Volunteer Experience | Environmental & Wildlife

Costa Rica: Marine Park and Animal Rescue

Esparza, Costa Rica


Location: Esparza, Costa Rica

Duration: Minimum 4 weeks commitment, maximum 6 months

Start Dates: Project is on-going, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability. Placements start each Monday

Cost: €450 Euros per week – see Costs section for more details

Includes: all food, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation and all project related activities

Does not Include: flights, travel insurance, visas and vaccinations


  • Contribute to the rehabilitation of marine animals in Costa Rica
  • Experience something unique like cleaning a shark!
  • Discover the breath-taking beauty and abundant wildlife of Costa Rica
Costs Explained


Costa Rica, a piece of tropical paradise in Central America, is known for its sun-kissed beaches with waves perfect for surfing, stunning sunsets, misty crater lakes, exciting paths and hiking trails, breath-taking waterfalls and white-water rapids. Costa Rica’s culture bears heavy influences by its Spanish colonizers but parts of it have other strong influences as well, such as Jamaican and Mayan. A small, yet enchantingly varied country, Costa Rica and its inhabitants invite all visitors to embrace its unofficial motto – ‘pura vida’ (“pure life”) and to enjoy numerous adventures and diverse nature. ‘Pura vida’ can be used as a greeting or a farewell, just to say “that’s great” or “all is good” and it expresses the positive outlook on life of the local inhabitants, also known as “ticos”.

With no real summer or winter, and a rainy season between May and November, you can enjoy temperatures between 21°C and 27°C all year round. In the central valley, temperatures are slightly lower than in the coastal areas. The Pacific Coast, especially its northern part (known as the Gold Coast), is hot and dry throughout the year while the Caribbean coast is hot and moist with rainfalls during most of the year. The highlands around Monteverde are filled with mist most of the year due to the high altitude and the lowlands have a nice warm climate. The Central Valley, which includes San José, is believed to have the best climate in the country.

This project takes place in Esparza, a medium-sized agricultural town nestled in the mountains above Rio Barranca, in the Central Pacific Coast area. First inhabited by the Huetar and the Chorotega who fled from Mexico 1,500 years ago, Esparza was founded by the Spanish in 1577 which makes it the second oldest town in the country. Esparza is the second largest canton in the province of Puntarenas and has a rich history including legends of hidden pirate gold. The town is relaxed and off the tourist trail but close to beaches for surfing and relaxing, Carara national park and Puntarenas’ marine park and newly renovated marina.

The main purpose of the rescue centre is to return animals to the wild, many of whom have been mistreated or neglected. Here you can get involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of sea birds, mammals, and reptiles as well as rare marine animals, which otherwise might have died due to a disease or accident. At the aquarium, whose goal is to educate locals and tourists about the importance of marine conservation, you can work behind the scenes to clean and feed the animals including docile sharks and sea turtles. Both at the rescue centre and at the aquarium, you will be working with the local staff and you will receive on-site training.

Daily Life

Monday to Friday you will have a flexible schedule with 4-6 working hours per day usually starting at 9:00 a.m and finishing around 4:00 p.m, including a lunch with your co-workers. Your daily tasks may vary greatly including periodically scrubbing larger marine animals in order to remove algae, monitoring temperature and pH levels in the tanks, cleaning the glass tanks, enclosures and feeding the animals. Funds allowing, you may also be involved in constructing new enclosures for the rescue centre as well.

On the weekends, you will be able to enjoy your free time and explore at your leisure.

The schedule may be subject to change since Costa Rica is a tropical country with occasional violent storms, heavy rain and floods. Please note that during public holidays there may also be disruptions in the programme.

There is a weekly evening activity such as dancing lessons, cooking lessons, Spanish lessons or a trip to a tourist destination or a nearby town. On a weekend, every month, there is an organized trip to a tourist destination – a beach, volcano, waterfall, canopy, ziplining, horse riding and more. Esparza and Puntarenas have a lot to offer in weekend activities for all budgets. You can also get involved in local events and fiestas. Enjoy some of the best scenery in the world and hop on the Panamerican highway to discover the rest of the American continent. From Puntarenas you can take a scenic ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula and its many secluded beaches.

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Travel & Accommodation

The accommodation is near the project, on the coast, 100m from the sea. You will stay at one of the two newly built eco houses – Jaguar House and Toucan House. The two houses accommodate up to 22 people. The rooms are single gender and are mostly equipped with two bunk beds so they sleep a maximum of 4 people. Bed linens are provided; however, you need to bring your own towels. One room per house has a bunk bed with a double bed under a single bed so it can accommodate couples or small families. Both houses have western style toilets and cold showers which is very refreshing in the heat. The two houses have washing machines and you can hang your clothes to dry – it’s quick with these temperatures! To keep cool there are two fans in every room and all windows are fitted with mosquito screens so you can sleep uninterrupted by the annoying buzz. For extra security, you can make use of the lockable doors. If you prefer a private room, you can arrange one for an additional cost before arriving at your program.

You can relax together with your fellow participants in the communal areas/games room and use the free WiFi. The large garden welcomes you with tropical plants including coconut, papaya, banana and citrus.

During your stay you will have three meals on the weekdays and two on the weekends consisting mainly of a mix of traditional and modern Costa Rican food. Most dishes include fish or chicken, pork or beef, but vegetarian preferences are also taken into consideration.

Within 300 metres of the centre you can find shops and a 15 minute walk away are bars, restaurants and an excellent public pool. An ATM can be found a kilometer away as well as in town, 2 kms away. There are also more shops, bars and restaurants in town.

Fundraising Help


  • Minimum age 18.
  • A strong interest in the work and a readiness to get your hands dirty are needed.
  • Minimum 4 weeks commitment
  • You cannot be allergic to seafood.
  • A basic level of Spanish is advisable.
  • CRB Police check (or equivalent) showing that you have no previous criminal convictions
  • Necessary vaccinations.
  • Necessary flight & visas.
  • Full travel & medical insurance. Full assistance will be provided in getting everything you will need ready if you choose our Placement Support Package.

If you already have veterinary or biology-related qualifications or are studying towards such, you may be interested in the Marine Biology placements which are longer term and more scientifically focused.

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€450 Euros per week

* Check the latest currency conversions with xe.com
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Placements are confirmed with a 1 week deposit, minimum 4 weeks booking.

What’s Included:

Project Fee includes food, accommodation, airport pickup, orientation, in-country support and project activities.

Private rooms are available for an additional €100 per week.

What’s not included:

Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations. Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

Premium Support Upgrade

We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators.

We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

Note: Map coordinates are approximate