If you’re a teacher planning an international trip for your students, Costa Rica should be among your top-choice destinations. With its breathtaking natural beauty, incredible biodiversity and welcoming culture, Costa Rica provides the perfect environment for learning outside of the classroom via a student travel program.
Why visit Costa Rica for a student trip? As a country committed to peace and nature, it offers the foundation for an immersive learning experience.
Costa Rica’s geography and biodiversity
From its volcanoes to its cloud forests to its hundreds of miles of beaches, Costa Rica has become a popular international tourist destination because of its immense natural beauty. As your students explore Costa Rica’s geography, they’ll also be surrounded by 5% of the world’s biodiversity — an astounding figure, considering Costa Rica comprises about 0.03% of the earth’s surface.
For decades, the Costa Rican government has prioritized the protection of its natural resources. A full 25% of the country is protected land, most of it distributed among 29 national parks.
In Turrialba, for example, you can go whitewater rafting in the morning, hike through the cloud forest in the afternoon and watch the sun set over a volcano — all in the same day. Note: Costa Rica Explorations designs special itineraries (such as our Environmental Leadership Itinerary) for student groups who would like to focus on the country’s biodiversity.
Costa Rica is also a global trendsetter in clean energy; almost all of the country’s energy has come from renewable sources since 2014. And Costa Rica recently launched an ambitious plan to become fully carbon neutral by 2050!
If you want your students to learn about the variety of life on earth and how to protect it, Costa Rica simply can’t be beaten.
Costa Rica’s history and culture
As Costa Rica has developed into an international tourist destination, it has also taken steps to protect its vibrant culture. Costa Rica regularly ranks as one of the happiest countries on earth, and its citizens are proud to call themselves “Ticos.”
As a former colony of Spain, Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country that values family. There’s no better way of learning a new language, and a new culture, than by students immersing themselves in it as part of a homestay with a Costa Rican family.
While Costa Rica has diverged from its Old World origins, you can still find hints of its past in the country’s Spanish colonial architecture and tope nacional, the annual national horse parade.
By eating typical meals with a host family, participating in local art projects, celebrating local holidays, and yes, even playing pickup soccer with their new Costa Rican friends, students can turn their trip into a true cultural immersion.
Costa Rica also boasts the oldest (and most stable) democracy in Central America, and its government prioritizes universal access to public education and healthcare. As a result, Ticos are hard-working and well-educated, making student learning trips a mutually beneficial experience.
Is Costa Rica safe for student trips?
One of your biggest responsibilities as a teacher is to maintain and protect the safety of your students, whether they are in the classroom or participating in a service project in Costa Rica.
While no place is immune to crime, Costa Rica has a long history of peace. The country abolished its army in 1948, choosing instead to allocate its finances to public education. That desire is even inscribed into Costa Rica’s national anthem, which ends with a call for peace and hard work.
The U.S. Department of State has assigned Costa Rica a Level 1 Travel Advisory — equivalent to Canada and Ireland, for example — indicating that travelers should “exercise normal precautions.” The most common crimes in Costa Rica are pickpocketing and theft, and it’s always important to be a smart traveler.
Recognizing the importance of international travel, the Costa Rican government recently unveiled a number of relevant national security improvements. These include building dedicated police stations in towns that have recently grown due to tourism, hiring more lifeguards for the country’s most popular beaches, and providing free emergency training for Costa Ricans who work in the tourism industry.
Crime exists in Costa Rica, but traveling with reputable organizations (like Costa Rica Explorations!) will have you well on your way to a safe, enjoyable trip to Costa Rica with your students.
Costa Rica basics and logistics
The world is filled with interesting destinations, but if you’re planning an international student trip from the United States, logistics have to play a major role in your decisions.
Costa Rica has two major international airports that receive direct service from the United States. All major U.S. airlines fly here with non-stop service from major cities like Miami, Houston, Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Costa Rica also has all important amenities, like safe drinking water, reputable hospitals with English-speaking doctors and accessible healthcare.
And while it doesn’t have an army, Costa Rica does have several national law enforcement agencies — including dedicated Tourist Police — that will help keep you safe if something doesn’t feel quite right.
Immersing yourself in a difficult culture can be uncomfortable at first, but CRX and plenty of Costa Rican resources work to make sure you and your students stay safe on the trip.
Summary: Why visit Costa Rica for student trips
Christopher Columbus allegedly gave Costa Rica its name because he thought the country contained massive amounts of gold. (“Costa Rica” translates to “rich coast.”)
Like many other things, Columbus was (mostly) wrong about that. But Costa Rica is rich culturally and in its natural splendors, resources that the government is protecting for future generations to enjoy.
When considering why to visit Costa Rica, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re traveling at all. If you want your students to grow as leaders, aim to introduce them to new cultures, and hope they appreciate earth’s beauty while keeping them safe, it’s clear that Costa Rica makes a great destination for a learning trip.
Molly has 10+ years of experience as a classroom teacher and service-learning coordinator planning student trips to Costa Rica, and has lived and worked in Costa Rica for over 15 years. In 2006, she fulfilled a dream of hers and co-founded Costa Rica Explorations, an authentic cultural-immersion, service-based educational student travel program, that continues to be one of the most respected and trusted High School and Middle School student programs offered within Costa Rica.