Healthcare Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose
Interested in Healthcare volunteering in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Healthcare project enables volunteers to assist in clinics for disabled children or the homeless, and in nursing homes and with ambulance services across San José. Volunteers will be able to help with essential healthcare tasks and may shadow local medical professionals to observe and assist them with their work. It’s a great opportunity to see clinical practice in action and enjoy the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and learnings that comes from volunteering in another country’s healthcare system.
- Programs start every Monday
- Affordable fees from CA$711 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Help provide medical care to people in need
Discover and adventure in Costa Rica’s incredible national parks
Experience daily life in San José by staying with a local family
This program is ideal for:
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
Community care facilities deliver a range of important health services in Costa Rica. As a Healthcare volunteer, you can work in clinics for disabled children or the homeless, in nursing homes or with ambulance services in San José. The healthcare system in Costa Rica is reasonably well developed, however there is a need for volunteers to support and assist local nurses, doctors and caregivers and plenty of opportunity for observational learning.
What medical volunteers are able to do on the project depends on a number of factors including local regulations, training, qualifications, how well you speak Spanish, your ability to show initiative and how long you spend on the project. Duties for unqualified volunteers will generally include:
- Distributing and sorting medication
- Assisting with rehabilitation exercises
- Helping with meals and bathing
- Making beds and cleaning
- Providing companionship to patients
Qualified professionals may also be able to:
- Shadow doctors and nurses
- Assist with checkups
- Take vitals
- Triage patients
- Prepare medical equipment
Why do Healthcare volunteering in San Jose with IVHQ?
When you volunteer on the Healthcare project in San José you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Improving access to healthcare in San José
- Helping patients with daily tasks
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining healthcare experience
- Immersing yourself fully in the Costa Rican culture
- Exploring the buzzing capital of San José
- To join the Healthcare project volunteers need to be pre-medical, pre-nursing, medical or nursing students or fully qualified medical professionals.
- 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 San José you may have the chance to volunteer in the following healthcare areas:
- General medicine
- First Response
- Family planning
- Medical interpreters
Please be sure to note your area of speciality, relevant qualifications and experience in your application.
”I went in alone, knowing nobody, my first trip internationally as an adult (age 19) and I absolutely loved. My entire trip I went safe and faced no problems. It is good to be anxious and stressed, but do not let that stop your aspirations. I took a risk and left with memories of life and a burning desire to do more volunteer trips.”
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San José is Costa Rica’s modern, metropolitan, cultural hub. The capital city has been hailed as one of the most visited destinations in Central America and is the central point for tourists arriving in Costa Rica. It’s got excellent eateries, an interesting variety of museums, markets, shops, parks and nightlife and is only a short trip to any of the numerous natural attractions and adventures in the region.
Arrival and orientation
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José on the Sunday before your start date.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and taken to the volunteer accommodation in San José. 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 José accommodation the day before your orientation.
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 José on Sunday or Monday.
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 socializing.
Volunteer schedule example
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 5 hours. Your volunteer work and hours are dependent on the location and type of project you are participating in but 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.|
|12:00 PM||Lunch at a local restaurant.|
|1:00 - 6:00 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.|
Whether you want to explore or relax on your weekends in San José , there’s plenty of opportunity to do both. Stroll down the bustling Central Avenue in downtown San José and take in a museum, listen to street performers or do some shopping. Then check out the stunning architecture of the National Theater of Costa Rica, taste-test the city’s fabulous coffee or sample a brew from San José ’s blossoming craft-beer industry.
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. Many of these are only a short trip from San José .
Most IVHQ volunteers choose to take advantage of our Costa Rica - Travel and tour add-ons in their free time. Please note that volunteers on more remote projects such as Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture Conservation will only be able to join these activities before or after their program.
Accommodation and WiFi
In San Jose volunteers are accommodated in homestays with local families - 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 you can expect your accomodation to have electricity, drinkable running water 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 up to six other volunteers of the same gender in most homestays It is possible for volunteers to upgrade to a private room (double bed, shared washroom) for $62 per person, per week.
If you are traveling as a family, the local team will place you in a separate homestay to ensure all family members are accommodated together.
Please note, volunteers under the age of 18 who are traveling solo will be accommodated separately from those over the age of 18. 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.
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 José.
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 and vegetables. Costa Rica’s national dish, Gallo Pinto, is made of rice and beans and served with nearly every meal. Lunches are not provided to San José -based volunteers, as they are typically away from their accommodation at midday. Budget between CA$7 and CA$14 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.
|1 week||CA$712 Equivalent to CA$102/day|
|2 weeks||CA$1241 Equivalent to CA$89/day|
|3 weeks||CA$1756 Equivalent to CA$84/day|
|4 weeks||CA$2221 Equivalent to CA$79/day|
|5 weeks||CA$2630 Equivalent to CA$75/day|
|6 weeks||CA$3039 Equivalent to CA$72/day|
|8 weeks||CA$3857 Equivalent to CA$69/day|
|10 weeks||CA$4675 Equivalent to CA$67/day|
|12 weeks||CA$5493 Equivalent to CA$65/day|
|16 weeks||CA$7130 Equivalent to CA$64/day|
|20 weeks||CA$8766 Equivalent to CA$63/day|
|24 weeks||CA$10402 Equivalent to CA$62/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
- Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of CA$421 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 CAD.
- 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, mini adventures and more, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Costa Rica as affordable add-ons.
Please note that volunteers on the Turtle Conservation and Eco-Agriculture projects are only able to do the following add ons before or after their program, not during.
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.
Arenal Volcano is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in Costa Rica. Located in the small pueblo of La Fortuna, the entire area is a paradise for adventure lovers and nature enthusiasts. On the way to La Fortuna, the tour stops in a visit to the artisan pueblo of Sarchi. At Arenal, participants have 3 hours of free time to enjoy the hot springs. Bilingual guide, entrance fees, lunch, and dinner included. Pick up at accommodations at 7:00 AM. This tour is 15 hours long. Note, this tour ends at 10:00 PM.
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.
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 maximize 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. Please note these lessons are not available on the Holiday Experience, Eco-Agriculture or Turtle Conservation projects.
San Jose Language Lessons:
- 2-hour Small Group Classes: US$145 (approximately CA$204) per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: US$225 (approximately CA$317) per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: US$455 (approximately CA$641) 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, 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).