Gap Year in Costa Rica: Bienvenidos!

Map of Costa Rica

Narrow Your Search by Popular Cities

Flag of Costa Rica

Home to endless species of wildlife and lush rainforests, Costa Rica's tropical climate welcomes millions of visitors who can't seem to get enough of this paradise on earth! Costa Rica, which means "rich coast," is the perfect destination for wildlife enthusiasts and ecotourists. The landscapes and scenery of this small nation is equally varied. From stunning beaches to dense jungles, Costa Rica has it all, including a rich cultural blend of European and Mestizo elements.

  • Capital City: San Jose
  • Population: 4,636,348
  • Popular Destinations: Monteverde Cloud Forest, San Jose, Arenal Volcano
  • Currency: Costa Rican Colon
Volunteering:

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries to volunteer in. Known for its black sand beaches, lush rain forests, and laid-back "pura vida" lifestyle. Costa Rica borders the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and houses a famous biodiversity, and many endangered species that are in need of protection. Many volunteer programs work to protect the nesting turtles that return to the beaches of Costa Rica every year to breed and lay theirs eggs.

Volunteering in ecological research will give you the free time to hiking the numerous mountain trails, riding on horseback to the beach, or visiting the colorful cities. While there are many environmental organizations looking for volunteers in Costa Rica, the populations of poorer rural areas and urban slums are also in need of volunteers. The country has a high literacy rate, but still struggles with urban poverty, child labor, and a high rate of alcoholism and drug addiction in its cities. Volunteers are needed throughout the country.

Adventure Travel:

Travel to cloud covered Monteverde Forest and become swept up in the beauty of this mysterious landscape. In this unique mountain rainforest, the humidity is often as high as 100%. Monteverde is home to more than 3000 species of animals and plants and is a great place to explore while doing meaningful work with conservation programs.

For adventurous travelers, Arenal, the country's largest volcano, is a must see. In La Fortuna, a tiny town near the base of the volcano, you will be greeted by hospitable locals. Costa Rica offers many opportunities to scuba dive, snorkel, rock climb, hike, free dive, and even bungee jump. It's the perfect country for the most adventurous gapper. And, after a long day of physical exertion, you can relax both your mind and body, eating delicious seafood and catching a glimpse of the surreal Costa Rican sunset.

Internships:

Although Costa Rica is a small country, the country offers a wide variety of internships. Many internship programs will work with interns to find a job that fits their skills and interests. Interns in Costa Rica have the rare opportunity to learn essential professional skills while making a difference in the local community. International internships often have a strong academic component that allows interns to learn an incredible amount (including the local language and customs) while also providing volunteer opportunities.

While ecological internships are the most prominent internships in the country. For less science minded gappers, Costa Rica also offers internships in journalism, politics, law, and business. Gappers can learn the business aspects of Costa Rica's tropical agricultural products.

Cost of Living in Costa Rica:

Prices in San Jose are the second lowest of any city in the Americas. The cost of goods and services is among the lowest of any city in the world. The US Dollar is significantly stronger than the Costa Rican Colon. In Costa Rica, European and U.S. gappers can experience a luxurious lifestyle without breaking the bank. Housing in Costa Rica costs substantially less than in America. Public transportation is also very reasonable. For example, a bus ride across town or to the suburbs usually costs from 25 -50C/. Even taxis in San Jose is relatively inexpensive.

Food, continuing education, entertainment (movies cost a little over $3.00) and, above all, health care, are surprisingly affordable.

Culture and Etiquette in Costa Rica:

Costa Ricans are very friendly and do not easily take offense. Nevertheless, it's always important to familiarize yourself with the local customs. Men shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact. The same goes for meeting a woman. As you become friendlier with the amazing people you meet, you will generally greet women with a light kiss on the cheek.

Costa Rica has a vibrant and unique culture, it was once the point where the Mesoamerican and South American cultures met. When the Spanish conquerors (conquistadores) came in the 16th century, a cultural clash began. As a result, Costa Rica developed new styles of art and music that were influenced by both cultures.

Costa Rican cuisine is a blend of Native American, Spanish, and African elements. Traditional Mesoamerican dishes include the tamale, but Spaniards brought many new ingredients, especially spices and domestic animals. Later, Africans settlers added Caribbean flavors to the mix. Costa Rica is renowned for its exquisite cuisine.

When the Spanish conquered Costa Rica, they brought with them the Catholic religion and its many customs. As a result, the culture in Costa Rica is socially conservative by European standards, but vibrant and passionate nonetheless.

Dance-oriented genres, such as soca, salsa, bachata, merengue, cumbia and Costa Rican swing are enjoyed throughout the country. Costa Rican guitar music is very popular in Central America. A history of rebellion and social strife throughout the country gave rise to great artists, such as: Francisco Amighetti, Fadrique Gutierrez, Jose Francisco Salazar, and Carlos Luis Fallas.

Although the Costa Rican natives had to endure many hardships, their culture is one of peacefulness and relaxation. "Pura Vida" is the most recognizable phrase attached to Costa Ricans, and it reflects the Costa Rican way of life. Often, people walking down the streets, or buying food at shops say hello by saying "Pura Vida", which means pure life, or good life.

Health and Safety in Costa Rica:

It's gross to say, but diarrhea is the most common travel-related ailment in Costa Rica. Take precaution with food and water. Drink bottled water when you can and be sure to bring an anti-diarrhea drugs along with antibiotics. Pepto Bismal to the rescue!

