Best Rated Volunteer Abroad Programs in Latin America

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Animal Care Projects
Animal Care Projects
Volunteer Abroad with MaximoNivel.com
Volunteer Abroad with MaximoNivel.com
Healthcare Projects
Healthcare Projects
Medical Projects
Medical Projects
Construction and Renovation Projects
Construction and Renovation Projects

About

Maximo Nivel is a locally based organization in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Partnering with local communities ensures that our volunteers cater to the needs of the residents. Maximize your impact by getting involved in one of our various volunteer projects abroad.

Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has been a leader in educational travel and study abroad. We are a professional, ethical, and hard-working organization that is completely dedicated to the communities we serve while providing an exceptional experience to every participant, student, traveler, and client!

In your volunteer abroad program at Maximo Nivel:
- All-inclusive—shared accommodations, meals, and many extras.
- Field Managers work side-by-side with volunteers to ensure integration at project sites.
- Great home-base facilities, open 7 days/week, including holidays.
- Special add-on programs: Surf School, Scuba Certification, Yoga Certification, and more
- Earn university credit via our School of Record

Highlights
  • New volunteer programs start every Monday year-round
  • All-inclusive—shared accommodations, meals, and many extras
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • No registration or processing fees
  • We bring structure and organization to your volunteer program, and we match you with the best project according to your experience, personal goals and the positive impact you want to have.

Travel Grants Available for a Limited Time!

Ready to work as an English teacher abroad? Register today for our award winning TEFL Certification in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru and apply for a special travel grant.

Popular Programs

Homelessness and poverty have left many children in Latin America without access to proper education and a loving environment. Maximo Nivel’s childcare projects aspire to change children’s lives by providing caring and nurturing volunteers to work, study, and play with them. Our childcare programs are the right place for caring and responsible people who want to improve the lives of underprivileged kids. Attention and care go a long way, especially in the development of young people and your help is very much needed and appreciated.

The public education systems in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru do not offer high quality ESL classes (English as a Second Language). Speaking English is a life-changing skill for people in developing countries, because the language opens both academic and professional opportunities, and provides a path out of poverty. Most middle and upper class students learn English at private language centers, which unfortunately are too expensive for a large part of the population. This creates an unfair gap between those who can afford English and those who can not.

Construction projects in Latin America are the highest impact volunteer programs available—you can literally see and touch the work you do and the impact you make! Central and South America are especially interesting places to learn about both traditional and more modern building methods. Here you can work with adobe, plaster, and bamboo or cement block, drywall, and aluminum. Construction and renovation work benefits developing communities that need help to create infrastructure such as housing, schools, churches, and community centers.

Maximo Nivel’s Animal Care programs are available in Guatemala and Peru. In Latin America, animals are not viewed as family members, nor is there a well-developed culture of animal rights. Overall, there is a lack education and understanding of animals and their unique needs. Side streets are frequently filled with small packs of abandoned dogs and cats who suffer from hunger, abuse, and health issues. The lack of spaying and neutering also means these animals breed quickly. Exotic species are sometimes illegally captured and kept as pets; and farm animals are often neglected due to poverty and a lack of resources. Proper veterinary training and care is not always easy to find.

Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru offer universal healthcare to their citizens and all 3 countries have large nationalized healthcare systems. However, in Latin America, government funding and bureaucracy along with large rural populations means that many patients do not have equal access. Hospitals and clinics for low income families often lack staff and the proper resources keep the most vulnerable populations healthy. By volunteering in a medical placement you are truly making a difference in the lives of hospital professionals and their patients.

Questions & Answers

Hi, great question! We recommend looking at testimonials and reviews from past participants to get a feel for the program experience. This link has tons of info on what to expect during your time abroad and links to user reviews: https://maximonivel.com/volunteers/what-to-expect/ .
It's easy to register for our programs! If you are ready to sign up, please fill out the registration form in https://maximonivel.com/registration/ . If you have questions about any of the programs, you can contact our Program Advisors using the form in https://maximonivel.com/contact-us/ , who will be happy to help! Maximo Nivel is one of the least expensive international program providers, and...

Reviews

93%
based on 39 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.2
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 15 of 39
Default avatar
Nadine
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Very Poor Experience

Very disappointed!

I came to Costa Rica for a volunteer program which is managed by the Maximo Nivel group here. My volunteer program consisted of eco agriculture in the Monteverde area specifically in a coffee farm.

