Nutrition & Healthcare Costa Rica

WHY we need you in Costa Rica

HOW can you help?

WHAT you can do?

  • Work on medical campaigns and vaccination programs
  • Help distribute medicines
  • Assist with the disable and special needs
  • Help with physical therapy, speech therapy, arts and crafts, as well as interacting with patients

Why Involvement Volunteers International?

creative lesson drawing





  MIN DURATION: 1 WEEK (San Jose) 3 WEEKS (Manuel Antonio)

  MIN AGE: 18+ 

  SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: 1st & 2nd year medical students, Criminal background check required


Our healthcare program in Costa Rica is aimed at those who are still studying in a medical field and allows you to gain some hands-on and practical experience whilst giving back to often stigmatised populations, such as those with special needs or the elderly. You will work in assisted living facilities and provide support and care to patients. 

Pre-med and first/ second year students
Volunteers must keep in mind that work can vary and the tasks that will be given to you will very much depend on your prior skill level and initiative. Those still studying medicine are encouraged to apply.

San Jose Placements

Healthcare volunteers are typically assigned to either an assisted living facility for the elderly or a special school for children with disabilities. We make every effort to accommodate your preferences, but please understand that the type of facility placement may depend on availability and seasonal needs of our projects. For individuals with Physical Therapy training, specific placements are available.

As a healthcare volunteer, your primary role is to support the project staff in providing day-to-day care to patients, with a focus on offering general care and companionship.

At adult assisted living facilities, your responsibilities may include:

  • Organizing arts and crafts activities and engaging in talk therapy with the patients
  • Accompanying patients on walks
  • Sorting and distributing medicine
  • Changing beds
  • Assisting with feeding and bathing patients
  • Ensuring the overall well-being of patients
  • Helping with administrative tasks and filing

Please be aware that working conditions can be emotionally challenging, particularly when dealing with terminally ill patients. It’s important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the one-on-one care you will be providing. 

At facilities catering to children with disabilities, your responsibilities may include:

  • Assisting as a classroom aide and coordinating activities
  • Providing extra attention and care to the children
  • Focusing on one specific classroom or area of the school during your program
  • Organizing arts and crafts sessions, engaging in playtime with the children, and aiding in physical therapy activities
  • Assisting the children during meal times

Throughout your project, you will have the support of our in-country coordinators. However, please note that they may not be present on-site every day, so your ability to work independently and exhibit leadership skills is essential.

For volunteers with Physical Therapy expertise, it’s important to be aware that the local practices you’ll be joining may have limited resources. Therapy methods could differ significantly from those considered standard in your home country. You’ll be working in an underfunded facility, assisting and/or shadowing a professional physical therapist in treating patients with mobility issues. Depending on your experience, qualifications, and proficiency in Spanish, you may have the opportunity to deliver hands-on treatment to either adult or child patients.

Manuel Antonio Placements

Healthcare volunteers are typically assigned to either an elderly care facility or a private clinic in the town of Quepos. However, it’s important to understand that the type of facility placement may vary based on availability and seasonal requirements of our projects. As a healthcare volunteer, your main responsibility is to directly assist project staff in providing day-to-day care to patients, focusing on offering general care and companionship.

Healthcare volunteers may be involved in the following activities:

  • Engaging patients in various activities, such as arts and crafts, conversations, and walks
  • Distributing and sorting medicine, and educating patients about their medications
  • Assisting with tasks like changing beds, feeding, and bathing patients
  • Providing support with administrative work and filing
  • Participating in home visits to elderly or mobility-challenged patients

Working conditions can be emotionally challenging, particularly when providing one-on-one care to terminally ill patients. Mental and emotional preparation is essential for this aspect of the role.

Throughout your project, our in-country coordinators will offer support, but please be aware that they may not be present on-site every day. Therefore, it is crucial to demonstrate independence and leadership skills during your volunteer work.


Manuel Antonio is a small beachside village, situated right on the Pacific Ocean. There is a nearby National park which is considered one of the most biodiverse parks in the world. You may even spot a howler monkey or a sloth! The area is known for its biodiversity, as well as perfect white sand beaches. There are lots of activities to do in the area, like mountain and rainforest trails.

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and located in the middle of the country. It’s in a great spot to enjoy the city, as well as trips to the beach on the weekends. Around a 2 to 4 hour drive from the city, you will find rainforests, mountains, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. San Jose also has plenty of shopping, cinemas, restaurants and nightlife.

