Spanish Immersion Program in Costa Rica

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Independence Day!
Tamarindo Sunset
Witch's Rock
Volunteer in Costa Rica
Volunteer in Costa Rica
study spanish in costa rica
study spanish in costa rica
Learn Spanish extracurricular activities
Learn Spanish extracurricular activities
Spanish Immersion Program trips at Instituto Estelar Bilinuge
Spanish Immersion Program trips at Instituto Estelar Bilinuge
Experience Costa Rica
Experience Costa Rica

About

Our Spanish Immersion Program is perfect for serious students who want progress quickly, experience authentic Costa Rica off the beaten path, and make a difference in the local community. We offer intensive Spanish courses with highly-trained teachers, homestays with local families, cultural activities, bilingual events, volunteer opportunities, and more!

In one week, students are able to advance one level and speak with fluency, accuracy, and confidence. The immersion program is available year-round, starting each Monday and ending the following Friday. Students can sign up for one week minimum. There are 15 courses in our program from beginner to advanced, and each course has grammar focuses, conversational themes, TPRS storytelling, and Survival Spanish chapters.

We also offer private Spanish classes at our school in downtown Liberia, on Skype, or in a private home at a beach in the Peninsula Papagayo. Our classes are fun, interactive, and conversational.

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

100%
based on 39 reviews
  • Academics 9.9
  • Support 10
  • Fun 9.9
  • Housing 9.9
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 15 of 39
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Corey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great place to learn Spanish in an authentic way!

Overall, I had a really great 4-week immersion experience here at IEB. I will recommend this place to friends, family, and students hoping to learn Spanish in an authentic way. I had a really great time with profesora Gabriela. One day, the class went from two students to one student, and Gabriela made changes accordingly to ensure that I received the support I needed. I learned a lot and enjoyed my time in this class. I had a great experience learning with profesora Nelly too and appreciate how patient she is with us. Grevin es un buen maestro también! Quiero la manera que Grevin enseña!

At first, I didn't participate in any extra curricular activities, but I fully appreciated that there was a schedule for us. My last week I participated in the intercambio, and it was excellent. Everything has been well organized and the experiences are fantastic. I appreciate the communication which has been quick, consistent, and persistent. Me gusto el viaje a la finca Tree Chocolate.

I am so sad that I have to leave Doña Digna this weekend! She is the best! I had such a wonderful experience with her and her family. I´m thankful to be placed there and to have her full support of my bad Spanish. We´ve had wonderful conversations and experiences thus far and I hope to continue. She is truly an excellent person, hospitable, and kind. I am gracious to have been placed at her house and hope that others will have the experience I had.

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Amy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful 1st time Spanish Immersion experience for our 10 and 12 yrs old children!

Extremely High Quality of Spanish Classes, customization of interactive, instructional courses, organization of homestay, organization of extracurricular activities inside and outside of the school, excellent direct communication from Director/Owner Bethany Kirk - The setting is perfect for one who truly wants to learn and immerse themselves within a Spanish speaking environment! The location of the institute is next to a couple bakeries and we felt safe walking to and from the school. My husband and I "hung" out in the lobby while they kids were in their classes. We enjoyed the excursion to the waterfalls on one the days after class. It is a hot climate, so one should be prepared to pack light and airy clothes. WE didn't find that air conditioners were common in the homes and places within the country. We adapted quickly enough to not let the heat and lack of "refreshing" air to get in the way of our adventure!!

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Bob
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great place for Spanish Immersion

This review is based on a two-week homestay / Spanish course experience in February 2019, taken by a married couple. The Institute has 15 class levels (Beginner 1-5, Intermediate 1-5, and Advanced 1-5). Each unit lasts one week. We enrolled in Beginner 2&3 and Advanced 2&3, respectively. Classes are assigned based on performance on an on-line written test and a web-based video interview in Spanish. We found our placements to be appropriate, neither too basic nor impossibly advanced. Class is four hours per day, five days a week. Anticipate 1-3 hours per day of homework, excluding Fridays. All of our classes were in the mornings. Afternoons and weekends were free time for outings and individual exploration. (There are afternoon classes, but we had none.)

The instructors were uniformly excellent. They were dynamic and focused on teaching us Spanish. Each four hour class typically begins with free discussion at the student’s level. The focus of these discussions is to build confidence in speaking in Spanish. Errors are gently corrected, but the emphasis is on keeping the conversation moving. After the discussion, workbook-based didactic sessions are interspersed with games or videos. The pace is rapid and the courses are demanding, but the instructors did a great job of maintaining a fun, energetic mood in the class. Both of us are in our 50s. We aren’t kids, to be entertained by silly games: the games are sometimes indeed silly, but the intent is serious. We found them helpful both in reinforcing the material being taught and in keeping our attention focused.

