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Alajuela Wildlife Rescue Center

Price Costa Rica 2 weeks+
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Alajuela Wildlife Rescue Center

Costa Rica

Experience the magic of Costa Rica while helping its feathered, furry and scaly residents. This wildlife rescue center was founded in 2020 with no government funding amidst a global pandemic, in response to a dire need for local wildlife care. Volunteers stay on-site and spend most of their session in the animal hospital caring for sick and juvenile animals, but also have an opportunity to assist with husbandry tasks for a wide variety of exotic species in the center. Volunteers have made a huge impact on the center’s design and development- taking ideas and concepts from around the world has allowed the center to provide the best possible care for its residents, and new suggestions are always welcome. It’s important to note that most animals come from government agencies and private citizens who have nowhere else to take them, which can strain the Center’s resources. Every effort is put forth to rehabilitate and release these animals, however some are non-releasable and must become permanent residents.

*Please note that this is a working rescue/rehabilitation center and wildlife hospital- activities and caseload are highly variable and invasive procedures will not be performed on otherwise healthy animals. Therefore, some activities may not be available in every session and some sessions may have a heavier caseload than others.  In addition, there are numerous long-term local volunteers on site working in a variety of capacities. This program is geared towards those with a basic/beginner-level knowledge of, and experience with, exotic birds and mammals*

The program fee covers transportation, food and accommodation, as well as financial support for the rescue center. Guided tours are available during free time.

Some knowledge of Spanish is recommended as staff members have varying levels of English-speaking ability.


2-week session: $1,000 USD

Additional weeks: $500 USD/week

  • Destination
  • Departure
    Every Sunday - Year Round
  • Departure Time
  • Return Time
    Animal Lovers | Pre-Vet Students | Vet Students | Vet Techs & Nurses
  • Dress Code
    We recommend that volunteers bring a box of latex (or latex-free) gloves and hand sanitizer. Limited to 12 volunteers per session. During certain times of year there may be additional groups. On-site free-time activities are included but off-site trips have an additional fee.
  • Included
    Airport Transfers
    Free-time Activities
    Laundry Facilities
    On-Site Support
    Pre-Departure Support
  • Not Included
    Travel Insurance
    Visa Fees (if applicable)
Vet Team Days (2-4 days week 1, 5-6 days per week, weeks 2+)

Students and volunteers on the Vet team work in rotating shifts.

6am-4pm (opens hospital and morning feedings, daily activities)

2pm-10pm (assists with daily activities, evening feedings and closing hospital for the night)

See the "activities" tab for more details

Center daily schedule:

6:00am Rise & Shine

6:30am Breakfast 

7:30am Team Meeting

8:00am Get to Work 

  • Weigh & obtain vital parameters on all neonates
  • Food prep & feeding
  • Treatments, exams & enrichment (see “Activities” for details)
  • Clean hospitalized animal cages

12:00pm Lunch & Free Time

1:30pm Afternoon Team Meeting

2:00pm Back to Work 

  • Food prep & feeding
  • Treatments & procedures (see “Activities” for details)
  • Clean hospitalized animal cages

6:00pm Dinner

7:00pm Evening feedings/treatments

Night feedings (optional): 12am, 3am

Animal Team Days (2-4 days per session)

6:00am Rise & Shine

6:30am Breakfast 

7:30am Team Meeting

8:00am Get to Work 

  • Food prep & feeding
  • Food assessment to determine future diet
  • Enclosure maintenance & safety assessments
  • Species-specific enrichment (see “Activities” for details)

12:00pm Lunch & Free Time

1:30pm Afternoon Team Meeting

2:00pm Back to Work 

  • Food prep & feeding
  • Enclosure maintenance & safety assessments
  • Species-specific enrichment (see “Activities” for details)

6:00pm Dinner

*Volunteers may have the opportunity to help local dogs, cats, cows, horses and sheep based on the needs of the community.

