Homestay Families

Homestays are the most effective way to put into practice the Spanish you learn in the classroom, make friends and help you integrate into the Costa Rican community. Staying with a family you will:  

  • Practice & learn more Spanish 
  • Meet people from the community
  • Have breakfast / breakfast & dinner included
  • Spend less than you would for a hotel
  • Have laundry service included
  • Have childcare options if coming with children 
  • Be taken out of your comfort zone and challenged to adapt to a new culture!

You will probably not have WiFi, a private bathroom or a hot shower, (and you will definitely not have AC!), but you may make friends for life, and you will have a chance to truly get to know and participate in a culture different from your own.




Homestay Private: Offers private room , laundry service and breakfast and dinner with the family.

Homestay Shared: Applies to families or travel partners who wish to share room(s) and includes as well laundry service, breakfast and dinner with the family. NOTE: This option is ONLY available for students who sign up together. 

A small percentage of families can offer private bathroom and/or WiFi; these are assigned on a first-come first-served basis.  

The homestay program is a key part of the Spanish immersion experience;  all of our carefully chosen Costa Rican families in Heredia and Sámara are within walking distance of the school (and the beach/city), from half a block to max. 1 mile /1.5 km away (in Sámara, bike rental is recommended due to the heat). All students are encouraged to participate in this opportunity, as it provides an invaluable source of  Spanish practice as well as a wonderful interpersonal experience. Living with a family who speaks no English, in combination with intensive language study in the classroom and in general on campus during activities, provides a wholly integrated exposure to both the language and the culture. In this way the learning process is greatly facilitated, as is the speed with which fluency is acquired. Homestays provide an economical alternative to hotels (see prices), but probably the most valuable aspect of the homestay experience is the opportunity to really get to know a Costa Rican family, making many new friends and experiencing first-hand the famous Costa Rican warmth and hospitality!


  • If you are coming with children, you may request one of our trusted homestay mothers that offers in-home childcare for a small additional fee (approx. $6-7 per hour, varies by family).
  • If you are a vegetarian, the family can accommodate a basic vegetarian diet (rice, beans, vegetables, fruit, eggs, pasta, etc). However, if you are vegan, gluten intolerant, celiac, eat only organic foods or have any other special food needs, you should expect to buy whatever additional food you require, as the family budget only allows for standard meal preparation.  

Intercultura Prices

HOMESTAY FAMILY INCOME BREAKDOWN:   Where does the homestay money go?

Students frequently ask us why families do not receive the full amount they paid for their homestay. We are happy to answer this question, as we are proud of our ethical business practices. About 50% of our students come through agencies, which involves payment of varying rates of commission and international bank transfer commissions. The other 50% book directly, which usually involves only a credit card processing commission. Once we average out the commission between agency and non-agency students, transfer and credit card fees, the total comes to approximately 14%. Thus, the school receives an average of 86% of the homestay fees for each student who chooses this option. Of this 86%, Intercultura keeps 5% and the remaining 81% goes to the family. 

In other words, from 100% of your payment:

  • 81%  goes directly to the homestay family 
  • 14%  goes to agencies, banks and credit card processers 
  • 5%    remains with Intercultura to cover administrative overhead, salaries, family supervision & activities 

This effectively makes our homestay program a non-profit branch of the school, in accordance with our philosophy of creating ethical economic programs that give back to the communities that host us. By keeping our margins significantly smaller than the industry average we ensure fair treatment for our families; and by your participation in the immersion program you will not only learn about the culture and practice the language, but you will also directly help your host families with the upkeep of their houses (purchasing furniture, paying rent, repairs, etc.) and with supporting their family members (school, medication, food etc.). For mothers with young children, this is a particularly important program as it allows them to stay home with their children instead of having to leave them with care-givers.

Thank you for being a part of this important experience and for helping give back to our community!


Can I stay longer at my homestay than I actually booked? 

Families are paid from Sunday to Sunday, regardless of whether the student leaves before Sunday. Therefore, if a student returns early to a family in Heredia they will need to pay for an additional homestay night in Heredia. Students in homestay may also stay in Sámara until Sunday and take the public bus back to San Jose/Heredia at 9:00am or 1:00 pm. Students may add up to a maximum of 4 additional nights with their host family. After 4 nights, the full week rate will be charged and paid to the family.

How are homestay families chosen and evaluated? 

All our families must first pass a written application process, followed by a family and home inspection visit conducted by our homestay staff. They are evaluated on a list of points covering the physical facilities to the family profile, and if they pass all points, they are admitted into the program. Once in the program, families are evaluated weekly by students and must maintain an 85% average "grade" in order to keep their active status. Every year, the school holds professional development workshops for staff and families, focusing on any weak areas in the homestay program, with the goal of reaching an average grade amongst all families of 95%. 