The homestay was wonderful. The couple in whose home we stayed, Iris and Johnnie, were just lovely. They made us feel welcome and worked us into the fabric of the life of their extended family. They provided plenty of opportunity to speak in Spanish and were patient with our stumbling abilities. They went out of their way to make sure we had a pleasant stay, giving us advice about how to travel safely on our various journeys and making sure that the --wonderful-- food stayed within our dietary restrictions. (One of us cannot eat preserved food or certain cheeses. Iris did a better job of remembering that restriction than we did.)

Food in Costa Rica is not particularly inexpensive, though of course breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of the homestay. A cheap lunch in a local “Soda”, an open-front café kind of place, runs about $7.50. Sit-down restaurants tended to be much more expensive. Transportation, on the other hand, is quite cheap. The bus to the local beach costs about $2.00. A taxi ride of 3/4 mile or so is about $1.25. Hiring a car and driver for three people to go on an all-day guided beach tour was $150. The driver, Diego, was fantastic, knowledgeable and talkative, happy to give informal Spanish tutoring while filling us in on local history, culture, and economy.

The staff at the Institute is friendly and helpful.

We went during the dry season. It was hot, with lows at night in the 80s and highs mainly in the 90s, sometimes pushing 100. It was not terribly humid, but it wasn’t dry heat. The closest beach is about 20 miles away, a little more than an hour by public bus, about 45 minutes by car or taxi. The Institute was happy to help us arrange travel. The beaches are stunning. Some of them offer opportunities to snorkel. The Institute organizes trips to local rivers and the rain forest, for an additional fee. One of the weaknesses when we were there was that participation in those structured trips was not high among the other students. That was one of the few criticisms we had.

Other structured activities include “Intercambio” during which students taking English and students taking Spanish talk one-on-one or in small groups, alternating 50-50 between the two languages, 30 minutes in Spanish, 30 minutes in English. That activity was a good opportunity to practice Spanish, do a little English teaching, and get different perspectives on Costa Rican (and Nicaraguan) culture and daily life. The Institute maintains an active English program, for students of all ages. Those classes are mainly taught by young native English speakers working on 9-or-more-month contracts. It was interesting to meet those instructors as well.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay tremendously and learned quite a bit of Spanish. We would both go back again, and in fact may do so.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be prepared to work hard in the classes and have more homework than you thought you might. Enjoy the program and Liberia!
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David
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Great Way to Learn Spanish

My wife and I came to Instituto Estelar to jumpstart our ability to read, write, and converse in Spanish. We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. The course of study is intense, but the staff makes it fun and is very encouraging. It’s good to have the program in Liberia, which is not very touristy, meaning that you hear Spanish most of the time even when you’re not in school. We also stayed with a very nice local woman who spoke no English. That made for a total immersion experience. The locals are friendly and helpful, so if your Spanish isn’t good enough to communicate they’ll try hard to understand you.

We studied at Instituto Estelar for three weeks. Beforehand our Spanish was rudimentary. Afterward I was able to have extended conversations with locals in other parts of Costa Rica. Amazing. Many thanks to the staff at Instituto Estelar, without whom that wouldn’t have been possible.

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JL
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Expectations surpassed!

I didn't really know what to expect when signing up for this program, but it has surpassed all expextations. The school's location is great, the program provides a lot of opportunities to connect to Costa Rican culture and the people within it, and most importantly it offers a great environment to learn spanish! My teacher Merlyn has been wonderful. She is so nice and approachable and always keeps thing fun and easy going. She only speaks in Spanish which in the first few days was a bit overwhelming but it forces you to to use what you know to figure it out, so I wouldnt really change that. The only time I would recommend a little English used is when assigning homework just so everyone is clear as to what is expected to be completed to the next days class. All in all very flexible and accomodating. Cooking class was fun and I liked that a traditional Costa Rican dish was made! The volunteering after class sounded very cool, and I would like to try it in the future. The staff is always friendly and helpful, and the institute is always in a very clean condition. Bethany has been extremly helpful, both before and after arriving! I took two weeks of Spanish immersion and really advanced in my Spanish abilities.

