Volunteer Abroad

The Best Spanish Speaking Volunteer Opportunities Abroad

Lauren Salisbury

A California native, Lauren has worked, taught, and lived in four countries, including the United States, Australia, Spain, and Costa Rica.

Traveling abroad is an adventurous and promising opportunity to enhance language learning with the bonus of new experiences, friends, and perspectives. Dedicating that trip to volunteering not only makes the travel fulfilling and supports your destination, but also provides even more opportunities to interact in Spanish.

For Spanish speakers especially, there are a number of fantastic volunteer opportunities abroad where you can give back and improve your language skills. From Mexico and Costa Rica to Argentina and Spain, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries across the globe, so you have no shortage of options. Here’s a break down of the ten best options for Spanish speaking volunteers, as proven by program alumni and users of Go Overseas.

  1. Local Volunteer Projects in Guatemala with Maximo Nivel
  2. Summer & Spring Break Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica with Global Leadership Adventures
  3. Shadow Doctors in Spain with Atlantis
  4. Local Volunteer Projects in Peru with Maximo Nivel
  5. Summer High School Volunteer Programs in Costa Rica with Rustic Pathways
  6. A Broader View Volunteers Corp
  7. Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel
  8. Summer & Spring Break Volunteer Projects in the Dominican Republic with GLA
  9. Community Center & Daycare Volunteering with Centro Infantil de Los Angeles
  10. Volunteer Projects in the Dominican Republic with International Student Volunteers

If you want to read more about each of these programs, click them above or read on to learn more about each one.

HOW DID WE PICK THESE PROGRAMS?

In choosing the best Spanish volunteer opportunities, we looked at all volunteer programs in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. We then looked at each program for both the number of reviews and the scores received on each review.

For all volunteer programs on Go Overseas, we ask reviewers to rate six variables: (1) Impact, (2) Support, (3) Fun, (4) Value, (5) Safety, and (6) Overall. We average these scores, compare them to other medical volunteer programs, and take into account the total number of reviews each program has received. In total, we examined over 1,600 reviews to determine which programs should be included on this list.

From there, our goal is to choose those programs which are truly the best: they have more and better reviews than the average for similar programs, and are verified by enough reviews for us to feel confident giving our stamp of approval.

1. Local Volunteer Projects in Guatemala with Maximo Nivel

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Guatemala with Maximo Nivel
Photo by: Hélène G., Maximo Nivel Guatemala Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Various
  • Country: Guatemala

With the beautiful colonial city of Antigua as your backdrop, Maximo Nivel’s broad-ranging volunteer placements allow you to make a real impact in Guatemala.

The organization is locally-based meaning you’ll have a direct impact on the local community. No matter what your particular interests, Maximo Nivel will be able to meet them. Volunteer placements with Maximo Nivel vary and can include teaching English, conservation, construction, animal care, eco-agriculture, medical and healthcare, as well as many opportunities to work with children.

Another added bonus is that you can receive college credit for participation. University credit is available for service learning programs from the official School of Record -- California State University-Monterey Bay.

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of Maximo Nivel’s volunteer program:

  • Maximo did a fantastic job at placing me in a clinic where I could be useful… I felt very prepared and safe to roam about a new country with the confidence that I always had someone to reach out to if I got into a pickle.” -- Kristi
  • “With no English teaching experience, Maximo helped me feel comfortable sharing my native language skills with locals wanting to learn English. They provided me with a crash TEFL course… [and] once a week they came by to check how things were going.” -- Joanie
  • “I had such an incredible time with this program. All of the staff are so welcoming and helpful from the minute you meet them, and keep your safety and overall experience a priority. I look forward to future adventures with this program, and will cherish the memories I have already made with Máximo Nivel.” -- Carrie

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of the program scores for Maximo Nivel in Guatemala:

Maximo Nivel in Guatemala Review Snapshot

2. Summer & Spring Break Programs in Costa Rica with GLA

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Costa Rica with GLA
Photo by: Brittany R., GLA Costa Rica Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Various
  • Country: Costa Rica

Home to roughly five percent of the world’s living organisms, Costa Rica is a nature-lovers paradise, with lush rainforests, idyllic beaches, and ancient volcanoes. Not only is Costa Rica one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet, it’s also one of the friendliest -- the people of Costa Rica often rank amongst the happiest people on earth.