When arriving in Costa Rica, the people of Maximo Nivel looked for us at the airport and took us to an orientation in the San Jose offices, everything seemed to be very good until the next day when they did not bother to look for us in the house where they gave us Lodging in San Jose and they told us to take a taxi to the highest level. Later that day before leaving for Monteverde in what we thought would be a private bus from Maximo or at least a bus accompanied by someone who is part of their team, turned out to be a public bus, without company or anyone, they simply left us in the bus stop (in the most dangerous area of ​​San Jose) and they left. This took me by surprise because we paid an extra cost because the location of the project was far and they had to cover the transport costs. Which were only $ 10 bus and $ 12 between 4 people from the Monteverde station to San Luis where the farm is!

Removing the lack of transparency and all the overwhelming complaints we have heard throughout our stay in Costa Rica as volunteers coming from other volunteers in different programs, I would like to share a little more of my reason for disappointment at this moment:
The family with whom we stayed in Monteverde, did not want our presence there, it was remarkable and in more than one opportunity was mentioned.

Maximo Nivel, shows a lot of incompetence by not being close to their volunteers, most of the days we did not have any signal because the family turned off the Wifi and the telephone signal did not reach the farm, on several occasions we had to walk 7Km to the town to contact our families! Thank God nothing happened that was emergency because we would not have done it! No signal or Wifi and the family outside the house!

I do not recommend this project in the least, or anything that has to do with these people. I feel stolen (sadly). If you want to travel to costa rica do it on your own, it will be much cheaper and probably better experience.

Response from Maximo Nivel

Thank you for your comments. I am very sorry your experience was not what you expected—this is never what we want for you or anyone who takes part in our programs. I’ve met with our Costa Rica Team, including our Director of International Programs (Marta) and our Field Manager (Emily), to review the points you’ve raised. It’s important to clarify some of the things you describe, so please let me address them one-by-one to be sure you have the answers you need.

You were transported directly from our institute to the bus station by our driver. The bus tickets to Monteverde were pre-purchased and provided to you. The bus transportation was described in detail during your orientation and you were given printed instructions. We send five to eight people to our projects in Monteverde every week and our Field Managers also visit this project site on a regular basis.

We work with two host families in Monteverde and they host our volunteers year-round. We’ve been working with these families and the coffee farm since 2011, and the families and the project very much enjoy hosting our volunteers.

Depending on where you are in Costa Rica, WiFi can be a little spotty, but WiFi normally works quite well in Monteverde. There’d be no reason for the family or the project to disconnect WiFi as it’s a fixed monthly fee for internet service. You’re right that cell phone service is limited in Monteverde, but the host family and the project have very reliable landline phone service 24/7 for any urgent needs.

There is no reason to walk to the town of Santa Elena (10 km / 6.2 miles), as there’s regular taxi service available from the project site. As well, the village where the project is located, has a clinic and a store for food, snacks, drinks, etc. Emergency service is available via doctors at the clinic and there is ambulance service for serious cases.

Our Director of International Programs (Marta) and our Field Manager (Emily) spoke with you directly three times during your 2-week program; and Marta personally conducted your orientation. Emily also offered you a project change in order to maximize your work time on the 24th and 25th of December, but you opted to stay at the coffee farm.

I hope my explanation helps to answer your concerns. Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss your program.

Thank you,

Paula Piazza, Director of Admissions & Client Service

Claudya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Health care program was amazing!

I absolutely loved being with Maximo nivel in this program, the staff is welcoming and cares about you. You feel the support. My house family was charming and really welcoming. We felt a lot of support and love from them. My project was at Corteza Amarilla, the physio therapist was amazing to invite us into their therapy sessions and finding creative ways to make geriatric patients stay active. As a student studying health science and learning of diseases and patterns of those diseases, I found it quite interesting to see the effects and reality that people have to live with by being affected. It was very emotionally moving and I will never forget all the beautiful souls inside that residence. Pura Vida Costa Rica ! I will most definitely see you again.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I would suggest is being able to follow different professionals to be able to learn more of different medical perspectives. Also I would love to be able to learn more in depth of the reality of the medical systems in Costa Rica.
Tudor
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteer Experience from Maximo Nivel

Maximo Nivel provides an excellent opportunity for those who wish to seek relevant real life experience, particularly in the healthcare and medical field. Over the span of a week I was able to get real valuable experience in my medical field of interest (occupational therapy) and along the way I was supported by both Maximo staff and the staff at the project as well. Be prepared to come with an open mind and ready to take initiative in order to get the most out of this experience. For me personally this impacted my life as I was able to receive real experience and that I can apply to my field of interest. It can help me in the future as I now have relevant experience for future employers. In summary this was an invaluable experience and I definitely recommend it to anybody looking to gain great experience and looking to enjoy their time in an educational and social manner.

