Calling all animal lovers!
Did you know that Costa Rica, which is about the size of West Virginia, contains nearly 6% of the world’s biodiversity?
This small country in Central America is bursting at the seams with wildlife dispersed between a dozen different ecosystems.
But some of Costa Rica’s most famous characters are in the greatest need of protection, rescue and care. Animals such as the white-faced capuchin monkey, leatherback sea turtle and jaguar are in trouble.
Many of the wild animals in Costa Rica are threatened by habitat destruction, negative human influences and the illegal pet and exotic product trade.
Fortunately, there are a number of sanctuaries and wildlife rescue centers around the country dedicated to helping these animals. These sanctuaries and wildlife rescue centers rely heavily on volunteers.
There is a diverse selection of wildlife volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica for those who are passionate about animals and nature.
Sign up to help find the best possible outcome for the animals that have found their way to a rescue center for one reason or another.
Why You Should Volunteer at a Wildlife Rescue Center in Costa Rica
Get up close and personal with wild animals
Most of our wildlife encounters, if any, are from afar and observatory in nature.
Few people will ever have the opportunity to nurse a baby sloth back to health. Or to feed a troop of howler monkeys.
Or to be within steps of an ocelot. Or to release baby sea turtles safely out to sea!
A wildlife volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica is a truly unique opportunity to interact with animals you might never have to chance to see otherwise.
Learn about the native animals and ecosystems in Costa Rica
Yes, a wildlife volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica is a rewarding opportunity to improve animals’ lives. But it is also a chance to learn about the animals of Costa Rica and their unique habitats.
One of the most enlivening ways to learn is through hands-on and personal experiences. This is a chance to learn about nature in Costa Rica through immersion.
Benefit from spending time in nature
The benefits of spending time surrounded by nature are overwhelming!
When you spend time in nature, you reduce levels of stress and anxiety, boost your immune system and improve your cardiovascular health. You’ll also notice a reduction of inflammation and an increase of creativity, concentration and memory.
When we spend time outdoors, we are also more likely to be present-minded.
Practice Spanish in a real-life setting
When you participate in a wildlife volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica, you will be working with full-time wildlife rescuers and caregivers who are also native or fluent Spanish speakers. You might also have the chance to reside with a local host family.
Immersing yourself in the language that you want to learn is an effective way to learn the language.
Check out FluentU to brush up on your Spanish before your trip and to practice when you are done volunteering for the day. The first 15 days are free!
FluentU teaches Spanish through music videos, news programs and audio recordings to make learning the language as fun as possible! You will be impressing your coworkers and host family in no time.
Be part of an international team of like-minded people
Wildlife volunteer programs attract individuals from around the world and from all different walks of life. But you will all have at least one thing in common: A deep love and respect for animals.
During your time in Costa Rica, you will become part of a close-knit team that will quickly become your home-away-from-home family. The bonds and relationships you form here will be strong and potentially everlasting.
Travel around Costa Rica
Wildlife volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica take place in some of the most fascinating and beautiful parts of the country! Explore the tropical dry forest, picturesque Pacific and Caribbean coastline, dense rainforest, mystical cloud forest and verdant central valleys.
When you are not dedicating your time and energy to the animals, you will have the chance to experience the area you work in.
Get Wild and Leap into Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities in Costa Rica
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Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities in Guanacaste
Guanacaste is the province that makes up the northwest region of Costa Rica and includes well-known destinations like Nosara, Tamarindo, Playa Flamingo, Playas del Coco, the Papagayo Peninsula and Rincón de la Vieja.
It is renowned for its exquisite beaches, rare tropical dry forests, national parks and abundant wildlife.
The Monkey Park Foundation
The Monkey Park Foundation is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the indigenous wildlife of Costa Rica. The staff is focused on rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing the animals that have ended up in their care.
As a volunteer with this wildlife volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica, you will help by preparing meals and feeding the animals, maintaining the different habitats and enclosures and assisting with injured or rescued animals.
You will also lead educational tours to visitors and work to ensure the facility remains organized and operational.
SIBU Sanctuary’s mission statement is “to rescue injured, orphaned or displaced wild animals and provide them immediate medical care, rehabilitation and eventual release into the wild.”
This non-profit organization is always in need of hard-working animal-loving volunteers. Like many of the programs on this list, wildlife volunteer work includes cleaning habitats, preparing and distributing food, dispensing medications and aiding in medical treatments.
But by choosing SIBU Sanctuary, you will also assist with construction projects and work in the greenhouse!
Nosara Refuge for Wildlife
While howler monkeys make up the majority of the population at the Nosara Refuge for Wildlife, you will gain experience working with other animals as well. Porcupines, pizotes, raccoons, squirrels, jaguarundis and bats also find refuge and recovery here.
For nearly two decades, the Nosara Refuge for Wildlife has been working around the clock to help care for animals native to the Nicoya Peninsula.
This wildlife volunteer opportunity in Costa Rica is in an incredible location close to multiple beaches, world-class waves and famous turtle nesting spots. Explore the area when you are not volunteering at the refuge!
Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities in Puntarenas
Puntarenas is the largest province in Costa Rica and spans from the central Pacific coastline to the most southern tip of Costa Rica.
Puntarenas includes highly sought-after destinations like Monteverde, Santa Teresa, Dominical, Manuel Antonio and Drake Bay. This province is revered for its tropical rainforests, alluring cloud forests, waterfalls and awe-inspiring biodiversity.
Wild Sun Rescue Center
In 2017, Costa Rica reported 352 species as endangered. The Wild Sun Rescue Center in Cabuya on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula is working to reduce this number through rescue, rehabilitation, breeding and reforestation efforts.
Wild Sun Rescue Center offers several different levels of wildlife volunteer opportunities depending on how long you would like to volunteer and your specific volunteer goals.
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary
Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is committed to the protection and conservation of Costa Rica’s native wildlife species.
Through rescue and rehabilitation programs, environmental education, wildlife research initiatives and volunteer opportunities, this sanctuary is making a significant difference in the Dominical area of Costa Rica.
Wildlife volunteers are always needed at Alturas to help ensure that the animals are receiving the best care and the attention that they need.
The Corcovado Foundation offers three different wildlife volunteer opportunities on the remote and untamed Osa Peninsula. You can opt to volunteer with the sea turtle conservation program, the climate change program or the environmental education program.
The Corcovado Foundation is striving to protect wild areas, offer environmental education to the local communities and advance sustainable tourism and development in Costa Rica.
Becoming a wildlife volunteer at NATUWA is an experience that will help make a world of a difference in the lives of rescued animals in Costa Rica.
As a wildlife volunteer, you will help care for monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, macaws and many other native species in Costa Rica.
The Sloth Institute
The Sloth Institute is looking for long-term and short-term volunteers who are capable of working 12 or more hours a day for the sake of sloths. This wildlife volunteering opportunity is no walk in the park.
Caring for sloths is a full-time job and one that requires working late into the night. However, the rewards will definitely far outweigh the amount of tiring hard work.
Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities in the Central Valley
The Central Valley of Costa Rica includes the provinces of San José, Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela.
This area is characterized by active volcanoes, lush and low-laying valleys, challenge-inspiring mountains, lively national parks and white water rafting-worthy rivers. Enjoy your days in quaint and colorful towns and a pleasant climate.
Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center
Sadly, many animals, including sloths and spider monkeys, fall victim to displacement and abuse. This is mainly due to the illegal pet trade and violations within the tourism industry.
As a wildlife volunteer at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center in San Miguel, you will keep the animal habitats and enclosures clean, prepare food and feed the resident animals.
You will also entertain and engage the animals with toys and activities and work to ensure that the center operates efficiently and effectively.
Toucan Rescue Ranch
The Toucan Rescue Ranch is devoted to the care, rehabilitation and study of Costa Rica’s six species of toucans, as well as other native in-need species.
This wildlife volunteer opportunity in San Josecito is very hands-on. Spend your days feeding the animals, maintaining their enclosures, lending a hand with the education program and even working as a tour guide.
The wildlife volunteer program at Proyecto Asis not only offers an amazing opportunity to help care for rescued, injured and displaced animals in Costa Rica, but also provides a truly immersive language and cultural experience.
Wildlife volunteers will live and dine with a host family during their volunteer commitment. This is a great opportunity to learn and practice Spanish!
Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities on the Caribbean Coast
The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is often referred to as “the other Costa Rica.” This side of the country is completely different from the Pacific and central region of the country, both in culture and nature.
The Caribbean coast is famous for its vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture, coffee and cacao, coral reefs, turquoise seas, laid-back vibes and wildlife-rich rainforests.
Jaguar Rescue Center
While the Jaguar Rescue Center doesn’t actually have any jaguars, the center cares for and often releases hundreds of animals every year in Costa Rica. The Jaguar Rescue Center has two locations and volunteers will spend time in both.
Wildlife volunteer work at this rescue center in Costa Rica is labor intensive and very involved, but highly rewarding and impactful.
Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue Center
The Tree of Life Rescue Center in Cahuita provides a safe haven and temporary or permanent home to animals that are in need of care, protection and refuge.
This center also includes a 10-acre botanical garden and a turtle and iguana breeding program.
La Tortuga Feliz
La Tortuga Feliz is a non-profit organization between the Tortuguero National Park and Limón that is pledged to protecting sea turtles. La Tortuga Feliz relies heavily on passionate and dedicated wildlife volunteers.
This stretch of coastline is important to multiple species of sea turtles for breeding, nesting and feeding. Wildlife volunteers will help collect and relocate eggs, release hatchlings and care for injured sea turtles.
Joining any one of these wildlife volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica will prove to be one of the greatest experiences of your life.
There are countless reasons to volunteer in Costa Rica, but the most important is that you will make a difference in animals’ lives.
Which of these wildlife volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica is your perfect match?
Jenn Parker is a native Floridian who has been living in Costa Rica since 2010. She is an avid writer, traveler, and nature lover on a mission to surf the earth and share her stories. She writes for multiple publications, including a collaborative blog called Ocean and Oak.