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Animal Care Volunteer Project in Manuel Antonio - Costa Rica

Apply now. The next available start date for this project is May 10, 2021

Costa Rica coastal and beach areas must manage ongoing problems with abandoned and stray dogs and cats. Due to the heat and tropical conditions, these animals often suffer from poor health, injuries, and lack of proper nutrition. Volunteers on the Animal Care project in Manuel Antonio assist in local veterinary clinics and animal welfare organizations that nurse these animals back to health, and help them get adopted into new, loving homes.

Volunteers on the Animal Care project in Manuel Antonio - Costa Rica with IVHQ

Tasks include bathing and grooming, assisting with obedience training, cleaning cages and kennels, feeding the animals, interacting with visitors, exercising the animals through walks and playtime, assisting with medical treatments such as spaying or neutering, creating educational outreach and fundraising campaigns within the community, small construction projects (i.e. building dog runs and creating fences), and other administrative tasks as needed.

You do not require any experience to join this project, but patience and a love for animals is essential. Please note that this project requires a minimum duration of 3 weeks.

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Project Highlights
What you need to know
  • Affordable fees from CA$490 for 1 week
  • Help local vets and animal welfare organizations with hands-on care

  • Nurse stray dogs and cats back to health and help them get adopted

  • Assist with medical treatment, training, grooming and playtime

  • Suited to enthusiastic volunteers who love animals

  • Volunteer for up to 5 hours per day

Destination Highlights
Costa Rica at a glance
  • Based in the capital city of San Jose, coastal city of Manuel Antonio, in the central highlands or in rural locations on the coast

  • Program fees include airport pick-up, orientation, accommodation, breakfast and dinner each day and 24/7 in-country support

  • Accommodation in a local homestay or in dormitory-style lodging

  • Between 40 and 80 volunteers start in Costa Rica each month

Fill out the quick form below to find out what the Covid-19 restrictions and visa requirements are for Costa Rica, based on your country of residence.

The Costa Rica volunteer program has volunteer projects located throughout Costa Rica, with the large majority based in and around San Jose and volunteer opportunities also available in Manuel Antonio. Turtle Conservation volunteers are based in coastal locations on the Pacific or Caribbean Coast, and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers are based in Costa Rica’s Central Highlands.

Costa Rica Volunteer Project Locations:

  • Childcare (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Turtle Conservation (Pacific Coast, Caribbean Coast)
  • Healthcare (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Construction and Renovation (San Jose)
  • Teaching English (San Jose, Manuel Antonio)
  • Eco-Agriculture Conservation (Central Highlands)
  • Special Needs Care (San Jose)
  • Holiday Experience Project (San Jose)
  • Spanish Service Learning Course (San Jose)

Volunteer programs begin every Monday. You can choose to volunteer for periods ranging from 1 week to 24 weeks. Please note the Turtle Conservation project has a minimum duration of two weeks and volunteer projects based in Manuel Antonio have a minimum duration of three weeks.

Volunteers are required to fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport, which is a 5 to 7 hour flight from most major airports in Canada.

The IVHQ Costa Rica program promotes the concept of ‘betterment’ across all its social and environmental projects. The program aims to improve the lives of members of the community, the lives of animals and the lives of volunteers through proving an opportunity for volunteers to immerse themselves in project work that delivers sustainable positive outcomes. As one of IVHQ’s most popular destinations, the IVHQ Costa Rica program offers a wide range of project types in multiple locations throughout Costa Rica including, childcare, teaching, turtle conservation, eco-agriculture, healthcare, construction and renovation, special needs care and Spanish service learning. In the last 12 months, IVHQ volunteers have contributed more than 57,000 hours to projects in Costa Rica and have made a significant impact with their time spent in-country.

Latest impacts achieved:

  • Measured, counted, and tagged more than 2,900 sea turtles, and released over 1,000 turtle hatchlings into the sea
  • Participated on over 1,800 night patrols to control turtle egg poaching
  • Equipped seven classrooms, each with a capacity for 10 children. Each classroom was given a new whiteboard, one large table, and 10 chairs
  • Organized and led the delivery of six medical campaigns, each with an average of 200 patients
  • Painted seven murals and put up three hanging gardens in an effort to beautify living arrangements for families in need
  • Provided 204 full scholarships for students from local projects to study English
  • Contributed over 8,000 hours of aid at medical projects
  • Donated 215 notebooks, 820 pencils, 500 pens, 210 crayon boxes as well as other materials like glue, activity books, rulers and pencil sharpeners
  • Facilitated the donation of over 3,000 boxes of latex gloves, 1,000 toothbrushes, 1,000 tubes of toothpaste, 900 bottles of children’s vitamins, 550 bags of adult diapers, 400 boxes of bandages, 430 boxes of aspirin, and other medicines as prescribed by a local doctor
  • Renovated and restored two churches
  • Built six wooden desks, drawers and cabinets for the computers to support the provision of computer literacy teaching

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. Canadian travelers do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica for a duration of 90 days. When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in San Jose, 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 traveling in Costa Rica prior to your program, the local team will pick you up at your San Jose accommodation the day before your orientation.

