Costa Rica & Panama
Join ACA the Summer-of-a-Lifetime!
¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!
Costa Rica is one of the most incredible countries in all of the Americas – an ecological wonderland that offers lush tropical jungles, beautiful beaches and incredible natural wonders. Whether you crave adventure, are looking for fulfilling community-service opportunities or want to relax under the sun, Costa Rica offers something for everyone!
Lush jungles host an incredible variety of wildlife. Clear ocean waters beckon snorkelers, swimmers and sun-worshippers. From active volcanoes and rainforest zip-line tours to the many incredible beaches, Costa Rica is a country rich in natural wonder, inviting culture and endless activity.
Community Service runs Monday through Friday.
At ACA, we believe safety comes first. That’s why we maintain an eight-to-one student-to-staff ratio – one of the lowest in the industry! This lets us offer unmatched attention and unique personalized programs.
As part of our commitment to student safety, ACA staff members live on every student-occupied floor and accompany students on all activities and excursions. ACA also uses chartered coach and taxi services to get around town, never public transportation. All ACA staff members are always equipped with cellphones.
For additional safety, ACA provides all students with local cellphones, allowing them to maintain easy contact with directors and staff!
The hotel adds an additional element of security, as well. The front desk is staffed 24 hours a day with trained personnel for your comfort and convenience.
Parents will appreciate knowing that ACA destinations are always safe, community oriented and selected with special attention to ensuring accessibility to the best medical care in case of any emergency.
Travel to Costa Rica*
Students traveling to Costa Rica fly on ACA-staffed group flights round-trip directly from the New York area or Miami nonstop to San José. From there, they will be escorted on private motorcoaches by our personal Costa Rican guides to our hotel.
Students enrolled in the Panama Extension will also fly on ACA-staffed group flights nonstop from San José to Panama City, then return nonstop to the New York area or Miami.
We are always happy to help make arrangements for students who need to first fly to New York or Miami from other parts of the country in order to meet the ACA group flight. Please contact the ACA office for additional assistance.
Please Note: For your safety and convenience, we require students traveling to our international programs to fly on ACA-staffed group flights.
*Transportation is not included in tuition.
New Opportunities to Help Others and Enrich Your Personal Experience!
Make your a summer of personal growth and community giving! ACA makes it possible with a host of rewarding service opportunities that engage students and local populations on an incredibly fulfilling level.
American Collegiate Adventures is committed to helping students participate in social and personal transformation. Our goal is to encourage them to realize the power they have to grow as individuals while contributing to an environment of cultural understanding and mutual respect, whether they work within their communities or take their service-learning around the world.
With ACA, it’s more than community service – it’s cultural service. That means students not only get fulfilling opportunities to better the lives of less fortunate people, but they also get incredible exposure to a new culture and lifestyle. This expands their worldview, helping to develop a sincere appreciation of how other people live. Many students find it an incredibly humbling experience that helps them realize the contributions they can make to improve the world around them.
When in Costa Rica with ACA, there will certainly be plenty of chances for classic summer fun and incredible adventure. Now imagine adding the memory of having made a significant impact and achieving an empowering sense of cultural contribution. It all adds up to an unforgettable summer experience!
Past ACA service-learning projects include:
Volunteering at a Day Care Center
Play educational games and teach arts and crafts at a day care center serving low-income families. You’ll provide children with access to creative educational activities while you interact directly with another culture in their local language.
Improving the Lives of Children
Bring happiness to the lives of disadvantaged children. You’ll help organize sports and group games for these deserving kids, and provide tremendous assistance to the generous people who run this understaffed facility. You can also help develop arts and crafts projects or read books with the children, building your language skills while you help them improve their own learning ability.
Assisting at an Animal Rescue Center
This center houses animals that have been rescued from neglectful households and inhumane captivity or injured in hunting incidents. You’ll participate in the rehabilitation process of monkeys, raccoons, caimans, native wild pigs, all types of birds and other animals. The goal of the shelter is to
reintroduce all of the animals back into their natural habitats. You’ll help feed, clean and care for these animals, and even help plant trees to restore their habitats.
Renewing a River
Here’s a fun, rewarding way to restore a precious natural resource. Groups of students raft down the river as they clean it. The journey is completely relaxing, and you’re doing the river a world of good! Keep an eye out for monkeys, tropical birds, exotic frogs and more.
Sustaining Agriculture on an Organic Farm
Help cultivate medicinal plants and improve your understanding of the role organic farming plays in today’s increasingly health-conscious world. You’ll work with local farmers to prepare their ginger and curcuma plants for export while supporting and protecting the environment by organic sustainable farming in the rainforest.
