Does helping provide care for some of the most interesting and beautiful animals on the planet peak your interest? If so, then animal rescue volunteering in Costa Rica is sure to be an amazing experience! You’ll spend your days looking after exotic species that have been brought to one of our partner’s rescue centers for care due to injury, being orphaned, or deemed unwanted as a pet.
Animal Rescue Volunteering in Costa Rica
The thought of animal rescue often evokes images of retrieving an injured animal from the field or raising a baby orphaned shortly after birth. While these events do occasionally occur, they are (fortunately for the animals) not the norm. The actual day-to-day aspect of volunteering with animal rescue is more similar to that of a shelter for dogs. Your primary focus will feeding the animals, cleaning their enclosures, and providing enrichment activities for them. This isn’t one of those shady “cuddle with big cats” or “play with a baby sloth” experiences (both of which are bad for wild animals). However, this doesn’t mean that this project lacks excitement or enjoyment. You’ll spend your days with incredible animals in one of the world’s most beautiful countries. It’s a relaxing and refreshing experience that will have you wishing you were staying longer!
Room & Board
Your project fee for animal rescue center volunteering in Costa Rica covers your room and full board in either a host family house or volunteer dorm-style facilities depending on the location of your placement.
- Shared, single-sex room (occasionally a private room is available) with a fan
- 3 meals per day (meals will typically be simple Costa Rican dishes)
- Drinkable tap water
- Hot water is not available (hot water is not common in Costa Rica)
- Some locations have limited WiFi access (location dependent)
As with all GOAT Volunteer projects, there are 2 primary fees associated with volunteering: the application fee paid to GOAT and the project fee paid directly to the NGO after they accept your application.
Included: Airport arrival transport • Pre-departure information • In-country orientation, training and coordination • Accommodation: private or shared room (location dependent) in a host family house or volunteer dorm-style facility with a fan • 3 meals per day (in most locations*) • 24/7 emergency phone
*In the volunteer houses in Jacó & Heredia, volunteers receive breakfast and lunch. Dinners are not provided as most volunteers choose to eat at local restaurants or cook for themselves and food waste became an issue.
NOT Included: Flights • Travel insurance • Local transport • Return airport transfer • Personal expenses • Bank/wire transfer fees
For custom lengths of stay not listed, please contact us for pricing.
GOAT Volunteers occasionally offers discounted application fees, so follow us on social media to find out when these savings are available!
Volunteers participating in all projects in Costa Rica have the opportunity to take add-on Spanish language lessons. Click the button below for more information.
Special Considerations | Animal Rescue Volunteering in Costa Rica
For special considerations regarding all projects in Costa Rica, please visit the Costa Rica page.
Our partner NGO in Costa Rica supports a huge number of projects. In most instances, placements will occur at the location most in need of volunteers at the time. Occasionally, volunteers will be given the opportunity to select which location they prefer.
Costa Rica is home to a significantly large stray dog population and volunteers on projects working with animals are highly encouraged to consider vaccination against rabies. Rabies is found on all continents except Antarctica and is fatal if not treated quickly after a exposure.
Justin’s Advice: If you can get your rabies vaccinations outside of the United States, do so. In the US, this series of 3 injections costs about $1,000. It’ll be a fraction of that in another country.
Animal rescue center volunteering in Costa Rica usually involves being in the proximity of potentially dangerous animals. Poisonous frogs, venomous snakes & spiders, monkeys, and big cats all pose significant dangers. Volunteers are never to engage these animals other than the tasks assigned. In some locations, these animals are also present in the wild and volunteers should maintain vigilance, especially in rural areas and at night.
A Volunteer’s Perspective *Featured Project*
Animal Rescue volunteering in Costa Rica was my first experience both traveling solo and volunteering abroad. I was placed with the NGO we’re now currently working with through another placement agency for eleven weeks in Costa Rica. My initial placement was at a rescue center near Jacó Beach. I was not convinced this center was operating totally ethically (or efficiently), so I requested a transfer. The second location, in a mountainous region was run much better. This may have just been my American mentality not understanding the Costa Rican culture (remember, I was a rookie volunteer), but the NGO team was excellent in response to my request for transfer.
The work with the animals and other volunteers was an enormous amount of fun. We worked as a big team to ensure all the animals were fed and cages were clean on a daily basis. Special projects would occasionally be assigned, but if none were necessary, we would lounge by the pool or explore the waterfalls in the rain forest. We also took occasional road trips to the beach and local national parks.
As I want all potential volunteers to have an unfiltered, honest impression of volunteering on projects with our NGO partner, I’m sharing some highlights, challenges, surprises, and frustrations I experienced during my time in Costa Rica:
Highlight: Seeing a sloth in the wild for the first time and becoming good friends with a spider monkey (and a few awesome humans too) were two of my biggest highlights. Hand feeding an orphaned baby squirrel wasn’t too awful either!
Challenge: Adapting to the heat and humidity. Costa Rica is a very tropical place and coming from a blisteringly cold winter in Pittsburgh to the exact opposite end of the climate spectrum was a rough transition. It took me about 6 weeks to really acclimate.
Surprise: Overcoming the language barrier. My Spanish skills are limited, so communicating with the staff members at the center who didn’t speak English was tough. But, they were incredibly friendly and we worked through it. Eventually, I could understand what was being said despite my very limited Spanish vocabulary.
Frustration: Bugs. If there’s one thing in nature I truly dislike, it’s insects. The bugs in Costa Rica are, at times, overwhelming. The constant buzzing and flying into you by cicadas, vicious mosquitoes attacking any exposed skin, and having giant grasshoppers land on your back at dinner was in no way my favorite part of the experience.