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Costa Rica has been called “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and it’s not hard to see why. With its stunning natural landscape, hearty food, and friendly atmosphere, this tropical country is an ideal place to spend an action-packed summer. During your two-week Global Prep program, you’ll get to explore rainforests, caves, and beaches, while absorbing Costa Rica’s vibrant culture and history. You and your group will also visit the home of the indigenous Boruca people and take part in some of their traditions. When you return from this life-changing adventure, you’re bound to have lots of amazing stories, lessons, and photos to share!

Eligibility Requirements

Most Global Prep programs accept participants between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. However, 13 and 14 year old’s aren’t eligible to enroll for certain Global Prep destinations. If you wish to participate and will be 13 or 14 years old at the date of departure for the program, please contact AFS for more information about specific program eligibility. Please also keep in mind that due to regulations mandated by the airlines, 13 and 14 year old participants will be considered Unaccompanied Minors and additional charges will apply.

On this program you are likely to learn about these Sustainable Development Goals:

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Sample Program Itinerary to Costa Rica

The below itinerary serves as an outline for the program, and each Global Prep experience will vary based on group size and opportunity.

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Your journey to Costa Rica

Your journey to Costa Rica will begin in Miami, where you’ll meet your fellow AFSers from the US. Then you’ll travel together with your Group Leader to San José. At the airport, you’ll be welcomed by AFS Staff or Volunteers and then taken to an arrival orientation at the local AFS office. There you’ll learn some facts about your host country and practice a few essential Spanish phrases. Before long, you’ll head to the rainforest in Monteverde, where you can appreciate Costa Rica’s diverse wildlife and lush natural beauty.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is the most famous cloud forest reserve in the world and one of the most important protected areas in Costa Rica. We will visit the reserve and walk in the majestic tropical forest, a green world filled with different living creatures, ancient trees, clear water streams and hundreds of species of birds and insects.

The following day will begin with an exhiliarating adventure-zip lining over the canopy of the cloud forest! The canopy zip lining is a “must-have” in the adventure ecotourism catalogue of Costa Rica. We selected a very safe (and at the same time very thrilling) tour that will bring your adrenaline level to the maximum. This an opportunity to enjoy nature from a different point of view (a very high and fast point of view). After this adventure, we will move north to the province of Guanacaste, where we will learn about the traditions and heritage of the originative indigenous culture: the Chorotegas.

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Cultural Immersion

Your investigation into Costa Rican culture will start with a tour of the capital, San Jose. During the afternoon we will go on a walking tour to appreciate some of the main landmarks of this city: Plaza de la Democracia (Democracy Square), a symbol of a country without army, next to a former military stronghold, now the National Museum; Plaza de la Cultura (Culture Square) a place for different cultural expressions open to the general public; the National Theater, one of the main architectural landmarks of Costa Rica, built thanks to the economic development of coffee plantations in the XIX century, and other places of cultural and historical relevance.

Next, you and your group will learn about the indigenous culture of the Boruca people, who live in the Southwestern part of the country. There you’ll take part in local traditions and attend workshops covering topics like dancing and mask-making. (The Boruca are known for the colorful, handcrafted masks that they wear during their end of the year celebration.) We will have a hike through the forest and the riverbanks while we explore the difference in how originative cultures understand the relationship between humans and nature.

You and your group will also get to see the famous stone spheres at the Ballena Marine National Park. Several myths surround these ancient stone orbs, and their intricate construction and assembly show that their creators must have been skilled sculptors and mathematicians. In fact, one legend holds that at the center of each sphere is a single coffee bean!

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Your Accommodations

During your time in Costa Rica, you’ll be staying in local hostels in rooms reserved exclusively for AFS students. As you settle in, you’ll get to know the other members of your group as you explore Costa Rican culture together. You and your new friends can try some local restaurants, where you might taste delicious dishes like gallo pinto (rice and beans) and olla de carne (beef stew with potatoes, onions, and vegetables).

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Exploring the Area

As you travel to some of Costa Rica’s most popular destinations, you and your group will get to appreciate the country’s national parks and rainforests. First you’ll head the Monteverde Reserve, where you’ll take a tour of the spectacular rainforest canopy. Then you’re off to Guanacaste for an interactive visit at the EcoMuseum. Another highlight of your trip is bound to be your day at the Barra Honda National Park. There you’ll walk through the forest and venture below the Earth’s surface into the vast natural caves. After days of cultural exploration, you and your friends will have the chance to relax at the Playa Samara beach on the Pacific Ocean.

“This experience has made me feel generally more comfortable with myself as a person and my goals in life by helping me understand that my efforts are leading somewhere. As long as I remain open to new possibilities, I’ll continue to advance in life.”

– James W.

Group Leaders

This Global Prep experience is led by in-country experts and volunteers, in addition to an AFS-USA staff group leader who will chaperone your group to and from your host country.

What's Included

  • Round trip international airfare chaperoned by an American staff member
  • Accommodations, meals, and transportation
  • Secondary Health Coverage Plan
  • Access to a 24/7 Emergency Duty Officer
  • Visa Support
  • Please review the Terms and Conditions for complete guidelines.
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Returning Home

“Life-changing” is hard to describe, yet it’s nearly always the first thing that AFSers say when asked about their experience abroad. “Transformed” is another one.
When you return home, if you’re like most AFSers, you’ll bring with you a sense of accomplishment unlike any other. You’ll have gained maturity and independence, discovered new passions, and developed the confidence and resilience to accomplish anything you set out to do.
That transformation isn’t only visible to you, though – others see it as well. AFSers gain critical skills for college and careers. Second language fluency, intercultural competence, creativity, and critical reasoning will help you succeed, whatever path you take. “Life-changing” means it’s only the beginning.
It’s not just an adventure abroad; it’s a whole new reality. The perspectives and personal connections you gained will stay with you and likely draw you back to the second home you found in Costa Rica.

In fact, our alumni reviews have made AFS one of the top-rated organizations in the study abroad industry.

A new you awaits

Apply for Global Prep in Costa Rica!

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