starting the program by the project coordinator.Orientation is conducted by the local staff and covers topics such as Volunteer Roles and Responsibilities, Rules and Expectations, Safety and Introduction to your project and placement.
Meals are not included but there's a fully equipped shared kitchen (cutlery and utensils, stove, oven, microwaves). Volunteers can store their food and drinks in the fridges. Lunch can be taken to the centre, where there is a fridge and microwave.
During your Free Time
On your free days, you are free to discover the magical places around Puerto Viejo, like the breathtaking beaches, the Cahuita Natural Park hike and waterfall, canopy tours and many others.
Please Note: -An application fee of $199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of £179 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of $299 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of €199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment)
What are you Paying for?
- 24 hrs Assistance and support from VS Staff
- Comprehensive Pre- Departure Information
- Pickup from San Jose International Airport and accommodation in San Jose
- Shuttle Transfer from San Jose to Puerto Viejo
- Accommodation in dorms at the project and release center
- Certificate Of Completion (Upon Request)
What's NOT included?
- Weekend trips and excursions
- Any personal expenses
- Travel insurance (available at nominal cost)
- Post project stay in San Jose
- Return Airport Drop
FAQ's Application and Program Details
It is advised to apply for the projects once the volunteering/ traveling dates are decided as there are limited spots available. The application fee is valid for one full year and can be sent earlier than the desired period of volunteering, for timely confirmation of the seat. As soon as you decide the travel dates, we suggest you to apply for the program and hold your spot. We abide by the first come first serve policy.
Usually, it takes around 10-12 working days for the application to be processed and placement to be confirmed. After we review your CV and documents, your booking is confirmed and the booking confirmation is updated in your My Account and you can view the information in your account. The application acceptance depends on the availability of seats in the project as well as the eligibility criteria of the program (age, skills and experience etc.).
Below are the necessary requirements to participate in the Costa Rica volunteer projects:
Volunteers must be 17 years or older for Teaching, Childcare, and Spanish Immersion at the beginning of the program. For all other programs, you need to be 18 years or older.
Volunteers joining the medical volunteer project must be either Pre-Medical, Medical or Nursing student or possess other qualifications related to medical and nursing field. Medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are also welcome to join the program.
Volunteers need to have an open mind and flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment.
The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.
The participant must be in good health.
Knowledge of Spanish (basic to intermediate) is necessary for all the programs.
Yes, you are welcome to take part in Costa Rica Volunteer Programs as part of a group. We welcome families, friends, high school students, college/university and corporate groups to volunteer together in the Costa Rica volunteer programs.
Yes, most definitely you can, as we believe that every participant brings something new to the project. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.
Yes, we will provide you with the Certificate after successful completion of your program. The certificate is provided on request.
All volunteers have to arrive one day before their program start date. You can view your arrival dates here. Volunteers are picked up from the Juan Santamaria Airport by the local coordinator or representative and taken to the respective host family accommodations. On the next day, i.e. Monday, there will be an orientation session which will cover the program highlights and provide you details about the city. You will get to know about the local culture, marketplaces, ATMs, internet cafes and where to shop for your daily essentials. On Monday, volunteers would also be required to take a Spanish test to assess their Spanish knowledge.
To add to the project experience, you can also join the Spanish Immersion Week which gives you a crash course in Spanish and even tests your current Spanish skills which would help you in volunteering, and you would also get a chance to experience Costa Rican culture, learn cooking and Latino dancing before beginning the program.
Note: Host accommodation is located in suburbs of San Jose in the Heredia and Santa Barbara areas, along with your projects placements.
The Childcare, Teaching and the Medical Healthcare projects are located near San Jose, primarily in the areas of Heredia and Santa Barbara.
The Turtle Conservation project is located in both Pacific and the Caribbean coasts.
The Wildlife and Animal Rescue Center is located 4km away from Puerto Viejo and 220km from San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.
