Environmental Volunteering in Costa Rica with Wild Animals

Volunteering with wildlife in Costa Rica is an experience that provides knowledge on the management of wild animals of the neotropics. If you are looking to work with wild animals, NATUWA is a place where you have the opportunity to learn about aspects of the ethology and management of animal species such as jaguars, sloths, macaws and tapirs.

The care of animals and the environment that NATUWA carries out requires people with a high degree of commitment and cooperation. There are numerous diverse functions that you can perform to help animals, so you are not required to have specific knowledge about animals. All activities will always be carried out under the supervision of the organization’s staff.

NATUWA does not promote the domestication of wild animals with its environmental volunteer program. Our primary goal is to make people aware that we should NOT REMOVE wild animals from their habitat. Additionally, volunteers can not interfere with the animal’s natural behaviors while assisting them. Therefore, if your intention is to touch, hug, kiss, or talk to animals then we recommend that you look for a different project. If you are seeking a place where you can give your time and effort to a meaningful cause with these wonderful creatures, NATUWA is your project.

Wildlife Rescue Team!

Wildlife volunteer learning about jaguars management

The Wildlife Volunteer who comes to NATUWA, joins our Wildlife Rescue Team to help carry out a daily Rescue Center routine. This includes feeding the monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, macaws and many more. Participate in the process of animal rehabilitation and rescue. In addition, they perform maintenance work in enclosures and environmental enrichment initiatives for animals. The tasks are focused on providing welfare to the animals and allow volunteers to learn how to handle wild animals correctly.

The tapir in NATUWA Costa Rica

Volunteer typical day

This volunteer project is quite different from other projects around Costa Rica. We never have a shortage of work, in fact, we are almost always looking for more hands to help! We have over 500 animals that need daily care. If you are lack motivation or passion for animal care and conservation, this may not be the project for you (and that’s ok!) Our daily schedule can be intense, but the work here is extremely rewarding!

The sanctuary is continuously working to improve the lives of the jaguars, tapirs, sloths, macaws and many more animals. Volunteers will participate in activities such as:

  • Animal feeding.
  • Cleaning enclosures.
  • Assisting animals in case of emergency.
  • Participate in efforts to rehabilitate and release animals.
  • Planting trees.
  • Assisting in giving tours of the sanctuary.
  • Maintenance of animal enclosures and property.
  • Constructing organic structures for the animals.
  • Participate in the environmental enrichment of all types of animals.
  • Agricultural production (for volunteers and animals).
  • Cleaning under animal feeding stations.
  • Providing water to animals.
  • Washing enclosure floors.
  • Sanctuary maintenance.
  • Feeding baby animals.
  • Providing fresh cut grass to our herbivores.
  • and anything else that needs to be done!

Volunteer daily schedule.

6:00am-8:00am – Morning feeding of animals with light supervision after an introduction period (minimum 3 days).
8:00am-8:15am – Breakfast!
8:15am-10:30am – Daily tasks (see list below)
10:30am-10:45am – Juice break!
10:45am-12:00md – Daily tasks (see list below)
12:00md-1:00pm – Lunch, WiFi, and nap time!
1:00pm-3:00pm -Afternoon feeding of animals with light supervision after an introduction period (minimum 3 days).
After the afternoon feeding, volunteers are free to do whatever they would like for the rest of the day! Dinner is ready by 5:00pm, and it is self-serve.


Ecological restoration

Maintenance of animal enclosures and property

Assisting in giving tours of the sanctuary

Animal feeding

Environmental enrichment for animals

Cleaning enclosures

Volunteer with sloths in Costa Rica

Tow finger sloth rescued by NATUWA

Characteristics of sloths

One of the most emblematic creatures of the tropics in Costa Rica are the sloths, these charismatic animals with dense hair live in the forest, immersed in the vegetation, sometimes they are confused with mounds of termites or simply imitate the environment very well, which makes it very difficult to spot them.

In Costa Rica there are two species of sloths; one species is of diurnal habits, the three-fingered sloth (Bradypus tridactylus) while the other, the two-fingered sloth (Choloepus hoffmanny) prefers to be active during the quiet of the night.

The roads go through the natural habitat of the sloths, often they are trying to understand this big asphalt mace in the middle of their house, their forest … many are injured, others orphaned due to different reasons (dog attacks, road raids, destruction of its habitat), where the human being is always responsible.

The volunteer with sloths in Costa Rica, play an important role in the rehabilitation of these beautiful creatures, rehabilitation requires many hours of work, both day and night, so that the sloths can return to their natural habitat. At NATUWA volunteers learn everything about the management and care of charismatic sloths.

