Skip Navigation

How "Americanized" is Costa Rica?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean How "Americanized" is Costa Rica?

1. Posted by south1 (Budding Member 2 posts) 6y

Hi! I am looking to study abroad in Central or South America to further my spanish language education, I was thinking about going to Costa Rica, but have heard that it is quite Americanized and filled with tourists! How true is this? I am looking to live and study in a Latin American country, not vacation!

Any suggestions on a different country good for me? or any recommendations for cities in Costa Rica?

I am a 20 year old college undergrad, majoring in journalism with a minor in Spanish. I have been looking at Costa Rica. I have over 5 years worth of Spanish classes and am looking for for a full immersion. I wish to enroll in a larger university as a student for at least a semester, but there are so many to choose from! I've found multiple study abroad programs that suit me such as Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, but i would like to hear from some of you who have been to these countries.

I have been looking into University of San Jose, Costa Rica, they have a program I like, but Ive seen people post that Costa Rica has been lost to mass tourism and even called "America's playground". I'm not necessarily looking for an tourist-driven vacation here, which is making me lean to a different country, But at the same time would like to live/study in a somewhat urban area. Any thoughts?


2. Posted by fraluchi (Full Member 129 posts) 6y

Well, "americanized" might be somewhat true for all Central American countries, but you have to avoid the "classic" tourist spots. After all, the main markets for Central America are Canada and the USA. However, the country is the size of Switzerland or Holland, so there is plenty of space where local atmosphere can be found.
In Santo Domingo de Heredia, a small town on the North side of the Central Valley, we are mostly locals. But you'll find, amongst the major number of "Ticos" (Costa Rican nationals), Americans, Columbians, Dutch, Chinese, Germans, French, Italians, Venezuelans, etc. etc. Plenty of opportunities to brush up a foreign language.
Our little town (you may check gumbolimbo . net Take out the spaces before and after the dot) has a good Spanish language school, named how else, Columbus Spanish School.
Also the Universidad Nacional in Heredia (UNA), 4 mi. from here, runs courses. You might want to check. And Heredia is also all but "Americanized", not counting the Mc Donald, KFC, and other fast food hang-outs, which you'll find all over the world and particularly with students around (= little money perhaps ?) ;).
Do some research and be happily surprized

3. Posted by south1 (Budding Member 2 posts) 6y

Thank you for your input! I understand that many countries have become developed in an 'American' way in recent years and I am mostly looking to avoid the 'touristy' parts of Costa Rica. Where in Costa Rica would you consider the "classic tourist spots"? And do you think I would find as much of a local atmosphere at Universidad Nacional as Universidad de Costa Rica? I like big cities, but not if they are too tourist-oriented.

4. Posted by i c e (Respected Member 326 posts) 6y

Yes Costa rica is Americanized. I was worried about the same thing before my first trip there. However, it is still very latin and the people are wonderful.
If it is important to you to be away from the tourist and american influence then I woudl strongly recomend chile as it is far lower on the gringo depth chart.
Peru would be just as bad or worse.

ice (yes, everyone I am back)

5. Posted by fraluchi (Full Member 129 posts) 6y

To South1: UNA (Universidad Nacional - Heredia) is, in my opinion, better located for local experiences than UCR (Universidad de Costa Rica - San Pedro/San Jose)
You may want to hike up Volcan Barva from here and find very few "tourists". Or walk through the coffee plantations between Heredia and San Isidro de Heredia, with beautiful views of the Central Valley. Most of the time you'll see the heavy clouds building up on the other side of the valley, where "gringolandia" has put its main roots.:)

6. Posted by way2goeh (Full Member 159 posts) 6y

You want something Non-American, try Venezuela. I love this country but you know how the govt dont like the americans. Few people speak english but very friendly people. The people like the americans. There would be no problems getting to or being in Venezuela ( its all talk by Chavez). Dont let that bother you. I didnt even see one statue or billboard with him on it.

7. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 894 posts) 6y

With a brief comment...The towns you will want to visit will most likely have expats already. There are plenty of places that don't see a North American dollar.....The "Pura Vida" ideal is not a T-Shirt slogan....I witnessed it in action several times in Quepos. This is not an anecdote, but a semi regular occurence.

The sun sets on the beachline of Quepos.....It is gorgeous pretty much every day. It is so regularly GORGEOUS that one could be inured to it.

I went to the shoreline of Quepos, to watch the sun go down a bunch of times.....I was surrounded by local townsfolk who viewed this incredible spectacle daily...Many of them routinely sat together breathing to each other "Pura Vida" while witnessing a daily thing. This ideal is an ideal they cherish and realize. They know that they are lucky to live where they dol. They are warm and careful of each other. The country is filled with beauty. They appreciate it daily...and they LOVE to take your money.

Costa Rica, in my experience, is still Costa Rica. They are just glad to have outside money coming in. If you base your ideas on San Jose and Jaco, then you'll get the "Americanized" idea....But they still live their lives Costa Rican Off the Beaten my estimation.