Costa Rica is teeming with rare, endangered and beautiful wildlife. But the reality is that hunting, poaching, and illegal animal trade exist here. The Costa Rican government is doing all it can to buckle down and catch the wrongdoers, but in the mess animals get injured, orphaned, confiscated, abandoned and suffer from habitat loss. Gratefully, Costa Rica is also teeming with wildlife rescue centers. Most are privately owned with amazing volunteer programs and extremely effective conservation efforts. They are all open to educate the public.
San Jose and the Central Valley Region
Simon Bolivar Zoo
This is the national zoo, with tiny cages filled with native animals and a few international species.
Schedule: Monday – Friday 8am – 3:30pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 4:30pm
Where is It: Avenida 11, Calles 7 and 9
This is a full day’s visit! You don’t want to miss the interactive, educational five shows where visitors come into sensory contact with the largest collection of animals from the domestic zoology (over 3500 animals from more than 3000 races) and with agriculture, nature, and all resources the park provides, as well as the agro-industrial productive processes.
Where Is It: San Mateo, Alajuela
This is the most successful rescue and rehabilitation project for birds, reptiles, and mammals in Costa Rica. Over 100 species including scarlet and green macaws call these 59 hectares home. Zoo Ave is one of only two zoos in the world to display resplendent quetzals.
Schedule: Daily 9am – 5pm
Where Is It: Dulce Nombre, on Hwy. 3, about 3.5 km east of the Pan-American Highway, Alajuela.
North Pacific Region
Go on a real safari tour where giraffes, zebras and tigers are all at a safe, arms reach. Here you will definitely have close encounters of all kinds while feeling as though you’re in Africa. Contact us for this unique and special animal adventure.
Schedule: Daily 8am – 6pm
Where Is It: El Salto, 5 km south of Liberia
Monkey Park Animal Rescue Center
Not just for monkeys, this 23-acre environmental refuge center takes care of rescued animals and their main focus is eventual release. However, due to certain conditions certain animals can not be released and remain here under the refuge’s care. Plus this is much more than just a rescue center, it is also a great educational facility teaching everyone from three-year-olds to adults about feeding, mating and lifestyle habits of their animals.
Programs Available: Volunteer programs are available on a daily basis or stay overs.
The Puma Rescue Shelter
Over forty years ago, Swiss born, Lilly Bodmer De Hagnauer arrived to Costa Rica and began rescuing animals. Her passions have produced one of the most successful feline rescue center, educational and research facilities in Central America.
Where is It: 4.5 km N of Canas on the Pan American Highway
Programs Available: There are volunteer stay over programs available.
Northern Region (Arenal and Monteverde)
Wildlife Rescue Center La Marina
This is one of the oldest family run rescue centers in Costa Rica. The Rojas Ramirez family and their children are 100% taking care of the animals through Breeding, Liberation, Rescuing, Reintroduction and Conservation. They are also fully connected with the community and the public through their Environmental Educational programs that the visitor will understand and internalize upon leaving with such concepts as how to value, love, and protect the environment.
Where Is It: San Carlos
Programs Available: All inclusive, fully immersed volunteer stay-over with food packages are available for any length of time.
Project Asis Costa Rica
Twelve years ago Don Jaime Del Castillo and his son Alvaro had a dream to turn a once-abandoned farm back into a vibrant rainforest while providing a sanctuary for hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife. Their dream has come true. Today Asis is one of the best rehabilitation centers for animals with a slew of programs for hands-on interaction and educational programs for visitors and volunteers. You can also get double the fun by signing up for Spanish lessons and home-stays.
Where Is It: Javillos
Programs Available: Volunteer stay-over programs and Spanish classes are available for all ages from little tikes to mature adults.
South Caribbean Region
The Sloth Rescue Center (Also known as the Aviarios del Caribe)
This is the only sloth rescue and research center in the world. Come and join in the care of baby sloths who were either injured or separated from their
Where Is It: 11 km north of Cahuita
Programs Available: Volunteer opportunities are available for either one day or multi-day stay overs.