You’ve decided you’re headed for Pura Vida and you’re ready to spend the semester (or summer or year) with the ticos enjoying life in Costa Rica, congrats!
The next question is, where will you go? I know we said you were going to Costa Rica, but there are several program options available to you. In fact, USAC offers three different program locations in Costa Rica; Puntarenas, Heredia, and San Ramón. While all three locations will provide you with the Costa Rican experience you’re hoping for, depending on what type of study abroad activities and culture you’re looking for, one location might be more up your alley than another. So let’s discover which USAC Costa Rica program is the right one for you!
Heredia is a suburb of the capital of Costa Rica, San José. As you can imagine, San José is a large city which has its pros and cons. Living in Heredia you get the benefits of being a short commute from the capital without all the hustle, bustle, traffic, and annoyances that usually come with a crowded city.
Heredia is perfect for the student who is looking to live in a bigger city that has a local feel but provides opportunities to explore other places in Costa Rica and Central/South America. Although it’s the largest of the three USAC program cities, it is a quaint city with college town vibes that is surrounded by coffee plantations and ranches. It’s also located in the hills, so if you’re looking for some outside adventure to go with your city life, then Heredia is a great choice with plenty of hiking, waterfalls, and mountains to explore.
The host university, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA), is an urban campus with a variety of immersion opportunities where you’ll enjoy being a part of an international community with lots of activities with local students. For students with Spanish language skills, there may even be the opportunity to take classes with locals. If you’re studying or interested in Hydrology, Biology, Ecology, Latin American and gender studies, and internships, you will find a variety of course offerings in Heredia.
It should be noted that Heredia is several hours away from the ocean by public transport, so if you’re looking for a beach-filled Costa Rican study abroad experience, this is probably not the ideal location for you, but keep reading!
Additional articles about Heredia
Did someone say the beach? The Puntarenas USAC office is located right across from the ocean! Not only is this where you’ll find the USAC staff, but this is also where the USAC classes are hosted and the center has access to a gym and a pool. This means that you will not be on campus with local students, however, living in Puntarenas is about as local of an experience as you can get in Costa Rica as there are plenty of immersion opportunities.
Puntarenas is located on a peninsula and is a small beach town where you can bike everywhere and will be seeing familiar faces around town in no time. If you’re a surfer then Puntarenas will be calling your name since local surf spots are a short taxi ride away. In this laidback location, you’ll definitely be living the small city life, but the young culture vibe means there’s plenty of day and nighttime social activities. If you’re looking to travel, bus transportation is easy and you’ll find yourself in the capital in about an hour and a half. However, once you realize that you can travel up and down the Costa Rican coast discovering world-class surfing beaches, nature reserves, and plantations, we don’t think you’ll need much else.
Academically, Puntarenas is an ideal location if you’re interested in studying international affairs, and political science.
Additional articles on Puntarenas:
So what if you want a medium sized city that still gives that local feel, provides that rainforest Costa Rican lifestyle, and still offers some great academic courses? Enter San Ramón. Located in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, San Ramón is at a higher elevation than the other two Costa Rica program locations, so you’re looking at cooler temperatures, more rainforests, lots of hiking, wildlife, and outdoor activities.
If you’re studying biology, pre-med, or health sciences, San Ramón offers the best courses for these majors. You’ll be enrolled at a local college, and even though you won’t be in classes with local students you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet locals through internships and independent studies. One of our favorite things about San Ramón is the hands-on experiences you can get in all of these areas of study through the field studies that are offered.
Additional articles about San Ramón:
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for the city life with easy access to travel opportunities then head to Heredia, if you’re hoping for a laid-back beach experience head on down to Puntarenas, and if you’re wanting to adventure around the rainforest then check out San Ramón! All three USAC Costa Rica program locations are great for biology and ecology students as well as Spanish language. In addition, USAC offers a variety of internship and field study opportunities in Costa Rica that are worth looking into!
So, where will you go?