10 Reasons to Study Abroad in Costa Rica

by Briana Aragon

Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America, the Republic of Costa Rica is a gem of a tropical utopia. With around 4.5 million people, most living in capital city San Jose, this country stands out as one of the most progressive cultures in Latin America today. And while the incentives are seemingly endless, we’ve come up with a comprehensive list of the top 10 reasons why you should study abroad in Costa Rica. 

Stunning sunset view

1. Livin’ la Pura Vida 

In their Happy Planet Index survey, the New Economics Foundation named Costa Rica the “happiest country on earth,” not once but twice in recent years. The ticos pride themselves on living la pura vida, and maintaining an incredibly peaceful and relaxed lifestyle. Costa Rica is, in fact, one of the few countries in the world with no standing army, which was abolished in 1949. Average life expectancy is close to 80, and many citizens are active past the age of 100, partly due to climate and diet, and of course their attitude. Demographically, there is a rich mix of old, young, and all types of ethnicities, making for an eclectic collage of cultures for students to experience. Studying abroad in Costa Rica truly allows students to experience a high quality of life that is both peaceful and unique to the region. 

2. Never Too Cool for School

At 97 percent, Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in all of Latin America. When the standing army was abolished, the Ministry of Culture indicated it would be replaced with “an army of teachers,” since no military branch means more revenue can be dedicated to the educational system. Human development is an essential element to the curriculum of schools in Costa Rica. Education is available and encouraged at every level, including primary, secondary, and private or public universities. This high quality scholastic environment is of the utmost benefit for students who choose to pursue study abroad in Costa Rica. 

Pura Vida, Spanish for "pure life"

3. State-of-the-Art Healthcare

The universal healthcare system in place in Costa Rica is one of the best in the region. The World Health Organization ranks it higher than the U.S. even. Whether public or private, students can be sure that the majority of medicine practiced in Costa Rica is of the highest quality, and generally more affordable than back home. Students and their families can rest easy knowing that students will have access to top-notch medical facilities during their study abroad program.

4. More Bang for Your Buck 

Like many Latin American nations, Costa Rica is one of the more reasonably affordable places to study abroad. The cost of living in Costa Rica is very low in comparison to most other tropical study abroad destinations, and the U.S. A one bedroom apartment in San Jose can be less than $600, and rent can be much less in rural areas. Food, transportation, entertainment, and clothes are all typically less expensive than, for example, in Europe or Australia.

Study abroad programs in Costa Rica are a great option for students looking for a terrific study abroad experience that won’t break the bank.

5. Caffeine & Coffee

Never underestimate the importance of a great cup of coffee. Coffee was Costa Rica’s first major export, and has been the number one cash crop for decades. As any typical sophomore can tell you, coffee is the lifeblood of late night study sessions and early morning essay writing, and Costa Rican coffee can provide that sweet caffeine buzz needed to get the job done. Though the economy has since developed several other successful industries, Costa Rican coffee farmers continue to produce beans of the highest caliber. Those interested in agriculture can even find opportunities to conduct an internship or volunteer on a coffee farm in Costa Rica. 

6. ¿Hablas Español?

For most undergraduates, learning in a foreign language is required, so why not fulfill those credits by studying abroad? Studying in Costa Rica allows students to immerse themselves in the Spanish language and gain firsthand experience with unique dialects and local nuances. You may even learn a thing or two about the numerous native languages, Jamaican creole, or even German and Portuguese, all of which are commonly spoken in Costa Rica.

Waterfalls in Costa Rica's rainforest

7. Leave the Long Johns at Home

Be sure to pack your flip flops and plenty of tropical shirts, because Costa Rica is gorgeous all year long. As an equatorial nation, you can expect tropical weather behavior, which can vary regionally due to changes in elevation, rainfall, or geography. In any case, temperatures normally hover between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Students will have plenty of opportunities to study outside. Need we say more?

8. Sustainability: Not Just a Fad

Costa Rica’s high quality of living is partly due to an inspiring commitment to safeguarding the environment. In fact, 25 percent of the country is legally protected. In 2009, it was even voted the greenest country in the world. The government has also put numerous bans on hunting and other practices that hurt the environment in hopes of furthering conserving the nation’s natural beauty. Costa Rica is a shining example of how to approach responsible ecotourism. Anyone with an interest in studying sustainable development, the environment, or conservation can easily master these subjects by studying abroad in Costa Rica, and learning from experts in both theory and practice. 

9. Natural Wonders

This exquisite country offers some of the most spectacular natural formations and wildlife Earth has to offer. It is home to a variety of mountains, rainforests, beaches, rivers, National Parks, and 14 known volcanoes, six of which are active. Not to mention, it is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with over 500,000 species, including the zebra longwing butterfly, the smoky jungle frog, and the scarlet macaw. Of course this is a haven for biology, ecology, wildlife science, and zoology students, but anyone will enjoy being exposed to such magnificent diversity.

10.  The Adventure of a Lifetime 

With so many incredible natural wonders, studying abroad in Costa Rica is an adventure waiting to happen. In their downtime, students can burn calories on the beach partaking in everything from snorkeling and scuba diving to surfing, sailing, and deep sea fishing. Hike up a volcano and zipline through the ceiba trees, or sign up to volunteer with one of the many varieties of turtles. It will be nice to get away from your studies once in a while, and refresh your senses.

These (among many more) are the top reasons you should study abroad in Costa Rica. Grab yourself a cup of their local java, try your hand at the local lingo, and kickback knowing your bank account thanks you for choosing an economical option for your study abroad experience.