Skip to content

Programs : Brochure

This is the program brochure page.
Program Description


USAC Students - PuntarenasPhoto courtesy of USAC.

   Quick Facts

  • Improve your Spanish through intensive language courses, immersion in Costa Rican culture, volunteering opportunities, internships, and excursions.
  • Experience Costa Rica's Pura Vida life style in a small coastal town on the Gulf of Nicoya.
  • Explore the outstanding natural beauty of Costa Rica's stunning landscape - from Cloud and Rain Forests to volcanoes to miles of coastline.
  • Early application is encouraged as USAC caps their program enrollment for Puntarenas at 65 students total


USAC Puntarenas FestivalPhoto courtesy of USAC

Location Details

Puntarenas is a small beach town environment where students are able to practice their Spanish regularly and become immersed in the local culture.  The geography of Puntarenas is unique since it is located at the end of a sandy peninsula almost five miles long, but only 120 to 700 yards wide.  Consequently, one is always close to the ocean and there are many beaches from which to choose.  Puntarenas offers the peace and rural beauty of a small town while at the same time affording easy access to other parts of Costa Rica.  From Puntarenas, it is easy to travel up and down the coast to world-class surfing beaches, nature reserves, and plantations.  This central Pacific region offers something for every outdoor enthusiast.

Visa Information

U.S. citizens may require a visa.* Limited information about the visa application process may be provided by the ASU Study Abroad Office and/or your host institution, but it is your sole responsibility to research, apply, and secure a visa. Failure to obtain a visa may result in your inability to participate and, ultimately, your withdrawal from the program, subject to the terms of the Study Abroad Withdrawal Policy

Consult this page for additional information regarding visas.  If you need assistance securing a U.S. Passport, visit the ASU U.S. Passport Acceptance Office in Tempe.

PLEASE NOTE: Visa requirements for non U.S. citizens may differ from those for U.S. citizens; students who are not U.S. citizens are advised to contact their International Coordinator and begin independently researching the visa requirements for their nationality as soon as possible.

*At the time of writing. This information is subject to change without notice; students should independently confirm this requirement with the relevant consulate/embassy.


Academic Program & Courses

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, cafes, 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.

USAC offers intensive language courses grouped into tracks as well as a variety of elective courses. Language track courses are taught sequentially within one semester. All students are required to select a language track and enroll in the courses listed on USAC's website plus elective courses (for a total of 12-18 credits).

Courses focused on Latin American, Environmental and International Studies are also offered in English and Spanish. Students in Track IV are also eligible to participate in a 1-3 credit internship if interested.  Internship Eligibility: minimum GPA of 3.0 and junior standing at the time of the internship. A refundable fee is charged and and returned upon successful completion of the internship. Placement is not guaranteed.

Access a list of courses other ASU students have taken and view current course equivalencies.

Course Levels, Credit & Grades
The USAC Puntarenas program follows U.S. grading and credit standards. Attendance requirements are strict and missed classes may impact grades.
  USAC Study Center ASU
Course Levels USAC 100 & 200 level courses Lower division
USAC 300 & 400 level courses Upper division
Credit 3 credits* 3 credits*
*Courses offered may vary in credit amount. USAC classes will convert to ASU credit on a 1:1 basis.
USAC Puntarenas ClassroomUSAC Center 2USAC Cuisine ClassPhotos courtesy of USAC


USAC Puntarenas Host FamilyPhotos courtesy of USAC

Program Housing

USAC helps to facilitate homestay placements with local Tico families.  Families are located within easy walking distance of the Center and will provide daily breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Students will be provided with a private bedroom and laundry service.  Host families will be interested in your life and activities and will serve as a helpful source of local practical information and advice.  Living with a family provides an unmatched opportunity for speaking Spanish and learning the Tico culture from the perspective of a local family.

Special Considerations

Below you will find information that may help you in planning for your study abroad experience. Early discussions and planning can help to support you in having a positive experience abroad. We invite you to meet with the International Coordinator for this program to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.

Physical Considerations

Study abroad participants may find themselves walking or taking public transit abroad more frequently than they are accustomed at their home campus.

