Healthcare Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio
Interested in Healthcare volunteering in Costa Rica - Manuel Antonio? International Volunteer HQ’s Healthcare project empowers volunteers to assist with caring for people with disabilities and the elderly. With one of Costa Rica’s most idyllic national parks as a backdrop, volunteers will be able to observe clinical practice and learn from local medical professionals while helping provide better access to quality healthcare for the people of Manuel Antonio.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from AU$2026 for 3 weeks
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Provide care and support in an elderly home or clinic
Discover Costa Rica’s amazing natural environment
Experience daily life staying with a local family in Manuel Antonio
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
IVHQ’s Healthcare project in Manuel Antonio is set in community facilities that care for disabled people and the elderly. The healthcare system in Costa Rica is relatively well developed, however local staff work hard and appreciate the assistance of volunteers as well as the opportunity for cross-cultural learning.
As a medical volunteer you’ll shadow local staff and observe clinical practice in action. Local regulations mean even qualified volunteers can only provide the most basic care to patients, under the supervision of local professionals. Volunteers who speak Spanish, are there for longer stays and who show initiative are likely to have a more hands-on role.
Pre-medical, pre-nursing, medical and nursing students can assist with:
- Distributing medication
- Rehabilitation exercises
- Feeding and bathing patients
- Keeping patients company
Fully qualified volunteers may also be able to help with:
- Taking vitals
- Preparing medical equipment
There is a genuine need for volunteer physical therapists and occupational therapists, particularly in helping in elderly care facilities where they can help treat patients under the supervision of local staff.
Please note you will need to bring scrubs, latex gloves, masks, and face shields to wear to your placement each day.
Why do Healthcare volunteering in Manuel Antonio with IVHQ?
By doing medical volunteering in Manuel Antonio, you’ll be improving access to healthcare for the local community, while also gaining experience through:
- Assisting qualified medical professionals
- Gaining healthcare experience and skills
- Getting exposure to different clinical practices
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your cross-cultural communication skills
- Immersing yourself in Costa Rican culture
- Exploring Manuel Antonio’s natural beauty
- Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this program. If you are under the age of 18, IVHQ offers alternative volunteer opportunities for teens. Visit our High School Volunteer Abroad page to learn more.
- All volunteers are required to speak fluent English, have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check to IVHQ before departure.
Costa Rica photo gallery
In Manuel Antonio you may have the opportunity to volunteer in the following medical areas:
- General medicine
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
Please be sure to note your area of speciality, relevant qualifications and experience in your application.
”Volunteer abroad. Just do it. I picked Costa Rica for no apparent reason, but the challenge of speaking another language and being immersed in a completely different culture was refreshing and an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. Although I did not feel like my volunteering acts would make a huge difference in the long run, the notes of... gratitude from those we helped at our project sites made it very clear that we were needed and greatly appreciated. This opportunity to volunteer abroad has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I hope that anybody that has the chance to do the same will choose to as well.” read more
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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 in Manuel Antonio are accommodated in either a dorm-style volunteer house or a homestay with a local host family.
You will find living conditions are comfortable in both types of accommodation, and all homestay families have been approved by our local staff. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds with bedding provided. You will share a room with up to eight other volunteers of the same gender. The volunteer house can accommodate up to 30 volunteers, whereas the homestays can host up to 6 volunteers at one time. If you prefer a private room, these are available in our homestays and you will need to arrange this through your Program Manager once you’ve secured your spot on the program. Private room upgrades cost AU$93 per person, per week.
You can expect the homestays to have electricity, drinkable running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers are common and the water is not always heated.
WiFi is available in the majority of homestays and you will have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in Manuel Antonio.
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$2010 Equivalent to AU$96/day|
|4 weeks||AU$2528 Equivalent to AU$91/day|
|5 weeks||AU$2948 Equivalent to AU$85/day|
|6 weeks||AU$3368 Equivalent to AU$81/day|
|8 weeks||AU$4208 Equivalent to AU$76/day|
|10 weeks||AU$5049 Equivalent to AU$73/day|
|12 weeks||AU$5889 Equivalent to AU$71/day|
|16 weeks||AU$7569 Equivalent to AU$68/day|
|20 weeks||AU$9250 Equivalent to AU$67/day|
|24 weeks||AU$10930 Equivalent to AU$66/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of AU$452 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, such as lunches (except for Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers), in-country tours, and Spanish language lessons.
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 on Saturday, so no extra nights of accommodation will be needed if you participate directly before or after your volunteer program. Please note that your meals are not included on this trip.
This Mini Adventure includes:
- Visit to Tour to Arenal Volcano and Hotsprings
- 3 days/2 nights trip to Manuel Antonio (accommodations and transportation only)
- San Jose city tour and buffet dinner and cultural night
- Catamaran Tortuga Island Cruise
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 (accommodation is included from Saturday to Saturday), so no extra nights of accommodation will be needed if you participate directly after your volunteer program.
This Mini Adventure includes:
- Visit to the Manuel Antonio National Park
- Rainmaker tour and canopy walk and zipline
- White water rafting
- Nauyaca Waterfall hike
- Trimaran Sunset Sails tour
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. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the local staff once in Costa Rica at the program orientation. 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$264) per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: from US$250 (approximately AU$378) per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: from US$455 (approximately AU$688) 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 within 72 hours of travel
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).