Costa Rica Wildlife Rescue & Service
Earn up to 30 hours of community service volunteering at two different wildlife animal rescue centers, including the largest and oldest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica! Encounter monkeys, sloths, tapirs, jaguars, pumas, birds, reptiles, and more while assisting in the betterment and recovery of these species.
We’ll help ensure these animals are nourished and their habitats are pristine with ethical volunteer practices overseen by these non-profit organizations. Participants will gain a full understanding of the importance of protecting and restoring the country’s biodiversity through wildlife rehabilitation, endangered species breeding, habitat preservation and the provision of lifetime care for non-releasable animals*.
Following our service projects, we’ll head to the world-famous beach in Manuel Antonio to surf, swim, and relax. In Manuel Antonio National Park we’ll look for wild animals like the ones we’ve been assisting all week in their natural habitats! Swim in cerulean pools near Diamante Waterfall and rappel from a cave to get your adrenaline pumping on this multi-faceted program in the beautiful Latin American destination of Costa Rica!
*Due to Costa Rican law only the professionals we work with will directly handle the animals. Our participants will be able to observe and assist when appropriate. Our experience at the shelter will be ethical and impactful.
During this program, you will…
- Volunteer at two different animal rescue centers
- Visit the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose
- Participate in the Scarlet Macaw breeding program
- Assistance in the maintenance of enclosures for animals like monkeys and sloths
- Look for animals in Manuel Antonio National Park
- Relax on the beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica
- Go rappelling in Las Tumbas
- Hike to Diamante Falls and swim in the cerulean pools surrounding it
- Take a surf lesson at one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica
DAY 1: DEPART FROM MIAMI (MIA)
DAYS 2-4: COSTA RICA ANIMAL RESCUE CENTER
We’ll start our program at a rescue center whose goal is to restore the physical and psychological well-being of Costa Rican wildlife that has been abused through illegal pet trading and tourism. We’ll spend our mornings tending to different animals’ specific needs and cleaning their enclosures. It is illegal to have direct contact with monkeys and sloths in Costa Rica but we will be able to assist with feeding, creating toys for “enrichment” to engage the animals and support their well being, and place branches and other toys around their habitats.
DAYS 5-6: RESCATE WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTER
The second rescue center we’ll volunteer at is the largest and oldest animal sanctuary in Costa Rica situated on 36 acres of natural forest. With more than 30 years of experience breeding endangered species and restoring habitats, this non-profit is truly dedicated to conserving Costa Rica’s wildlife. Only animals who would otherwise not survive in the wild are kept at the center, with the majority of the animals being released into two of their protected wild release sites. The 2% of animals that cannot be released are who we’ll encounter during our time volunteering. Monkeys, sloths, jaguars, tapirs, reptiles, and birds are just some of the 3,000 animals that pass through this center on their way towards rehabilitation.
DAY 7-10: MANUEL ANTONIO
After wrapping up our meaningful service project at two of Costa Rica’s animal rescue centers we’ll head to the beach in Manuel Antonio. This beach is one of the best in Costa Rica! Relax on the shores of the Pacific and take a surfing lesson to gain a new skill in addition to service hours while on this multi-faceted program. Rappel from a cave and swim in cerulean pools beneath Diamante Waterfall and keep your eyes peeled for wild animals like those we’ve been assisting while exploring Manuel Antonio National Park! This national park is home to a wide variety of wildlife including exotic birds, monkeys, sloths, and more! Many of the animals here have flourished and the population has grown thanks to the animal rescue centers you have volunteered with on this trip!
DAY 11: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do. Eat, stay, and travel like a local.
Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we are consistently awarded “Top Youth Travel Organization” year after year.
"We can't tell you enough how much Lucy (and Katie) enjoyed the trip. Lucy came back with such an appreciation for Costa Rica and for you and the other TFT team members. She said you were one of the most amazing persons that she has ever met. We want to thank you whole-heartedly for giving the kids such a wonderful experience! Wishing you all the best!"
"I just wanted to write and let you know how grateful we are for the positive, incredible experience this trip as been for Noah. He said that he has more stories than he could ever tell. It’s been remarkable…And your emails with the updates and the foods eaten, etc, have allowed us to have a glimpse at what is happening every day. These things are life changing for teens and we’re beyond grateful to you and your team."
"Thank you a million times over for leading an incredible trip. Abby has the most amazing time. She said you guys were awesome. She made incredible friends and loved all the adventures. It was a perfect trip. It was hard to find a trip that was only for older teens 11-12th grade and we are so glad that we found you."
Travel with us and discover why we are consistently winning awards for Top Youth Travel Organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What is unique about the Costa Rica Wildlife Rescue & Service trip?
We have great contacts in Costa Rica who have worked with us to bring this trip to life while providing a fun, authentic, and meaningful experience. Costa Rica Wildlife Rescue & Service includes service projects in two rescue centers where teens will have the opportunity to aid wildlife in need of rehabilitation. The service work is balanced out with fun activities for the ultimate Costa Rican experience!
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old within the calendar year and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 13 and 24 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food is an integral aspect of the travel experience, and we make an effort to eat at authentic establishments whenever possible. There is no better way to immerse ourselves in the culture of a place than through sampling the local delicacies. We stray away from westernized restaurants and chains that cater to tourists, because every true traveler knows the best food is found where the locals are eating!
The food in Costa Rica is delicious! Expect to eat seasoned rice, beans, chicken, steak, tropical fruit and veggies, plantains, and many other foods flavored with unique Caribbean spices! Vegetarians will have no issues eating well on the trip. Also, unlike in Europe where a light breakfast of coffee and toast is the norm, Ticos (Costa Ricans) eat big, savory breakfasts—and so will we!
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor. For Specific questions pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine, click here.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
All US citizens that enter Costa Rica are automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!
What do students like most about the Costa Rica Wildlife Rescue & Service trip?
Our adrenaline-seeking participants truly love the layout of our trip! Costa Rica Wildlife Rescue & Service gives our participants the opportunity to explore Costa Rica’s hidden treasures while also being able to give back to the community. ¡Pura Vida!