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Animal Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio

Animal Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio

Care for & rehome abandoned animals
Start dates
Programs start every Monday
Choose from 3-24 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 5 hours a day
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Homestay or Volunteer house
Program fees
From AU$1899 for 3 weeks
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
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Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

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This program is ideal for:

Patient, active volunteers who love animals and want to help them return to full health and find their forever homes. No experience is required as you’ll be working closely with the local placement staff.

Project details

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 horse therapy centers 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.

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 animal welfare organizations and horse therapy centers 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 in welfare organizations and clinics 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
  • Administration

Horse therapy at the animal care volunteer project in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio with International Volunteer HQ.

At horse therapy centers, apart from working towards rescue horse rehabilitation, volunteers also have the chance to participate in the therapy sessions provided to kids with physical, emotional, and cognitive disabilities, whose families can’t normally afford therapy. Horse therapy aims to improve the kids’ social skills, communication, and physical coordination

Volunteers at horse therapy placement can expect to:

  • Clean stables
  • Feed horses and other rescue animals such as dogs, chickens, pigs, and goats
  • Assist with the care of wounds and injuries
  • Bathe and groom horses
  • Clean and manage trails and paths
  • Organize tools and supplies
  • Assist with horse riding training
  • Assist during horse therapy sessions
Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #15: Life on Land

Human activity has altered almost 75% of the earth’s surface and around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Nature is critical to our survival. We must promote kindness to animals and use regenerative techniques to combat deforestation, conserve biodiversity and protect wildlife.

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

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16 or 17 on their program start date are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional document 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.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

Apply for free

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'Who is going' users image
Who is going?
Group video calls

Once you have secured your place, join regular video calls to meet your Program Manager and other volunteers before your trip.

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Sonia Hoare
19 Apr 2024

I grew as a person, not doing anything like this before. Also travelling on my own, I will definitely do this again. I would recommend anyone to do this, such an amazing experience.

Maria Jose Benet
14 Feb 2024

Two weeks in Costa Rica with IVHQ transformed me in ways I never imagined. My journey began with a desire to step out of my comfort zone, immerse myself in a new culture, and contribute positively to a community by teaching English to young kids. IVHQ stood out because of its affordability, ethical volunteering approach, and the rave reviews from past volunteers.

From the get-go, IVHQ's support was stellar, providing all the necessary guidance to prepare me for the trip. Landing in Costa Rica, the local team's warmth and efficiency shone through. The orientation was thorough, equipping us with essential information and making us feel at ease in our new surroundings.

Teaching in Quepos was a heartwarming experience, enriched by the children's enthusiasm and the local team's guidance. Their insights into the community and culture were invaluable, making our teaching efforts more effective and meaningful.

The accommodation and meals provided by the ocal team were exactly as IVHQ described—clean, comfortable, and truly felt like a home. I am a vegan and the food the family I stayed with did a big effort to assist me with my diet, all while being prepared with the utmost care for hygiene.

Reflecting on my two weeks in Costa Rica, I can say that this experience has left a profound impact on me. It wasn't just about teaching English; it was about cultural exchange, personal growth, and making lifelong connections. For those hesitant about volunteering abroad, my advice is to leap. The growth, experiences, and memories you'll gain are beyond compare.

To future volunteers, embrace every moment, and to IVHQ and the local team in Costa Rica, thank you for an experience I'll cherish forever.

Leila Addis
19 Aug 2023

I learned to not take anything I have for granted back at home and I really gained confidence on this trip. I would tell others to just do it, I was so scared going on my own but now I’ve come back with great friends and memories.

Blythe Kleinschmidt
10 Aug 2022

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!

Katie Sundvall
10 Aug 2022

Just go for it! Its worth it!

Deborah Jackson
04 Apr 2022

This was the best life experience I could ever have asked for! Working in the Animal Care program was very rewarding, knowing I made a difference and accomplished my dream just being at their shelter everyday with the dogs. The local team were so helpful, knowledgeable, informative, kind, and organized. If you have any questions, there is always someone there to help you. This also includes the local people of Costa Rica who are so very friendly and family orientated. My program as a volunteer was very rewarding in so many ways. When I show love, the dogs give it right back to you. They know we care and love them. It was extremely hard to say goodbye to them at the end…..but guess what? ……….I MADE A DIFFERENCE!


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

Academic course credit

Academic course credit through International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ.

Academic course credit

Gain course credit from your college or university and meet your academic requirements when completing a volunteer abroad program with International Volunteer HQ!

Learn about course credit


Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica Manuel Antonio with IVHQ


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

First day

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 at the accommodation, and you will also have access to computers and WiFi 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.


  • USD

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately AU$511) you secure your spot and unlock all our preparation and training tools.

You don't need to worry about paying your Program Fee until you get closer to your start date.

Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
3 weeks $1,222 Equivalent to $58/day
4 weeks $1,495 Equivalent to $53/day
5 weeks $1,710 Equivalent to $49/day
6 weeks $1,925 Equivalent to $46/day
8 weeks $2,355 Equivalent to $42/day
10 weeks $2,780 Equivalent to $40/day
12 weeks $3,210 Equivalent to $38/day
16 weeks $4,070 Equivalent to $36/day
20 weeks $4,930 Equivalent to $35/day
24 weeks $5,790 Equivalent to $34/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately AU$511) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$150 - US$200 per week to be sufficient for expenses. Please note this budget is for general expenses and does not include money you will need for any weekend activities you plan to do.
  • Airport pick-up
  • Return transportation San Jose - Manuel Antonio - San Jose
  • Accommodation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • 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 Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • Lunch
  • Transport to and from your placement each day
  • Return to the airport when your program finishes
  • Flights
  • Visa (if required), travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check.
  • Personal spending money for snacks, laundry, public transportation, drinks and leisure activities during your free time.

Free-time experiences & tours in Manuel Antonio

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Manuel Antonio! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Manuel Antonio program.

Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio
Beach and Jungle Mini Adventure - Manuel Antonio

Immerse yourself in Manuel Antonio’s stunning natural beauty and thrilling activities on this 6-day adventure

Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose
Coffee & Nature Experience - San Jose

Embark on a full-day adventure exploring La Paz Waterfall Gardens, an animal sanctuary, and a Poas Volcano Tour, followed by a Coffee Farm experience.

Mini Adventure  - San Jose
Mini Adventure - San Jose

Experience a comprehensive 6-day Mini Adventure, featuring Arenal Volcano, the Britt Coffee Tour, La Paz Waterfall Gardens, whitewater rafting, and a visit to the pristine Tortuga Island.


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$200 (approximately AU$310) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: from US$225 (approximately AU$349) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: from US$440 (approximately AU$683) per week

Check what's required to visit Costa Rica

Safety and support

Safety and support with IVHQ

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.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Essential country information

Capital San Jose
Population 5 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00

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).

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