Project Tasks

  • Work on specialised living facilities
  • Help care for patients
  • Talk to patients and interact with them 
  • Art and craft activities

Food & Accommodation

The majority of our volunteers will stay with a pre-approved middle-class Costa Rican family. You have the option of a shared or a private room. For shared rooms, you are placed with 1-3 other people of the same gender and age group. In San Jose, the host families live in the San Pedro area, which is around a 10 to 60-minute walk or bus ride (depending on where you’re placed) from the volunteer centre. In Manuel Antonio you will stay in the Quepos area. You’ll be given a key to the house and are free to come and go as you please, but you must respect the house rules and practices of your host family.

The host family can help you with washing laundry. There is a small charge of ₡2,500 or $5 per kilo (2.2 lbs) which is paid directly to the family. If you are staying at a student residence, hostel, hotel or apartment that does not have a laundry service available, you can use a nearby laundrette (lavanderia).

Breakfast and dinner will be served 7 days a week and will usually be local cuisine, cooked by your host family. The food in Costa Rica is a mix of African, Italian, French, Chinese, and Spanish cuisines. Common food are grains such as rice, corn, and beans and different meats mixed with spices like coriander, saffron, parsley, oregano, thyme and nutmeg. The food is usually mildly seasoned and has plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Below images show a typical South American homestay, and some of the volunteer hub/ centres.

All prices in USD
  • 1 Week - $595
  • 2 Weeks - $935
  • 3 Weeks - $1275
  • 4 Weeks - $1590
  • 8 Weeks - $2690
  • 12 Weeks - $3775
Home Stays

Manuel Antonio
Specialty Projects

- Nutrition & Healthcare

All prices in USD
  • 1 Week - N/A
  • 2 Weeks - N/A
  • 3 Weeks - $1395
  • 1 Month - $1675
  • 2 Months - $2790
  • 3 Months - $3895
Home Stays
What's Included
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Airport Pickup
  • Local Transportation
  • 1 Day Orientation
  • 24/7 In-Country Support
  • Project Materials & Equipment
  • Pre-departure Expert Advice
  • Preperation Tools & Checklists
  • Certificate of Completion



If you have a desire to help those in need, love talking and communicating with people, putting a smile on their faces and getting stuck in what whatever work is required, this could be the project for you. Spanish language skills are recommended, and tasks will depend on how you communicate in Spanish and how you take initiative. Medical students are encouraged to apply. 

  • Airport pick-up
  • Host family accommodations
  • Breakfast and dinner, 7 days/week
  • 1 day orientation
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • Walking tour
  • Official certificate of volunteer service
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Spanish language tutoring table
  • Tandem Conversation Program
  • WiFi and computer lab
  • Salsa dance classes
  • Cooking classes
  • Free coffee and tea and on-site snack bar
  • Volunteer centre open 7 days/week
  • Flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Daily transportation
  • Travel and tours
  • Transfer back to the airport
  • Personal spending money

Each project will include a 1-day orientation to familiarise yourself with the local area, rules, safety advice and general information. Your host family will show you the best way to get to/from your accommodation to the volunteer centre. Orientation will include health and safety advice, do’s and don’ts, cultural norms, activities and tours you can do on weekends, and a short walking tour, showing you the local area. You are also able to take a free Spanish placement exam. On your first day the local coordinator will take you to the placement, where you will be introduced to everyone and shown around the project.

For San Jose
Our local team will pick you up from San Jose airport on the Sunday before your project. Sunday night accommodation is included in the fees.

If you arrive outside the pickup times, you can book a private transfer for an extra fee.

If you want to book any extra nights before or after your program, you can do this for an extra fee.

For Manuel Antonio
Our local team will pick you up from San Jose airport on the Saturday or Sunday before your project. It is recommended to arrive Saturday or before 3pm on Sunday, so you can go straight to Manuel Antonio. If arriving after 3pm on Saturday or Sunday, you will stay with a host family for 1 night in San Jose, and transfer to Manuel Antonio the following day.

The transfer to Manuel Antonio is in two parts. A member of the local team will pick you up from San Jose airport and take you to the bus station in San Jose. You will then get the bus to Manuel Antonio (ticket included), where your host family will meet you at Manuel Antonio bus stop. The bus journey is around 3 hours.

If you arrive outside the pickup times, you can book a private transfer for an extra fee.

If you want to book any extra nights before or after your program, you can do this for an extra fee.

Transportation whilst on your project

Most volunteers either walk or take the bus, depending on how far their project is. Journey time varies widely from project to project, and you should expect to spend 15-60 minutes traveling each way. You might also need to change buses during your trip. Taxi’s are also widely available but do cost more than buses. It can be hard to change your project after you start volunteering, so please be ready to travel to your designated project every day.

PLEASE NOTE: Volunteers are required to pay for the daily transportation to and from your project. Local buses are very affordable, and a one-way trip will cost around ₡350 (around $0.60) on average. Taxis are more expensive, and costs vary based on how long the journey is. A budget of around US $5 is recommend per day for transportation to and from your project.