Volunteer with sloths Costa Rica, NATUWA Sanctuary.
Two-fingered sloth baby (Choloepus hoffmanni)

Caring of the baby sloths

Baby sloth rescued by NATUWA Sanctuary
Orphanage sloths

Caring for animals is an activity full of challenges that involves a lot of commitment and responsibility. But even greater, is the commitment to take care of baby sloths that still can not feed themselves.

The baby sloths without a mother that takes care of them, depend highly on the feeding that the human being takes until his snout, literally. They are helpless creatures that can hardly survive without the assistance of the mother.

 Unfortunately, many baby animals are removed from the ecosystem, most of the time with the intention of having an “adorable” pet and others by the illegal pet trade. To this is added, the offspring of mothers who have had fatal accidents crossing the road, where miraculously the baby survives – baby anteaters, opossums, etc -.

Sloth rehabilitation by NATUWA Sanctuary Costa Rica

So, for these baby sloths and other orphans, the only chance of life is the one they find in the animal shelter. Free from a violent death, in tragic conditions of starvation or desiccation, a death full of agony.

Thanks to the work we carried out at NATUWA, together with the Volunteers, the Fire Department, the Public Force and the National Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE), we prevent these animals from suffering and at the same time, we offer them the opportunity to return once again, to their life in the trees.

We need YOU!

Each wildlife volunteer has a huge impact on the lives of the animals. Because, with your help  We can guarantee quality of life to the animals through activities of environmental enrichment, proper feeding, surveillance and general care. Together, we can improve the lives of animals in captivity and focus our attention on our rehabilitation and release efforts.

NATUWA is a wildlife volunteering opportunity where you can help and learn about how to conserve amazing creatures and their importance to the ecosystem.

Why you should volunteer at NATUWA?

At NATUWA, we are all animal lovers. However, being an animal lover comes with a lot of responsibility. It is our responsibility to direct our love in a positive manner. Loving an animal does not mean hugging, touching, or showing affection to an animal, but rather having scientific knowledge of how to care for an animal in a way that will allow it to succeed in nature, learn with us to be a real Wildlife Volunteer.

Volunteering at NATUWA is a wonderful and unique experience that is perfect for people of all ages and all backgrounds. Volunteers will be able to positively impact the animals of the sanctuary, learn and practice Spanish, meet new people from all over the world and experience a different culture.

What to bring:


  • Rubber boots.
  • *Natural repellent (without DEET).
  • Natural sunscreen.
  • Mosquito net.
  • *Long pants (working pants).
  • Clothing that dries quickly.
  • Hat.
  • Afterbite.
  • Shower sandals.
  • Quick drying towel.
  • Beach items.
  • Many pairs of socks.
  • Reusable water bottle.
  • Biodegradable soap, shampoo, detergent and other hygiene products.
  • Topical medicine for allergies.
  • Allergy pills.

Optional items:

  • Thin bed sheets (one pair is provided).
  • Bandana.
  • Long sleeves.
  • Rain jacket.
  • Work gloves.

Price of Wildlife Volunteering

  • $40/day
  • Transportation from Airport Juan Santamaría $100/one way

Donations (Amazon wish list)

There are a few items that would help the animals that are difficult to purchase in Costa Rica. These items are listed on our Amazon wish list. Items that are easiest to carry in luggage are: Harrison’s Organic Juvenile Bird Formula and the Meyenburg’s goat milk powder. Volunteers are encouraged to bring these items to help the animals!

Details on Arrival

Volunteers may arrive whenever they want, during opening hours (6:00am to 7:00pm). Transportation from the airport is not provided, but can be arranged – just let us know if you need help getting here!

Included Services

  • WiFi access.
  • Accommodation type: Dorm Room.
  • Transportation can be arranged via taxi.
  • La pulperia (small store) is a short walk from the sanctuary. Only 1 km away!.
  • All meals are provided for volunteers. Vegetarian options will be provided upon request.
  • In case of an emergency, the closest hospital is 40 minutes away.

Food & Drink

Food & Drink Details

The meals are typical dishes of Costa Rica. Almost every meal includes rice, beans, or salad. Juice or coffee is offered for every meal.

Example Breakfast Meals:
1. “Gallo pinto” with: egg, plantain, or sausage.
2. Cereal
3. Fruits (watermelon, banana, and papaya).

Example Lunch Meals:
1. Rice and beans with a meat
2. Rice and beans with spaghetti
3. Meat and vegetable soup with rice

Example Dinner Meals:
1. Rice and beans with a meat
2. Hamburger
3. Cold cut sandwich

It is very important that you inform us if you have any special diets or food allergies.

