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Costa Rica Animal Care Volunteer

Do you have a passion for animals? Are you interested in contributing to the rescue and rehabilitation of endangered animals in Costa Rica? Join our Costa Rica animal care volunteer program!

Costa Rica, a true paradise, offers a diverse landscape that transitions from cool highlands and rolling mountains to steamy jungles and two stunning coastlines. Just a few hours' drive allows you to immerse yourself in a variety of activities – whether it's surfing, hiking, ziplining, rafting, or exploring to your heart's content. The country's rich natural beauty provides an array of experiences for every adventurer.

Sadly, in Costa Rica animals often lack the status of family members, and there's a limited culture of animal rights. The region faces challenges of insufficient education and awareness regarding animals and their specific needs. Small groups of abandoned dogs and cats, suffering from hunger, abuse, and health issues, can be commonly found on side streets. The absence of spaying and neutering contributes to rapid breeding. Additionally, exotic species are sometimes illegally kept as pets, and farm animals may face neglect due to poverty and limited resources. Access to proper veterinary training and care is not always readily available.

IFRE Volunteers offers you the opportunity to collaborate with grassroots organizations dedicated to saving and rehabilitating a diverse range of animals. This project focus on providing medical care, education, and various services to protect innocent animals. They work towards finding loving homes for pets, rehabilitating wild animals for eventual release into their natural habitat, and advocating for the proper care of farm animals in safe pastures. In Costa Rica, volunteer placements are available at specialized facilities, including dog and cat shelters, as well as horse care and rehabilitation centers.

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Volunteer Responsibilities & Impact

Volunteers are typically assigned to work in either a local family-run dog and cat shelter, which houses approximately dogs and cats and relies on minimal government funding, or they assist in caring for horses used in Equine Assisted Therapy. This therapeutic approach with horses aims to help individuals overcome physical, emotional, and psychological challenges.

As a volunteer, your involvement spans a variety of tasks, including assisting with veterinary care, cleaning cages, grooming, basic obedience training, and engaging in play with the animals. You may also contribute to spay/neuter programs, participate in educational outreach initiatives, and assist in organizing fundraising events. The success of all animal care projects relies heavily on the dedication of volunteers who share a genuine love for animals!

Skills and Qualifications:

You don't need to know much Spanish, but it could help. Having a positive and ready-to-help attitude is important. We want you to be outgoing and willing to help whenever you can. It's also good to be there regularly and follow the schedule. This way, you can have the best impact on both you and the project. At the animal care projects, the work might be tough sometimes. Be ready to do things on your own and take charge at times.

Your work hours may vary slightly, but you can expect to work around 3-4 hours per day, Monday to Friday. Your volunteer shift will either be in the morning or the afternoon, depending on your project's needs. While the exact hours may differ based on your project placement, here's a general outline to give you an idea of a typical day:

First Day:

Your initial day as a volunteer in Costa Rica starts with our in-country coordinator guiding you to your project placement. During this introduction, you'll meet the local project staff and receive a thorough orientation covering your duties, daily schedule, safety guidelines, and insights into Costa Rican culture.


Your volunteer work officially begins on the second day, with a schedule that varies based on your specific placement. A typical day might follow this pattern:

7:00 to 7:30 AM:

Begin your day with a traditional Tico breakfast with your host family, including gallo pinto, a popular dish featuring rice and beans, eggs, tortillas, fresh juice, and café con leche.

7:45 AM:

Travel from your host family's residence to your project site. If you opt for the local bus, be early to account for delays and potential crowded conditions. Enjoy your fulfilling day as a volunteer in Costa Rica!

12:00 PM:

Break for lunch. Find a local restaurant or bring a packed lunch, using this time to connect with fellow volunteers and build friendships.

3:00 PM:

After completing your volunteer duties, your evenings are free to explore. Relax with your host family or join fellow volunteers in exploring the surrounding areas.

6:45 PM:

Each evening, share a traditional dinner with your host family. Immerse yourself in the local culture, practice Spanish, and make the most of your time in this captivating country.

Volunteer Program Fees (US$)

Program Dates

IFRE programs begin every Monday year-round. If you have travel constraints, you can still start your chosen program on any day of the year.

Our Fees

Since 2006, IFRE has been the most trusted and respected volunteer abroad organization in the world, and also the most affordable. We’re dedicated to providing the highest quality volunteer programs at the lowest fees, which make it possible for everyone, especially students, to volunteer internationally and make a positive impact in the lives of others.

We believe in 100% transparency. Rest assured, we never use middlemen. Your one-time registration fee of $299 covers our administrative costs. The low weekly fee is paid in the host country directly to your host family and project (via country coordinator), and includes housing, food, and minor expenses. IFRE is a non-profit organization, so your program fees are tax deductible.

Volunteer Program Fees (US$)

Duration Fee San Jose Fee Manuel Antonio
  1 Week   $455   N/A
  2 Weeks   $765  N/A
  3 Weeks   $1,075   $1,255
  4 Weeks   $1,345   $1,535
  5 Weeks   $1,540   $1,730
  6 Weeks   $1,735   $1,925
  7 Weeks   $1,930   $2,120
  8 Weeks   $2,125   $2,315
  9 Weeks   $2,320   $2,510
  10 Weeks   $2,515   $2,705
  11 Weeks   $2,710   $2,900
  12 Weeks   $2,905   $3,095

Comprehensive Travel Insurance $3.49/day ( below 28 years) and $4.49/day ( above 28 years) »

How your fee is allocated?