San Jose based projects, Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation If you are volunteering on a project based in San Jose, Turtle Conservation or Eco-Agriculture Conservation, the program orientation begins every Monday and you need to arrive in San Jose on the Sunday before your program start date - this night of accommodation is included in your Program Fee. Your check out is at 11am on the last Saturday of your program.

The compulsory program orientation is hosted by our Costa Rica team at their offices in San Jose on Sunday or Monday. Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation projects will travel to their placement sites on Monday or Tuesday.

Manuel Antonio based projects If you are volunteering on a project based in Manuel Antonio, you need to arrive in San Jose on the Saturday before your program start date - this night of accommodation is included in the Program Fee. 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.

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 to Manuel Antonio.

Orientation covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Costa Rica – Introduction to Costa Rica, Costa Rican Customs, Language Training Details, Rules and Expectations, Safety, Travel Opportunities in Costa Rica, 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 socializing.

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. A typical morning schedule is as follows:

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. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in.

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.

Please note, this schedule can vary as projects take place in either the morning or afternoon. If you are taking Spanish language lessons, you will usually volunteer for half the day and spend the other half (1 to 4 hours) taking Spanish language lessons. Volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation projects will have a varying schedule to the one provided above, due to the nature of the work involved in those projects.

Volunteers in Costa Rica are accommodated in a homestay with a local host family - it’s an immersive experience that connects you with an authentic insight into the Costa Rican way of life. You will find living conditions are comfortable and all homestay families have been approved by our local staff. You can expect the homestays to have electricity, running water (drinkable) and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers are common and the water is not always heated. Bedrooms have single and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with one or two other volunteers and in some homestays, however it is possible for volunteers to have their own rooms. WiFi is available in the majority of homestays and you will have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in San Jose.

Accommodation on the Turtle Conservation project is typically in dormitory-style lodging or homestays with basic amenities. WiFi availability is limited at the Turtle Conservation sites and Eco-Agriculture Conservation sites, so we recommend purchasing a local SIM card for an unlocked mobile phone during your program orientation in San Jose if you want to keep connected.

Volunteers are provided with breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast typically consists of toast, fruit, eggs, rice and beans accompanied with tea or coffee. Dinner usually includes: meat (typically chicken), starches, vegetables and Gallo Pinto, which is the national dish of Costa Rica consisting of rice and beans. Gallo Pinto is served with almost every meal. Lunches are not provided to San Jose and Manuel Antonio-based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. We recommend budgeting between CA$6 and CA$12 per day to purchase lunch. Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture volunteers are provided with lunch given the rural settings of these projects. 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.

“The project offered exactly what I wanted to do and my experience on the Turtle Conservation program was one of the best of my life. The accomodations were far beyond what I expected and I was never unhappy with them. My favorite moment was the first time we released 100 baby turtles to sea at sunset. It was very amazing. I would recommend this program to others for sure.” - Collin Hannahan (Turtle Conservation Volunteer in Costa Rica)

Read more reviews from IVHQ volunteers in Costa Rica here

Costa Rica

Duration Program Fee
1 week $380 CA$490
2 weeks $670 CA$865
3 weeks $955 CA$1,233
4 weeks $1,205 CA$1,556
5 weeks $1,410 CA$1,820
6 weeks $1,615 CA$2,085
8 weeks $2,025 CA$2,614
10 weeks $2,435 CA$3,144
12 weeks $2,845 CA$3,673
16 weeks $3,665 CA$4,732
20 weeks $4,485 CA$5,791
24 weeks $5,305 CA$6,850
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee from US$299 (approximately CA$386) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in CAD.
  • The Turtle Conservation, Healthcare, Eco-Agriculture and Construction projects also have an extra cost of US$75 per week for supervision, materials and the logistics involved in these projects. The Holiday Experience project has an extra cost of US$95 per week for supervision, materials and logistics involved in the project.
  • Discounts on language lessons
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Mandatory: Visa (when necessary), flights, travel insurance, and criminal background check.
  • Optional: Vaccinations, Spanish lessons
  • In-country costs: Souvenirs, in-country trips or tours transport to and from your placement if required, transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program, lunches (except for Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers), and transportation to and from placement (except for Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers)
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$100 to be sufficient for weekly expenses