This itinerary is an example of a 2-week session. Weekly activities are planned according to the needs of the rescue center and the community, new opportunities, vet emergencies, and inclement weather.

Arrival and Departure days are every Sunday. Training & Orientation take place on the first Monday of each session.

Free time/tour days may vary but volunteers can expect 1 day off per week.

Tour Location

Volunteers stay either on-site at the rescue center or at their alternate center 15 minutes away with shuttle service to and from the center. Each room has 2-4 bunk beds and 1 full bathroom.  Tiki huts and clamping tents are also available.  Amenities include wifi, laundry service, outdoor pool and lounging areas. Staff stay on-site and are available 24/7 to ensure volunteer safety. All meals are included in the program fee.

*This is a non-profit rescue center in a rural location - please expect cozy and rustic accommodations, and limited Wi-Fi signal!*

Overall Rating


  • Amy L

    August 11, 2023 at 7:46 am

    I personally loved volunteering at the rescue center. I was able to care for wildlife I would never be able to from where I am. It opened my eyes to a new perspective of veterinary medicine and I loved every moment. I also met some of the nicest, fascinating, and funniest people from all around the world. The staff are very friendly and happy to answer all questions..

    May 2023

  • Anonymous

    October 20, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    Wonderful experience! Making many memories with friends and animals. A LOT of hard work, and you will leave with many stories to tell. The trips were fun and different 🙂 . Different experiences, but you will learn a lot and have a different perspective about the world around you. You can pick other teams to work with depending on your stay (construction, animal team, sloth team, vet team, and more), but I believe this program should be 2+ weeks to fully grasp all tasks and routines. The vet team was able to teach volunteers on how to extract blood from a few different animals and also did a necropsy. The vets and coordinators were extremely lovely and helpful and tried their best to teach and explain everything even if there was some miss communication or language barrier. Make sure to bring extra money/ cash for trips. Most excursions were between $45-75, not including additional fees ( food, activity, etc) make sure you have tetanus and rabies shot because a lot of people were injuring or getting bit almost everyday. During your stay you’ll appreciate how much volunteers and needed and how hard it is to manage everything. Be prepared to WORK, be dirty, and make memories 🙂

    August 2022

  • Kyleigh M

    July 25, 2022 at 9:49 am

    The GVE experience to Costa Rica was incredible. Not only were the staff and vets that I worked with incredible but so were the many people I met from all over the world. The living accommodations and food were fantastic and the excursions they took us on were so fun! I learned so much from the vets there and got wildlife experience I could not have gotten back home.

    July 2022

  • Kelsey

    June 17, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    Volunteering at Rescue Center in Costa Rica through GVE was such an awesome experience! You really get immersed in wildlife husbandry, medicine, and rehab. I learned something new every day. Raquel challenged us on a daily basis and was such a great mentor. I m so thankful I went 🙂

    May 2022

  • Tiffany Z.

    June 17, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    This trip was so fun and worth the price! As a veterinary student, I learned so much! I also made friends and got to know people from all over the world.

    May 2022

  • Anonymous

    June 17, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    It’s a good learning experience. Specially for those students interested in being exposed to wildlife.

    May 2022

  • Michael C.

    June 17, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    In terms of experience, this program is incredible. I gained more skills and knowledge of the wildlife in Costa Rica than I thought I ever would. The veterinary team is beyond amazing and will build your confidence very quickly. If you are looking to gain hands on vet experience quick and with amazing people, I would 100% recommend this program. It is a lot of work, but absolutely worth it.

    June 2022

  • Emily B.

    June 17, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    The center and staff members are sweet, caring and you can see they love what they do Incredible is an understatement for doctors Raquel and Ivanna! They walk you through everything and want you to learn. As well, their vet tech, Sophia, helped me so much. Met pretty amazing people on the way too, that I will never forget. Thank you guys again 🙂

    June 2022

  • Marielle Y

    May 14, 2022 at 5:42 pm

    May 2022


    Costa Rica is an amazing place to visit if you love animals! There is so much beauty and diversity. Their people are great too and they make you feel right at home. The Rescue Center has a very high case load so you will most definitely be working hard and with all kinds of animals. If wild life is your passion, Costa Rica is one of the places to go.