Global Leadership Adventures offers volunteers an array of options to give back, all while exploring the country’s five unique ecosystems. Turn your passion for animals into a unique adventure on wildlife-focused programs such as Spring Break Sea Turtle Initiative and Animal Rescue Project. Or, dive into local communities on programs including Spanish Service Adventure, the Initiative for Children and Empowering Rainforest communities. Passionate about sports? Why not join Surf & Sports Service Adventure or Soccer Beyond Borders.

This program is well thought of by alumni, with a 99 percent rating on Go Overseas. Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of Global Leadership Adventures’ volunteer program:

  • “I would recommend this program to all high school students… I truly immersed myself in the community and grew in my Spanish skills too!” -- Abby
  • “Being able to challenge myself and gain skills through service, activities like zip lining and horseriding, the leadership curriculum and putting myself out of my comfort zone has been unforgettable and truly life changing as it has helped me grow as a person.” -- Nathalie
  • “The community where I was volunteering was so happy that we could offer them help in rebuilding a better place for their children to learn and the children enjoyed having new people to kick around a soccer ball with. I found myself falling more and more in a euphoric state as Global Leadership Adventure helped me immerse myself in a new culture.” -- Carly

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for GLA:

Global Leadership Adventures in Costa Rica Review Snapshot

3. Shadow Doctors with Atlantis

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Shadow Doctors with Atlantis
Photo by: Samantha L., Shadow Doctors with Atlantis Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Healthcare
  • Country: Spain

Perhaps the best way to improve your language skills is to use them in the field. If you are a student in a healthcare-related field, you may be able to enhance your language skills with real-world practice in a hospital in Spain with Atlantis.

Volunteers with Atlantis shadow doctors for 20 plus hours a week on fellowships that take place over winter or summer breaks. As a volunteer in a hospital, you’ll be able to rotate through different specialties to gain exposure to various medical practices as you follow accomplished doctors. Weekly excursions will help you explore deeper into the culture. Separate programs for MD candidates are also available.

Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Atlantis’ volunteer program:

  • “Through Atlantis I gained experience and was given an amazing opportunity to combine my two passions of travel and medicine… I was able to watch several surgeries, sit in on patient appointments, and see how immunological research is applied in hospitals. With the doctors that I shadowed, I was able to see how much their work affected both them and their patient.” -- Kristen
  • “On this trip to Spain to shadow medical doctors in a hospital, I gained a sense of self-awareness as well as cultural appreciation. I was humbled and forced to recognize that my view of the world and health and healthcare is only as wide as my experiences.” -- Brooke
  • “For those unsure of their career path in medicine, this is the best thing to figure out if the hospital life is for you. Follow physicians on their [patient] care routines day in, day out for 20+ hours a week.” -- David

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for Atlantis:

Atlantis Shadow Doctors Review Snapshot

4. Local Volunteer Projects in Peru with Maximo Nivel

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Peru with Maximo Nivel
Photo by: Joyce M., Maximo Nivel Peru Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Various
  • Country: Peru

The ancient city of Cusco is breathtaking, sitting high and pretty in the mountains of Peru. it’s also a base to visit Machu Picchu, one of the most important archeological sites in the world and a must for every bucket list traveler.

Similar to their programs in Guatemala, Maximo Nivel offers a wide variety of volunteer placements in Peru including include teaching English, conservation, construction, animal care, eco-agriculture, medical and healthcare. University credit is also available for service learning programs from the official School of Record -- California State University-Monterey Bay.

Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of Maximo Nivel’s volunteer program:

  • “Maximo Nível is really organized and provides all the information and support you need. The staff is always really nice and willing to help. They organize a bunch of social activities so you can meet other people here, like cooking classes and salsa dance lessons FOR FREE!” -- Taynara
  • “Everyone at Maximo Nivel is truly loving, kind-hearted people, and care about the work they are doing. I can't think of a better place to volunteer if you're looking to make a difference and still have a good time.” -- Dawar
  • This experience was amazing. I learned so much about construction in its simplest form from laying tiles to a simple framework of a roof. We were working on a school for children who needed a second level for more space.” -- Luzzia

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for Maximo Nivel in Peru:

Maximo Nivel in Peru Review Snapshot

5. Summer High School Volunteer Programs with Rustic Pathways

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Summer High School Volunteer Programs with Rustic Pathways
Photo by: Samantha G., Rustic Pathways Dominican Republic Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Work with Children
  • Country: Costa Rica

The country of Costa Rica is a popular choice for volunteers overseas. This is likely due to its stunning nature, friendly locals and overall safety. As such, there are many high rated volunteer programs offered throughout the country. Another such option is Rustic Pathways.

