Whether you’re looking for a holiday to explore a new culture or a Spanish immersion experience like no other, a volunteer vacation in Latin America will introduce you to some of the kindest, most welcoming people on the planet. Set the bar high and smile, offer a “Buenos Dias,” and start making new friends.
You don’t have to travel solo either when you choose a Central or South America volunteer vacation that’s family-friendly, or that’s good for groups. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to contribute and share in a rewarding experience. Together, you and your family and friends can have an amazing impact on communities in need, and a positive effect on the lives of the people you meet.
Explore some of our top picks for volunteer organizations and programs in Latin America and get ready to do some good and create lifelong memories!
Featured Volunteer Vacations in Central & South America
Plan My Gap Year
With a commitment to running transparent, transformative, and affordable projects, Plan My Gap Year gets great reviews from past volunteers. They have three volunteer vacations in Latin America, which are:
- Volunteer in Costa Rica: Teach English or volunteer with children (both from $585 for two weeks). Or, learn the Spanish language and local culture (just $420 for two weeks).
- Volunteer in Ecuador: Be a medical volunteer in Quito (from $630 for two weeks) or teach English (from $495 for two weeks).
- Volunteer in Peru: Head to Cusco and teach English or care for local children (both from $345 for two weeks). Or, get the first-hand experience of a healthcare clinic, helping treat patients (from $345 for two weeks).
Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel provides high-quality, affordable volunteer programs, internships, teach abroad opportunities, and lots more in Latin America. For this part of the world, they’re a top option for volunteers and interns. Maximo Nivel provides everything you need in a Spanish-immersion experience, from educational institutes that focus on language skills, to volunteer programs that positively impact communities.
This award-winning, intercultural organization is locally based, with satellite institutes staffed by full-time employees in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Maximo Nivel operates all of its own projects and supports local NGOs through volunteer programming. If you’d like to improve your Spanish-speaking skills before you depart, check out Maximo Nivel’s online course. You can enroll early, and study the language with instructors via Skype tutorials before arriving.
Through Maximo Nivel, you could take on exciting projects in Costa Rica like assisting with sea turtle conservation or working on an organic farm (from $695 for one week). In Guatemala, you could work at a dog shelter, rescue exotic animals, build schools, and more (from $645 for one week). And in Peru, you can teach English, engage in Amazon reforestation, work at the Cusco University Zoo, and more (from $645 for one week).
Love Volunteers began in 2009 with the goal of building sustainable projects that uplift the communities they serve, while also aiming to take away the sticker shock of volunteering. They have tons of programs in Latin America, notably:
- Animal Rescue in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Care for domestic and wild animals in need. Fees begin from $619 for one week.
- Education support in Granada, Nicaragua: Improve the future prospects of some of the country’s most impoverished children. Fees begin from $929 for four weeks.
- Urban Gardening in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: Promote healthy eating and sustainable city agriculture in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Fees begin from $439 for one week.
Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has become known for its wide variety of immersive cultural experiences across the globe. They send an average of more than 10,000 people abroad per year.
For volunteer vacations in Central America and Latin America, they offer numerous programs, including:
- Volunteer in Ecuador on the Galapagos Islands: Participate in the Galapagos Island Conservation (from $3,400 for two weeks), do a social work internship (from $3,260 for four weeks), teach sports after school ($2,600 for two weeks), and much, much more.
- Volunteer and Intern in Mexico: Head to Guadalajara and do a medical internship at a local hospital, where you’ll help treat a variety of illnesses and diseases (fees from $3,460 for four weeks). Learn Spanish and immerse yourself in local culture (from $3,805 for four weeks), help out with general development projects ($3,660 for four weeks), and more.
- Volunteer and Intern in Argentina: Visit Cordoba, where you can participate in human rights initiatives, which costs $3,660 for four weeks or help rehabilitate horses, which costs $3,660 for four weeks. There are also a variety of other programs you can be part of here!
A Broader View Volunteers Corp
Offering more than 245 programs in 25 countries, A Broader View began in 2007 with the vision of expanding horizons and uplifting those in need. They have several unique vacations for those looking to volunteer in Latin America and Central America. Fees start from $895 per week for each program.
For instance, you can volunteer in Guatemala, where you can assist paramedics, provide support to women, help at a deaf/blind center, and engage in other activities. Or, you can head to Colombia and volunteer to care for the elderly, study Spanish, and provide support to impoverished children.
Cross-Cultural Solutions launched in 1995 and has become a recognized name in the industry. Known for its focus on childhood education and health, Cross-Cultural Solutions has sent more than 35,000 volunteers abroad.
For volunteer vacations in Central America and South America, Cross-Cultural Solutions offers numerous programs (fees start at $1,950 for one week). Notable ones include:
- Volunteer in Costa Rica: Adventure to gorgeous Guanacaste for this project. Provide much-needed teaching support to overcrowded, under-resourced schools, or assist with nutritional programs and healthcare services at daycare centers, schools, and clinics.
