Best 8 Wildlife Rescue Centers In Costa Rica (Honest Review)

If you love animals and nature, there are many wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica. The Jaguar Rescue Center at Playa Cocles and the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in Alajeula are among the most well-known centers to visit. 

Locals are always quick to remind us that many of Costa Rica’s wildlife rescue centers were first animal rescue centers before becoming tourist attractions. So, with this in mind, you have some standards for what to expect. 

In these centers, you can see almost any animal on your Costa Rica bucket list, including Howler and Marmoset monkeys, ocelots, Jaguars, tapirs, sloths, toucans, scarlet macaws, and even parrots. 

This article will introduce you to some of the best wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica. Having visited these places myself, I recommend them to those who genuinely love animals and want to support their excellent work.

Key Takeaways

In case you don’t have all the time to read this article and you need to make a quick decision on which of the wildlife centers to visit in Costa Rica, here’s a summary of this review: 

  • I totally recommend you check out the Jaguar Rescue Center, which is near Puerto Viejo. While it’s the ultimate stop for seeing and supporting animal care, beware that there are no actual Jaguars here. 
  • La Paz Waterfall Nature Park is a better choice if you want to do other activities in addition to seeing rescued animals. 
  • Other really amazing wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica include The Sloth Institute, Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sibu Sanctuary, and Wild Sun Rescue. 
  • If you want to get your kids involved and enjoy the idea of night tours, consider Kids Saving the Rainforest. 

Let’s now look into each of these centers so you know what to expect when you visit any of them: 

1. Jaguar Rescue Center 

  • Address: In front of Villas del Caribe, Limón, Punta Cocles, Costa Rica.
  • For public tours, the ticket is $24 per person, and for private tours, it is $75 per person. Children under 10 are free. 
  • Focus: This is a temporary home for sick, injured, and orphaned animals. It focuses on monkeys, sloths, other mammals, birds, and reptiles and offers both public and private tours. 

Despite its name, there are no jaguars at the place, but visiting it is a great way to support wildlife rescues. 

The place is well organized, and we learned a lot of information during our visit. We went on a Tuesday and were impressed with our tour guide, Anje. 

Anje was very knowledgeable, passionate, and engaging with both adults and children. We observed numerous animals, all of which were in excellent condition.

The best part of the experience was seeing how our guide constantly thanked us multiple times for purchasing tickets, which helped support the Rescue Center. It was busy, but they were organized and efficient.

Pro tip: The tours start on time at 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., so get there early to purchase a ticket.

The only downside to this place is that it’s a little bit out of town, but that’s no big deal.

2. Rescate the Wildlife Rescue Center.

  • Address: La Garita de Alajuela, just 15 minutes from Juan Santamaría.
  • Ticket prices are $35 per adult (13–64 years old), $15 per child (2–12 years old), and $30 per adult above 60 years old. 
  • Focus: wildlife education and animal care. 

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center, previously called Rescate Animal Zoo Ave., is a non-profit organization that has been saving wildlife for over 30 years. 

In addition to educating people about local wildlife, this rescue center and sanctuary also breeds endangered animals to release them into the wild. 

They have restored various species to previously extinct areas in Costa Rica. Their Scarlet Macaw breeding program aims to release 500 more of these birds by 2030. 

3. La Paz Waterfall Nature Park 

  • Address: 6R3Q+Q9P, Provincia de Alajuela, Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
  • Ticket: $52 for adults, $36 for children. 
  • Focus: This eco-park has hiking trails to five cascades and a wildlife sanctuary for jungle cats and monkeys.

While it’s not the wild, this refuge for animals is lovely to see. I loved watching the butterflies, hummingbirds, and toucans. Additionally, the walk to the waterfalls was breathtaking. 

This place is perfect if you want to experience a bit of Costa Rica in just a few hours. It has easy paths and chances to see local wildlife. 

There are quite a few steps, but it’s all downhill, and they have a shuttle to take you back up, so it’s pretty easy. 

However, if you’re not a fan of driving on mountain roads with lots of ups and downs, this might not be the best choice for you.

4. The Sloth Institute

  • Address: Calle Principal, Provincia de Puntarenas, Quepos, Costa Rica
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  • Focus: Enhancing the welfare and conservation of sloths through rescue, rehabilitation, and care. 

Manuel Antonio National Park is home to the Sloth Institute. Their goal is to study sloths, teach people about them, and help with conservation. 

It’s not a sanctuary but a non-profit organization. 

They take care of sloths that need help and release them back into the wild when they’re ready. 

While their research and care center isn’t open to the public to protect the sloths’ well-being, you can join a guided nature walk to see sloths in their natural habitat. 

Like many non-profits, they rely on donations. To support their work, you can give money directly, “adopt a sloth,” or buy items from their Amazon wishlist.

5. Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center

  • Address: Calle Guacima, Alajuela, 00000 Costa Rica
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  • Focus: Protect and help endangered Costa Rican wildlife indigenous to Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center offers daily tours, during which you can get up close with the animals and learn about what they do at the hospital. 

According to them, all the money from their tours goes toward caring for the animals.

What I like here is that their knowledgeable guides lead the tours in English or Spanish. 

Tours run every day and last about an hour. Morning tours start at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m. They’re closed for lunch from 12 to 1 PM, then resume with afternoon tours at 1 pm and 2 pm.

Friendly Advice:

  • To book, you must do so at least 24 hours in advance via WhatsApp at +506 8522-8125.

6. Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Address: Calle San Martin Nte, Provincia de Puntarenas, Dominical, Costa Rica
  • Ticket: Adult: $33/ea. Adult National: $11/ea. Kids (3-12) Nationals: $5/ea. Kids (3–12): $17/ea.
  • Focus: rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife in Costa Rica.

The tour at the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is fantastic. 

You’ll get to see many animals up close and learn why each one is there.

Our guide here was excellent, and it was interesting to learn more about the animals we see in the wild. 

Also, the views from the sanctuary are so beautiful. After the tour, don’t forget to check out the bar with that fantastic view. 

They also have cool stickers and calendars featuring the animals from the sanctuary!

7. Sibu Sanctuary

  • Address: 800 Meters Este De La Plaza De Deportes De La Localidad, Provincia de Guanacaste, Santa Marta, 50206, Costa Rica
  • Ticket: $60 per person. (A 50% non-refundable deposit when purchasing your ticket and a balance of $30 in cash on the day of your visit.)
  • Focus: Rehabilitating, releasing, protecting, and offering a safe, spacious sanctuary to Costa Rica’s native wildlife (especially monkeys).

If you’re in the Nosara area of Costa Rica, you can check out Sibu Sanctuary. It’s one of the best wildlife rescue centers over there. 

They don’t hit you with donations, but you only get to pay $60 per person for the tour. 

Wear long pants and insect repellent (even on your face). 

Although the place is covered in trees, it’s still a good idea to wear sunscreen, closed shoes, and hats, and remember to drink water. 

Also, go to the bathroom before you start the tour (there’s a stop about an hour in).

We highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about animals and plants. 

Meanwhile, it took us 2 hours to drive there from Playa Grande/Tamarindo, and the roads were really bumpy, so plan for extra travel time.

I wrote extensively about my experience at this facility in a separate review post. 

8. Kids Saving the Rainforest

  • Address: 600 NE Finca Anita, Puntarenas Province, Naranjito, 60601, Costa Rica
  • Ticket: $60 for adults, $45 for children under 18, and free for children under 3.
  • Focus: Sloths, capuchin monkeys, and kinkajous

Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR) rescues animals, helps them improve, and then releases them back into the jungle, where they belong. 

Their primary focus is on sloths, capuchin monkeys, and kinkajous. But they also build unique bridges to help sloths cross the roads safely.

You can visit the sanctuary for a tour, volunteer to help out or join a night tour of their Jungle Preserve. 

If you don’t want to leave Costa Rica without seeing the wildlife up close, visiting the KSTR Wildlife Rescue is the perfect way to do it. It’s also an excellent way to support a business that treats animals fairly and ethically.

I also enjoy using the Blue Banyan Inn swimming pool, which is part of the facility and accessible during the tour.

Our guide, José, was terrific. He was friendly, funny, and knew a lot about the animals. He made the tour really interesting, and he spoke excellent English. 

This place is definitely worth a visit!

Friendly Advice: 

  • The last part of the road at this park is steep, so you’ll need a 4×4 to travel there.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center Volunteer

Being a Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center volunteer means helping take care of animals in need. 

But what you’d do as a volunteer depends on the rescue center you volunteer at. 

Generally, as a volunteer, you could help feed the animals, clean their living areas, and even assist with medical care under supervision. 

Some of the famous centers in Costa Rica that are opening a window for volunteers include the Costa Rican Animal Rescue Center, GoEco, Animal Love, and even Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.

You might also help with tasks like building enclosures or educating visitors about wildlife conservation. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in animals’ lives and contribute to their well-being.

Alternatively, you can go through this list to see a list of rescue centers with volunteer opportunities. 

Friendly Advice: 

  • On the websites of all the rescue centers reviewed in this article, there is a page for registering volunteers. 

Wrapping up

In Costa Rica, both wild and pet animals can end up in risky or life-threatening situations. 

Cutting down forests, losing habitats, or mothers abandoning their babies can have an impact on animals such as monkeys, sloths, and coatis. 

If you want to help, explore any of the animal rescue centers and wildlife sanctuaries above

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Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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