Disability Accommodations Abroad

Individuals with disabilities can and do study abroad, but may find accessibility and accommodation in one of more of this program’s locations very different from the United States. For example, in Costa Rica, building and transportation accessibility is limited. Many buildings remain inaccessible and while public buses may have wheelchair accessibility, functionality of these resources may be in disrepair.

In general, the Study Abroad Office cannot guarantee access to public transportation, buildings, or public sites on this program. Any student who anticipates needing any kind of special accommodation due to a disability should contact the ASU Study Abroad Office early in the planning process to investigate the availability of accommodations (including accessible facilities) on this specific program. Contact the Disability Resource Center and your Disability Access Consultant to include them in the discussion; be sure to give your Disability Access Consultant permission to speak with the Study Abroad Office on your behalf. You can find additional information and resources on our Students with Disabilities page.

LGBTQIA Students Abroad

Students of diverse sexual orientations or gender identities will find that the social climate, laws, and norms of other cultures will often differ from the U.S. If you identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer student - or if you are still exploring your identity - you may face unique challenges when traveling abroad. For example, in Costa Rica, LGBTQIA students may encounter discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as public attitudes are generally conservative.

We encourage students who identify as members of the LGBTQIA community to visit the U.S. Department of State website for helpful information about laws and attitudes in this program’s locations, including pre-travel tips and advice on staying safe while abroad. You can find additional information and resources on our LGBTQIA Students page.

Gender Identity Abroad

When traveling abroad, you may find different gender roles and norms than you’re used to. It’s possible that you may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on your (or their) gender identity. For example, in Costa Rica, some women travelers may experience harassment in the form of cat calling and other forms of objectification by local men. Students are encouraged to travel in groups and in mixed company whenever possible.

You can find additional information and resources on our Gender Identity Abroad page.

Racial and Ethnic Minorities Abroad

Students of different ethnic and racial backgrounds may encounter unique challenges transitioning from life here in the United States to life as a student living abroad, including but not limited to access to personal care products and services.

You can prepare yourself for the situations you may experience by researching the ethnic composition of your host country and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations. We encourage students to start that research on our Racial and Ethnic Minority Students page.


Cost Information

Partnership program participants will NOT pay ASU tuition for the courses completed abroad. Instead, participants will pay a Program Fee as a condition of participation. Partnership program participants are also responsible for paying a non-refundable $50 Application Fee, in addition to the published Program Fee. All other costs associated with participation in the program are the responsibility of the individual student.

Be sure to reference the Fall Semester Cost Sheet or Spring Semester Cost Sheet for information on any additional estimated expenses.

The program may allow for time which can be spent in non-program activities. Participants may wish to travel, sightsee or participate in activities or events in which they have a personal interest. Please note that the participant is fully responsible for making arrangements and for all costs of transportation, lodging, food and additional expenses that may be associated with any non-Program activities.


Funding Your Study Abroad Program

Studying abroad is an investment in your future, which requires careful planning and management. However, the personal, academic, and professional rewards that you will gain from this experience will last a lifetime. You should carefully consider costs, budgets and financing when selecting and preparing for your experience abroad. If you have questions at any step of the process, we encourage you to reach out to your International Coordinator for guidance.

Steps to Financing Your Study Abroad Program

  1. Review the Considering Costs Table for a general overview and cost comparison of popular programs.
  2. Be sure to reference the Fall Semester Cost Sheet or Spring Semester Cost Sheet to find a breakdown of program expenses.
  3. Attend a Financing Your Study Abroad Workshop.
  4. Consider your Financial Aid options.
  5. Search and Apply for Scholarships and Grants.
  6. Exhaust your options by exploring Additional Funding Resources including our Community-Based Funding Guide.
  7. View our  Financing Your Study Abroad Program Handbook for more information, including Payment Information.

Unique Funding Opportunities for This Program



Dates & Deadlines
Dates & Deadlines
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2020 10/15/2019 ** Rolling Admission 01/10/2020 05/07/2020
NOTE: Dates are subject to change. Do not purchase airfare until dates are confirmed by the Study Abroad Office and/or in any host institution acceptance materials.

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Students will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision tasks prior to the term's application deadline.