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Costa Rica - Animal Rescue and Conservation

Costa Rica has more than 8,500 species of plants, 220 species of reptiles, 160 amphibians, 205 species of mammals, and 850 species of birds. Volunteers here play an important role in the conservation of Costa Rica's incredible biodiversity and have responsibilities that are vital to the success of the wildlife rescue centers.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectSan Carlos, Alajuela Province
Project LengthMin 3 weeks: 1 week orientation/Spanish course + 2 weeks at the rescue center
Arrival AirportJuan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
Volunteer WorkPreparing food and caring for the animals, cleaning cages and trails, and general maintenance
Number of Participants8 - 10 international volunteers
Age18 - 80
Arrival Day Sunday

What's Included

Food2 meals a day during Spanish course and 3 meals a day during project
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersIncluded on arrival and departure in San Jose
Orientation Cultural immersion and Spanish lessons in San Jose
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, personal expenses, visa (if required), lunch during 1st week language course, local transportation in San Jose (around $1-2/day), transportation to volunteer site from San Jose after orientation week ($38 - $42 round trip)


Costa Rica is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its proportionally huge amount of biodiversity. Costa Rica may contain as much as 5% of the worlds plant & animal species - this in a country that is only as large as the states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Costa Rica is Spanish for rich coast. As such, one can expect to find this place to be the ideal tropical paradise with bewilderingly diverse landscapes, flora, and fauna. From rainforests, to dry tropical and temperate forests, to volcanos, to Caribbean and Pacific beaches, to high mountains, and marshy lowlands, this country has it all.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica


About the Project

Despite being a small country, Costa Rica has a great natural wealth. However, habitat destruction from deforestation, poaching, indiscriminate use of pesticides, the illegal pet trade, and the lack of wildlife protection have caused a decline in the populations of many species to levels that threaten their survival. This work is organized through the Costa Rican government National Park Association, as well as with private conservation organizations. Work involves participation in conservation programs, maintenance of the park facilities, attention to park visitors and any other specific activities or projects that the park develops during the year.

Wildlife Rescue Center: 

Located in Alajuela province, the Wildlife Rescue Center is a privately funded organization. Injured and displaced animals are brought to the center from all over the country by Costa Rican officials. Many are able to be nursed back to health and, when possible, released back into their natural habitat.

Tapirs, spider monkeys, green macaws, scarlet macaws, and different types of felines are just some of the animals that are rehabilitated and bred here.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Volunteer tasks vary according to demand and necessity. Its important that you come with a high spirit, a lot of motivation, and flexibility to cope with unexpected changes. The Wildlife Rescue Center carries out a series of programs that complement each other and altogether contribute to the conservation effort. Since the project survives on donations, the center also functions as a zoo, allowing visitors to contribute additional funding. The majority of your duties will be:

  • Prepare food for the animals
  • Clean enclosures
  • Provide maintenance to the infrastructure
  • Maintain trails
  • Provide information to visitors

The work schedule is from Monday to Friday from 7:30 am or 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.


Accommodation and Food

Accommodations: During the first week of Spanish courses, volunteers will be placed with a host family in San José.  While working in their project, volunteers will also stay with a host family in a private room. Facilities are basic; rooms, showers and bathrooms are clean and provide a comfortable stay. The host families are located within walking distance from the center.

Food: three meals a day are included with the project.  The food follows the daily Costa Rican diet which consists of rice, beans, pasta, red meat, vegetables and many kinds of fruit.  In general terms, meals at the projects are very simple. Vegetarian meals are also available.

Laundry: The host family takes care of the laundry. 


First Week Orientation and Spanish Courses

The first week of the minimum three-week program takes place in San Jose. It consists of cultural enrichments and Spanish courses that facilitate acclimation into the Costa Rican culture before the volunteer leaves to begin the project itself.  The courses include Spanish grammar rules, emphasis on pronunciation for increased ease of conversation, and allows plenty of practice time for verbal and written Spanish. The goal of this program is to provide the student with basic language skills and functional fluency. Participation in the orientation week is mandatory as it acts as an important stepping stone for the volunteer before traveling into the rural areas where the reserve is.  (If the participant speaks fluent Spanish before coming on the project an exception may be made to waive the orientation, though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience.  Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.)

The first Monday, at 8am, volunteers are asked to take a Spanish test in order to gauge their fluency level and correctly place them into appropriate classes.

Here is an example of an orientation week schedule:

9-12pm                                                   Spanish classes
12-1pm                                                   Lunch break
1-3pm                                                     Spanish classes
3-5pm  (Monday-Friday)                      Dance classes
4-5pm  (Wednesday)                           Costa Rican cooking classes
4-5pm  (Tuesday & Thursdays)         Additional Conversation classes


Minimum Requirements

  • Minimum age 18 +
  • Minimum 3 weeks stay: 1 week orientation/Spanish course + 2 weeks at wildlife project
  • Minimum of basic conversational Spanish
  • Able to cope with remote and basic conditions  
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Immunizations (please consult your doctor)


Important Notes

  • Most rangers and other Costa Rican personnel at the site do not speak English (conversational Spanish is required).
  • Work lasts at least 4 hours during the day: cleaning the trails and the facilities of the project, helping at the kitchen, and any other special activity assigned.
  • The facilities are basic; the reserve is isolated and there is not constant contact with the "outside world."
  • As it is a jungle environment, there are lots of mosquitoes other insects.
  • Sunny, hot, and humid weather.
  • There will be plenty of leisure time, so bringing books and table games is recommended.
  • During the rainy season from May to November, there are fewer opportunities to work during the day.


Here's an excerpt of Hannah's experience:

  "Every day we chose different tasks ranging from preparing a rich meal of fruits and vegetables for the various animals and supplying them with water to cleaning their cages and babysitting infant orphaned sloths and monkeys."
Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!



Here's an excerpt of Jennifer's experience:

  "I spent two weeks on the Animal Rescue and Conservation Program in San Carlos in the summer of 2012. San Carlos is a beautiful rural part of Costa Rica; it is much quieter and less busy than San José. I stayed with a host family who were extremely accommodating and kind!"
Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!

Check out our Volunteer Blog at blog.goeco.org to read experiences written by GoEco volunteers from all over the world!

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