Program Highlight: Study Abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica

Heredia, located just outside San José, offers the excitement of living near the capital city but with a more calm and relaxed atmosphere. Costa Rica as a whole is well known for its extraordinary natural beauty—preserved in its many national parks and reserves—which you will have the opportunity to discover firsthand. In Heredia, you’ll have easy access to different areas of Costa Rica and surrounding countries. The program also offers a field study course focused on Latin America and its cultures. Taking this field study course gives you the opportunity to explore Costa Rica and its culture, environment, and contemporary issues on a deeper level outside of the classroom.

Academic Focus

Spanish Language, Ecological, and Latin American Studies

Host University
Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica

Take classes on the lively campus of Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA), one of four public universities in the country. Located in the heart of the city, more than 19,000 students attend the university. The campus provides a variety of opportunities to meet local “Ticos”, contains multiple libraries and “sodas” (cafeterias) that you can utilize during class breaks, and is one of the most academically successful public universities in Costa Rica. All USAC classes, as well as the USAC office, are located on campus.

Interesting fact about the city

Heredia is nicknamed the “City of Flowers” but not because of its floral beauty, but rather after the Flores family who was important to the town’s political and social life in the 19th century. Heredia is also said to be the safest city in Costa Rica.

Best weekend travel destinations

Living in Heredia you’re roughly an hour and a half away from the capital, San José, making it easy to hop on a plane and travel to a variety of destinations in South America. However, if you’re looking to keep it local, Manuel Antonio National Park is located on the Pacific coast and embodies everything you imagine when you think of Costa Rica; rainforests, white-sand beaches, coral reefs, tropical plants, and wildlife. Rincón de la Vieja Volcano is another National Park worth making the trip for. This 34,800-acre park is home to a combination of volcanic geological wonders and tropical forests. You can also hop on over to Puntarenas (another USAC location) and enjoy the peninsula life and get some weekend surfing in!

Field trips (vary by term)

Arenal Volcano and Hanging Bridges
Arenal rises 1,657 meters above sea level and overlooks Lake Arenal—both are part of Arenal Volcano National Park. Arenal is the country’s most active volcano. Its eruptions are frequent but moderate and can be viewed without danger as long as you stay behind the safety perimeter. At night the lava and incandescent rocks make for a spectacular sight. The top of the volcano is usually surrounded by clouds. It is touted as good luck to see the whole volcano without clouds. The Arenal Hanging Bridges overlook a dense canopy, providing safe and easy access to birds, flowers, and vegetation of the primary rainforest.

Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfalls
Poás Volcano is the most easily accessible active volcano, and the park is home to more than 80 species of birds. La Paz Waterfalls Gardens is a beautiful park located in the rain-cloud forest in Heredia. It has over 3.5 kilometers of walking trails with five spectacular waterfalls, butterfly observatory, hummingbird, bird garden, serpentarium, frog exhibit, Tica house, Trout Lake and many bird watching areas.

Monteverde Cloud Forest
The Monteverde Cloud Forest is created by winds and particular temperature and moisture conditions which combine during the dry season to hold steady cloud cover along the continental divide. We will visit the incredible sky trek/walk overlooking the forest canopy. You will also have the opportunity to go zip-lining.

La Fortuna Waterfall and Hot Springs
The waterfall itself is 70 meters high and perfect for swimming. You will also visit the largest hot springs in Costa Rica.

Irazú Volcano and Cartago
Irazú volcano is located in the Cordillera Central Mountain Range, close to Cartago province. It is known as “El Coloso” (the collossus) and is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica. On a clear day, you can see the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from its top.

Punta Leona
We will visit Punta Leona Hotel, where a program began in 1996 to try to increase the number of Scarlet Macaws in the area. Artificial nests were built and placed high in trees in an attempt to attract Macaws to lay their eggs on the Punta Leona property, a protected area from poachers. The program was a success and continues to this day. Visitors can walk along the trails and see the transition forest, where rainforest and dry forest species meet. You will also enjoy the pristine white and gold sand beaches, where you can look out into the deep blue waters of the Pacific.

What students have to say

“This program literally changed my life. USAC is absolutely perfect for your first international experience because they handle almost all of the details that make travel difficult. I felt so supported and comfortable through the entire program, which allowed me to make friends and memories that will last my entire life. My time in Heredia inspired me to pursue more opportunities abroad in the future and changed the way I see the world and myself. Go in with an open mind and you will absolutely love Costa Rica and USAC!” – Alexandra Hanton

“My program in Heredia, Costa Rica has opened me up to a world of possibilities-literally. Before studying abroad, I had barely left the United States and although culture shock was inevitable, I find many elements of tico culture to be favorable. The people here are welcoming, friendly, most know multiple languages and are always ready to help out. The lifestyle is more relaxed and my time here has been, for the most part, stress-free. As far as USAC goes, the staff is phenomenal. We always have cultural and social activities that have helped us bond as a group, and we have a program where we are set up with tico friends, so I have been able to make many friends and exchange culture. It is very easy and cheap to travel within the country, and the USAC staff is very helpful in figuring out how to do it. The most beautiful place I have ever been was definitely Bocas del Toro, Panama which I visited through an optional tour with USAC. In this program, I feel valued and truly cared for in any way I need. My classes challenge me enough, and my fluency in Spanish has already increased tenfold. I can feel the pura vida lifestyle seeping into my own lifestyle, and know this program is opening me up to a world of possibilities for work, travel, and cultural connections, as well as teaching me to push myself and stay fearless. I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to study in “La Ciudad de Flores,” Heredia, Costa Rica and even if just for a short time, share in the natural beauty of a country with a culture as rich as its landscape.” – Sarah Merrifield

Additional articles about Heredia

Going Green in Costa Rica: A Volunteer Story
Early Reflections on Costa Rica
One Year Later – Thank You Study Abroad
Making a Difference Abroad: A Volunteer Story


Explore Studying Abroad in Heredia