- Volunteer in Guatemala: Go to Tecpan, where you can teach disadvantaged students at rural schools or implement hygiene and disease-prevention initiatives at schools and clinics.
- Volunteer in Peru: Make the trip to Lima for this wonderful program. Give students much-needed educational support through classroom instruction, activities, and one-on-one lessons. Or, establish preventative healthcare services and sanitation facilities for schools and community centers.
Immerse yourself in the local culture and natural environment with Fronteering, an organization known for their unique volunteer vacations throughout Central and South America.
You could go to Guyana and engage in wildlife research ($2,695 for four weeks) or teach in an Amerindian community ($1,795 for four weeks). There are lots of other Fronteering programs in Guyana to check out as well.
Or, you could go to Panama and assist with community development initiatives aimed at uplifting indigenous communities ($1,000 for one week). You get plenty of free time to surf and get to live in a national park!
Fronteering also has programs in Belize that are great, including Venture Belize. You get to travel deep into the jungle and explore ancient Mayan lands ($2,495 for two weeks).
Founded in 2006 by volunteers, GoEco has earned a great reputation for its award-winning, ecologically-minded programs.
If you love tortoises, volunteer at the Giant Tortoise Center in the Galapagos. There, you’ll work to conserve this iconic species (and get ample chances to encounter them up close!). Fees start from $1,800 for three weeks.
Another great choice is GoEco’s Study Spanish and Work with Children project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The main goal of the program is to improve living standards and education for the city’s most impoverished people. Fees start at $1,400 for two weeks.
Or check out this program in Costa Rica, which lets you rescue and rehabilitate sloths and other native species! If sea turtles are more your interest, GoEco has a conservation program on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Founded in 1989, Frontier is one of the most recognized and reputable names in volunteering abroad, having sent more than 103,000 volunteers and interns overseas. For volunteer vacations in Latin America, they offer many options, notably:
- Uruguay Sea Turtle Conservation: Observe turtle behavior and study their feeding grounds in an effort to provide insights that can help towards their protection (from $2,395 for four weeks).
- Volunteer programs in the Dominican Republic: Participate in the childcare program or teach sports to children (both cost $1,195 for two weeks). There are numerous other projects to consider as well. During free time, explore the historical sites and natural beauty of the country (including the beaches!).
- Panama Island Teaching Experience: Teach English to local children and help them build a brighter future ($695 for two weeks). When you have free time, explore Bocas del Toro, an area known for its beautiful rainforests and top-notch entertainment.
A leading and trusted volunteer organization, Globalteer began in 2006 with a goal to build responsible, sustainable projects around the world. They have a variety of volunteer vacations in South America and Central America.
For example, you could go to Argentina and volunteer with Howler monkeys in Cordoba. Fees start from $1,185 for two weeks.
Or, you may wish to travel to Costa Rica, and lend a helping hand to sea turtles. You’ll mostly be protecting nests and releasing turtle hatchlings. Fees start from $895 for one week.
Another solid Globalteer program is held in Cusco, Peru, where you can give free classes and homework help to underprivileged children. Fees start from $399 for one week.
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
Founded in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has already become one of the most trusted names in volunteering in Latin America and around the world. In just over their first decade, they have sent more than 91,000 volunteers and interns abroad to more than 40 countries.
For volunteer work in South America and Central America, IVHQ offers plenty of choices. For example, you could choose one of the following three programs:
- Volunteer in Costa Rica: IVHQ has 12 project options in Costa Rica, including opportunities to be a childcare volunteer, help with turtle conservation, or assist with community construction and renovation. Prices start from $365 for one week.
- Volunteer in Peru: Head to Cusco and teach English, help with jungle conservation, or be a medical volunteer. Prices start from $320 for one week.
- Volunteer in Mexico: Go to Merida to help with Mayan agricultural projects, participate in animal rights initiatives, or be a special needs care volunteer. Prices start from just $270 for one week.
Ready to Volunteer?
A volunteer vacation in Latin America is an opportunity to glimpse a new country and culture, and to get off the tourist path. There are numerous adventures awaiting in amazing, diverse destinations – all you have to do is pick one.
You can choose to volunteer in the bustling metropolitan city of Lima, Peru, in a Costa Rica cloud forest, or a remote research station on the Galapagos. Teach Amerindians in a Guyana jungle, or work with street children in Ecuador. On days off, hop aboard a colorful “chicken bus” for short trip to outdoor markets, or join a tour and travel across the country, winding your way through vibrant, thriving communities.
Whatever you choose, you’ll make memories and friends, and return home with a profound appreciation for Latin America and its people.
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.