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 10 best options (in no particular order!) for Spanish speaking volunteers, as proven by program alumni and users of Go Overseas.
How did we pick these programs?
We read the reviews left by community members and check to see what they love, what they hate, and everything in between! The more positive, highly-rated reviews there are, the more confident we feel to give our stamp of approval!
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!
Best for flexibility: Maximo Nivel, 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 are, Maximo Nivel will be able to meet them. Volunteer placements with Maximo Nivel vary and can include teaching English, or working in fields such as conservation, construction, animal care, eco-agriculture, medical and healthcare.
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:
- “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
Best for passion projects: Global Leadership Activities, 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 high among 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.
Here's some other highlights from alumni reviews of Global Leadership Adventures’ volunteer program:
- “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
Best for adventure: Global Routes, Costa Rica
If you're a high school student looking to improve your Spanish, while make new friends and leave a positive impact on local communities, consider exploring Global Routes' Costa Rica: Spanish Immersion and Adventure program.
Volunteers with Global Routes will work and live in Costa Rica for 4-weeks, participating in meaningful projects in construction and conservation, and living with a host family. Fun excursions such as zip-lining, rock climbing, water rafting, and more will also help you explore deeper into the culture.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Global Routes’ volunteer program:
- “The 2021 Costa Rica trip with Global Routes was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. From the very beginning, the staff worked so hard to ensure that we felt prepared for the trip and made sure we knew exactly where to go and what to do. I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone who wants to have an amazing summer full of travel and new experiences.” -- Jessie
- “My life changed for the better. I not only met so many incredible people on the program, but made connections with so many new people. To this day, I still keep in touch with my host family and other members of the community we stayed in” -- Ainslie
Best for support: Maximo Nivel, 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
Best for field experience: Adelante Abroad, Mexico
Perhaps the best way to improve your Spanish skills is by using them directly in the field! With Adelante Abroad's Volunteer in Mexico program, volunteers can work in specialized fields such as law, healthcare, art, psychology, and more, while helping communities and gaining global experience to add to their resume.
Through fun excursions, exploring Colonial Oaxaca, known for being Mexico's most diverse state, rich in art and history, you'll have opportunities to brush up on your Spanish and fully immerse yourself into Mexico's vibrant culture.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Adelante Abroad’s Volunteer in Mexico program:
- “I spent two months in Oaxaca de Juarez with the Adelante volunteering program for working with kids. My time there was amazing, being able to experience local life and history of the state. The program truly opens you up to many differing walks of life and exposes you to so many new things.” -- Emily
- “I had a great experience. My Spanish improved tremendously after only 2 weeks of classes. The city is very close to a lot of interesting historical sites, and there is so much to do in the city center! I enjoyed my work assignment; I learned a lot and felt very involved.” -- Audley
Best for small groups: Carpe Diem Education, Peru & Ecuador
Packed with history, adventure, and lessons in sustainability and conservation, you're sure to have a memorable time volunteering with Carpe Diem Education. Their South America Semester: Spanish Immersion & Conservation program allows volunteers to experience life in Peru and Ecuador, as they live with local families, participate in fun excursions like trekking Machu Picchu, and leave a lasting impact, working on farms, visiting local schools, and more.
Their program also encourages their volunteers to leave their comfort zone and grow as a person. In small groups, you'll take turns having leadership roles, as well as experience yoga retreats together.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Carpe Diem Education's volunteer program:
- “My experience in this South America Carpe Diem program was incredible. My Spanish language skills improved drastically, and so did the skills of everyone in the group. Some themes continue throughout the program such as permaculture, coffee production, and the government, so it’s easy to learn about the subjects from many different perspectives. -- Ava
- “During my time in South America, my life was changed forever. I experienced things that are now motivating me to discover what truly makes me happy in life. I want to help these marginalized and discounted indigenous communities that I lived with and learned from on my trip. My view of travel and seeing the world has changed.” -- Marco
Best for social justice: Maximo Nivel, 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 hands-on projects ranging from conservation and reforestation to refurbishing schools and local clinics.
It's also a great opportunity for volunteers interested in social justice projects. You can work in after-school programs and community centers, spread awareness about the basics of health through medical campaigns, or teach English classes.
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
- “This is a perfect opportunity for individuals to gain experience in any medical field they may choose. The hospitality and warm welcomes from the local people made this trip all that much better.” -- Michael
Best for service learning: GLA, 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.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of Global Leadership Adventure’s Dominican Republic volunteer program:
- “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
Best for unique experience: IVHQ, 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.
IVHQ offers programs that have a direct impact on the local community through projects in agriculture, environmental conservation, working with the youth, and more.
Their programs also include orientation, meals, homestay accommodations, and 24/7 support. Through the work and homestay opportunities, you'll have plenty of chances practice your Spanish.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of IVHQ's volunteer program:
- “This program is perfect for adventurer's that want to get off of the beaten path. I met some wonderful people and learned a lot about the most biodiverse place on planet Earth! My time in the forest gave me time to reflect on questions that I have been needing to answer my whole life." -- Brandon
- “Not only was I able to learn from the incredibly knowledgeable healthcare professionals in Cusco, but my understanding of the culture was expanded more than I could have hoped for. I was worried that 2 weeks would be a lot, but I know that next time I go, it will have to be for more! I didn’t want to leave". -- Rachael
Best for education: Village Book Builders, Mexico, Peru, Belize, & Costa Rica
Interested in empowering communities through books and libraries? If you consider yourself to be a fellow book lover, why not take that passion overseas and help others in need?
Volunteers with Village Book Builders can find placements all throughout schools in Latin America. You'll work alongside teachers, assisting the school librarians, and work with local families to empower students through the love of books.
In addition to working on projects to improve literacy, volunteers can also participate in culturally immersive activities like going river rafting, sightseeing, or spending time with your local host family.
Here are some highlights from alumni reviews of the Village Book Builders' Latin America program:
- “I was completely immersed in the Spanish language and culture. I made lifelong friends in Mexico and was honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of a great cause. The best decision I ever made was to spend 3 months in Mexico through Village Book Builders.” -- Emily
- “The Village Book Builder Experience in Belize was amazing. It was a great feeling to serve the children in a school that had minimal library and computer resources and see the impact we can make for their future.” -- Tim
Where will you volunteer abroad?
We hope you're feeling inspired and ready to start your volunteering journey abroad! No matter where you decide to volunteer, we're sure it'll be a rewarding experiencing helping local communities.
This post was originally published in March 2013, and was updated in December 2021.