Costa Rica is a middle-income, developing country with a strong democratic tradition. Health care in Costa Rica is surprisingly affordable and accessible; however, as a developing nation, diseases such as Malaria and Yellow Fever are still problematic. Make sure to be vaccinated for both of these. You don't want to spend your entire gap year with your head over the toilet!

Since English is a second language for most Costa Ricans, knowledge of Spanish is necessary for your safety in all non-tourist areas. Small crime is prevalent in the city, especially against gullible foreigners. All countries suffer from crime and crime rates across the world have risen due to economic uncertainty. Beware of scam artists and always keep an eye on your personal possessions.

Why Take a Gap Year in Costa Rica?

Whether you want to indulge in some rest and relaxation on Costa Rica's pristine shores, boarded by the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, or enjoy some exhilarating watersports, Costa Rica will not disappoint! This tiny country has vibrant coastal towns, rocky coves, and an unparalleled biodiversity. Take a gap year in Costa Rica and create the greatest memories of your life!

Search for Flights

Find Travel Opportunities Through Student Universe

Programs & Reviews

In Guatemala and Nicaragua, study Spanish, live with home stay families, and teach at local community schools with your new language skills. Then volunteer at a sustainable arts center and live in an eco-lodge as you learn about...
4 Reviews
More Programs by Carpe Diem Education
Travel and contribute in the cloud forests of Monteverde and beach side at Matapalu, getting stuck into a mix of conservation and community projects including protecting the endangered turtles. MATAPALU BEACH A stunning stretch of beach...
2 Reviews
More Programs by The Leap
Global Routes offers two Costa Rica gap programs: a three-month semester program for gap year and college students and a unique 6-week summer gap program for students finishing 12th grade. Both programs offer volunteer teaching placements...
1 Reviews
More Programs by Global Routes
FIND OUT WHY MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE CHOOSING TO BECOME A LOVE VOLUNTEER!! Through our partner in Costa Rica, Love Volunteer is seeking volunteers to help local communities. Opportunities are available precisely where the local population...
2 Reviews
More Programs by Love Volunteers
Maximo Nivel's Spanish language program in Costa Rica provides a safe and organized environment for travelers and language learners to visit Central America and learn Spanish at the same time. Located in the district of San Pedro, our...
2 Reviews Request Info
More Programs by Maximo Nivel
Set between its tropical Caribbean and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica is one of the most breath-taking countries in the world. Even though it covers just 0.03% of the world's landmass, it is home to an incredible 500,000 species including...
4 Reviews
More Programs by Frontier
Based on a private ecological reserve in the rainforests of northern Costa Rica, this Eco-Reserve and Animal Rescue Center acts as a home for rescued wild animals and also is a site for ongoing conservation and community development...
11 Reviews
More Programs by Greenheart Travel
IVHQ's partner organizations in Costa Rica are always looking for great volunteers! Highly affordable programs are available in a variety of fields, including conversation, teaching, childcare, construction, and much more. Volunteers can...
4 Reviews
More Programs by IVHQ
At both campuses, Heredia and Samara Beach, we offer year-round intensive Spanish group classes in small groups (max. 6 students per class), 4 hours per day and 20 per week. Spanish classes are dynamic, fun and involve a wide variety of...
3 Reviews
More Programs by Intercultura
Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer placements in the developing world since 1992. Our volunteers directly impact local communities through service projects arranged and coordinated by expect in-country staff. We offer a wide...
12 Reviews
More Programs by Projects Abroad
You can make a difference and volunteer with GVI in Costa Rica! From helping the local wildlife to working with underprivileged children, you can make a difference and learn about a new culture. GVI currently offers several different...
8 Reviews
More Programs by Global Vision International
EF pioneered the concept of an educational tour many years back, and now maintains their presence as the biggest private student travel company in the world. Educational tours are an amazing way to explore a country while making some great...
2 Reviews
More Programs by EF Educational Tours
ISA Study Abroad Logo International Studies Abroad
ISA
Study in the economic, cultural, and political capital of Costa Rica - San Jose. ISA offers the chance to study Spanish language at Veritas University or Universidad Latina: San Pedro among a variety of other courses. Study with Costa...
2 Reviews Request Info
More Programs by ISA
Spend your gap year adventure traveling in the country with the world's most biodiversity and stunning landscape! If you start your gap year abroad with Gap Year Diver, you will be traveling to Quepos, Costa Rica, a small town surrounded...
1 Reviews
More Programs by Gap Year Diver
Combine exciting adventure travel with a project placement and experience the best of Central America on an unforgettable adventure trip with Frontier through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Travelling with a group...
1 Reviews
More Programs by Frontier

Q+A Community

Do you have a burning question about taking a gap year abroad in Costa Rica? We're here to help! Most questions are answered within 24 hours. Here are some example questions:

  • What's the local cost of living like in Costa Rica?
  • What's the one place I can't miss while traveling in Costa Rica?
  • What kind of safety concerns should I be aware of in Costa Rica?

Please Note: Frequent and informative questions will be posted on Go Overseas for the community at large to engage with and learn more. Your contact information, however, will always remain private.

Tell us the name of the university you did or are attending.

Help us battle the bots. Enter the name of this website below.