Welcome to Costa Rica
Meaning “rich coast” in Spanish, Costa Rica certainly lives up to its name. Located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise where the coast is never far. Costa Rica also contains volcanoes, jungles, and beaches on both oceans. After being a Spanish colony for over 200 years, In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence. Known as a peaceful nation, Costa Rica has had no army since 1950.
Until 2010, Arenal was an active volcano. Even now, the views and surrounding rain forest in the Arenal National park are breathtaking and a must-see. The cloud forests around Monteverde and Santa Elena are among Costa Rica’s premier destinations for backpackers and nature enthusiasts.
Costa Rica has a booming ecotourism industry thanks to its biodiversity and the importance of national parks, which cover nearly a quarter of its territory. It makes a great destination for any student, but especially those interested in the natural sciences.
If you love sloths, consider visiting the Sloth Sanctuary, which is open to volunteers and visitors. If you can’t make it -- try your luck and catch a sloth on the road! - Trixie, Student Outreach Coordinator.
Looking to study abroad in a tropical location with diverse marine life and ecosystems, while practicing your Spanish? Look no further than the Central American nation of Costa Rica; you can join over 2.9 million foreign visitors per year in going to the most popular Central American country! Costa Rica has a diverse population filled with indigenous groups, expats from foreign countries, and everyone in between, but create a welcoming environment for those entering their country!
Meaning “rich coast” in Spanish, Costa Rica certainly lives up to its name. Located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise where the coast is never far. Costa Rica also contains volcanoes, jungles, and beaches on both oceans.
After being a Spanish colony for over 200 years, in 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence. Spanish remains the island’s official language, providing you the perfect ability to practice your language skills or build it from the beginning!
Known as a peaceful nation, Costa Rica has had no army since 1950, plus it is considered one of the top Latin American countries on the Human Development Index. In addition, it has held regular, democratic elections for almost a century!
Cities & Education
Costa Rica is the most popular destination out of Mexico and Central America for United States students to study abroad; in 2018, 8,322 students studied abroad in Costa Rica. The 8,000+ students, however, does not even come close to the amount of foreign visitors from many nations, showing its immense popularity across the globe.
For the students interested in biology, ecology, or tourism, Costa Rica has a booming ecotourism industry thanks to its biodiversity and the importance of national parks, which cover nearly a quarter of its territory. It makes a great destination for any student, but especially those interested in the natural sciences. Interested in going from a beach to a volcano? Costa Rica can make that happen for you! For those interested in marine life and zoology, Costa Rica has many opportunities. In addition, Costa Rica aims to become a carbon neutral nation by 2020, which means plenty of opportunities for students interested in sustainability to study or intern abroad in Costa Rica!
Costa Rica also allows the perfect area for students to practice their Spanish skills or develop them, while being immersed in their environment; combined with the natural beauty and history of the island makes it a perfect destination to study abroad, especially if you love outdoor activities!
Events & Tourism
In Costa Rica, there are a variety of cultural events, which you may witness while you are in Costa Rica! The festivals and cultural events that are celebrated in Costa Rica have ties to religion and indigenous practices; there are Saints’ Days, Independence Day, plus other holidays, such as processions and a day to honor San Isidro, the patron saint of the area’s inhabitants.
Costa Rica has multiple historical sites that are indigenous, religious, and colonial in nature; multiple sites are also listed on the UNESCO world heritage list and they are predominantly natural parks and wildlife facilities.
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Current Status of Diversity & Inclusion
Costa Rica is the most popular location for American students studying abroad in Latin America; it is well-known for being a safe, popular destination that has a very low rate of getting involved in foreign issues. Costa Rica is a friendly nation, open to those wishing to study there, plus it offers many different academic options and social options to attract others.
Overall, the country is well-known to be open to others, although the experiences they may have can be different than back home, whether in America or otherwise. Generally, while the nation is generally welcoming, it is important to remember some of its conservative nature and history, due to religion, which may impact some students’ identities while there.
