Animal Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio
Curious about being an Animal Care volunteer in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio? International Volunteer HQ’s Animal Care project sets volunteers up to assist in local veterinary clinics and animal welfare organisations looking after abandoned and stray cats and dogs. Volunteers gain experience in animal care while helping get neglected creatures off the streets, nursing them back to health and finding them new, loving homes.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$1785 for 3 weeks
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Nurse stray dogs and cats back to health and help them get adopted
Explore Costa Rica’s amazing natural environment
Experience daily life staying with a local family in Manuel Antonio
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Costa Rica’s coastal and beach areas manage ongoing problems with abandoned and stray dogs and cats. The heat and tropical conditions mean these animals often suffer from poor health, injuries, and a lack of proper nutrition. Volunteers on the Animal Care project in Manuel Antonio assist in local veterinary clinics and animal welfare organisations that help rehabilitate the animals so they can be rehomed with people who will care for them.
As an Animal Care volunteer you’ll help provide hands-on daily care and treatment for the animals. You’ll also be able to take on a variety of other tasks as needed.
Animal Care volunteer duties can include:
- Bathing and grooming animals
- Assisting with obedience training
- Cleaning cages and kennels
- Feeding animals
- Interacting with visitors
- Exercising, walking and playing with animals
- Helping with medical procedures like spaying and neutering
- Creating educational outreach and fundraising campaigns
- Building dog runs and fences
Why do Animal Care volunteering in Manuel Antonio with IVHQ?
When you volunteer with animals in Manuel Antonio you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Caring for and rehoming stray animals
- Protecting native wildlife
- Gaining experience in animal care
- Practicing your Spanish Developing your communication skills
- Immersing yourself fully in the Costa Rican culture
- Exploring the natural beauty of coastal Manuel Antonio
- Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
- Volunteers aged 16-18 participating without a parent or guardian can only volunteer for a duration of 12 weeks.
- All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Costa Rica photo gallery
”Go for it! It is your own little piece of heaven you can always revisit in your mind when you feel stress. Meeting new friends, hanging with the locals, and working on the animal project - cannot wait to return!”
Read reviews from Animal Care volunteers in Manuel AntonioSee more reviews
Costa Rica is in the true heart of Central America, and halfway down its stunning southwestern coast is the popular tourist destination of Manuel Antonio where several IVHQ projects are located.
Manuel Antonio’s main attraction is a small but glorious national park known for the unparalleled biodiversity found at its forests, beaches and coral reefs. It’s a nature-lover’s paradise and adrenaline junkies will also find plenty of adventure to be had in the surrounding area. The small local population relies on the tourism industry for jobs and economic growth.
Arrival and orientation
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose on the Saturday before your start date. Volunteers who fly into San Jose before midday on Saturday will travel to Manuel Antonio that day. Volunteers who arrive into San Jose after midday on Saturday will spend the night in San Jose and travel to Manuel Antonio on Sunday morning. When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the local team’s offices. This is included in your Program Fee.
We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation. If you are travelling in Costa Rica prior to your program, you can meet the local team in Manuel Antonio on the Saturday before your program starts.
The program orientation is hosted by our Costa Rica team at their offices in Manuel Antonio. Orientation is compulsory to attend and is held on Sunday morning or afternoon, depending on what time you arrive in Manuel Antonio.
Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – an introduction to Costa Rica, its customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Costa Rica, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
During the week, you will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 3 to 4 hours. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in. A typical morning schedule is as follows:
|7:30 - 8:00 AM||Breakfast with your host family.|
|9:00 AM||Leave home and travel to your placement. You will join the local staff and will receive a duty roster and plan for work.|
|12:00 PM||Lunch at a local restaurant.|
|1:00 - 5:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. You are free to travel back to your accommodation, go sightseeing or take Spanish lessons.|
|7:00 PM||Dinner with the host family.|
With your weekends free you can strap your boots on and explore the phenomenal natural environment of Manuel Antonio, or choose to put your feet up and relax on the amazingly beautiful tree-lined beaches.
You’ll have the unique opportunity to get well acquainted with the Manuel Antonio National Park where you’ll be able to see a huge array of exotic animals and wildlife including monkeys, sloths, anteaters, ocelots, crocodiles, iguanas, snakes and lizards. It’s also a great spot for birdwatching with the chance to see more than 350 bird species. Outside of the park there’s a wealth of other adventure activities including whitewater rafting, ziplining, snorkeling, hiking, fishing and surfing.
