Study Abroad in Costa Rica

Browse Programs

Looking to spend a semester on “tico time?” With warm weather year-round, beautiful beaches, and lush rainforests, Costa Rica is an attractive and affordable option for study abroad. Though it’s best known as a vacation hotspot for surfers, Costa Rica is now an up-and-coming study abroad destination for American students looking for Spanish language-intensive programs. It’s also one of the most environmentally friendly study abroad options, as Costa Rica was recently named the “greenest” country in the world. So pack your sunscreen, grab your Spanish-English dictionary, and hop on the three-hour flight from Miami, because study abroad in Costa Rica is waiting for you!

San Jose

San Jose is the largest city in Costa Rica, with a population of 370,000. The city is safe, clean, and full of beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, as well as modern office buildings. The National Theater and the Gold Museum are popular with students, as are San Jose’s many open-air plazas and cafes. The capital of Costa Rica offers a number of study abroad options for American students. The enormous public University of Costa Rica is the largest and best known university in Costa Rica, specializing in engineering and the sciences. The small, private Veritas University offers classes in art and design, as well as Spanish grammar and vocabulary for international students. Both universities partner with American schools like the University of Kansas to offer study abroad programs in specific disciplines.

Heredia

Heredia is another popular destination for study abroad students, as it is home to one of the largest colleges in Costa Rica, the public National University of Costa Rica, which specializes in ecology and education. Heredia is located only 10km (6.25 mi) from San Jose, and it is quite easy to get between the two cities by bus or train.

Monteverde

Monteverde is a small town in Puntarenas that has become a premier ecotourism destination owing to its proximity to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Many American universities, including the University of Georgia, offer programs in ecotourism, ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability with their local partners in Monteverde. Though Monteverde itself is in a tropical, mountainous region of the country, it is also not far from the beautiful beaches along Puntarenas’ coast.

How to Choose a Program

Before choosing a study abroad program in Costa Rica, you should carefully consider the subjects you want to study and academically prepare for the intense Spanish language immersion.

Language

The national language of Costa Rica is Spanish, and you will rarely hear English outside of the tourist areas. Additionally, it is almost impossible to find English-language courses in Costa Rica’s public universities, except in the education departments. Most American partner schools also emphasize that their courses will be taught entirely in Spanish, and some even offer homestays with tico families in order to promote rapid language learning.

Housing

Many tico students continue to live with their parents while studying at university. Consequently, most study abroad students choose to live with tico host families while in Costa Rica to get the full experience. Host families are also a great way for students to practice their Spanish outside of the classroom and to learn new vocabulary and slang.

Academic Life

Ticos, or Costa Rican natives, are fairly relaxed with regards to education. The entire nation of Costa Rica runs on “tico time” (a fancy way of saying that everyone is always late), so don’t expect your 2.00 PM class to start on time, even on the first day. Classmates usually know each other extremely well at the university level, as they are all enrolled together in the same carrera, or major, for all four years.

Additionally, secondary schools are more specialized in Costa Rica than in the US, so many tico students enter university with some experience in the subjects they want to pursue. Consequently, for some specialized subjects like engineering, you may need to enroll in a lower-level class than you would in the US.

What to Pack

What you pack for your trip will make all the difference in how comfortable you will be. If you need help, we have a guide specifically dedicated to what you'll need to pack for Central America.

Social Life and Student Culture

When not in class, many tico and American students spend their free time hanging out in open-air plazas and cafes, reading, tanning, and playing soccer. Restaurants that serve cocina tipica, or typical Costa Rican food, are also popular student hangouts around meal time, as they offer some of the most delicious (and cheap!) food for students, as well as live music on special occasions. Even the smallest Costa Rican towns have nightclubs, which are guaranteed to be packed almost every night of the week with locals, tourists, and international students dancing to loud reggaeton music.

During university holidays, students usually elect to travel around Costa Rica, visiting the country’s beautiful national parks, animal reserves, and pristine beaches. The many religious holidays also offer students a chance to experience Costa Rica’s Catholic heritage first-hand through outdoor plays, live nativity scenes, and parades.

Contributed by Sarah Reynolds

Students can obtain scholarships through their home universities or the American universities that run programs in Costa Rica. Program providers also offer scholarships.

Programs

Showing 126 Programs
Industry
Apply Reset
Filtering by:

Costa Rica

CEA Study Abroad
San José, the capital of Costa Rica, blends urban life and natural beauty with more than 800 miles of coastline and acres of...

Thailand

Global Vision International (GVI)
Service learning is a teaching method that takes classroom education and connects it to real life services that directly bene...

Costa Rica

EF International Language Centers
Study Spanish in an adventurer’s mecca. Learn how to surf, explore the rainforest, swim in waterfalls or watch monkeys swing...

Costa Rica

USAC
Study abroad with the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) in Puntarenas, Costa Rica next January (short-term), summer...

South Africa

CEA Study Abroad
Are you a nursing student? We have programs available in a variety of locations!

South Africa

Global Vision International (GVI)
GVI’s exclusive study abroad programs give you the opportunity to work with world-class educators, local researchers as well...

Costa Rica

USAC
Study abroad next summer, semester or academic year with USAC in Heredia, Costa Rica. All USAC courses during the Spanish, Ec...

Costa Rica

USAC
USAC invites students interested in pursuing health, ecology, and conservation biology studies to come study abroad at the Se...

Costa Rica

ISA (International Studies Abroad)
Study in the economic, cultural, and political capital of Costa Rica - San Jose. ISA offers students the chance to study Span...

Costa Rica

ISA (International Studies Abroad)
Relax in the beautiful Costa Rican city of Heredia! ISA and Universidad Latina have teamed up to give you an unforgettable st...

Costa Rica

AIFS Study Abroad
Earn up to 23 credits through a wide variety of courses at Veritas University in San Jose, the lively capital of Costa Rica....

Europe

GapForce
Follow in the footsteps of past Trekforce Leaders including Bruce Parry and Ed Stafford - learn key Survival, Leadership and...

Costa Rica

AIFS Study Abroad
Earn 3 semester credits during a 2-week January term program at Veritas University in San José, Costa Rica. Choose from the h...

Costa Rica

ISA (International Studies Abroad)
Why not do something different? Santa Cruz provides the intimate setting of a town with just 25,000 people, ensuring you will...

Argentina

AIFS Study Abroad
When it comes to custom, faculty-led programs, AIFS provides industry-leading support, from concept to program completion and...