Building a School Playground
Help a school that doesn’t have a place for its students to play by building a playground! Take pride in some honest manual labor that has a lasting, positive impact on a less-advantaged school community. You can also help paint the school, giving it a new look to match its new playground!
Costa Rica Life
You’ll be spending your summer in some of Central America’s coolest destinations – San José, Arenal and Manuel Antonio. You will be surrounded by incredible wildlife, world wonders and the inspiring energy of a culture rich in flavor and bursting with gratitude for the many visitors that have left their mark of service in these lands. ACA’s accommodations are unmatched, providing a perfect retreat after a full day of service, learning and adventure. We want you to have a spectacular stay in Costa Rica – so your comfort, safety and satisfaction are always our priorities.
You can count on outstanding accommodations – this is ACA!
Unlike ordinary international pre-college programs, ACA’s experience in Central America is not a homestay! Our students live and learn together, enjoying deluxe four-star hotel accommodations located near major attractions and cultural areas. Rooms feature in-suite bathrooms, housekeeping and air conditioning. Of course, ACA’s experienced staff live on-site, ensuring a stay that’s as safe as it is comfortable.
Savor Unique Central American Flavor
ACA serves up amazing meals throughout your stay in Costa Rica! Start your days at the hotel breakfast buffet, a serious spread of eggs, cereal, pastries, baked treats, and fresh juices and fruits. It’s a great way to fuel up for a full day of fun.
For dinner Monday through Friday in San José, you’ll enjoy ACA’s exclusive Dining-on-the-Town Plan, which lets you choose from a variety of ACA-selected restaurants – and it’s included in your tuition! In Arenal and Manuel Antonio, you’ll enjoy dinner at the hotel or a local restaurant. Whether you’re interested in sampling local dishes, including sweet plantains, fresh corn tortillas, scrumptious tamales and empanadas, or would rather stick with American-style favorites, you’re sure to find a restaurant that suits your taste. Need help translating the menu? Don’t worry, ACA staff are always at the restaurant ready to make a recommendation.
Being in the midst of a rainforest means plenty of exotic tropical fruits. Indulge in the freshest mango, papaya, guava, passion fruit, pineapples and bananas you have ever tasted! Either way, ACA makes sure you have plenty of options. The choice is always yours!
Around Town & Beyond
Costa Rica offers a world of opportunity for adventure. The excitement and energy is yours to enjoy. Stroll quaint boulevards, sample exotic tropical delights and browse traditional markets. Want to pick up the pace? Sign up for a soccer match, learn Costa Rican dance, visit lava flows from an active volcano or race through the rainforest on a zip-line canopy tour! When you’re ready to unwind, there are plenty of art galleries and cafés perfect for quiet downtime, not to mention the natural hot springs in Arenal. And don’t forget, if you join us in Panama, the adventure continues with trips to see the Panama Canal, an Embera Indian Village and much more!
Spend some time unwinding on the calm waters of a mangrove canal. This is an amazing way to see Costa Rican wildlife. Floating along in a kayak, you’ll practically be face-to-face with beautiful toucans, macaws, monkeys, sloths and iguanas. You may even spot a crocodile! Along the way you’ll enjoy a tasty local meal and learn about daily life in Costa Rica and the riches of the rainforest.
You’ll spend one week in:
San José– The nation’s capital is a diverse, contemporary part of Costa Rica, offering rich culture and exciting diversions. Spending your time in the safe university district of San Pedro, this is the perfect launchpad for your Costa Rican experience.
Arenal– Home to the country’s most inspiring landmark, this amazingly active volcano has captivated locals and travelers for decades. Add incredible adventure opportunities and rejuvenating hot springs, and you’ve got an unforgettable week.
Manuel Antonio– An incredible national park with immaculate beaches and abundant wildlife – it’s the perfect combination to cap off your Costa Rican experience.
Staying in Shape
Worried you’ll miss a workout when you’re down in Costa Rica? Don’t sweat it. There’s plenty of outdoor activity to keep you moving, but if the “jungle gym” isn’t enough, you’ll have access to a swimming pool, weight room, treadmills and exercise equipment. If you’re up for team sports, get with fellow ACA students for a game of soccer, tennis or basketball. If you’d like a little sightseeing with your workout, meet up with ACA staff for early evening jogs through the surrounding countryside. Feeling extra competitive? Don’t miss the Costa Ricans vs. Americans Fútbol (soccer) match!
Complete your ACA Costa Rica experience with exciting weekend adventures.
The Capital City – San José (Week 1)
Spend five days in a beautiful, safe suburban area of San José, the nation’s capital. Thanks to Costa Rica’s booming reputation as a premier tourism destination, this diverse, contemporary part of Costa Rica has all the comfort and convenience of a modern city, yet is rich in colonial and native history. Being near so many natural wonders and eye-opening cultural attractions makes this the perfect headquarters for your unforgettable Central American experience.