It’s worth noting that Sunday is a religious day of rest and many stores and restaurants will be closed. Costa Ricans tend to devote Sundays to spending time with their family. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is a unique and special experience for many volunteers.
On long weekends you may choose to travel around the rest of Costa Rica and the many cities, volcanoes, jungles, coffee plantations and beaches which are more than worth a visit.
Accommodation and WiFi
Volunteers who are between the ages of 18 - 27 are accommodated in a larger dorm-style volunteer house that can fit up to 15 volunteers, and is hosted by a local family. Volunteers who are over the age of 27 are accommodated in smaller homestays that can host 2 - 6 volunteers at a time, alongside a local host family.
In all accommodations, living conditions are comfortable and you will have electricity, running water (drinkable) and western bathrooms. Please note, low-pressure showers can be expected and the water is not always heated. Bedrooms are comprised of single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. Volunteers can expect to share a room with 2 - 6 other volunteers. You will need to bring your own towel and toiletries.
Please note, volunteers under the age of 18 who are traveling solo will be accommodated separately from those over the age of 18, in a homestay. If there are other volunteers under the age of 18 participating at the same time, the local team will do their best to ensure they are accommodated together.
Private room upgrades (double bed, shared washroom) are available in homestays for a cost of $62 per person, per week.
WiFi is available in most of these accommodations, but if not, you can easily access this at the local team’s office.
Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast is usually toast, fruit and eggs accompanied by tea or coffee. Dinner usually includes: meat - typically chicken, starches and vegetables. At almost every meal you’ll be offered Gallo Pinto, the national dish of Costa Rica, which is primarily made of fried rice and beans.
Lunches are not provided to Manuel Antonio-based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. It is recommended you budget between AU$7 and AU$15 per day to buy lunch.
If you have specific dietary requirements, our local teams and homestays can cater to you, however keep in mind that as a volunteer, there is a need to be flexible.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|3 weeks||AU$1777 Equivalent to AU$85/day|
|4 weeks||AU$2182 Equivalent to AU$78/day|
|5 weeks||AU$2502 Equivalent to AU$72/day|
|6 weeks||AU$2821 Equivalent to AU$67/day|
|8 weeks||AU$3461 Equivalent to AU$62/day|
|10 weeks||AU$4092 Equivalent to AU$58/day|
|12 weeks||AU$4731 Equivalent to AU$56/day|
|16 weeks||AU$6010 Equivalent to AU$54/day|
|20 weeks||AU$7288 Equivalent to AU$52/day|
|24 weeks||AU$8566 Equivalent to AU$51/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of AU$468 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in AUD.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$150 - US$200 per week to be sufficient for expenses. For Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture projects, volunteers can bring less spending money as the location is remote and all meals will be provided.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
We believe that no volunteer adventure would be complete without experiencing the natural wonders of your host country. That’s why we offer volcano and coffee plantation tours, surfing lessons and mini adventures, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Costa Rica as affordable add-ons.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to book or get more information about any of the following activities and tours.
Your half day Volcano Tour will take you to either Poas or Irazu volcano, depending on the weather. Both are active volcanoes with exciting thermal activity and stunning scenic views. There are short walks to the volcanoes, so it’s not strenuous, but we do encourage sturdy, closed toed shoes for the journey.
Volunteers spend a full day exploring La Paz Waterfall and gardens and an expansive animal sanctuary, followed by a Paos Volcano Tour and Coffee Plantation Tour. This full day includes breakfast, lunch, private transportation, a local bilingual guide, and all entrance fees.
The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified bilingual tour guide for each trip, using San Jose as your home base between tours.
This 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning! It will begin on Sunday and finish the following Saturday morning, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins. Please note that your meals are not included on this trip.
This Mini Adventure includes:
ARENAL VOLCANO & HOT SPRINGS Arenal is a majestic active volcano in the northern part of Costa Rica. En route, you stop at Sarchi, a town known for its beautiful and intricate Costa Rican arts and crafts, and souvenirs. You enjoy a typical lunch overlooking Arenal volcano at La Fortuna before relaxing at the Hot Springs Resort & Spa. Wade and swim in mineral pools filled with naturally hot water from volcanic springs. After a delicious buffet dinner, you head back to San Jose.