Volunteer Students in NATUWA


NATUWA volunteer facilities

Accommodation Types : Dorm Room

Currently, volunteer housing is in two separate buildings. The first building is a typical Costa Rica country style house with one room including three bunk beds, a fan, storage space, and windows. The house is typically reserved for long-term volunteers (4 weeks or more). The second building is a modified shipping container with three rooms. Each room of the container includes two bunk beds, a fan, and storage space for personal items. It is advised for volunteers to bring their own mosquito nets. Volunteers are expected to keep their areas clean and respect the property of others.

The bathroom and shower are located in a separate building adjacent to the rooms. No hot water is available for the showers.

Laundry is typically done by laundry machine. Drying of clothes is done on clotheslines.

WiFi is currently available in the volunteer housing and in the sanctuary gift shop.

NATUWA Volunteer facilities

Best time to be a Wildlife volunteer

Costa Rica has two seasons, the wet season and the dry season. The wet season is from May to November, which brings a lot of rain, but at the same time highlights the lush green landscape of Costa Rica. During these months, the weather is cooler, making it easier to work in. The dry season is from November to May.

During this time there is a lot of sun and clear blue skies. The landscape is covered with fruits (such as mangos) and beautiful flowers!. NATUWA is located in the dry forest where it is very hot and dry, especially during the dry season.

Voluntariado en Costa Rica con animales silvestres

How to travel to NATUWA ?

Public busses run everyday (except Sunday) to and from the sanctuary for the volunteers. At 6:00 am the public bus arrives in front of the sanctuary to transport people to the town of Puntarenas where there is a bus station with busses to travel around Costa Rica. The bus leaves from Puntarenas to Aranjuez at 11:30 am, arriving to the sanctuary around 1:00 pm. The price of the public bus is about 1 mil colones (equal to about $2).

A taxi service can be requested to bring volunteers to the sanctuary. From Puntarenas to the sanctuary, volunteers can expect to pay about $35. From  the Juan Santamaria Airport to NATUWA the cost is $100.

Places to visit near NATUWA and Free-time activities

Every week, volunteers will receive a day off to be able to relax and explore surrounding areas. The staff of the sanctuary can help organize places to visit. Options include the beach, local river, Puntarenas, Monteverde (two days), Volcano Arenal and others.

Public buses run every day (except Sunday) to and from the Sanctuary to Puntarenas. At 6:00am a public bus arrives in front of the Sanctuary to transport people to the town of Puntarenas where there is a bus station with buses to travel around Costa Rica. The bus leaves from Puntarenas to Aranjuez at 11:30am, arriving at the sanctuary around 1:00pm. The price of the public bus is 1,000 colons (about $2).

A taxi service can be requested to bring volunteers to the sanctuary. From Puntarenas to the sanctuary, volunteers can expect to pay about $35 for a taxi, and about $80 from the airport (Alajuela) to NATUWA.

Every Sunday, the feeding of the animals is the only task of the day, for which there is more time, to enjoy the beautiful Sanctuary. After feeding, we usually visit the city of Esparza, only 30min from NATUWA. To eat pizza !!!, each participant pays the trip with a cost of $ 7 approximately and everyone pays what they consume.

Interested in volunteering with us?

Fill out application

To provide a better service, each volunteer participant must complete this form. You can book your check-in and check-out dates here. Even if you fill out the form and provide some personal information that NATUWA requires from each participant, this does not guarantee your place in the program; The flanged information will be analyzed before approving your admission to our volunteer program.

Environmental enrichment with macaws.

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Turner Morrison

I volunteered at Natuwa for 3 weeks and it was an amazing experience. The staff of Natuwa are great people and they all care so much about the animals. I would recommend this program to anyone who has a love for animals and nature and wants to see them where they belong, in the wild. The housing was basic but had everything I needed and the food was delicious. If you decide to volunteer during the rainy season I would highly recommend rain gear and rain boots. I promise that if you decide to volunteer at Natuwa you will not… Read more »

Educational, serene, and beautiful with a mission and vision to support, protect, and re-wild sensitive animal species. I was a volunteer at Santuario de Lapas (SdL) twice. The first time was with International Student Volunteers and the second was on my own. Both trips, SdL was welcoming, encouraged direct involvement in the care of the animals (feeding, cleaning, etc.), and made sure to educate me on the significant issues surrounding the animals, why the issues existed, and how I could continue to help, even after leaving SdL. The food is amazing, the sleeping quarters were great, and the site is… Read more »


I was at Natuwa in Oct./Nov. 2018 for three weeks and I really loved it. It was one of the best experience in my life. I was so happy that I chose this voluntary project. Everyone was so nice and the work with the animals was just great. I could also work with the babyslots and the babyanteater! Aww… but my favorite was to feed the monkeys (I love monkeys!😍) The chicos are so helpful and funny and they show you everything with a lot patience and answer all your questions. The are so passionate and have a big knowledge… Read more »

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