Sunday – Arrival / Welcome and Home Stay Introduction

Monday – Orientation day

Tuesday to Friday

Here is a rough guide on what to expect:

  • Breakfast at the accommodation
  • 3-4 hours of volunteer work either in the morning or afternoon
  • Your own lunch at the accommodation or project site
  • Free time
  • Dinner at the accommodation

San Jose

San Jose is the capital city and has plenty to do from city tours, watching a show at the theatre, markets, museums, parks, and city walking tours. You can also take day trips to mountains, volcanoes and the beach.

Arenal Volcano

Situated about 90 km northwest of San Jose is Arenal volcano, measuring 1,633 metres high. This scenic volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions, with daily tours walking around it, plus it’s proximity to the nearby rainforest and waterfalls make it a popular place to visit.

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio

Close by the where a lot of our projects are, this National park is one of the most popular in Costa Rica. With beautiful beaches, rainforest walking trails and an abundance of wildlife, this is a must visit for any traveller!

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Another stunning destination to visit and a lush oasis of green rainforest and misty fog and clouds sitting at the top of the canopy. There are around 420 different types of orchids, ferns mosses, as well as a large bird population- perfect for nature and wildlife lovers. There are also night time walking tours.

Corcovado National Park

A stunning national park with plenty of hiking trails, natural swimming holes, waterfalls, rainforest, wildlife, flora and fauna and camping. Here you will find more than 400 bird species, monkeys, sea turtles, over 40 frog species, 100 butterfly species and perhaps even a jaguar.

Adventure activities

Costa Rica has so much to do for those who like to live on the wild side! From ziplining, white water rafting, canyoning, surfing, snorkelling, diving, horse riding and paddle boarding. This is a nature and adventure lovers paradise!

Beach Hopping

There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. From white sand, black sand, beaches that meet jungle and all with crystal clear, blue waters. Many of the beach town have cafes, restaurants, accommodation and places to grab a fresh coconut juice, the perfect way to chill out after a hot day!

Volunteers must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Provide proof or a certificate to say you are studying medicine or a health-related course
  • Bring your own scrubs, stethoscope, closed-toed shoes

Costa Rica is a small country in Central America and is bordered by Nicaragua to the North, Panama to the South, the Pacific Ocean to the West, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. The country has a population of 5 million people and is roughly the same size as a large city in the USA! Costa Rica offers incredible mountain trails, coffee plantations, lush rainforests and some stunning beaches, with a huge variety of landscapes.

Volunteer projects are situated in the beach town of Manuel Antonio and in the capital city of San Jose. Some projects are situated in areas further afield, offering a more ‘off the beaten track’ option. These areas are Guanacaste (beach), Caribbean (beach), and Monteverde (cloud forest).

Manuel Antonio: Located at sea level, you can expect average temperatures from 19 degree Celsius to 28 degrees. The dry season is from December to April with hot and humid weather. The wet season is from May to November. The weather will be humid, with showers throughout the day. The plus side of travelling during this time is that everything will be so green!

San Jose: At 1170 metres above sea level, temperatures can range from 20-30 degrees Celsius. December to April has little to no rain, moderate temperatures and can get cooler during the evenings. May to November experiences warm days, cool nights and short intermittent bursts of rain and sun.

Costa Rica still has much of its Spanish heritage (the national language), with a vast amount of the population being of Afro-Caribbean descent. There is also a small population Jewish and Chinese communities. A large proportion of the country is Catholic and Latino music and dance are enjoyed throughout the country, as well as a love for soccer. Cost Rica disbanded their armed forces in 1949, as the area is so safe. The people are happy, laid back and welcoming.

30 Years Non Profit Experience

IVI is an Australian charity & non profit organisation founded in 1989 and is one of the pioneers of overseas volunteering successfully placing over 20,000 volunteers globally.

Affordable Volunteer Travel

We’re not motivated by shareholder profits.   Our fees are fully transparent to ensure maximum benefit where it is most needed. 

Safe & Responsible Projects

All projects include a dedicated 24/7 in-country management team, operational & risk assessment & overseas support contact.   All projects are personally inspected to ensure very high quality.

Work Experience & University Credits

We place thousands of Uni students and can assist you with course credits and in-field experience points.   Many of our project coordinators are qualified practitioners in their respective fields allowing unique in-field supervision and Uni accreditation options

Check out this amazing blog with step by step info on how to raise funds for your overseas volunteer experience to help maximize your impact abroad. Guide to Fundraising

Weekends & Extra Tours

Ready to Volunteer in Costa Rica?