As more people decide to move to Costa Rica, many of them are wondering what to do with all of the free time that they have brought into their lives. In between work, chores, and entertainment, there is still a feeling in many of us that we want to do something productive with ourselves — something that gives back to the community and nature here — both of which give us so much. Animal rescue centers in Costa Ballena are the key to doing both and feeling richly rewarded with remarkable experiences and fur-fringed love.

There are four animal rescue centers in Costa Ballena: two are for domestic animals (primarily cats and dogs) and two specialize in local wildlife rescue. Each of these facilities was started by people who saw a need and wanted to do something to fill it. Daily operations in all four of these rescue centers are run by volunteers and funded entirely by donations.

Domestic Animal Welfare Group (D.A.W.G.)


The Domestic Animal Welfare Group (D.A.W.G.) is a non-profit organization focused on the rescue, care, and placement of abandoned animals. Its mission is to eliminate the abuse and abandonment of domestic animals in the Costa Ballena region and to ensure that all domestic animals are placed in a loving and caring home.

The organization was founded in 2007 with the purpose of hosting free spay and neuter clinics so that every domestic animal in Costa Ballena has the opportunity to have the procedure. In the 15 years it has been in operation, D.A.W.G.’s volunteers and veterinarians have spayed or neutered over 3000 animals. 

D.A.W.G. eventually expanded volunteer efforts to include animal rescue and the organization has placed over 1500 animals into good homes. The organization is a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue organization run entirely by volunteers. All money donated goes to the ongoing welfare of the animals, including food and medical care. 

How To Help D.A.W.G.

100% of your donation goes to animal care, spay/neuter and vaccination clinics, and animal welfare education in Costa Ballena. Donations made to Domestic Animal Welfare Group Inc. are tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers. Visit their donations page to help their cause.

El Refugio


Founded in early 2017, El Refugio Hogar Animal Costa Ballena (which means “The Refuge Animal Home of Costa Ballena”) is an animal rescue organization in the Costa Ballena region of southern Costa Rica with its shelter based in Uvita.

The goal of El Refugio is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats through rescue efforts, low-cost spay/neuter and vaccination clinics, education programs, and community outreach, with a focus on rescuing and rehabilitating homeless, abandoned, and injured dogs and cats.


To date, they have rescued over 500 homeless, abandoned, and injured dogs and cats, including providing veterinary care, vaccinations, spay and neuter surgeries, and caring for them until they are adopted. Their volunteers have spayed and neutered over 2,000 animals at low-cost community spay and neuter events. They provide ongoing care for 40-60 animals at their shelter and in foster care at any given time and they help local families in need with emergency assistance for their pets and animals they have rescued through our community outreach program.

How To Help El Refugio

El Refugio is a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue organization, run entirely by volunteers, including its board of directors. All money donated goes entirely to the ongoing welfare of the animals. Donations made to Friends of El Refugio may be tax-deductible for U.S. taxpayers.

You can visit their adoption days on SATURDAYS from 9am – 12pm or if you would like to meet a specific animal, they offer adoption opportunities through their Facebook pageSee their donate page for more details on how to support financially.

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary


Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured, sick, and orphaned Costa Rican wildlife. Their primary goal is the recovery and release of native animals back to their rainforest homes. However, many of the wild animals that come to Alturas have been domesticated, abused, or have suffered disabilities due to accidents. They cannot safely be returned to the wild and Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary will provide a safe, comfortable home for the rest of their lives.


As more humans move to this wilder part of Costa Rica, more wildlife injuries occur. Alturas provides an important educational center for local, national, and international visitors with the goal of improving human-wildlife co-existence through education, and reducing human-related wildlife injuries.

How To Help Alturas

Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary is funded solely by donations, proceeds from tours of their facilities, and through their volunteer program. 100% of your funds will go towards ensuring the good health and safety of the animals in their care. Donate your time or money through their support page.

Reserva Playa Tortuga


Reserva Playa Tortuga (RPT) is a non-profit biological research and education center formed in 2009 by community members and Costa Rican scientists. RPT aims to contribute to the fields of biological research and science-based conservation management by creating a culture of environmental conservation in the areas influenced by the National Wetlands of the Terraba-Sierpe basin.

The main focus of RPT over the past eight years has been to gain an understanding of the current state of the coastal environment and to identify issues in the coastal zone that influence the Térraba-Sierpe wetlands.

RPT is responsible for the hatching and release of over 60,000 baby turtles and for protecting 172 acres of coastal nature reserve that includes primary forest, mangroves, and estuaries. The reserve’s volunteers are committed to developing and implementing community-based projects and conservation solutions using the best researched practices.


The reserve’s office is at the entrance to Playa Tortuga (Sur) and it welcomes the public with the goals of educating and enabling the local population to live in environmentally sustainable ways.

They also work to identify populations of coastal animals in danger of local, regional, or global extinction. Volunteers help to maintain and rehabilitate the landscape in order to re-create an intact coastal zone that protects Osa’s incredible wealth of biodiversity. They do this through community outreach programs within the immediate coastal populations from Cortés to Dominical. This includes baby turtle releases, beach patrols, and wildlife rescue operations.

How To Help RPT

RPT provides opportunities to volunteer with turtle releases as well as wildlife patrol among other regular or one-off duties. Join RPT as a volunteer or donate through this page.

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