What would you improve about this program?
Overall the program was fantastic the only very minor thing that could be improved is to receive a little bit more logistic information beforehand, prior to arrival. But other than that it was incredibly well organized and very great.
Tara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bebitos Childcare Program- LOVED it!

Hi everyone,
So awesome you are interested in volunteering and leaving an impact in a new and different place. I had very little expectations when I signed on and really just decided to jump in with the best of intentions explore and have fun. Certainly that mentality helped and wow did I ever learn a lot about Costa Rica and myself.

I was at a daycare and although I have very minimal Spanish language skills it worked out great! If you have no Spanish language try Duolingo for a few weeks before going for the basics. The kids did not care- high fives, hugs and a whole lot of play went a long way. The staff was so friendly, engaged and really helped us set up activities for the kids. Sometimes I would translate things in wifi areas and take a screen shot to them so they could explain.

My host family and accommodation was great too. They are so inviting and warm. You can tell they really do it for the love of their country and unifying people.

The staff of Maximo were amazing as well. Thank you to all of you for your support. My luggage was 4 days late arriving and they were on the phones, calming me down and then some. Their smiling faces really made my day.

My advice to all future volunteers is go for it! Jump in! Any and all things you do make a difference. For example, one day at the daycare it was overwhelming and the kids were fighting over the pencil crayons. I noticed that most were so dull too so they really couldn't use them effectively. Jump in time- sharpened ALL (I got a huge blister) the pencil crayons. Was it a huge deal- NO but the teachers didn`t have to do it, they could plan lessons and help the kids in Spanish, etc.

What would you improve about this program?
Although we are given a list of items that we could bring to donate to the programs it would be nice to have advance warning of the types of lessons or activities we could be planning so that we could bring materials from our home countries. I brought stickers, pipe cleaners etc but in hindsight nothing created a full craft so we went out and bought some stuff there.
Default avatar
Kristin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Building a Kindergarten in Cusco

I spent 3 months with Maximo Nivel building a kindergarten in an impoverished area of Cusco. Starting upon arrival to the airport, it was all a wonderful experience. They were waiting for me at the airport as soon as my flight arrived with a packet of information. They drove me to the Maximo Nivel office where I saw the space and met some of the staff, and then took me to the lodging they had arranged for me. I was staying in a great modern house with other volunteers, and a delicious breakfast and dinner was provided every day! I am a vegetarian and they always made sure to prepare me something special that still filled me up (something that doesn't always happen, especially in South America where being a vegetarian isn't all that common). My second day in town I had an orientation where they gave me useful information on the city, and prepared me to start at my project the next day.

The project itself was very well organized, and run by Maximo Nivel's foreman Marco, a local Cusquenan. Marco doesn't speak much English, but he is very friendly and able to communicate what is needed- and I learned a lot of Spanish from him! I got the opportunity to be involved in all types of the construction, from laying bricks to mixing cement to making the ceiling, and got to see the differentkinds of building techniques that they have in Cusco. We also had the opportunity to visit some of Maximo Nivel's other volunteer sites to help with repairs (such as fixing the roof of a school) and upkeep (such as painting the bedrooms at an orphanage).

In addition to volunteering with Maximo, I also took spanish classes, and participated in their free weekly salsa classes. All the classes were well organized, and taught me a lot!

Through my participation with Maximo Nivel I have had an unforgettable experience, made life long friends, and created a second home for myself in Cusco. I cannot recommend their programs enough!

Default avatar
Katherine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic Volunteer Time Off with my Work Colleagues

In October, 2015 I volunteered with 7 other members of my company in Cusco. We participated in an after school program for underprivileged children in the mountains outside of the city. They did a great job with orientation, preparing us the experience, and making sure we were comfortable and taking full advantage of all the various opportunities (including learning Spanish) along the way.

At the end of the week, they put together all the plans and tickets for us to go to Machu Picchu, where we also climbed Huayna Picchu mountain, which has limited tickets available. It was a smooth and awesome end to the trip.

The professionalism and effort the staff took was immense and resulted in a fantastic volunteer experience that I will carry with me the rest of my life. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in taking advantage of it.

