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Animal Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Animal Care Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Want to make some four-legged friends as an Animal Care volunteer in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Animal Care project sets volunteers up to assist at horse therapy centers and animal welfare initiatives that aim to re-home abandoned or stray animals. Volunteers gain experience caring for animals while helping to provide them with medical treatment, companionship and playtime so they are ready to find their forever homes.

  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from £392 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Care for dogs and cats and help them find new, loving homes

  • Explore Costa Rica’s beaches, volcanoes and rainforests

  • Experience daily life in San José by staying with a local family

Key information

Care for & rehome abandoned animals
Based around Costa Rica’s capital city
Local homestay accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Fully hosted experience from £392 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 24 weeks
Spanish language lessons available
Up to 5 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Volunteers who are patient, physically active and love caring for and playing with animals. No experience is needed as you’ll be working closely with project staff.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

Domestic animals that are abandoned by their owners often become stray and cause problems for local communities in Costa Rica. Vet clinics and animal welfare organizations take these animals in and nurse them to full health before finding them new, loving homes.

As an Animal Care volunteer, you’ll assist at animal welfare organizations, or horse therapy centers and undertake a range of tasks to help improve the health and well-being of these vulnerable creatures. Specific placements depend on where your help is most needed, but you are welcome to indicate a preference.

Duties at welfare organizations can usually include:

  • Bathing and grooming animals
  • Helping with training
  • Feeding animals
  • Cleaning cages and kennels
  • Exercising, walking, and playing with animals
  • Talking to visitors
  • Assisting with neutering and spaying
  • Assist with the care of wounds and injuries
  • Building dog runs and fences
  • Creating community education campaigns

Horse therapy at the animal care volunteer project in Costa Rica - San Jose 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 low-income participants, who need to overcome physical, emotional, and psychological challenges. The therapy is usually provided at no cost to the participants.

Volunteers at horse therapy placements 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 San Jose with IVHQ?

When you volunteer with animals in San José you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Helping care for and rehome abandoned animals
  • Practicing your Spanish
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining experience caring for animals
  • Immersing yourself fully in the Costa Rican culture
  • Exploring San José, Costa Rica’s thriving capital

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • VVolunteers 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 volunteering without a parent or guardian can volunteer for a maximum 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.

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

Lorenzo Balini
14 Sep 2023

For me, it was my first volunteering experience and I am satisfied with the program choice made. What I found was an environment where you have to work hard, even with menial jobs, which perfectly reflected the idea I had of what I was going to do. I love animals and for the first time, I found the satisfaction of helping animals in shelters, the type of help that goes far beyond simple caresses and cuddles.

Jillian DiVergilio
15 Feb 2023

As an anxious person by nature, I was hesitant about volunteering. IVHQ and the on-ground team have so many safety nets put in place for you so you are never alone or will be in a situation where you don't have support. Getting to meet other like-minded people, making an impact, and being able to explore the county like a true local were my favorite moments during my volunteer experience. Pura Vida!

Jessica Torre
08 Dec 2022

I know it's scary to think about going abroad to volunteer, but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is so good for you! So even if you don't run into it with confidence, at least push yourself to take that first step. The local friendships and connections I made along the way and being able to release a baby turtle were worth it!

Anthony Logsdon
23 Sep 2022

I thought about volunteering for a long time - mostly I think because I was unsure how to go about it. IVHQ clears up all the unknowns. Beyond that, my volunteering experience was everything I'd hoped: rewarding, fun, exciting, and easy. To anyone hesitating to volunteer I would say - don't. You wont regret it.

Victoria Raftery
08 Sep 2022

This trip made me realize how truly privileged I am, which has grown my desire to help those who are less fortunate. If you want to expand your perspective, get out of your comfort zone, grow as a person, and make a positive impact on the world, you have to try this at least once! I was very impressed with both the level of organization and the amount of information provided by IVHQ. It made preparing for the trip much easier!

Amy Steger
31 Aug 2021

IVHQ was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It’s unique and it’s so rewarding. Immerse yourself in the culture, the people and the language. Make the most of it and whatever period of time you opt to stay for! My only regret is not allowing myself more time to stay longer.


To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

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!

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Volunteer Abroad in Costa Rica San Jose with IVHQ


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 travelling 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 socialising.

Volunteer schedule example

First day

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 at the homestays, and you will also 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 £4 and £8 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
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
1 week £392 Equivalent to £56/day
2 weeks £637 Equivalent to £46/day
3 weeks £891 Equivalent to £42/day
4 weeks £1123 Equivalent to £40/day
5 weeks £1305 Equivalent to £37/day
6 weeks £1487 Equivalent to £35/day
8 weeks £1850 Equivalent to £33/day
10 weeks £2213 Equivalent to £32/day
12 weeks £2576 Equivalent to £31/day
16 weeks £3303 Equivalent to £30/day
20 weeks £4030 Equivalent to £29/day
24 weeks £4756 Equivalent to £28/day
  • Accommodation
  • 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 Volunteer Service

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

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately £277) 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 GBP.
  • 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.

Free-time experiences & tours in Costa Rica

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

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, followrd 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. 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$180 (approximately £152) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$205 (approximately £173) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$400 (approximately £337) per week

Check what's required to visit Costa Rica

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

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, 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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How to get started

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