first hand Costa Rica

Macaw Conservation

Punta Islita, Costa Rica show on map
founded in 2006
first hand Costa Rica
Coordinator | Frank
Coordinator | Frank
You love macaws, have some experience with birds and don't mind noise ...? Then this breeding and release center is perfect for you! This volunteer program is especially suitable for:

About the Program

The Macaw Station only works with the red and green macaws and there are two places: Islita on the pacific coast and Manzanillo on the caribbean coast.

This program is dedicated to the conservation of the two native macaw species, both of which are endangered, the Scarlet Macaw (Lapa roja; Ara macao) and the Great Green or Buffon's Macaw (Lapa verde; Ara ambiguus). We breed birds that have been confiscated by MINAET (the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications) or otherwise rescued in order for their chicks to be released in their appropriate habitats, therefore helping to stabilize their populations. The Ara Program incorporates breeding techniques, aviary management, habitat and release site research, and conservation issues, in order to carry out controlled release programs in conjunction with MINAET and Costa Rican wildlife laws.

Working at the Macaw Station will give you an opportunity to get up close with some incredibly beautiful and charismatic birds, meet people from all over the world and experience Costa Rican life and culture in a remote area. And, of course, you will be making a difference to the survival of two endangered species of macaw.

Please understand that we are a Conservation Organization and not a rescue centre or pet program. Even though we keep birds in captivity we try to simulate their natural living situation as much as possible. Our captive macaws are breeding birds or future release birds. To be able to have optimal success for both purposes, we do not allow any physical, verbal or social contact when you work with them.

Our Volunteers

Our volunteers should have an affinity with birds. They should be able to work in a team and also work independently. They should have a basic knowledge of Spanish and English language.

Typical day

Your work at the pacific center - Min stay 4 weeks / 6 days work per week - includes:

  • Daily food preparation and feeding of captive breeding birds, pre-release birds and supplementary feeding of the released flock
  • Regular site maintenance including aviary cleaning, providing perches and enrichment for captive birds and various other tasks
  • Monitoring the health and behaviour of captive birds
  • Data collection

Different tasks may be assigned depending on our current needs and the skills and abilities of particular volunteers.

Your work at the caribbean site - Min stay 4 weeks / 6 days work per week - includes:

  • Managing the released population of Great-green macaws
  • Feeding the birds in locations in the surrounding forest
  • Monitoring the released birds
  • Fieldwork: depending on the season this will include going into the forest (at night or early in the morning) to monitor nest sites
  • Collecting natural foods
  • General maintenance of the field site

Please be aware that we expect the same kind of commitment you would give a paid job – we work very hard (physically and in the heat) and make long days but we also endeavour to make the experience enjoyable for you. We’re looking for dedicated, motivated, team-oriented, responsible individuals. A minimum stay of one month is required but longer stays are encouraged.

Details on Arrival

This program is available all year. It starts every Monday. Please arrive at least one day before the programs starts. 

Free-time activities

The pacific site is so remote, volunteers spend most of their social time together. This site is located on a 15 min walk from the beach, which is good for surfing and surrounded by beautiful dry tropical forests. Islita is the nearby village where volunteers can join the locals to play football, have a drink or meal out. As this village is very small, there is a weekly trip to Samara (40 min away) to do their food shopping.

The caribbean site is even more remote and receives a lot of rain year round! This site is located along the South Caribbean coast, one of the most attractive places in Costa Rica with beautiful beaches and lush rainforests. If you want to travel form one site to the other, be aware that this includes a steep walk up the hill and a bus ride to get to the village. You will also have to do this to get your shopping. To stay here, you will have to be comfortable to be by yourself, just enjoy the beauty of pure nature and spend evenings alone reading a book.

Water Sports

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (basic level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
You should have a positive attitude and, of course, loves parrots! Experience working with birds and Spanish (or English if you’re a Spanish speaker) are an advantage but not requisite.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Included Services

Extra security layer by Volunteer World
Volunteer World is the world's leading comparison platform for international volunteer opportunities. We guide you through a safe and easy application process - including all necessary payments. Planning your next meaningful trip with Volunteer World gives you free access to our:
Quality Assurance
High ethical standards & transparent social impact
Flex Option
Change your reservation at no extra costs
Refund Guarantee
We refund your fees if first hand Costa Rica cancels your trip
Support & Mediation
We cover your back no matter what happens
Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by first hand Costa Rica.

Before your journey

Profound consulting and ongoing support (free)
first hand Costa Rica (your host organization) provides consulting and is keen to answer all your questions. Once you reserved your spot, you will receive the contact details of your volunteer project.
Online preparation course (optional, from $49)
Prepare yourself and become a confident and well informed traveler. Global Travel Academy takes you on a journey before you leave home, helping you to become one of the world's greatest travelers. Our trusted partner for online learning offers courses in "International Volunteering", "Travel Health & Safety" and "Travel Safety Abroad".

On-site services

Services by first hand Costa Rica
  • Accommodation in a cabin, together with other volunteers
  • We provide airport pickup, we organize the journey to the project and we also do hostel reservations in San José if needed (mostly it is needed!) - and, if you will combine projects, we will also organize the transportation between the projects. You will have to pay the cost for the pickup and the transport.
Airport Pickup at Juan Santamaria International Airport

You will be picked up at the airport by our driver with a sign with your name and you will directly get in contact with your german, english, spanish speaking coordinator via phone. The driver will drive you to the reserved hostel (if necessary), give you the bus ticket (he will buy a ticket in advance to reserve you a seat in the bus), pick you up at the hostel the day of your journey to the project and bring you to the bus.
The cost will be around 60 US$ plus the hostel night (between 10-12 US$ (dorm) and 30 US$ (single/double room).


On the pacific site there is a maximum capacity of 4 volunteers. The volunteer house has two bedrooms with two beds and a shared bathroom, a kitchen and a social outdoor area.

On the caribbean site there is a maximum capacity of two volunteers that share a bedroom, kitchen and outdoor living area located right next to the release facilities.

You are responsible for your food expenses, which are estimated to be around $50-$75 per week depending on their diet.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees. Food, snacks or beverages are at extra costs.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San Jose. We assist you to find cheap flights to Costa Rica.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Costa Rica provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Costa Rica you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Costa Rica.
Costs: Prices in USD
4 weeks (min. stay)
$ 760
5 weeks
$ 845
6 weeks
$ 930
7 weeks
$ 1,015
8 weeks
$ 1,100
9 weeks
$ 1,185
12 weeks (max. stay)
$ 1,440
Average fees
$ 155 /week

You can volunteer at the project site in Punta Islita/Costa Rica between 4 weeks and 12 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. first hand Costa Rica will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Crowdfunding Service
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Costa Rica.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with first hand Costa Rica during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.
  Americas Central America Costa Rica  Punta Islita, Punta Islita

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