Spanish Immersion Classes – 2 Hour Group

San Jose, Costa Rica - $125/week

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica - $145/week

The volunteering in Costa Rica program fees will cover expenses from the first day of the program to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program or you decide you stay beyond your program’s last day, you will be responsible for the additional expenses.

Program Fees Cover:

  • Shared Accommodation with a host family or in dormitory-style accommodations, from Sunday to Saturday
  • 2 meals per day (Breakfast & Dinner) when in San Jose, 3 meals per day when at the Sea Turtle Conservation project
  • Airport Pick up
  • In-country support
  • Program Orientation, Walking Tour, Safety Presentation
  • Project Management
  • Volunteer Certificate
  • Discount for returning volunteers
  • Letter of Recommendation (upon request)
  • Emergency contact 24/7
  • Access to computer lab, high-speed office-wide wifi at the institute, and access to weekly salsa dance classes and cooking classes
  • Free coffee and tea at the on-site snack bar

Program Fees Exclude:

  • Visas
  • Airfare
  • Personal expenses on soft drinks and foods
  • Daily transportation
  • Airport return transfer
  • Extra nights of housing (can be booked at an additional cost)

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Meals and Accommodations

Volunteers in Costa Rica will reside with experienced and respected host families, offering a safe and culturally immersive experience. Shared gender-specific rooms provide basic, clean, and comfortable accommodations with access to showers, toilets, and electricity. The proximity of accommodations to the volunteer project may involve walking or public transportation. Two local meals (breakfast and dinner) are provided, with dietary preferences accommodated at no extra cost. Host families have a history of hosting international volunteers, ensuring a welcoming environment for volunteers to fully engage in the local culture.

Learn more about IFRE’s accommodations and meals in Costa Rica.

Free Time and Weekends Exploration

San Jose, Costa Rica, boasts a rich cultural scene with museums, theaters, live music, and excellent restaurants. The historical downtown shopping area adds to the city's charm. Positioned conveniently, San Jose serves as an ideal starting point for day and weekend trips to nearby attractions, including volcanoes, the cloud forest, rainforests, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and various natural wonders, offering volunteers a diverse range of recreational and exploration opportunities during their stay.

Discover what to do in your free time while volunteering in Costa Rica.

Safety and in Country Support

Ensuring your safety is our top priority at IFRE, guaranteeing a successful and secure volunteer abroad experience. We take measures to secure safe housing with welcoming host families, assist in navigating the local area, collaborate with respected organizations, provide health coverage, and offer continuous support through our dedicated in-country team, available to you at all times.

Learn more about IFRE’s safety and support in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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Costa Rica Animal Care Volunteer-FAQs

At IFRE, we handle the intricate details to ensure a seamless Costa Rica volunteer trip. Here are key points to be aware of when traveling abroad with us:

Arrival and Departure

Your arrival will be at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Provide us with accurate flight details to facilitate a prompt pickup upon arrival. Our airport representative will meet you, assisting with the transfer to your placement. Please note that IFRE doesn't provide departure transport services. These can be arranged separately through the in-country coordinator at an additional cost.


To participate in the program, it is essential to apply for a tourist visa in advance. Conduct thorough research on the specific requirements for your home country, as eligibility for an on-arrival visa may vary based on nationality. Additionally, there is a 90-day visa extension option. For more detailed information, please visit the Immigration site of Costa Rica. Notably, Costa Rica has recently extended the duration of its tourist visa to 180 days, providing volunteers with an extended and enriching experience in the country.


Before traveling to Costa Rica for volunteering, the first step to protect yourself is to get the right vaccines. Visit a travel doctor who knows about health issues in Costa Rica. You can also check trusted sources like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Canada, or Travelers' Health United Kingdom.

It's really important to get all the needed shots before going to Costa Rica for our volunteer program. Make sure your routine vaccines are up to date, and also get vaccines for Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid. This helps keep you safe and healthy during your time in Costa Rica.

For further readings:


Volunteer Health and Safety

Safety tips for your volunteer abroad trip

Why volunteer in the Animal Care program?

Make a Difference:

Volunteering in the Animal Care program allows you to actively contribute to the well-being and rehabilitation of diverse and endangered animals. Your efforts help in providing medical care, education, and essential services to protect innocent animals.

Addressing Unique Challenges:

In Latin America, there's a lack of awareness about animal rights and proper care. Volunteers in this program play a vital role in addressing challenges like abandoned pets, illegal capture of exotic species, and neglect of farm animals.

Diverse Volunteering Opportunities:

You have the opportunity to work with grassroots organizations that focus on various aspects, including dog and cat shelters, horse care and rehabilitation centers, and more. This diversity ensures a fulfilling and varied experience.

Building Lifelong Connections:

Volunteering in the Animal Care program provides the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, local project staff, and, most importantly, the animals. Building lasting relationships enhances the overall impact of your volunteer journey.

Contact IFRE today to find the perfect wildlife project for you!

Take a minute to complete the form and we will be in touch.

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