What are the houses like? 

The standard of living and the culture is different, and you need to keep an open mind if you decide on this option! If you choose our Samara Beach Campus houses are built simply, in a rustic style, and as in any tropical climate, you will see more bugs than you are used to. If you choose our Heredia City campus, standards are slightly higher, more similar to what you may be used to back home, with some notable exceptions (thermal shower heaters, for example!). Remember that true cultural experiences often require certain sacrifices, but can also broaden your horizons in ways you may never have imagined.  


  • HEREDIA CAMPUS: "Señora Cecelia and her husband were an absolute delight. She was always enthusiastic to see me every morning and evening. Even when she wasn´t hungry, she sat down to chat with me for every meal, which helped immensely with learning Spanish. During those meals we learned much about each other, we laughed when telling each other stories, and I learned a lot about Costa Rica. Before arriving in CR I was worrried about my dietary restrictions (I have celiacs and a dairy allergy), but Cecelia was very diligent about making sure I had healthy and safe food. Also, she would ask if I liked certain types of food she thought might be weird for a North American to eat before preparing them. She is a great cook; I enjoyed every meal she prepared. I always felt welcomed, and it was very apparent that Cecelia opens up her home because she enjoys having the students in her home. The walk from her house to the school was ten minutes, pleasant, and safe. As I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Señora Cecelia, I would recommend her home to anyone. Thank you for helping make my stay in Costa Rica a memorable one." Michael Davis, 2017, USA 

  • SAMARA CAMPUS: "Genarina was an excellent host and a very authentic person. I also liked the location of her house which was very convenient  for going to school and near everything." François Proulx, 2017, Canada 

  • SAMARA CAMPUS: "I stayed with Narcisa for 12 weeks and...I think I had the best family of whole Sámara. The family helped me a lot and was very friendly. Thank you." Nadine Koehli, 2016, Switzerland 

  • HEREDIA CAMPUS: "My homestay was awesome. My family was so welcoming and kind. They really cared about caelin and I and were interested in our lives. They helped us with our Spanish a lot too, they were dedicated to the program and the cultural experience we were having..." Maria S., student, 2016 Pinkerton Academy group, USA, 

  • HEREDIA CAMPUS: "My homestay family was sonderful!! They were super nice and had great food. When I got sick they were very good to me and treated me just like my own mom would have. I could not have asked for a better host family." Caelin Mc., student, 2016 Pinkerton Academy group, USA

  • "This homestay has to be one of the best things I have experienced. The family was very kind and accepting of us when we first arrived. From the day we arrived our host family treated us like we were apart of their family. The food was some of the best spanish food I have ever tasted. We always had fresh fruit and coffee with breakfast, and some type of fresh fruit juice to accompany what ever meal we ate at the house. The children helped us a lot in trying to communicate and they encouraged us to speak lots of Spanish. By Wednesday our mama tica only allowed us to speak Spanish, which I believed to be an awesome thing. I have learned a lot from this family and i hope to keep in touch with them." Christopher Littlejohn, USA, aged 24, 2014

  • "Odiney and Elber and their family are exceptional. My husband and I completely enjoyed ourselves with them, and if we are able to come back for school again in the future we would love to stay with them. The food was great, and it was nice to be so close to the school too. We feel the very same way about our Heredia family, Roger et Ana." Jeanne Harrison,  aged 51, 2015

  • "The program was really fun, especially the outings and dance classes. Staying with such an amazing host family was the highlight of my Intercultura experience." Xindi Zhang, aged 20, Australia, 2014.

  • Extensive research shows that cultural exchange has positive, long-term effects on travelers regarding civic engagement, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, reduced prejudice toward out-groups, and advocating for the host culture (1,2). Within cultural exchange, homestays, in particular, have been found to improve students’ language acquisition, cultural knowledge, and psychological well-being, as host mothers take the role of surrogate mother, tutor, teacher, and counselor (3).”  Sara Clark, aged 30. Intercultura student and Post-Graduate researcher, University of Oregon, 2014

  • “…pienso que la esencia de la idea de Intercultura, el intercambio de culturas, la interacción y el aprender un idioma como el español, enriquece las relaciones entre las personas que vivimos aquí y los que vienen y en particular para mí, el término "enriquecer" no se limita (obviamente) a lo económico…, aunque me ayuda, pero me enriquece humanamente.” MAR ROCA, homestay mother at our Samara Beach Campus, 2013.