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 & dinner included
  • Spend less than you would for a hotel
  • Have laundry service included
  • Be taken out of your comfort zone and challenged to adapt to a new culture!

You may not have WiFi, a private bathroom or a hot shower at the beach campus (you do have hot water in the city!), and you will 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, without having to worry about any logistical concerns such as making dinner or washing your clothes!




A small percentage of families can offer private bathroom and/or WiFi; these are assigned on a first-come first-served basis, or as part of the 24/7 homestay immersion program at the city campus.

  • All of our carefully chosen Costa Rican families in Heredia and Sámara are within walking distance of school and town, from half a block to max. 1 mile /1.5 km away (in Sámara, bike rental is recommended due to the heat).
  • Students who are adaptable, open to cultural differences and willing to challenge themselves 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 during school activities, provides a wholly integrated exposure to both the language and the culture.
  • The learning process is greatly facilitated, as is the speed with which fluency is acquired.
  • Homestays provide an economical alternative to hotels, especially for single travelers (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 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.


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

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 or paypal commission. Once we average out the commission between agency and non-agency students, bank transfers and credit card fees, the total comes to approximately 16%. Thus, the school receives an average of 84% of the homestay fees for each student who chooses this option. Of this 85%, Intercultura keeps 5% and the remaining 80% goes to the family.

In other words, from 100% of your payment:

  • 80%  goes directly to the homestay family 
  • 15%  goes to agencies, banks and credit card processers 
  • 5%    remains with Intercultura to cover administrative overhead, salaries, family supervisión, training & 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 (education, 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 from the physical facilities to the family profile, and if they pass they are admitted into the program on a trial basis. Once in the program, families are evaluated weekly by students and must maintain an 90% average "grade" in order to keep their active status. Every year, the school holds professional development workshops for staff and families, focusing on areas  for improvement 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 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 sacrificing certain material comforts, but can also broaden your horizons in ways you may never have imagined.

Why does it cost the same for children as for adults?

Typically, families dedícate more time to caring for a child than for an adult guest, as food needs, sleep requirements, scheduling and daytime presence often necessitate a higher investment of energy and resources on the homestay family’s behalf. For this reason we consider it fair to pay them the same fee as that which they receive for their adult guests. For larger families travelling together, it may be more economical to book a vacation rental through:

Why does it cost the same for a shared room as a single room?

Please keep in mind that you are not just renting a bed. Families are also providing per-person services: dedicating their time to talking with you, preparing meals, washing clothes and in general providing an immersion experience for a price well below what hotels typically charge. If economical or independent lodging is your goal, there are many excellent hotels, hostels and vacation rentals available. You may check the following sites for verified recommendations and to book directly:


  • USA: "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. 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. I would recommend her home to anyone. Thank you for helping make my stay in Costa Rica a memorable one." Michael Davis, aged 44, 2017


  • SWITZERLAND: "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, aged 19, 2016
  • CANADA: "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, aged 61, 2017


  • USA: "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 highschool group
  • AUSTRALIA: "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, 2014.


  • 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 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 Littlehjohn, aged 24, 2015
  • USA: "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


“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 Within cultural exchange, homestays 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, Intercultura student and Post-graduate researcher, University of Oregon, 2014-17.