  • Valentina T.

    October 8, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    August 2021

    10 / 10

    This was an amazing experience. I recommend taking one of these trips if you’re looking to have a future in the wild life veterinarian field. Staff was incredible and treated me like family. The food was also delicious. Overall I had an incredible time and would definitely return if I had the opportunity.

  • Ashleigh B.

    October 8, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    August 2021

    10 / 10

    This was such an amazing experience. It was so amazing to learn in a working hospital at a rescue center because I got a full understanding and appreciation for what happens. Though I learned I don’t want to work at a rescue center, I learned WHY (I don’t love the routine, but my dear friend I made there loves it) and I think that is so important. The people we so kind, and though I don’t have much Spanish, everyone was willing to work with me and to take the time to show me how to do things. Everybody was willing to answer questions about the care of the animals, and (time allowing) we had a weekly roundtable where we got to discuss a different topic that is important when caring for animals.

    Be willing to work hard, work well, and work late at times. You are expected to act as a vet. If you do so they will appreciate you and give you more trust and responsibilities. Bring rainboots for the rain and a pair of sandals (I used chacos) for the hospital.

    You get one day off a week, where they usually arrange an excursion somewhere in Costa Rica. They are all very fun or relaxing which is nice after lots of work! After you finish your daily work (which includes some work after dinner) the on site coordinators usually have something planned to help everyone bond (movies, dancing, going into town), but if you’re too tired nobody is hurt that you don’t want to/can’t participate!

    10/10 would recommend.

  • Serena L.

    October 8, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    August 2021

    8 / 10

    This program was a great opportunity to interact with a variety of exotic animals and develop professional and technical skills. Having an intermediate level of Spanish is recommended as the staff do not all have English skills.

  • Kristin S.

    June 6, 2021 at 11:41 am

    Knowing how busy young college students are, I wanted to leave this review on behalf of my daughter. She participated in the Alajuela Vet Experience Internship in May 2021, and it was truly a life-changing confirmation of her dream to pursue a career as a veterinarian. The opportunities to care for animals of all ages were amazing, from contributing to the research process to determine diagnoses to assisting in surgical procedures and providing routine care to the many diverse species at the center. Further, the center management and veterinarians on site were extremely encouraging and committed to answering questions throughout all procedures. My daughter was exposed to scenarios she never before imagined—building her confidence and fortitude.
    As a parent, I can tell you that Global Vet Experience is a fantastic organization. My many questions about travel amid the pandemic were always promptly answered with patience and encouragement, which put our family at ease. Many thanks to Trina in particular for all her guidance.
    Perhaps the best endorsement for this wonderful program is the fact that my daughter is returning for another multi-week trip in six weeks—it is that amazing!

    May 2021

  • Lydiana R.

    February 25, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Went to Costa Rica as a vet student through Global Vet Experience and my experience was unforgettable (!!!). As a volunteer and guest, I can say that the accommodations were great and the food amazing! Putting that aside, the vet team was extraordinary! The entire team at the Center was fully dedicated to the wellbeing and care of the animals. Not only as a vet student volunteer, but as a guest the learning experience was incredible. I 100% recommend the tours given at the site; this way you get to know the animals stories and cool facts about them (plus, I was given an awesome sloth rescue center face mask)!

