- Studying abroad in Costa Rica is possible even if you don't speak Spanish.
- Costa Rican study abroad programs offer ample opportunities to interact with nature and the wider community.
- Students focusing on the environment, ecology, conservation, or the Spanish language will benefit from hands-on, immersive learning in Costa Rica.
- Both short-term and long-term study programs can be found in Costa Rica.
You’ve made the decision to study overseas and have even decided upon the country. Your adventure studying abroad in Costa Rica awaits, but first, you have to figure out what program is the right fit for you. While some accounts of studying overseas may give you the impression that there isn’t much studying involved, choosing the right academic program is very important.
Adventure, travel, and new experiences are all great reasons to study abroad, but academics are the primary reason you are heading out. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing your program, so we’ve put together our top Costa Rica programs so you can easily compare them and make the best decision.
- Best for hands-on learning: Verto Education
- Best for conservation studies: CIEE in Monteverde
- Best for future entrepreneurs: Costa Rica Study Abroad
- Best for internships & volunteerism: AIFS: Study Abroad
- Best for support: CEA: Study Abroad
- Best for research opportunities: USAC
- Best for language immersion: ISA Study Abroad
A note on COVID-19: Costa Rica is currently open to students and travelers although restrictions and entry requirements are in place. The US Embassy in Costa Rica has up-to-date information for prospective study abroad students.
Best for hands-on learning: Verto Education
Verto Education focuses on using Costa Rica as the classroom. Courses include excursions and field studies that bring learning to life and give you an opportunity to put theory into practice. You'll engage in interesting activities like environmental restoration projects and trips to archaeological sites. Subjects include environmental science, history, digital photography, and Spanish.
The small class sizes and ability to bond with classmates and teachers make this a favorite among Go Overseas students. Verto offers some great excursions as well, including white water rafting, merengue classes, and waterfall hikes! Students have given Verto’s Costa Rica program a 97% rating, and have ranked support and safety as their favorite parts.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the Verto Education program:
- "Verto is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It helped me create goals I never knew I had and taught me what I want to do with my life. I have the experience to do a million things I would have never done before and the courses actually resonated with real world problems while seeing the cause and effect first hand." -- Hana
- "My experience was unique simply by that fact that I was able to study in Costa Rica. Everything about this was unique. The ability to take forest surveys in the middle of the jungle for environmental science, or surf on the Caribbean Cost after the end of our first classes, or visit two indigenous tribes for International Development and Latin American History." -- Lucas
- " I took a chance with Verto and I’m beyond happy that I did. I studied in Costa Rica which was so different than life in the United States. I learned how to be a confident safe traveler and I had some of the most fun, thrilling experiences. I am forever bonded to Costa Rica and the amazing friends that I have made." -- Sydney
Best for conservation studies: CIEE in Monteverde
When looking for a program in Costa Rica that is focused on ecology and conservation, the CIEE Tropical Ecology + Conservation in Monteverde is a great option. Rated second among all of our Costa Rica programs, it also has a 98% rating from former students. The academics are intensive in this program, which according to many students is a positive thing.
This program utilizes host families for housing, which explain its high rating for housing, safety, and fun. Students participate in two, two and half week-long field trips and gain hands-on experience while conducting an independent research project in Monteverde. Both city and country life are experienced during this program.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the CIEE Tropical Ecology + Conservation in Monteverde program:
- "My favorite part of the whole program was the experiential learning model they employed and the fact that were we literally learning about the place we were in. Class time was often spent hiking through absolutely gorgeous forests." -- Neha
- "The beauty of this program is the diversity of ways in which the curriculum is taught to you. I would say that the entire program is split up into three different parts. The three parts were split up into field trips, normal classroom setting, and independent research." -- Caleb
- "I chose this program because academic advisors assured me that it would be fun, more intellectually challenging and research-focused than other ecology programs. I had the time of my life, met lifelong friends, and know more about plant identification than I likely will ever need to as a microbiologist."-- Madison
Best for future entrepreneurs: Costa Rica Study Abroad
Our number three rated Costa Rica program is Costa Rica Study Abroad: Social Entrepreneurial Mentorships which has a 100% rating! These mentorships are perfect for those ready to make a difference, right away. One interviewee mentioned, “Do not attend this if you aren't looking to get your mind straight on the future, because the powerful energy of Costa Rica mixed with Marc Angelo's spirit will leave you craving to get to work on your life's passion.”
Housing for this program received a 10 out of 10, and attendees stay in either apartments or with host families. There is more than enough time for fun, and networking, both of which will be beneficial later in business life.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the Costa Rica Study Abroad: Social Entrepreneurial Mentorships program:
- "What I experienced working hands-on with the students in Costa Rica inspired me to believe that this an event which can truly get anyone out of their rut and rigid mindset and really help them move forward in their lives." -- Daniel
- "Over the course of the week, the team helped break down these barriers holding me back. My confidence and clarity were strengthened. This confidence I have kept with me since, and I use constantly to break down the doubts in pursuing my goals. I now use social media as a powerful tool in this pursuit." -- Bradley
- "I went to Costa Rica last year hoping to have a good time and learn a thing or two and ended up with much more than I could have imagined. I made long-lasting friendships, learned to surf, hiked a waterfall and a volcano and FINALLY put an action plan together to run my own business."-- Nadia
Best for internships & volunteerism: AIFS Study Abroad
The AIFS Study Abroad in Costa Rica program offers so much for students looking to spend a semester or the full academic year in San Jose. Veritas University offers classes ranging from the Spanish language to environmental studies to political science. You will also have the opportunity to build your CV through an internship or help the local community as a volunteer on a social project.
