Costa Rica Animal Rescue

2-4 weeks from £749

Trip Highlights

  • Feeding and caring for vulnerable animals
  • Experience working with wildcats such as cougars, jaguars or ocelots
  • Enrich your knowledge and your expertise on wild animals
  • Do all of this in the beautiful area of Alajuela

Trip Summary

In Costa Rica, ecotourism is a growing and fundamental part of the country's economy. Many people in Costa Rica illegally keep wild animals as pets, such as parrots & reptiles.  The main objective of the Animal Rescue Centre is to take care of wild animals that have been kept captive, making sure they recover in a safe environment, and eventually taking them back to their natural habitat. 

Working alongside the staff, you will help look after the animals and educate visitors.  Whilst at the centre, animals that you may experience working with include; wildcats such as cougars, jaguars or ocelots and birds like scarlet macaws, keel-billed toucans & parrots.

Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!

Trip Info

The Wildlife Rescue Centre is home to approximately 400 animals housed in enclosures and over 100 animals free to roam the 27 acre (11 hectares) property. There are more than 80 species of animals found here which include: spider monkeys, tapirs, green macaws, scarlet macaws, toucans, various reptiles (snakes, crocodiles, iguanas, etc.) and different types of felines or big cats.

The centre has six main programmes:

Breeding: The aim is to return the offspring of rescued animals to their natural habitat.

Liberation: Animals born in the centre that show they have the necessary characteristics for surviving in the wild are then entered into a rigorous programme were they are taught how to obtain food and survive on their own.

Re-introduction: Animals that enter the centre are placed in quarantine, rehabilitated, and if they are fit, released into protected areas.

Rescue: Many animals threatened by humans have been rescued and the centre has prevented and denounced harmful activities such as illegal deforestation and hunting.

Conservation: Animals with no hope of returning to their natural habitats receive daily care, feeding and affection.

The centre receives no funds from the government, and therefore depends only on private funds and donations. Limited by a tight budget, the centre has been working hard to improve the conditions of the animals little by little.

You will play a very important role helping to take care of the animals, feeding them, cleaning cages, other infrastructure maintenance, and guiding tourists who visit the centre. 

In 2006, the rescue centre was a winner of the Ford/Jaguar Cars International Conservation Award established by the Jaguar Conservation Trust, a grass roots programme dedicated to providing grants and funding for projects that promote the preservation of the company's namesake and its habitat. It also has an environmental education programme to promote awareness among local citizens.

Working alongside the staff, you will help look after some of the most well-known Central American animals and educate visitors.

At the centre you will be able to experience working with wildcats such as cougars, jaguars or ocelots; birds like scarlet macaws, keel-billed toucans, parrots, and many other animals. Your experience here will enrich your knowledge and your expertise on wild animals.  Activities include:

  • Preparing food for the animals
  • Feeding the animals
  • Cleaning cages
  • Building and repairing enclosures
  • Building and repairing feeding platforms
  • Cleaning and bathing animals


Your orientation will be held in Alajuela on the first Monday of your stay, you will be collected from your accommodation at around 12:30pm and taken to the offices of our in-country team. 

During the orientation you will be given a welcome pack containing lots of useful information regarding your programme.

Your orientation will cover:

  • Local culture – social norms, traditions and culture
  • Expected behaviour - safety whilst on the programme
  • Safety - areas and places to avoid, what to do in an emergency
  • Locations of important amenities - banks, hospitals, embassies 

You'll be transferred to the project site using public transport, the local team will give full instructions and ensure you have all of the information you need to make the journey. 

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What's Included

  • Accommodation with family nearby
  • All meals breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • A detailed orientation on arrival
  • An airport pick up in SJO
  • Transportation to the project from Alajuela
  • 24 hour emergency help
  • Tour advice in Costa Rica

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Extra activities
  • Alcoholic beverages/extra snacks
  • Local transport
  • Personal expenditure

More Whats Included


I've done this trip

Write review

Overall Rating 9/10

taylor gill

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

The people that I met in Costa Rica, they are the friendliest and most helpful people in the world! Also being able to hold a baby sloth and a 2 day old baby ocelot at my placement, absolutely amazing.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

I wish I'd had more time to visit the beach on the weekend.

Tips for other travellers?

-LEARN SPANISH!!! -Work really hard and it'll be more rewarding -Make friends with the locals

dave rossiter

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

Going alone and meeting amazing people. Seeing a fantastic and diverse country.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

An animal rescue/rehabilitation centre?