BRITT COFFEE TOUR Learn how Café Britt changed the course of history and coffee beans in Costa Rica! This tour shares the story behind Costa Rica’s most famous gourmet coffee. The guided tour lets you trace the process of coffee production from bean to cup and discover how Costa Rica’s unique micro climates and fertile soils create the ideal conditions for growing the world’s best coffee beans. You also learn from the experts how to prepare coffee using traditional methods. Of course, the tour culminates in a coffee tasting! Bilingual guide and entrance fees included.
ZIPLINING This canopy tour takes you on an exhilarating, zipline adventure through lush, green canopy and across the majestic Cataratitas River. The tour also includes the “Tarzan Swing,” “Superman Cable,” and the “Elevator” — thrilling features that provide added adrenaline and panoramic views of the surrounding area. There is a safety orientation by expert, bilingual guides before setting out and participants quickly gain confidence on the course of 12 different zip lines and 18 tree platforms. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, and lunch included.
ANIMAL SANCTUARY & LA PAZ WATERFALL GARDEN The tour begins with a drive along the Panamerican Highway and passes by the Agriculture Monument, the Monument to Juan Santamaria, and the famous Mango Park. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is a nature park and wildlife sanctuary where participants hike along natural and manmade trails in the rainforest, trekking from waterfall to waterfall. In the wildlife sanctuary, participants visit the largest butterfly observatory in Costa Rica, an impressive hummingbird gallery, serpentarium, and see monkeys, birds, and big cats. The tour ends with a delicious buffet lunch. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, and lunch included.
WHITEWATER RAFTING The Pacuare River is a truly memorable whitewater rafting adventure! This tour combines nature, wilderness, and excitement. Rio Pacuare runs through a true river gorge and is flanked by steep rock and filled with wildlife and cascading waterfalls along the route. The whitewater includes Class III, IV, and V rapids and it is an exciting descent! Along the way, there is a buffet lunch served on the river bank. Before starting the adventure, there is a safety orientation so everyone understands the basics of rafting–no previous experience necessary! During the route, professional photographers take pictures and shoot videos, which can be purchased at the end of the trip. All equipment is provided, including helmet, paddle, and lifevest. Expert bilingual river guide and lunch included.
TORTUGA ISLAND Tortuga Island is located 22.2 km (12 miles) off Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The island is a 48.5-hectare (120-acre) protected nature reserve It has an area of 120 acres, as it remains a protected forest; and is recognized as an “Ecological Blue Flag site” due to its pollution-free, crystal clear waters that are free of pollution. On the trip out to the island, participants may spot dolphins, sea turtles, and aquatic birds. On the island, participants bask on the white sand beaches, take a swim in the ocean, hike the nature trails, and enjoy lunch. Breakfast and lunch included.
If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with your Program Manager once you are registered for the program.
The Beach & Jungle Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified bilingual tour guide for each trip, using Manuel Antonio as your home base between tours.
The Beach & Jungle Adventure week allows volunteers based in Manuel Antonio to really explore the beauty of this stunning part of Costa Rica. This 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience without the hassle of arranging your own trips and accommodations. It begins on Sunday and finishes on Friday, and accommodation is included from the Saturday before your adventure begins.
This Mini Adventure includes:
MANUEL ANTONIO NATIONAL PARK Manuel Antonio National Park is considered one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica! You visit pristine beaches and coral reefs amid the natural wonders of the tropical rainforest. You make a short hike into the jungle and from there can choose to relax and enjoy the beach, sunbathe, or trek through the park’s trails. In the park, there are multiple species of monkeys, iguanas, birds, and sloths. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, and snacks included.
RAINMAKER JUNGLE TOUR Rainmaker Park is a private biological reserve originally created for scientific research. The Park is located approximately 30 minutes from Manuel Antonio. The tour begins with a short hike through the rainforest, looking for birds, insects, and amphibians, as you trek over hanging bridges and natural trails up to the top of Rainmaker Mountain–at the summit, there is an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean! The hike continues on trails and through the Canopy Walk bridge system spanning 250 meters (1/4 mile). The suspended bridge design permits minimal forest impact, while giving hikers the opportunity to explore the rainforest from a bird’s eye view. The tour also includes a visit to several waterfalls and a refreshing dip in a natural pool. The tour ends with a delicious traditional Costa Rican lunch. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, and lunch included.
CANOPY ZIP-LINE A beautiful zipline adventure in Costa Rica! The tour begins with a short 20-minute drive to Santuario Park, which is an extensive primary rainforest. The zip lines are long and fast and Santuario Park Canopy has the third-longest cable in the world–approximately 1.6 km (1 mile) long. The tour has over 3.6 km (2.2 miles) of total zip line across 10 lines and 14 tree platforms. Other activities include nature walks, hanging bridges, and a rappelling activity. Bilingual guide and lunch included.
