HOST FAMILIES IN COSTA RICA
More than just a place to stay - connect with the community!
Homestays in Costa Rica provide an economical alternative to hotels, especially for single travelers. The most valuable aspect of the homestay experience is the opportunity to really get to know a Costa Rican family and experiencing first-hand the famous Costa Rican warmth and hospitality!
HOMESTAY HOUSES IN COSTA RICA
We offer host families at our both school locations in Costa Rica.
All of our carefully chosen Costa Rican families in Heredia and Playa Sámara are within walking distance of school and town, from half a block to max. 1 mile (1.5 km) away.
Keep an open mind if you decide on staying with a local family
The standard of living and the culture are just different, especially when it comes to the more rural areas! If you choose our Samara Beach Campus, you will see houses in a rustic and simple style. Moreover, 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.
Breakfast, dinner & laundry service
ADDT'L NIGHT PP
Breakfast, dinner & laundry service
Our homestay 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 homestays 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.
All our host families first pass a written application process, followed by a family and home inspection visit conducted by our school admin staff. They are evaluated on a list of requirements for the physical facilities and the family profile, and, if they pass, they are admitted into the program on a trial basis. Once in the homestay program, families are evaluated weekly by students and must maintain an 90% average "grade" in order to keep their active status. The school also holds periodic professional development workshops for staff and families, focusing on areas for improvement in the homestay program, with the goal of maintaining an average grade amongst all families of 95%. All of our families have been with us for many years, and all are local, well-known and respected members of the community. We are well acquainted with each family’s personal history and therefore able to vouch for them and their suitability for participation in the program.
Students often write us to ask whether they can be vegetarian and still stay with a Costa Rican homestay. After all, Latin America is not known for its vegetarian sensibilities, and, they wonder, how can they avoid offending their host mother if they don’t eat meat?
It is a good question! A decade or two ago, families simply didn’t get the concept, and we had to tell them that students were allergic to meat, in order for them not to insist on serving it. Nowadays, however, things have changed. Many Costa Ricans are vegetarian. Thus, there are vegan and vegetarian restaurants in both Heredia and Sámara, and best of all, homestay mothers have gotten behind the concept!
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.
Typically, host families dedicate 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:
We are happy to answer this question, as we are proud of our ethical business practices.
From 100% of your payment:
- 87% goes directly to the homestay family.
- 8% goes to agencies, banks and credit card processors.
- 5% remains with the Spanish school to cover administrative overhead, salaries, family supervision, 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. 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.). You also help them with supporting their family members (education, medication, food etc.). For mothers with young children, this is a particularly important program. 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.
It is not uncommon for students have some initial culture shock from being in a new country, living with a new family and speaking a different language. However, most find that if they stick it out for the first two or three days, things suddenly get easier and they no longer feel awkward or uncomfortable at the home. As with any new situation, there is an adjustment period, so don’t worry if the first couple days are difficult, just be patient, do your best to participate in family life, and it will get better!
If for some reason you still feel after a few days that you are incompatible with your homestay, you may request a re-assignation to a different family or to the student shared dorms (space permitting), for a small change fee. Or, if the family is at fault, you will be changed at no cost, excepting any room upgrade requests.
FEEDBACK FROM STUDENTS WHO STAYED WITH HOMESTAYS
"I had a blast during my week in Costa Rica. One thing I miss dearly is my wonderful host family. My host mother was one of the most wonderful people I have ever met in my entire life. I miss her almost everyday. We had a very special friendship, and I’m hoping that it’s a bond I can keep forever. Muchas gracias. ¡Pura Vida!"
Riley Sheehan, New York, student from the ACIS Collins group, February 2019
Family & Kids Classes, July 2018
"The homestay was the best part. Genarina was just lovely!" (Sámara Beach Campus)
44 years, from the USA, 2017
"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. This helped me 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 Costa Rica I was worried 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. Thank you for helping make my stay in Costa Rica a memorable one."
19 years, from Switzerland, 2016
"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."
61 years, from Canada, 2017
"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."
Student, from the USA, 2016 Pinkerton Academy high school group
"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."
20 years, from Australia, 2014
"The program was really fun, especially the outings and dance classes. Staying with such an amazing host family was the highlight of my Intercultura Costa Rica experience."
24 years, from the USA, 2015
"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 day one our host family treated us like we were part 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 host mother 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."
Jeanne Harrison & husband
51 years, from the USA, 2015
"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 host family, Roger et Ana."
Intercultura student and Post-graduate researcher, from the USA, University of Oregon, 2014-17
“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. In conclusion, host mothers take the role of surrogate mother, tutor, teacher, and counselor.”