Default avatar
Eli
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience

I chose teaching English in Cusco to experience cultural immersion which ordinary travel usually doesn't provide. I also wanted to be part of a global community which raises awareness about the unconscionable divide between rich and poor and which works to remedy this situation. All of our contributions may be small drops in the ocean of change required to make the world a fairer and just place to reside but every drop counts. I loved the students and thought the support provided by Maximo Nivel was outstanding.

What would you improve about this program?
Teaching English materials should be culturally sensitive and appropriate. I downloaded material about Peruvian history which the students responded to very positively. I hope the materials I provided can be used by others. Advice about making resources culturally sensitive eg even using Peruvian or Spanish names would be useful for prospective teachers in the future.

home stay food could be greatly improved for vegetarians and those who have to work at night. I had to fend for myself food wise for the whole time I was on the program. B'fasts were mostly of a good standard but no dinners whilst I was teaching was not helpful. I had about 5 good meals, usually lunch, during my stay.

home stay hygiene could also be greatly improved. No new towel was provided for 3 weeks! not sure if bed sheets were changed either but as I wore pyjamas this wasn't a major problem but the towel situation was appalling. 24 hr external laundry cycle meant the towel couldn't be washed. I had to get another towel to make do.
Default avatar
Nicole
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience!

I have visited all three of Maximo Nivel's international sites and I can honestly say that they are one of the best companies that you can choose! They have absolutely wonderful staff and were extremely helpful with everything that we could possible need. All of the host families that I have ever stayed with were incredibly welcoming and nice. They definitely do everything they can to make sure that we have the best experience abroad.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing, I would probably change the pricing. It can get pretty expensive if you wish to take Spanish classes, work construction and go on a separate adventure. For college kids- this can really add up!
Default avatar
Nick
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Have fun abroad and have an impact!

I usually don't fill out reviews, but I felt like I needed to for this one. After 15 days with Maximo Nivel, I feel like I am good friends with every one of their employees. This is a well organized, safe, and very social organization that will cater to the needs and desires of anyone looking to go abroad. Never before have I felt such a great mixture of community impact and vacation-like good times. You need to try out Maximo Nivel!

What would you improve about this program?
Can't think of anything.
Default avatar
Larissa
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Medical Placement in Umasbamba

I spent two weeks volunteering at Manco Capac in Cuzco and then five weeks in Umasbamba, a rural community just outside of Chinchero. When I first asked to make the switch into the rural community, Maximo bent over backwards helping me make a Medical Placement there happen. The support from the in country staff was unbelievable throughout my two months in country and I definitely felt pampered.

What would you improve about this program?
My biggest criticism is that as a pre-med student, seven weeks with Medical Placement felt a bit long. Although I have a solid foundation with Spanish, I felt that I could not do much in the clinic environment and that after a few weeks, I began to worry that my presence was bothersome. I may have benefited from asking Maximo if there was a medical campaign or different clinic that I could become involved with.
Default avatar
Anne
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable Experience

I came to Guatemala very excited but very nervous, it was my first experience traveling outside of the United States and I had no idea what to expect. Although there were of course some hard moments and struggles it was the best time of my life. There were days when I just wanted to be home, missing family and friends or feeling overwhelmed by being in a new place where things were so different.Those aspects are part of the experience and I really wouldn't change anything about my time there. I loved getting to know a new culture and language while volunteering . I met so many amazing interesting people, and I truly learned a lot, just being immersed in such a different culture, you are forced to step outside of yourself and look at things in a new way and that is just what I wanted. Maximo was a great venue for me to do what I wanted to do.

I loved my placement, I was doing construction and renovation. I was in Antigua for 10 weeks and was able to participate in three different projects. The work was sometimes challenging, I would get frustrated with myself when I could't do something very well. Then I had to remind myself that I had never done the work before , and was learning, and helping people and all I could do was my best. It was amazing to work and be able to see what we had done as a group. It was also awesome to be able to step into the world of the people who lived/ worked at the projects were we where working and interact with those people a bit. I really liked that part.

