Best Volunteer Vacations in Latin America: Trips to Central & South America

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Updated for 2023-2024

Special announcement: International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) is offering a new program in the Galapagos Island! Come visit this magical place that inspired Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution.

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, (or Bom Dia if you’re in Brazil!)

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

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)

VolunteerForever

Founded in 2007, International Volunteer HQ has already become one of the most trusted names in volunteering in Latin America and around the world with. In just over their first 16 years, they have sent more than 130,000 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:

GoEco

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, Ecuador. There, you’ll work to conserve this iconic species (and get ample chances to encounter them up close!). Fees start from $1,700 for 2 weeks.

Another great choice is GoEco’s Animal Rescue and Release Sanctuary in Peru, where you have the opportunity to experience living in the Amazon jungle while helping to rehabilitate injured animals back to the wild. 

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.

Explore more of GoEco’s programs in: Belize, Guatemala, and Argentina.

Maximo Nivel

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 RicaGuatemala, and Peru. Maximo Nivel operates all of its own projects and supports local NGOs through volunteer programming. If you’d like to brush up on your English Teaching 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. In Guatemala, you could work at a dog shelter, rescue exotic animals, build schools, and more. And in Peru, you can teach English, engage in Amazon reforestation, work at the Cusco University Zoo, and more.

Projects Abroad

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:

  1. Volunteer in Ecuador on the Galapagos Islands: Participate in the Galapagos Island Conservation (from $3,000 for two weeks), do a social work internship (from $2,700 for two weeks), teach sports after school ($2,300 for one week), and much, much more.
  2. Volunteer and Intern in Peru: Travel to the Amazon jungle, or engage in a medical internship at local clinics for $2,900 for two weeks, or immerse yourself in the local culture with community development projects starting at $2,775 for two weeks. Explore ancient Incan history with archaeology projects, from $3,275 for two weeks.
  3. Volunteer and Intern in Argentina: Visit Cordoba, where you can participate in human rights initiatives, which cost $2,550 for one week, or help rehabilitate horses, which costs $3,000 for two weeks. There are also a variety of other programs you can be part of here!

Involvement Volunteers International (IVI)

With over 35 years of experience, Involvement Volunteers International (IVI) is a respected non-profit organization based in Australia, having successfully placed over 20,000 volunteers in meaningful projects across the globe. They are known for their safe and responsible projects, which include comprehensive in-country support and emergency assistance, ensuring a secure environment for volunteers.

In Costa Rica and Ecuador, volunteers can participate in diverse projects such as beach clean-up, animal rescue, and healthcare. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, volunteers have opportunities to work in childcare, do community construction, and support local medical clinics

Whether helping in the lush rainforests of Ecuador, the biodiverse regions of Costa Rica, or the vibrant communities of Guatemala, IVI ensures that volunteers make a substantial impact while experiencing the rich cultures and environments of Central and South America.

Volunteering Solutions

Volunteering Solutions offers a wide array of diverse projects, available for durations of 1 to 24 weeks and are suitable for individuals aged 17 and older. Volunteering Solutions is known for its affordable, impactful programs that include accommodation, meals, and comprehensive support, making it an attractive option for those looking to make a difference while experiencing the beauty and diversity of Central and South America.

In Costa Rica, volunteers can participate in projects like Turtle Conservation, Childcare, and Animal Rescue, located in and around San Jose and regions such as the Caribbean Rainforest and the Osa Peninsula

Ecuador offers projects such as working at an Amazon Animal Rescue Center and supporting street children programs in Quito.

In Peru, opportunities include Teaching English, assisting in Day Care Centers, and participating in Medical Volunteer Programs in and around Cusco. These programs allow volunteers to immerse themselves in the local culture and explore iconic locations like Machu Picchu during their free time.

Global Vision International (GVI)

In Central and South America, Global Vision International (GVI) offers volunteer programs in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica and Peru. Each of these programs focuses on different aspects of conservation and community engagement, tailored to the unique environments and needs of each location.

  • Panama: The program in Bocas del Toro involves coral reef conservation, where volunteers help monitor and protect the marine biodiversity, including sea turtles and various species of fish and coral.

GVI’s Costa Rica programs are diverse:

  • Marine Conservation: Participating in the protection of sea turtles by helping with beach patrols, nest monitoring, and data collection on critically endangered species like the hawksbill turtle.
  • Women’s Empowerment: Facilitating workshops and training programs that aim to uplift local women and equip them with skills to enhance their economic opportunities.

  • Childhood Development: Implementing programs that promote early childhood education and development in collaboration with local communities.

Love Volunteers

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:

  1. Animal Rescue in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Care for domestic and wild animals in need. Fees begin from $619 for one week.

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:

  1. 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).
  2. Volunteer in Ecuador: Be a medical volunteer in Quito (from $630 for two weeks) or teach English (from $495 for two weeks).
  3. 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).

Fronteering

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).

Globalteer

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.

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. Dive into coral reef conservation in Panama, 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.

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