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Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Loved the structure of the classes

I thoroughly enjoyed the class at Instituto Estelar Bilingue. I just took a week of the immersion program, but I learned a lot! I loved the structure in which the class was given, and the pace. Have taken several language courses abroad and, so far, this has been the best. Caroly, la profesora, esta muy simpatico. She was patient and kind! The class was fun and very effective...gave me some good ideas for practicing. She answered numerous questions...
Me encanta patacones, which we made in cooking class.... y Club A. The kids are so great! I know that had I taken the class during the busy season, there would have been more to do. Enjoyed Iris and her family very much....our conversations in the morning, her lovely granddaughter, Sophia, her children....y su perro - todos!

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Austin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome experience

I had an awesome experience at Estelar! I did the immersion program for two weeks last August. My Spanish teacher Caroly was awesome! She always made the extra effort, and I enjoyed chatting with her in Spanish. The extra curricular activities were nice. My only minor disappointment was that I took the Spanish for TEFL graduates program and was looking to gain lots of experience in English Language classes. I was hoping for a little more structure there. Since I enrolled in this program weeks before arrivintg, I feel like there was time before my arrival to create a plan, and a volunteer schedule. The campus of Instituto Estelar is awesome! The pictures online don’t do it justice. Iris, my hostmom, was awesome! Everything went very smoothly with my homestay.

Larissa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Estelar is STELLAR!!!

Everything the school has to offer is STELLAR!! From the classes, to the homestays, to the extra curricular activities, to the communication throughout your stay!

Before I even arrived at the school, I knew I had made the right choice because the director, Bethany, had sent me so many informative and helpful emails. And a week before I was scheduled to arrive, I received an extremely detailed schedule in Google documents that had tab after tab of information to help me while I was in town. It was so colorful and so full of activities that I was giddy with anticipation to arrive in Liberia.

Once you arrive there, the school is immaculate - so clean and organized and open -- it is hot in Liberia but you won't sweat during classes because there is a constant breeze. The classes are great, the instructors really know the information and the format is super engaging so that the 4 hours every day flies by!

If you are coming to be immersed, then you NEED to do the homestay. There is no other way to really immerse yourself in a culture and language without staying with/living with/ and communicating with people who live there. This was by far my favorite part of the experience. I have to admit the first two nights were a little awkward but once I started finding my voice en Espanol, I was able to communicate with my host family and I just absolutely adored them! They made me desayuno y cena cada dia and they made vegetarian meals because that is what I preferred. When I mentioned that I loved broccoli...I had broccoli! I just loved the family!

If you are anything like me and want to immerse yourself fully then take advantage of the activities. I took Yoga, Pilates, Zumba and other aerobics classes at two locations they mention in the Google document, IronFit and Unalome -- both places are waslkable from the school and are really great locations.

I also participated in Club A which was awesome! You get to interact and laugh with kids and what better way to experience a new place than through the laughter of a child! LOVED IT! The school also offers intercambio exchanges, Spanglish clubs, and movies in Espanol and I recommend doing EVERYTHING!!

And I went on every single excursion the school offered from the trip the Farmer's Market to Rio Celeste. There is so much to do and see...I just wish I had two more, three more weeks - heck, months to do everything!!!

There is no other word to describe this place than ESTELAR

What would you improve about this program?
The only improvement is for them to always offer guides for the tour excursions that they promote. Even with the extra cost, it is worth it!
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Stephanie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Newly learned Spanish skills!

La profesora es muy buena, sabe enseñar muy bien y es muy simpática. La las tenía excelentes calidades: dinamica, eficaz, conversacional, y interesante. It was very cool to use my newly learned Spanish skills in real life! The staff of Estelar are lovely, helpful, friendly and responsive. The facilities are adequate for learning. The class these two weeks was very helpful with a mix of speaking, watching videos, reading and learning new words. Most of the class was fun and engaging conversations in Spanish. It really helped my speaking and listening a lot (the most important in my opinion). The extra curricular activities were nice, although I didn't do all of them because I was with my family. The program and activities were beyond my expectations; I'll tell everyone I know how great it is!

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Laury
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Excelente profesora de español!

English:
Merlyn is a very good teacher. The class was very interesting, effective, with a lot of time to converse in Spanish. And I corrected the errors in a very kind way. I learned a lot in class, I enjoyed it a lot. The house where I stay is clean, I have my own bedroom, and Marta is a very good cook. She prepared gluten-free dinners and beans without a problem, she also gave me the experience to try Costa Rican food. I feel like a daughter of Marta and Pedro. Estelar's staff is charming, helpful, friendly and attentive. The facilities are suitable for learning. I love all the extra practice I got in extracurricular activities! The campus is beautiful and feels like a second home during my stay.