Specially offered for high school students, Rustic Pathways can be an especially great option for first-time travelers.

No volunteer experience in the country would be complete without experiencing the world-class natural environment served up here. Rustic Pathways offers volunteer programs that allow participants to both give back -- with a week of Spanish language immersion and volunteering in an indigenous village -- and then soak up the best Costa Rica has to offer with a week of zip-lining, rappelling, rafting, and surfing.

Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Rustic Pathway’s volunteer program:

  • “The Costa Rican Adventurer program was my first Rustic Pathways trip ever. I still remember in detail the warm beaches, the challenging hikes, the sounds of the waterfalls where we slept, the howler monkeys at night.” -- Alex
  • “Once in Costa Rica, my group bonded very quickly through service and outings. Most days were spent cleaning up the beaches to aid turtles who were nesting on the beaches. At night, we collected turtle eggs and re-nested them in hatcheries so that they were protected from poachers and predators.” -- Alex
  • “I thought it was a nice balance between community service and also having a great time in Costa Rica. I also believed I improved my leadership skills by taking charge of the camp along with the other students.” -- Isabelle

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for Rustic Pathways:

Rustic Pathways Costa Rica Review Snapshot

6. 12 Volunteer Programs with A Broader View

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: A Broader  View
Photo by: Virginia A., A Broader View Guatemala Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Orphanages and Teaching English
  • Country: Peru

The archeological capital of the Americas, Cusco is also a popular choice for travelers and volunteers alike. However, in spite of receiving thousands of tourists every year, the ancient city also has one of the highest levels of poverty in the country.

A Broader View offers programs that have a direct impact on the local community with orphanage work and teaching placements throughout the community. Programs include meals and homestay accommodations. Both the work and homestay opportunities are great opportunities to practice your Spanish.

This is another program with a very high rating by alumni --99 percent. Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of A Broader View Volunteers Corp volunteer program:

  • “The most important things they need from volunteers are donations and helping hands… I really enjoyed communicating with the girls. I remember my first successful conversation with them in Spanish. It felt very rewarding.” -- Madison
  • “Culture is an antidote to violence because it invites us to the prayer of others and fosters tolerance, by encouraging us to meet other imaginaries and other cultures. Through my experiences in Cusco, I gained in maturity. I came to be more open-minded and flexible. I learned to understand through hugs.” -- Amal
  • I really enjoyed working with the girls from the orphanage. I worked in both the kitchen and the ceramic classes and it was fun to chat with the girls and I think they also had fun asking me about the United States." -- Mark

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for A Broader View:

A Broader View in Peru Review Snapshot

7. Local Volunteer Projects in Costa Rica with Maximo Nivel

  • Volunteer Project: Various
  • Country: Costa Rica

With program options throughout all of Latin America, Maximo Nivel’s Costa Rican program is another highly-ranked program that has positive feedback from alumni.

Volunteer programs in Costa Rica have great geographical diversity, ranging from the capital city of San Jose to the beaches in Manuel Antonio. Maximo Nivel offers a wide variety of volunteer placements in Costa Rica including include teaching English, conservation, construction, animal care, eco-agriculture, medical and healthcare. University credit is also available for service learning programs from the official School of Record -- California State University-Monterey Bay.

Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Maximo Nivel’s Costa Rica volunteer program:

  • Volunteering with Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was lucky enough to be placed in Casa Nazareth and volunteer with the elderly. This experience was rewarding because you get to build relationships with the residents and staff at the facility.” -- Marlina
  • “Maximo Nivel's program in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica was one of the best experiences I have had. My homestay was fantastic and I truly felt that I became part of the family.” -- Lindsay
  • “Costa Rica is such a beautiful place with such kind, welcoming people. Volunteering through Maximo Nivel immediately eased all my worries about travelling solo!” -- Rubylea

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica:

Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica Review Snapshot

8. Summer & Spring Break Programs in the Dominican Republic with GLA

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Dominican Republic with GLA
Photo by: Samantha S., GLA Dominican Republic Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Various
  • Country: The Dominican Republic

Sharing a border with Haiti, the Dominican Republic is a vibrant and colorful country in the Caribbean. Volunteers on this program can expect to develop leadership skills to address humanity's greatest environmental challenges.