JUNGLE NIGHT TOUR The most beautiful concert, led by the orchestra of nature, begins when the sun goes down. Walking on safe trails, this guided tour, takes you on a magical experience through the nocturnal forest in search of the night-active fauna characteristic of the area, and learn about the flora that sustains the forest life. Take advantage of your guide’s experience spotting the hidden wonders of the forest and take beautiful photographs aided by the UV light and flashlights included.
WHITE WATER RAFTING The tour begins with a 1-hour drive from Manuel Antonio past rural villages and palm tree plantations. The Savegre River is considered the cleanest river in all of Central America–the river originates at the top of the San Gerardo Dota mountains and runs super-cold. The trip is filled with the incredible landscapes and natural waterfalls of the rainforest. Class II and III rapids. There is a safety orientation so everyone understands the basics of rafting–no previous experience necessary! All rafting equipment, an expert river guide, and snacks are included. The activity includes snacks and a typical Costa Rican meal after the tour.
NAUYACA WATERFALL Nauyaca Waterfall is one of Costa Rica’s most iconic natural attractions! The tour begins with a 1-hour drive, followed by a 4.8 km (3 miles) hike back to Nauyaca. At Nauyaca Falls, most hikers love to take a refreshing dip in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. Time and weather permitting, the hike may also include a stop at Portalón Waterfall. On the way back to Manuel Antonio, participants enjoy a delicious, traditional Costa Rica lunch. This is a scenery-rich tour and participants always take amazing photos! Bilingual guide and lunch included.
SUNSET SAIL TOUR This is an amazing ocean tour sailing along Manuel Antonio’s gorgeous Pacific coast. Participants enjoy free-flowing drinks and snacks at the onboard bar during the cruise to Biesanz Beach. Along the way, participants may be able to spot sea turtles, dolphins, and migrating whales (seasonal). At the beach, participants can swim, snorkel and explore. Bilingual guide, lifevest, snorkel gear, drinks, and lunch included.
If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your trip, you can arrange this directly with your Program Manager once you are registered for the program.
Spend a full-day hiking the ups and downs of the La Paz Waterfall gardens and visiting an expansive animal sanctuary. Lunch is included in this excursion.
Enjoy a half-day tour of the Britt Coffee Plantation, a working coffee farm, led by your own expert guide. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the coffee production from plant to cup, and enjoy a coffee tasting at the end of your tour.
The Scuba Certification program takes place in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Spend the week learning how to scuba dive with PADI certified instructors on the beaches of Costa Rica. The price is inclusive of your pick-up in San Jose and transportation to and from Manuel Antonio, along with your housing for 6 nights in a private room with a host family who will provide you with breakfast and dinner.
The Surf program is based in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica and is an exciting week-long opportunity for you to learn how to surf some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Your price includes your pick-up in San Jose and transportation to and from Manuel Antonio, along with your housing for 6 nights in a private room with a host family. This is also inclusive of breakfast and dinner.
Enjoy a day white water rafting alongside an expert guide along the Savegre or Naranjo river, and experience class I, II, III, and IV rapids. To join this excursion you must know how to swim and must be comfortable around swift-flowing water. Your rafting guide will provide a brief safety orientation and information about navigating the river, and all rafts will be followed in the river by safety guides in kayaks.
Spend a half-day zipping your way through the jungle on a zipline tour led by professional guides. You’ll have the chance to glide over raging rivers, jungle canopy, and interact with wildlife throughout your journey. Participants must be comfortable with heights and please note that meals are not included.
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
Spanish language lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica program, however, learning basic conversational Spanish will help you maximise the benefit of your program. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.
Manuel Antonio Language Lessons:
- 2-hour Small Group Classes: from US$175 (approximately AU$274) per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: from US$250 (approximately AU$391) per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: from US$455 (approximately AU$712) per week
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 upon arrival
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Currency||Costa Rican Colón (CRC)|
Weather and climate: Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country. Although you get much cooler temperatures in the mountains above 2000 meters, the average annual temperature for most of the country lies between 71°F (21.7°C) and 81°F (27°C). The coolest months are from November through to January, and the warmest months are from March through to May. San Jose stands at approximately 1170 meters altitude and has a mean annual temperature of 69°F (20.6°C).