Spanish:
Merlyn es una maestra muy buena. La clase fue muy interesante, eficaz, con mucha tiempo para conversar en espanol. Y corrigio los errores en una manera muy amable. Aprendi mucha en la clase, me la distrute mucho. La casa donde me quedo esta limpia, tengo mi propio dormitorio, y Marta es una muy buena cocinera. Ella preparo cenas sin gluten y frijoles sin problema, también me dio la experiencia para probar comida de Costa Rica. Me siento como una hija de Marta y Pedro. El personal de Estelar es encantador, servicial, amable y atento. Las instalaciones son adecuadas para el aprendizaje. ¡Me encanta toda la práctica adicional que obtuve en las actividades extracurriculares! El campus es hermoso y se siente como un segundo hogar durante mi estancia.

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Jordan
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Bella experiencia

Después de haber vivido esta bella experiencia de la cual ustedes han sido parte, quiero darles las gracias por todo lo que han hecho por mi, realmente lo aprecio mucho. Gracias por ayudarme con mi sueño de mejorar mi español, ser paciente, y por todo tu apoyo. Los extrañaré mucho a mi familia Tica y toda la gente en el Instituto Estelar. Espero que podamos seguir comunicandonos desde Virginia, especialmente con mi familia Tica. Quiero visitarlos nuevamente cuando regrese a Costa Rica. Los quiero y los llevo en mi corazón.

What would you improve about this program?
There could be more activities for students to do, although I was never bored because my host family was so great to hang out with.
Katie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience! Would definitely recommend!

I had the pleasure of learning Spanish at Instituto Estelar Bilingue for 2 weeks in beautiful Costa Rica! I learned a lot about the culture, saw many beautiful places and also improved in my Spanish immensely. I really loved the warm atmosphere created by the school and the teachers. Caroly and Merlin were really helpful in answering any grammar questions that I had or just on life in general in Costa Rica! They made the lessons fun and engaging making grammar something that I actually looked forward to in my lessons. Thank you to both Spanish teachers and of course to Bethany for making me feel so welcome at the school. I also, took part in some of the extra-curricular activities such as cooking and have found my new favorite guilty pleasure- Patacones and can somewhat dance the salsa after a quick class… Thank you for making my experience great!

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Theresa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

5 weeks of Spanish immersion - and I'll be back!

I have loved studying Spanish at Instituto Estelar. I took five weeks of the immersion program and can't believe how much I progressed! The staff is warm and friendly, and teach in a way that is practical and easy to understand. I love being in Merlyn's and Caroly's class because they provide ample opportunity to converse and practice what we are learning. I really enjoyed going to the Farmers Market: Caroly made it fun and educational. Club A is always enjoyable. The children are always happy to see us, and are easy to engage. The staff is great! Estelar's English and Spanish teachers, reception, director, all go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable and allow for a comfortable environment in which to learn. My hostmother, Iris, is extremely kind and thoughtful. She is always giving consideration to what I might need, and is happy to help. She's a fabulous cook. One thing I appreciate about the family, is while they are caring and look out for me, they are not overly protective. While they might offer cautions and advice, they have allowed me to explore and experience Liberia and Costa Rica to the extent of my desire.

What would you improve about this program?
It's great the way it is!
Alex
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Estoy Tico

Learn English at Instituto Estelar! Simple as that. I can’t begin to describe how much progress I made studying Spanish at Estelar and the crazy thing is it was only for a week! I had Caroly as my teacher and she was beyond helpful. Overall, she was an outstanding teacher and it really showed in her lessons as well because they were always really fun. I mainly enjoyed the open discussions and how engaging the lessons were which were then supplemented by games and extra-curricular activities! The games were directed to learning topics that we had previously covered but also common conversational Spanish that really made me think outside the box. Aside from improving in my Spanish I also felt that I was much more confident coming out of the program and the biggest plus was being able to converse more with the local Ticas. I thoroughly recommend taking Spanish courses at Instituto Estelar Bilingue, you won’t regret it. Thank you all that you did for me.

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Sholeh
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Positive Experience!

An excellent experience!! It was my first experience of an intensive Spanish class and I loved it. My teacher was very helpful and made the classes very conversational. My experience with my teacher was great, it was really interactive. She was always willing to answer my questions, even after class. She really explained everything well and assigned a reasonable amount of homework to complete, which was great practice. It was awesome, it was great to interact with younger students and start to see their progress. Playing games while incorporating english was a great way to see progress within the students.