Our home for the week in San José will be the four-star Radisson Europa Hotel. Its picturesque pool, state-of-the-art Gold’s Gym, awesome breakfast buffet and newly remodeled rooms deliver the amenities you expect!
Punta Leona - Jaco (Weekend 1)
Home to one of the most popular beaches in Costa Rica, Jaco is the town where people go when they want to unwind. It’s geared toward the traveler who knows how to relax. You’ll find plenty of great places to eat and shop, and of course, you’ll spend much deserved time on the beach, kicking back and playing it cool.
Punta Leona, the beachside resort we will call home for the weekend, is surrounded by 750 acres of lush tropical rainforest, pristine gold sand beaches and the deep blue waters of the Pacific. Wake up to the sounds of over 330 exotic bird species, monkeys, iguanas, short-nosed coatis, toucans and brilliant scarlet macaws. Catch some rays on the beach, snorkel to experience the underwater world and cap the night off at Punta Leona’s on-site disco.
An Amazing Volcano – Arenal (Week 2)
Spend a week in the town of Arenal by the country’s most amazing natural landmark – the Arenal Volcano. Featuring almost daily eruptions with dramatic explosions and simmering lava flows, this volcano is truly unforgettable – but don’t worry, we stay safely out of the way! The area is also home to beautiful spas and hotels that have become “hidden destinations” for American and European travelers in the know. Now you’ll be in on the secret! Imagine relaxing in the hot springs, soaking your cares away while you watch a live volcano! Just wait until the sun goes down and the glowing red sky reflects the lava bubbling in Arenal’s active crater! A truly unforgettable sight.
A series of picturesque villas with unbelievable views, the four-star Arenal Springs Hotel will be your home for the week. When you’re done admiring the view of the volcano from your room, take a dip in the pool or have a snack in the full-service restaurant.
Monteverde (Weekend 2)
One of Costa Rica’s most cherished areas, this amazing rainforest is located on the Continental Divide at over 4,600 feet. We’ll get a close look at this incredible natural paradise with hundreds of bird, mammal and plant species on the treetop walkway, a series of bridges almost two miles long winding through the forest canopy. Bring your cameras and get ready to be wowed by what nature can accomplish! Take it up a notch with a zip-line canopy tour. Perched with spectacular views high above the rainforest floor, you’ll fly from platform to platform to see the rainforest in an incredible new way.
Located in the middle of the cloud forest, Hotel El Establo is the largest and most luxurious hotel in Monteverde. Incredible views of the mountains and unique cloud forest vegetation is only the start at El Establo. It also features a spa, swimming pools, gym, tennis court and soccer field.
Manuel Antonio (Week 3)
Here’s an adventure that combines everything there is to love about Costa Rica! A quaint village in the midst of a beautiful national park, Manuel Antonio is paradise for sun-worshippers, adventure travelers and wildlife lovers. The outdoor market is full of exotic food and packed with crafts and local art. A nearby trail network makes it easy to explore the jungle and interact with the wildlife. Listen to the songbirds singing overhead, but watch out for bold capuchin monkeys trying to steal your sunglasses! For those who crave sand and surf, the beaches here are among the best in all of Central America.
With the panoramic ocean views from this four-star hotel listed as one of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Hotel La Mariposa captures everything that makes Manuel Antonio extraordinary. Magnificent infinity edge pools, bountiful breakfasts and terrific service make this hotel a memorable end to your Costa Rican experience.
The Panama Extension
Add 5 days to your Central American Adventure
You’ll remain in the secure company of trusted ACA staff members, as well as many of the friends you’ve made on your ACA program. Of course, you’ll also enjoy the comfortable accommodations and superior guidance you’ve come to expect from ACA.
Panama is like no other country on earth – imagine being able to watch the sun rise and set over the same beach! Home to incredibly diverse ecology, there are many species of animals found nowhere else on earth. But Panama is also a cosmopolitan country with plenty of international appeal. Sophisticated city dwellers display European refinement, and indigenous cultures are as compelling and colorful as the environment they inhabit.
Panama City’s history, banking prowess and modern technology make it the capital of all Central America. Three distinct parts of the city converge. Puerto Viejo’s old Spanish forts and stone ruins still overlook the sea. The quaint Casco Viejo neighborhood has evolved from colonial roots to become an internationally known home to great theaters, cafés and charming plazas. Split between the two is the new Panama City, home to contemporary architecture and modern sophistication. A remarkable contrast!
Panama tours include:
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