Costa Rica: Puntarenas - Spanish, Ecology, Latin American Studies

Video and Photos

A group of USAC students walking along the beach in the Manuel Antonio National Park.
A group of USAC students walking along the beach in the Manuel Antonio National Park.
The Lighthouse at the tip of the Puntarenas peninsula.
The Lighthouse at the tip of the Puntarenas peninsula.
A local in a hammock in Puntarenas. Almost unreal, but this is their everyday!
A local in a hammock in Puntarenas. Almost unreal, but this is their everyday!
Field trip to Buena Vista during the spring semester (included horse back riding, a sauna, and a mud bath). Thanks, USAC!
The sunset at one of my favorite places in the Nicoya Peninsula - just a ferry ride away from USAC Puntarenas
Field Trip to Sarchi with our Spanish profesora - Thanks Marielos!
Sunset surfing in Jaco
The injured sea turtle at the Marine Center where we volunteered


Study abroad with the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) in Puntarenas, Costa Rica next January (short-term), summer, spring/fall semester or academic year! The Spanish, Ecology and Latin American Studies program is held at the USAC Puntarenas Center at the National University of Costa Rica, which overlooks the ocean just a couple blocks from downtown. Puntarenas is a small beach town located right on the pacific and is within reach of attractions such as the Nicoya Peninsula and a variety of national parks and nature reserves.

  • Live in a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean with ferry access to the Nicoya Peninsula
  • Enroll in Spanish courses, and in Ecological Studies courses—which include field experience and the opportunity to participate in independent research, internships, or volunteer activities at field-related institutions.
  • Savor your proximity to breathtaking national parks, nature reserves and discover interesting and beautiful areas of Costa Rica on field trips
  • Discover interesting and beautiful destinations on included field trips.

New Program: Comparative Studies: Uruguay and Cuba Summer Session

Study abroad Summer 2020 for eight weeks, beginning in Montevideo, Uruguay and continuing to La Habana, Cuba, for a comparative Latin studies program ideal for any student and of particular interest to health, gender and Spanish language students.


USAC Scholarships
USAC Scholarships and Financial Aid

USAC awards over $2 million in scholarships and discounts each year to assist students with their study abroad expenses.

$500 - $1,000

Questions & Answers

Hi Eli, thanks for asking about Puntarenas! There are plenty of surfing opportunities when you attend this program. You should know that there is not surfing directly in Puntarenas but there is surfing at beaches that are a short bus ride away from the city. If you take the USAC surfing class it will be hosted at Jaco Beach which is about an hour bus ride away. It's very common for students to...
I'll answer this question now, even though Daniela has already done her semester! In fact, we both attended USAC on the Puntarenas campus. We really enjoyed it - school is LITERALLY across the street from the beach, there is a USAC-only pool on campus, and the town is a good size for getting to know all of it. Puntarenas is also the only campus where USAC students are the only students, rather...
Awesome! Thanks for your insights.


based on 34 reviews
  • Academics 7.9
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 31 - 34 of 34
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Yes, I recommend this program

If you want a real local Costa Rican experience, this is it.

If you want to eat McDonalds and speak English, do not come to Puntarenas. During all my travels around Costa Rica (which Puntarenas's central location makes very convenient) I did not go to one city that was as authentically Costa Rican as Puntarenas. It is one of those little gems that has seemingly escaped the rampant Americanization that has hit the rest of Costa Rica. You will find few English speakers and no McDonalds in the city, but what you will find is a rich local culture and miles and miles of beautiful beach. If you want to guarantee that you'll learn Spanish, I couldn't recommend Puntarenas any more highly. There is no way no not interact with locals and I would say 90% of the program made local friends with whom we all continue to keep in touch with.

If you want to learn Spanish and feel like a local, then choose Puntarenas.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing, USAC's semi-strict attendance policy. Most students travel almost every weekend, and extending class Monday-Thursday and then not having class on Friday would cut down on a lot of absences. Obviously we are there for school, but I think no one would complain about a little longer classes in order to get Friday off. Traveling is how you really learn Spanish.
Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

Living Abroad Does Not Have to be an Uphill Battle.

A day in the life of a non-Spanish Speaking American in Puntarenas Costa Rica, was never easy. Think critically about what battles you want to choose living in a foreign country. The first step of thinking about a study abroad program is exciting and romantic. But ask yourself: Do you want to go head-first into a world where every aspect of your life is completely new? Or do you want to ease into an abroad experience by being surrounded by at least some things you are comfortable with? Think about your future-self and what they will want in their abroad experience. I would have benefitted greatly if I chose to ease into living abroad.

What would you improve about this program?
I would change the diversity of students. It would have been nice to have more international students, whereas my program was mostly Americans.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I took 2 classes abroad. Spanish composition and Spanish Dance. My Spanish Composition teacher was amazing! She worked through our language barrier and for my birthday she surprised me with a homemade cake. We had movie nights sometimes and the excusrsions were well planned and executed.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish we had more interaction with the program directors. The main person I think we only met him once. Carolina was AWESOME though. She was really down to earth and spoke great English.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience!

This was my first study abroad experience and it went incredibly well! I loved the city, the school, and my family! I learned so much studying in Puntarenas. My Spanish improved immensely. By living in Puntarenas we had access to the ferry. Traveling throughout Costa Rica was very easy and cheap. Overall the program is very affordable and of great quality. My only regret is not going sooner. I wish I could have stayed for a whole year!