Costa Rica: Manuel Antonio Projects

Duration Program Fee
3 weeks $1,115 CA$1,439
4 weeks $1,385 CA$1,788
5 weeks $1,590 CA$2,053
6 weeks $1,795 CA$2,317
8 weeks $2,205 CA$2,847
10 weeks $2,615 CA$3,376
12 weeks $3,025 CA$3,906
16 weeks $3,845 CA$4,965
20 weeks $4,665 CA$6,023
24 weeks $5,485 CA$7,082
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee from US$299 (approximately CA$386) on top of the Program Fee (partially refundable until 60 days before your program start date*). A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in CAD.
  • * Terms and Conditions do apply
What extra costs will I have?
  • Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), lunches, vaccinations, criminal background check, souvenirs, in-country trips or tours.
  • Transfer back to the airport at conclusion of the program.
  • Spanish lessons (optional).
  • Spending money - Volunteers in Costa Rica generally find US$100 to be sufficient for weekly expenses.
Registration Fee
What it covers
  • Most affordable program fees
  • Expert support from a program specialist
  • Full MyIVHQ account access
  • Online volunteer training
  • Comprehensive preparation tools
  • IVHQ alumni rewards
Program Fee
What it covers
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Airport pick-up
  • Program orientation
  • Volunteer placement
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Discounts on language lessons

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time to relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of San Jose and Costa Rica. Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to visit volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches throughout the country. Sunday is a religious day of rest and most places (stores, restaurants) are closed on Sundays, as most Costa Ricans devote the day 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 unique and special experience for many volunteers.

See our Costa Rica Travel and Tours page for more volunteer travel options in Costa Rica!

Capital San Jose
Population 4.805 million
Languages Spanish
Currency Costa Rican Colón (CRC)
Time zone UTC−06:00

Weather and climate: Costa Rica is unequivocally a tropical country, situated between 8° and 11° north latitude, fairly close to the equator. 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).

Volunteers who are under 18 years old will be required to provide IVHQ with parental consent and two character reference letters in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team. All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance and provide a criminal background check conducted within 12 months of your program start date to IVHQ. Healthcare volunteers must be at least pre-med students or higher, while Sea Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation volunteers aged under 18 must be accompanied by a friend or family member aged 18 or over.

Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica volunteer program, however, we recommend that volunteers take advantage of the affordable language lessons offered to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Costa Rica.

Free Interactive Volunteer Training - All volunteers are encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training, which is available exclusively to registered IVHQ volunteers. The training is designed to build an understanding of important aspects that need to be considered before embarking on an IVHQ program. It helps volunteers to prepare in the right way by providing advice on what it takes to be a safe, responsible and valuable volunteer. Try a sample of the training here.

We recognize that there is more to an awesome volunteer travel experience than simply volunteering. While we maintain a strong focus on providing impactful volunteer opportunities, we also understand that many IVHQ volunteers are first-time travelers and want to make time for sightseeing and exploring.

Volunteer Extra Activities - Mini Adventure in Costa Rica You can add-on a Mini Adventure Week, ensuring you don’t miss any of the main attractions while volunteering in Costa Rica! The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in into a one-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 six-day program 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.

If you would like to add a Mini Adventure to your volunteer trip to Costa Rica, you can arrange this directly with the local team once you arrive in San Jose. The cost is US$1095 (approximately CA$1413) and includes a cultural night of dinner and dancing in San Jose, a trip to the Arenal Volcano and hot springs, a catamaran tour to Tortuga Island, and two nights on the Pacific Coast near the famous Manuel Antonio National Park.

Language Lessons - Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Costa Rica program, however, learning basic conversational Spanish will help you maximize 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.

San Jose Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$125 (approximately CA$161) per week
  • 4-hour Group Classes: US$250 (approximately CA$322) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$195 (approximately CA$251) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$390 (approximately CA$503) per week

Manuel Antonio Language Lessons:

  • 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$145 (approximately CA$187) per week
  • 4-hour Group Classes: US$290 (approximately CA$374) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$215 (approximately CA$277) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$430 (approximately CA$555) per week

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!