I loved my life during those ten weeks, I was in a home stay with an incredible warm friendly family, who cooked delicious food every day, three times a day. I had the chance to disconnect from my life at home, slow down and be in the moment with all of these new things. I loved the schedule I was on. I would wake up to an amazing breakfast, I always had other volunteers in the house to enjoy the meals with. Then I would head of to work on the chicken bus which I loved so much. It was such a fun way of traveling around the city. The work was tiring, fun, hard and awesome. By the time lunch came around I was so excited to eat. Lunch is the most important meal there, and in my opinion the best. After lunch I enjoyed relaxing a little, walking around town, to the market, the park, It was great to just enjoy the city. I had class from 4 to 6 pm.Coming to Maximo in the Afternoon was great, it was like home base. you could always connect with other volunteers, use the computers, study in the beautiful courtyard. I felt very lucky to have the chance to work on my spanish, the more spansih you know the more fun your experience will be. You can connect with the people and learn more about the culture, it's fun and exciting! I was able to practice a good amount of spanish during my placement with our director/ foreman, and of course in the home stay. One of the most challenging parts was the language barrier. You are forced to make yourself try, it is scary sometimes. My host family was so patient and spoke slowly. I was absolutely intimidated sometimes, and often If I was feeling tired or down it was exhausting to try and speak Spanish.
My evenings were spent either relaxing, reading/ studying or going out with friends, there is great night life and tons to do in Antigua!

This program is an excellent way to travel, experience a new culture, volunteer and practice spanish, while having a good amount of free time to really enjoy the place you are visiting. I felt very supported the entire time, if you ever need anything the Maximo team will do their best to really help you out.

I am so happy I chose this program and came to Antigua. It opened up my mind and got me excited to do more volunteer work and travel more as well!!!

What would you improve about this program?
The only critical feedback I have is that I think it would have been nice to know where I was staying before I got there. I was pretty anxious about that, It would have made me more relaxed to know that detail.

The only other thing I didn't like was that there wasn't the option to double up on volunteer placements for no extra charge. I think it would be amazing if there was the option to work two shift in a day for people that wanted. It could be a great way to make more of a differeence with some of the projects that could really use the help.
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YP
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Spring Break Trip

I wanted to do something different since it was my last college spring break and Antigua was the perfect choice.

You wake up every morning to a hearty breakfast before you get on a "chicken bus" to get to your placement. I worked at a day care for kids aged 1-5 years old in the outskirts of Antigua.

The kids are adorable and the best part is you actually have a chance to make a meaningful impact. From helping them brush their teeth to feeding them, you are given a lot of responsibility. On our last day, we even had a splash day with the kids.

The city of Antigua itself is a beautiful place. Good nightlife, everything is cheap and there's a lot to explore. I lived in a volunteer house with about 10 other volunteers so it was nice to have a community of individuals that were from diverse backgrounds.

What would you improve about this program?
The travel agency that they're partnered with really needs to be changed; unreliable and unprofessional.
Default avatar
Chelsea
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Maximo Nivel-Cusco

I participated in a medical campaign, placement in a clinic, and placement in a physical therapy setting. The medical campaign was great to get lots of experience quickly and impact HUNDREDS of patients in a day. The clinics were good for shadowing but I did not feel that my help was needed much. Intermediate-advanced Spanish is probably best in clinics. The physical therapy placement was eye-opening and I definitely felt that my help was both needed and appreciated.

What would you improve about this program?
There should be a predetermined list of volunteer tasks set with clinics as far as what volunteers can do, keeping in mind their Spanish speaking abilities and healthcare experience.
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Samuel
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Maximo Nivel-Peru

It was Great!!! WE learned a lot while in Peru about the Culture and Spanish. I took a Peruvian culture class and a grammar class. I learned a lot!!! Week end trips are soooo much fun!

What would you improve about this program?
Better communications with the Travel Agency
Default avatar
Claire-Marine
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience!

These past four weeks with Maximo have been amazing! They are very supportive, friendly and are always ready to help. Their office is open everyday and the computer lab is accessible to all volunteers. I took spanish lessons for 2 weeks and my teacher was great! All spanish teachers (that I know of) are locals and very friendly. I taught english at an elementary school in the mornings, which allowed me to walk around Antigua (where I was staying and volunteering) and explore Guatemala during the afternoons and weekends. There are beautiful things to see in Guatemala, but also a lot to do in Antigua!

A regular day during the week for me was: waking up around 6:45 and eating breakfast with other volunteers I was staying with, walking to school and teaching pre-k and grades 3 to 6, going back home to eat around 12:45, take some time to explore Antigua and go to Spanish class.

I highly recommend Maximo to anyone! Have fun!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to know the details of my housing before arriving to Guatemala. But my host familly was great!

About Maximo Nivel

Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel is a leading organization in study abroad and educational travel. We are an internationally accredited organization with 4 locally based institutes in 3 of the most beautiful countries in the world—Costa Rica, Guatemala....