Skip to main content

Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities

San José & field sites, Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Immerse yourself in an ecologically diverse country that faces the challenges of modern development with a spirit of peace and pragmatism. Live with a Costa Rican host family, draw from the region’s rich resources while conducting your own independent research, and travel to diverse sites throughout Costa Rica and to Panama.  (Final Session: Spring 2019)


  • Spring semester (late January–late May)
  • Spring quarter/trimester (early April–mid-June)

See full schedule

Living arrangements

Homestay with Costa Rican host families

Courses & credits

Recommended credit is 16 semester credits or the equivalent. See course descriptions

  • Spanish Language and Culture
  • Field Research Design
  • Field Research
  • Research Paper & Seminar Course

Language requirement

Second-year level college coursework in Spanish taken in the year prior to the start of the program is recommended.


Program brochure
Program handbook - Spring 2017
Costa Rica program video: Academics

Application deadlines

If the deadline has passed and you are interested in applying, contact the ACM Office immediately. Late applications may be accepted on a space-available basis.


Michael Vertovec, Senior Program Administrator
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2020, Chicago, IL 60601
312.561.5934 /

Explore the program

Plunge into a one-of-a-kind field research experience

“I really appreciated the opportunity to do things that I would never have had the chance to do at home. While here, I got to work as a marine biologist in a small village full of fisherman. I would never have been able to do that in the US.”

—James Haney, Lake Forest College, biology & chemistry major

Whether you become an expert on the economics of Costa Rican coffee, study the Costa Rican health care system, or analyze the hatching rate of sea turtles, you will have the rare opportunity to craft and implement a research proposal in one of the world’s most prized biodiversity hotspots.

 Watch Learn about academics on the Costa Rica program in 60 seconds.

Put your studies into context

“I went into the program with the expectations of learning more about tropical plant ecology, but I came out with much more – a stronger sense of global citizenship and a better understanding of my place as a scientist in a different cultural context.”

Allison Pillar, Macalester College, biology major

How will Costa Rica make a long-term impact on your path as a student? Many people come away from this experience with a greater idea of their place in the scientific world—some have even gotten their research published in academic journals!

Discover what pura vida means to you

“The reserves, beaches, and cities each have unique atmospheres, but they are all bonded by the pura vida vibe. It certainly has been an amazing journey!”

—Emily Sneed, Beloit College, evolution, ecological, behavioral biology major

¡Pura vida! is Costa Rica’s signature slogan, used in a variety of ways to express an overall state of well-being. After you encounter Costa Rica’s beautiful green landscapes, amiable people, and strong traditions, you will fall into step with the pura vida lifestyle.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

David Bickford
Macalester College

The ACM Costa Rica field experience was the first point in my development as a tropical field biologist. I first fell in love with the tremendous biological diversity during my field project working in the la Reserva Forestal de Rio Macho.

Read more »

Mark Bremer
Lecturer, State Univ. of New York Polytechnic Institute

Living and studying on the Costa Rica field research program opened many doors for my future. I gained valuable research experience that landed me a research internship at the Smithsonian and eventually a graduate degree.

Read more »

Mark Myers
Associate Professor and head of Ecosystem Studies Program at Northern Iowa University

My experience in Costa Rica was a strong influence in my decision to pursue a graduate degree in Conservation Biology, and many of the experiences and contacts I made laid the groundwork for future projects in Costa Rica.

Read more »

More student experiences »

Browse all ACM programs