Any other comments?

It's difficult to imagine the place winning a conservation award from my recent trip. It essentially feels like a zoo to me. Obviously that's not what I signed up for, though the experience of looking after animals in Costa Rica was almost certainly better than you'd be likely to get here at home. This, in addition to some conflicting information before travelling, was a bit of a let down. It was still a good experience, but arguably not what was advertised.

Katie Andrews

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

Please rate the service provided by the team in country

How do you rate your arrival overseas and orientation (if applicable)?

Please rate the accommodation during your stay

What were the highlights of your trip?

My highlights were as you could probably imagine working with the animals! The centre has such a range from tapirs, jaguars and spider monkeys and so many more! Everyone at the centre was very friendly and made my experience as good as it was! The other volunteers where fantastic and I made some good friends (they came independently rather than just through realgap so there may be more people there than those just on your buddy list!). And finally (which me and my friend enjoyed the most apart from the animals) was staying with out host family. The family were so friendly and helpful to us, made us feel at home quickly and made the best food! We both got our own room and toilet to share and was much better than we they had wifi so we could keep in touch with home.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Everything was good! I stayed at the project for 2 weeks to then go on travelling after and the only thing I would have changed would have been to stay longer at the animal centre!

Tips for other travellers?

1) Speak good Spanish! My friend and I came to Costa Rica knowing barely any Spanish which made some tasks such as communication with the staff at the animal centre, and catching buses and making our way around. Plus some of the host families only speak very very basic English! We did pick up a lot though during our stay! 2) Bring plenty of money! We were told we wouldn't need much of the local costa rican currency and that most places accepted dollars....which is not true! Depending on where you stay in the area you will probably have to get a bus to and from the project every day which can cost up to 700 colones. Plus any extra activities and food you want to do out there will also be in colones. I brought 30,000 for the 2 weeks and that only just lasted me! 3) Lots of bug spray! I got bitten SO much despite butting bug spray on, as you sweat so much and through the rain the repellent can off so you do end up with some bites. You can easily go through a bottle of repellent very quickly, so don't be left short and bring a few bottles just in case!

Any other comments?

Go there with a positive attitude! The centre doesn't have much money so some of the enclosures might not be what you would expect, but the people who run it put all there money into their centre and have a real passion for what they are doing. Everyone is friendly so if your worried that your going alone don't be! You won't be the only one! Plus you'll be eating a lot of rice and beans but otherwise the food is great! There wasn't one meal out there we ate that we didn't like! A really great trip but do your research first!

How would you rate your overall experience?

What were the highlights of your trip?

Staying with the host family, working at the animal rescue centre

Tips for other travellers?

1. Bring clothes that you are prepared to throw away afterwards 2. There are wellington boots already there so you don't have to bring your own as I thought you had to 3. Learn some Spanish

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Accommodation & Meals

Volunteers stay with local families, in a semi private room (two sharing) and shared bathroom. The host families are members of the nearby community less than 3km away from the rescue centre.

Please note the accommodation is very basic and has no hot water.

Included in the programme are three daily meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. These will be provided by the host families. The meals are based on a Costa Rican diet, food is fairly basic, includes rice, beans, corn, meat, pasta, vegetables and seasonal fruits.

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Costa Rica flights

Your flight to Costa Rica should arrive at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO), San Jose, Costa Rica at any time on your programme start date, and your return flight should be arranged for your programme end date.

To book your flights, please contact your travel advisor who will do their best to get you the best deal on the day. Please provide them with your full name as it is stated in your passport. Before you make the call please make sure you have your required departure dates, return dates and other details you may require.

Please note: If you are flying to Costa Rica via the USA you will need to obtain Travel Authorisation by registering online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) no later than 72 hours before departure. This is compulsory and will cost USD$14 to register. To register, please visit:

It is important that once you have booked your flights you add these details to your Online account, or alternatively you can contact us with your departure date, the flight number and arrival time at your destination.

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Eligibility & FAQ's

The minimum age to participate is 18 years and there is no maximum age.

Visa Information

For all other nationals that are not listed you should contact your closest embassy/commission to see what your requirements are to get your tourist visa.

Please note that you will need to pay approximately US$29 in departure tax when you leave Costa Rica.

Visa courier service

If you prefer to use a specialist visa courier service to apply for your visa on your behalf, we recommend Visa Central who can offer you assistance and advice, making your visa application straight forward.

To investigate costs for this service click here to select the country or countries that you wish to travel to.

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Dates & Prices

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