In Costa Rica, there has been many issues of varying degrees with immigration in the country; Costa Rica is known to be a friendly nation to immigrants, but it has dealt with an influx of immigrants attempting to move north. However, the immigrants are getting stuck in Costa Rica, due to not being allowed to enter Nicaragua, which has led to a strain on some resources in the country.
One thing to note, however, is that Costa Rica is still trying to help immigrants as much as possible and does not have any plans to criminalize immigrants, especially as many of them are fleeing due to violence or drug-related problems in their home countries.
Population in Costa Rica:
4,987,142 (July 2018 est.)
Noun: Costa Rican(s)
Adjective: Costa Rican
White or Mestizo 83.6%, Mulatto 6.7%, Indigenous 2.4%, Black of African descent 1.1%, other 1.1%, none 2.9%, unspecified 2.2% (2011 est.)
Spanish (official), English
Roman Catholic 71.8%, Evangelical and Pentecostal 12.3%, other Protestant 2.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.5%, other 2.4%, none 10.4% (2016 est.)
*Note: These tips are intended to serve as an overview and are not exhaustive. Be sure to research your destination thoroughly as your identity can have a significant impact on your experience abroad*
Staying Healthy & Safe in Costa Rica
You cannot always predict the hiccups that may occur during your time abroad, but taking the proper measures to ensure your health and safety in Costa Rica will eliminate or lessen the extremities of any unplanned situations.
In Costa Rica, there are a few things for you to note: tropical diseases, rip tides, and altitude sickness (if you are hiking in the mountains) are your biggest concerns. While these are not common issues, they can happen, depending on what part of the country you are in. In addition, there are bugs that you may have reactions to, such as sand flies, that are common in Costa Rica and, while there are poisonous spiders and other bugs, typically it is not an issue that many encounter.
Rip tides are common along the beaches and require paying attention to posted signs or flags at the beaches. Sadly, drowning is one of the largest risks that tourists face in Costa Rica, due to overestimating their ability to swim and tread water. Altitude sickness, while not common, is something to watch when you are hiking in the multiple national parks of Costa Rica. If you encounter altitude sickness, make sure to stop hiking and allow yourself time to get accustomed to the change in altitude instead of pushing through as it can have serious consequences, such as passing out.
Due to being in the tropics, Costa Rica has some tropical diseases to note, such as Zika, malaria, and dengue fever, which are typically spread by mosquito bites. However, Costa Rica has an easily accessible, good healthcare system (many United States citizens practice medical tourism to get operations done there for cheaper) and the local US consulate and your programs will have a set of doctors for you to be able to contact. We recommend checking into vaccines that the Department of State and CDC recommends before going to ensure that you are protected as much as possible.
Lastly, you most likely will be required to purchase health insurance or, at the very minimum, travel insurance through your university or study abroad provider. However, if not, Lonely Planet has a great article on why and what types of insurance you should look into while you study abroad in Costa Rica, because it can cover more than just medical expenses.
No matter where you are in the world, whether it is your hometown or a new city, it is important to be alert and practice awareness of your surroundings. Costa Rica is a fairly safe place, however there are a few precautions any traveler should take while navigating the country.
Pickpocketing can happen in city centers and sites that are attractive to tourists. There are many giveaways that can signal someone is a tourist from accent to something as subtle as mannerisms and the way one walks. Crimes to be aware of mostly involve pickpocketing and theft, which usually take place near areas heavily populated by tourists. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Have a travel partner when possible
Aside from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing or scamming, most travelers can expect a safe and comfortable experience in Costa Rica. The one note that the State Department warns of is ensuring that United States citizens exercise extra caution in certain areas, due to potential issues with crime. The Level 1 travel warning is linked below for additional information; another State Department is registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to register your trip with the local embassy or consulate.
At Diversity Abroad, we acknowledge that experiences can vary by identities and others’ perceptions of them. To access identity-based resources regarding health and safety view the Diversity Guides below.
911 - Costa Rican emergency number (it is noted that there should be an option for an English-speaking operator, if you need it from Frommers)
128 - call an ambulance
118 - report a fire
Funding & Scholarship Opportunities
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this country:
For more scholarships, visit http://www.diversityabroad.com/scholarships