Head overseas to a beautiful peninsula in Costa Rica where time passes slowly and memories build fast! Puntarenas is a beach town with a bustling young culture. In this study abroad location, you’ll find it easy to ride your bike everywhere, meet locals, and explore the Costa Rican landscape. The USAC Puntarenas office is located right across from the beach and is also where classes are held. If you’re looking to learn Spanish language and the diverse cultures of Latin America, then Puntarenas is the place for you. In addition to academic courses, the program is filled with field trips, tours, and field studies that will help you learn about the country and explore your new home.
Spanish Language, Ecological Studies, and Latin American Studies
The USAC Puntarenas Center is located in a building overlooking the ocean and situated only a few blocks from downtown Puntarenas, where students can find markets, cafés, banks, and a variety of stores. The Center includes offices, classrooms, multimedia facilities, a computer lab, and a courtyard with wireless Internet access. The Center also hosts conversation partner meetings and other group activities.
Interesting fact about the city
Paseo de los Turistas is the birthplace of the famous “Churchill,” an iconic Puntarenas dessert made of shaved ice infused with syrup, condensed milk and powdered milk.
Best weekend travel destinations
Spend the weekend exploring the Costa Rican coast where you’ll find a variety of world-class surfing beaches, nature reserves, and plantations. Take some time to hang out in Manuel Antonio, one of Costa Rica’s most popular beaches. While you’re only an hour and a half from the capital (where you can easily travel to Panama or Nicaragua), we recommend taking advantage of the variety of field trips and tours that are offered to students and included in your program fees! You’ll also want to check out the optional tours to Cuba and Nicaragua!
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.
Poás Volcano and La Paz Waterfalls
Poás Volcano is a national park that covers an area of approximately 65 square kilometers. The summit is 2,700 meters, considered by many to be the most breathtaking site in the entire country. La Paz Waterfall Garden is a lush tropical rainforest with flowing white rivers, spectacular waterfalls, birds, butterflies, monkeys, hummingbirds, snakes, felines, and frogs.
Particularly enchanting for its beauty, palm-studded Tortuga Island is a place where you can walk the impeccable white sand beaches, swim in turquoise waters, and investigate marine life. You can explore the island through several activities including snorkeling, sunbathe, banana boat rides, swimming, and relaxing.
Jaco Beach Surf Trip
Jaco Beach is 1.5 hours outside of Puntarenas and features beautiful black sand beaches. This field trip will feature the opportunity to take introductory surfing lessons at this world-renowned surfing location. The Academy Surf School in Jaco will provide the needed equipment and insurance, as well as showers and a locker room.
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; students will also have the opportunity to go zip-lining.
What students have to say
“I spent eight months in Puntarenas, Costa Rica with the USAC program- eight of the best months of my life. Almost everyone from my two semesters keeps in touch, and I also keep in touch with many of the locals who I met there as well. Puntarenas is a great blend of culture. My host family was amazing as well- they made sure I never went hungry and fed me the best of all of their traditional Costa Rican dishes. They were also very patient with my Spanish speaking skills- they took the time to explain many concepts of the language to me, and I can honestly say they are the biggest part of my language development. Classes were academically challenging yet interesting, and teachers are able to work with you if you are traveling and have to miss class. My friends and I would hit the beach, which is right in front of the school, almost every day, or go to the pool inside of the USAC facility. I cannot say enough great things about my experience here! If you’re looking for an extremely laid back atmosphere with incredible people, mouth-watering local food, and beautiful beaches, Puntarenas is the right place!” Mackenzie Casten
“I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I knew I needed to study Spanish and knew I didn’t want to break my bank account. I found USAC through my study abroad office at UGA and was told I’d be the first student to go from UGA. That did not matter to me, so I signed up, was accepted, and bought a 1-way ticket to Costa Rica. What an amazing experience! It’s now been 3 years since I got back and I continue to cherish my time in CR. Next month I plan on going back and staying with my host family for a week! I’d say I was incredibly lucky to have had such a great host family, but the truth is…. everyone feels the same way. CR is amazing, stop reading reviews, and go. You will not regret it. Oh, and you have tons of time off, so traveling Central America is a must and very affordable!” – Blaine Bassett
“I studied abroad in Puntarenas for two semesters for the academic year 2012-2013. In this year I earned about 75% of my Spanish minor. I took classes for Latin American dance, cooking, and culture. I also took marine biology which was amazing because you would learn about things in class and then actually get to take field trips to snorkel and go tide pooling and see the organisms in real life. The people in this town and country are just the most amazing, welcoming people and I met a ton of other students and travelers while I lived here. We traveled every weekend through public transportation to different cities and beaches all over the country, and even in Panama and Nicaragua. I would recommend this program to ANYONE, it completely changed my life. Because of this, I changed my major to International Business so I could continue traveling and learn new cultures and languages.” Kylee Michelle
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