Global Leadership Adventures offers programs throughout the world. Their programs in the Dominican Republic range from environmental conservation and sports to medicine and public health programs. With such a range, Global Leadership Adventures matches all interests.

This is yet another program that has a 99 % rating by alumni. Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Global Leadership Adventure’s Dominican Republic volunteer program:

  • This trip left me totally inspired and motivated. I have a new love for Dominican and the people there, it is just gorgeous.” -- Lola
  • “The people down in the DR are the most welcoming and friendly you will find, with great support of the staff. I made lifelong friendships with people from ALL over the world.” -- Ellie
  • “Going to the Dominican Republic for three weeks was completely life-changing. Not only were the experiences I had so memorable, but I was able to create great friendships to last much longer than the program. We were exposed to things completely different from everything at home, and had to adapt to an entirely new way of life for 3 weeks.” -- Clara

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for GLA in the Dominican Republic:

Global Leadership Adventures in the Dominican Republic Review Snapshot

9. Community Center & Daycare Volunteering with Centro Infantil de Los Angeles

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: Centro Infantil de los Angeles
Photo by: Centro Maree B., Infantil de los Angeles Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Childcare
  • Country: Mexico

Just south of the border of the United States, Mexico is a large and diverse country that is a great destination to not only practice Spanish but also develop a deeper understanding of current sociopolitical issues.

Located in the community of San Miguel de Allende, Centro Infantil de Los Angeles is a community of caring people who gather to nurture children, serving the needs of the less fortunate, treating each person with dignity and respect as they work to make a better life for themselves. The organization provides free daycare and meals for children of single mothers and also to some poverty-stricken families.

Volunteers will get to work with young children at this community center as they assist with clothing distribution, transitional housing needs, summer camp programs or in the food bank.

Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of the Centro Infantil de Los Angeles volunteer program:

  • “Casa is such a wonderful place and it serves as an incredible value to the community of San Miguel de Allende. All the people involved in the organization are kind, friendly, and passionate about the children and families that they serve. It was such a cool experience getting involved and learning about this place.” -- Jessica
  • “They have a place where their kids are safe and can be kids, in the park, at the playground or in the classrooms. The teachers are so patient.” -- Nina
  • “Casa de Los Angeles is the best-run small nonprofit I've encountered. Its impact on the community is profound, with a grassroots, genuine, organized, and authentic approach.” -- Krista

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for Centro Infantil de Los Angeles:

Centro Infantil de Los Angeles in Mexico Review Snapshot

10. Volunteer Projects with International Student Volunteers

The Best Spanish-Speaking Volunteer Opportunities: International Student Volunteers
Photo by: Natalie A., ISV Costa Rica Alum
  • Volunteer Project: Construction
  • Country: The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is famous for its beautiful white sand beaches, vibrant culture and warm, friendly people -- but as a volunteer with International Student Volunteers (ISV) you have the opportunity to delve deeper into this Caribbean culture and help improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged.

While projects vary, all are related to community development, and most involve constructing houses or other buildings in communities in need. In addition to the volunteer projects, you’ll get deeply immersed in the local culture as you stay with a local family on a homestay and spend time playing games with children.

Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of the International Student Volunteers volunteer program in the Dominican Republic:

  • “My trip to the Dominican Republic this summer was , without doubt, the most fulfilling and worthwhile experience of my life.” -- Alison
  • “ISV is an amazing program that affects the communities it serves as much as the volunteers who are doing the work. Every aspect of signing up and working with ISV is professional, efficient, well thought out, and fun.” -- Julia
  • “My experience with ISV in the Dominican Republic was one like I've never had. This trip was my first time out of the country and ISV made me feel very comfortable and safe.” -- Taylor

Read more reviews →

Here's a snapshot of program scores for ISV:

International Student Volunteers in the Dominican Republic Review Snapshot

We hope these selections of the ten top volunteer experiences in Spanish speaking countries have sparked your imagination about the possibilities that await you. For a full list of volunteer programs in Latin America and Spain, visit here.

This post was originally published in March 2013, and was updated in April 2018.