    January 2021

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Vet/Animal Activities:

Groups are divided into Vet Team (in the hospital) and Animal Team (outside the hospital).  Students will spend the first few days on the animal team performing husbandry tasks, learning about the sanctuary, nutrition and interacting with the resident sanctuary animals including birds of pray, big cats, sloths and a variety of other native wildlife. Animal Team days are also typically less intensive which provide more time for fun & relaxing activities around the center.   Vet team days are spent caring for a variety of hospitalized animals, neonates, emergency care and procedures as needed.  There are also occasional opportunities to help local dogs, cats, cows, horses and sheep with limited access to vet care (additional fee may apply, depending on demand and group size). ***Lectures are in the form of informal discussions, often during treatments, procedures and necropsies, and are provided at the discretion and availability of the supervising vet(s).***
Vet Team Days (5-6 days / weeks 2+)
  • Weigh & obtain vital parameters on neonatal animals
  • Prepare food & medications for hospitalized and juvenile animals
  • Feed & medicate hospitalized animals
  • Clean hospitalized animal cages
  • Treatments, procedures, exams & enrichment*
    • Animal handling
    • Fecal parasite analysis
    • Dermatological testing & analysis (skin scrapes, impression smears, etc.)
    • Bloodwork (analyzed off-site)
    • Wound management, bandaging, splinting, etc.
    • Subcutaneous/intramuscular/intravenous medications & IV fluids
    • Surgeries / Necropsies
    • Suture practice (on suture pads, bananas, etc.)
    • Juvenile sloth climbing practice
    • Digital imaging (x-rays and/or ultrasounds)
  • Night Feedings: Newborns require feeding every few hours and nocturnal animals only eat at night, so there is often a rotating nightshift schedule with feedings at 9pm, 12am, 3am, and 6am. These shifts are in addition to the 8-10 hour work days and are OPTIONAL, but reflect a realistic and important part of vet life at the rescue center. Any additional voluntary time spent at the hospital is very much appreciated!
Animal Team Days (2-4 days week one)
  • Food prep & feeding
  • Food assessment to determine future diet
  • Enclosure maintenance & safety assessments
  • Species-specific enrichment*
    • Adding/adjusting climbing & hiding spots
    • Food puzzles
    • Novel toys & objects
    • Frozen treats
*These are examples of activities that have been performed at this center in the past. This is a working rescue/rehabilitation center and wildlife hospital- some treatments and procedures are more common than others, but cases and caseload are highly variable and invasive procedures will not be performed on otherwise healthy animals. Therefore, some activities may not be available in every session and some sessions may have a heavier caseload than others. There is often a good inflow of animals at the Center and volunteers are often asked to help with less glamorous husbandry work- this is a huge part of wildlife medicine and rehab and although it’s tough, the staff is incredibly grateful for all the hard work!

Animal Experience: 30-40 hrs/week

Vet Experience:  30-40 hrs/week

Clinical Experience: 10-20 hrs/week

Surgical Experience: 0-5 hrs/week

For the welfare and safety of the animals and staff, some animals are trained to present body parts, accept injections, etc.
All medical treatments and procedures are performed under direct or “indirect” veterinary supervision. Supervising veterinary staff may vary by season, but there is at least 1 full-time vet on staff. The supervising vet(s) often rely on short- and long-term volunteers to relay information, perform basic medical tasks, and train new volunteers. This center currently has 1 full-time vet, an additional part-time vet, and a full time biologist who advises on animal nutrition, enclosure design & maintenance, and enrichment. The center also works with several other local wildlife vets and staff are trained to provide day-to-day veterinary care.

Free-Time Activities:

Daily Free Activities Include:

  • Lounging by the Outdoor Pool & Hammocks
  • River Walks
  • Board Games
  • Yoga

Evening free time activities include:

  • Bachata lessons
  • Spanish Classes
  • Karaoke
Additional evening activities may include:
  • Bonfires
  • Movies
  • Trivia
  • Board Games
  • Visiting local town for souvenirs, restaurants, bars, etc.

Off-site trips can be arranged by coordinators on site.  There will be additional costs associated with transportation and entrance fees. Price ranges are estimated $35-$125 depending on tour and how many volunteers are going. Popular destinations include:

  • Jaco Beach
  • Manuel Antonio National Park
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Isla Tortuga
  • And more!
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Please submit an application for this program below. Our team will contact you with more information within 72 hours- if you don’t hear from us, please check your spam folder!