Flights and Visa
Participants (most nationalities) require a Tourist Visa to travel to Costa Rica. Travelers from most countries can get a 90-day permit stamped on their passport on arrival.We advise you to check with your nearest Costa Rican embassy as well.
Juan Santamaría International Airport is well connected with direct flights coming in from different destinations in the US and South America. For volunteers coming from North America, following Airlines are recommended:
For those flying in from Europe, direct flights are available, and the recommended airlines are:
Health and Safety
Costa Rica is a tourist friendly and safe destination. Volunteering Solutions is very particular about the safety of its international volunteers. We have stringent selection criteria for host family accommodation. You will be given safety precautions and instructions by the local coordinator team during the orientation as well as in your Pre-departure handbook after you become an enrolled participant. Apart from that, we advise volunteers to consult their in-country coordinators before embarking on a weekend trip or going on a night out.
All participants are recommended to consult their physician or travel doctor before traveling to Costa Rica. To view the general list of vaccinations recommended for your travel to Costa Rica, click here.
Yes, for all participants, it is mandatory to have a valid travel medical insurance for their trip. Volunteers have the option to purchase Travel and Medical Insurance at a nominal extra cost from Volunteering Solutions. To provide the best option to our participants, we offer comprehensive insurance coverage in collaboration with a leading insurance provider.
If you already have a valid Travel and Medical insurance, you can email us a copy of the same. It is also advised to bring along the Insurance documents during your trip.
Connect with Past Volunteers
We encourage volunteers to get in touch with former Volunteering Solutions Costa Rica program participants and also other program participants joining our projects. You are recommended to join the Volunteering Solutions Facebook Page or Facebook Group to communicate with other participants.
To read alumni interviews from past participants, visit ?the Meet a Volunteer section on our website.
Accommodation and Living
Volunteers working in Turtle Conservation Project stay in ranger house, host family or volunteer house accommodations close to the project near the beach. Dorm-style accommodation is provided where you will be sharing rooms with other volunteers (same gender basis). Upon arrival in Costa Rica, volunteers are provided lodging in a host family accommodation in Heredia or Santa Barbara. After completing the orientation and project introduction on the first days, volunteers join their respective Turtle Conservation Project in either Pacific or Caribbean Coast.
For all other projects, volunteers will be staying with host families. More details about the host families would be provided after you apply for the program. Volunteers would be provided meals 2 times a day.
Volunteers working in the animal rescue center project in Puerto Viejo are provided accommodation in a hostel in San Jose on arrival. While at the project volunteers stay at a dorm style hostel accommodation. Meals are not included but volunteers cook their own meals at a fully equipped kitchen.
Unfortunately, the entire volunteering experience is as much about volunteering on your project, as it is about the cross-cultural exchange and community building. A lot of that happens through the accommodation that we have set up, where one can enjoy by being with like-minded people. Additionally, for safety reasons, all volunteers must live in the allotted accommodation.
Yes, however, you must inform us in advance and also mention about any dietary requirement in your application form.
Depending on your project placement, you will get evenings and the weekends free to travel and explore the place. In the evenings, volunteers usually get together and go out for social gatherings, eat out or just relax at the volunteer house. Weekends are free for the volunteers and you can go for short weekend trips. There’s actually so much to do in Costa Rica. Visit Nicoya Peninsula, Arenal Volcano, Corcovado National Park, Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Tabacón Hot Springs, San José, Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, Tortuguero National Park and much more.
The local coordinators will be happy to help you with more information.
Your program fee does not cover your personal expenses. You will need to provide for yourself your personal expenses, such as bottled water, local transport, telephone, shopping, sightseeing etc. However, you should carry around $70-$80 per week for your basic personal expenses. This amount can vary and you would need a higher amount if you choose to go on weekend trips out of town.
Volunteers usually work for 4 to 6 hours a day depending on their program. You will have weekends off so you can travel on weekends. However, volunteers need to be flexible, open-minded and understand that work requirements can change as well on certain occasions.
You can change money upon your arrival at Juan Santamaria Airport or from the bank. There is a good network of ATMs as well.