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Healthcare Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Healthcare Volunteer Project in Costa Rica - San Jose

Improve access to quality healthcare
Start dates
Programs start every Monday
Choose from 1-24 weeks
Volunteer hours
Up to 5 hours a day
Volunteers aged 18+
Local homestay
Program fees
From £464 for 1 week
What's included
Find out here
Apply for free
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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:

Volunteers with no previous Healthcare experience, pre-medical and pre-nursing students, as well as fully qualified medical professionals. Local regulations govern the amount of hands-on treatment volunteers can provide. Being able to speak Spanish is useful on this project.

Project details

Interested in Healthcare volunteering in Costa Rica - San José? International Volunteer HQ’s Healthcare project enables volunteers to assist in assisted living centers for the elderly and disabled, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities 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.

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

Community care facilities deliver a range of important health services in Costa Rica. 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 opportunities 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.

Volunteer with no previous Healthcare experience, students enrolled in pre-medical and nursing programs, first and second year medical students, Health Science professionals, and medical professionals such as EMTs, CNAs or Medical Assistants can expect to volunteer at elderly homes and special needs facilities Volunteer duties typically include:

  • Provide much-needed companionship to patients
  • Engaging in conversation-talk therapy
  • Support staff with feeding, bathing, and changing beds
  • Distributing medication
  • Assisting residents during exercise programs and arts and crafts projects

Fully licensed medical professionals and students in their third year of study or above may be placed in hospitals, clinics, and assisted living facilities, where they can expect to perform tasks as:

  • Shadowing doctors and nurses
  • Assisting with checkups
  • Taking vitals
  • Triaging patients
  • Preparing medical equipment

Volunteers are required to bring their own PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to the program, including their own scrubs, disposable latex gloves, surgical masks, and closed-toed shoes.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Well-Being

Good mental and physical health is key to sustainable development and building healthy and happy communities. Now more than ever, we must increase access to free healthcare and health education across the globe to achieve an acceptable standard of living and wellbeing for all.

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

Volunteer requirements

  • 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.
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?
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

Ben Bradford
21 May 2024

Experiencing Costa Rica and its healthcare has improved my understanding of the differences between healthcare systems around the world. Costa Rica is a beautiful place and the people are so friendly, definitely would recommend volunteering here!

Laura Carpenter
04 Apr 2024

I was nervous about doing a medical mission on my own but after this experience I have the confidence to do another one. I loved immersing myself into a new culture and I learned so much living with the host family and volunteering. I enjoy traveling on the weekends. I also started learning a new language which I hope to continue when I go back home. This is one of my favorite memorable experiences I’ve ever had.

Sydney Anderson
18 Jul 2023

My favorite moment was the time I spent with my patients when taking their vitals and when I got to spend time with them during social hours. We all sat together and drank coffee and watched a movie, it was so much fun. I loved being able to surround myself with the culture, practice my Spanish with them helping me, and exchange lots of smiles and thumbs up since my Spanish was not the best.

The biggest impact my volunteer experience had on me was emerging in the culture of Costa Rica and meeting lots of new people. I enjoyed every moment. I also really enjoyed my time at my host family’s house. They were so kind, patient, and welcoming and gave great advice on where to go and what to do. Meal times were my favorite with them!

If you're still hesitating about volunteering abroad, you should do it. Get uncomfortable and put yourself out there! The outcome is so worth the uncomfortableness I met so many amazing people and learned so much about medications and HIV and how it affects people because my placement was at a HIV clinic.

Megan Matthews
23 Mar 2023

Experiencing my personal self-growth with traveling abroad alone as well as learning and observing how the medical system of another country was laid out and operated were the two main takeaways from my volunteer experience. I got to meet people from all over the world and learn about their cultures as well. It inspired me to do more in my local community at home and has given me to urge to travel and volunteer again.

One of my favorite memories is arriving to the placement on the first day and being met by the nurse and other assistants in the facility. They were so welcoming and made my volunteer experience very rewarding.

If you are hesitant about volunteering abroad, alone, don't be. IVHQ and the local team made the entire experience run smoothly and there was no point in my trip when I felt unsafe. You get to meet people from a variety of backgrounds and get to experience something you may never get to do in your lifetime.

Allison Slitt
20 Jun 2022

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.

Emma Hudson
05 Mar 2022

My first solo international trip was through IVHQ and went better than I had ever expected. IVHQ helped me plan the things I was most concerned about prior to my departure (accommodations, transportation) and ensured I would be connected and supported while in the country. The local team went above and beyond my expectations in terms of friendliness and support, and truly made me feel so comfortable. I was most nervous about staying with a host family for the first time, but the local team set me up with a perfect match - a family I truly connected with and hope to stay in contact with. I am so glad I went through IVHQ, I learned so much on this trip and can't wait for the next one!


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 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

Spots are limited. For a Registration Fee of just US$329 (approximately £272) 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
1 week $560 Equivalent to $80/day
2 weeks $945 Equivalent to $68/day
3 weeks $1,340 Equivalent to $64/day
4 weeks $1,710 Equivalent to $61/day
5 weeks $2,020 Equivalent to $58/day
6 weeks $2,330 Equivalent to $55/day
8 weeks $2,950 Equivalent to $53/day
10 weeks $3,570 Equivalent to $51/day
12 weeks $4,190 Equivalent to $50/day
16 weeks $5,430 Equivalent to $48/day
20 weeks $6,670 Equivalent to $48/day
24 weeks $7,910 Equivalent to $47/day
  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately £272) 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.
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Airport pick-up
  • 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 San Jose

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in San Jose! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ San Jose 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. 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 £149) per week
  • 1-hour Private Classes: US$205 (approximately £169) per week
  • 2-hour Private Classes: US$400 (approximately £331) 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, 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).

Apply to check if you're eligible!

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