Students live with a Tican family, close enough to walk to school, and can find time to explore, both within San Jose and outside of it. San Jose is a great location, as it’s centrally located. This is the program I used, and I loved it! My Spanish improved so much thanks to my host family and the opportunity to practice it each and every day.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the AIFS Study Abroad in Costa Rica program:
- "I chose AIFS not only due to the fact that it was incredibly cost-effective, provided three different travel opportunities included in the cost of the program, and gave us the option of a homestay, but also because of the interactions I had with the AIFS staff as they helped me through the process of applying for, and going, on this adventure to Costa Rica." -- Courtney
- "The cultural excursions that were included in the program forced me to get out there and see how traveling can be done so easily. I formed relationships with friends I still talk to today and I matured immensely over this time, being on my own but always having the support of AIFS to have my back." -- Mackenzie
- "One of the key reasons that I chose AIFS was because of the optional flight package that they offer; I didn't have much experience in domestic airports, let alone airports in another country, so it was very comforting to have it already taken care of." -- Goldie
Best for support: CEA Study Abroad
Ranked fifth in our list, the CEA Study Abroad in San Jose is one of the top programs when it comes to logistical support. From the beginning to the end of this program, you will be taken care of! The academics are also top-notch, and courses taken while studying overseas are easily transferrable and fulfill graduation requirements.
With the option of staying with a host family, while studying in San Jose, students can really get the best of both worlds. A home-cooked meal after a long day of studying is so refreshing. CEA also puts together some great trips for its students, and great opportunities to learn about the Tican culture.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the CEA Study Abroad in San Jose program:
- "I loved my experience with this program. One of the classes I took (Revolution, Religion, and Spirituality in Latin America at Veritas Universidad) changed my life in so many ways." -- Megan
- "This by far was the most amazing, eye-opening, soul finding experience of my life. I made some of the most amazing friends and an entirely new group of people that I call family. The country was absolutely stunning and there was never a dull moment. The Program CEA was beyond accommodating. The staff was always helpful and assisted with anything that was ever needed."-- Symone
- "With CEA, I was able to go to San Jose for a medical Spanish and health psychology program that changed my life! Not only was I able to learn Spanish that I use every day at work in a hospital but I also was able to experience adventures like nowhere else in the world!" -- Caitlyn
Best for research opportunities: USAC
The USAC Costa Rica program in San Ramon is a great option for students in the health, ecology, and conservation biology fields. Hands-on experience is key for these fields, and the USAC program has it! Live with a host family, have the opportunity to pursue independent research, and complete some of those graduation requirements in San Ramon.
If you’re not sold on studying in San Ramon, or your field is not compatible with those listed, consider the USAC program in Heredia. It has all of the same benefits and fantastic student reviews, including a 94% rating. Students love the host family aspect of USAC programs.
Here are some other highlights from alumni reviews of the USAC Costa Rica San Ramón program:
- "There are really no words to describe an experience like this. USAC was an incredible program. They set up everything from classes to home-stay. The science classes that I took came with an awesome field study. USAC also had planned weekend field trips that were always very fun. I would recommend this to anyone!" -- Tyler
- "I loved this program! I had so much help from USAC before I went so I wasn't nervous at all. They walked me through the whole process. Once I got to Costa Rica I met my host family and the USAC staff and they were so welcoming and friendly and made me feel right at home." -- Julia
Best for language immersion: ISA Study Abroad
Not far from San Jose is the Tican town of Heredia, where students love to explore and study. The ISA Study Abroad in Heredia program is a great option for those looking to improve upon their Spanish language skills. Students live with a host family and genuinely enjoy the college town, complete with excellent cafes and nightlife.
When there is some downtime from studying, ISA has several options for excursions available. From volcanoes to mountains to beaches, Costa Rica has it all, and with Heredia being located near San Jose, there are several ways to travel to these places. You will love studying in Heredia with ISA!
Here is a highlight from an alumni review of the ISA Study Abroad in Herediaprogram:
- "I went to Costa Rica on a complete whim. I chose my program randomly and ISA's Costa Rica Heredia program was the hands-down absolute best experience I could have ever dreamed about. I loved the classes and my professors. The directors are absolutely amazing... They end up as your good friends at the end of your trip." -- Kendra
Where will you study?
With so many options, your hardest decision won't be whether to go but which program to choose. All of the organizations on this list are fantastic, and it is comforting to know that Go Overseas students have been there before and can vouch for them. As you can tell, these programs are top of the line, and we know you will have a wonderful experience, learn about the Costa Rican culture, and improve your Spanish. We can’t wait to hear about your experiences.
Still not sold on travel during COVID-19? How about a virtual study abroad in the meantime? Get your feet wet in international education before jetting off to Costa Rica.