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Dynamics of Community in Costa Rica


Granada, Nicaragua and Liberia, Flamingo, Brasilito, Costa Rica

Program Description

Costa Rica is renowned for its beautiful beaches, tropical forests, and "pura vida" culture. As a result, it is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. As part of this course, we will examine how global flows of people, ideas and policies are impacting/impacted by Costa Rica.  By concentrating on notions of community and environmental sustainability, we will travel to various communities within Costa Rica in order to gain a broad perspective of the country’s cultural diversity and commitment to environmental sustainability. In doing so, we will explore the concept of glocalization and observe examples of cultural hybridity, social stratification, and social and environmental movements inspired by or in reaction to globalization.

We will have the opportunity to stay with host families, travel by boat and horseback, speak with local community leaders, visit community-based projects and conservation sites, and enjoy natural wonders and historical landmarks. Part of our exploration will include traveling to Nicaragua to understand Costa Rica’s history with Nicaragua and human migration between borders. Students will have the opportunity to work with local schools and organizations through service learning projects. Ethnographic field work will also be embedded in this course. This is a 4 credit course and open to all majors.

Location Description

Although we will travel to several locations during our time in country, we will be based in the beach communities of Flamingo and Brasilito in the Northwest province of Guanacaste. Known for its spectacular beaches and cattle ranches, Guanacaste is an interesting region of the country to explore due to its complicated history with Nicaragua and rapid growth in recent years.

After arriving at the Liberia International Airport, we transfer to the quaint Brasilito Hotel where we will lodge for 3 days before transitioning to our nine day stay with host families in the area. While in Guanacaste, we will spend time at the La Paz community school learning about peace practices and experiential education, explore marine life as we sail the Pacific Ocean observing local preservation efforts, and travel by horseback with families who've ranched in this area for generations. We will also have the opportunity to visit to Guatil, a Chorotegan village known for its pottery after touring the Palo Verde National Park and the Tempisque River.

Next, we will head across the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border to the town of Granada where we will experience the Masaya volcano and local markets while observing Spanish colonial architecture and historic sites during our stay at the Hotel Real La Merced for three nights.

Upon returning to Costa Rica, we will head to the Central Valley as we stay 2 nights in a family-run hotel touring the Monte Verde Cloud Forest and learning about the influence of the Quakers in this region.

From there, we will travel to Heredia where we will stay with host families for 4 nights as we hike the Poas volcano, visit coffee plantations and work with the Amistad organization learning about community organizing and reforestation efforts.

Before returning to Guanacaste, we will spend 2 days in the nation's capitol, San Jose, getting a sense of urban life in Costa Rica while visiting sites and local organizations. Since we are unable to visit the Caribbean side of Costa Rica due to time constraints, while in San Jose we will enjoy lunch with a guest speaker from the city of Limon who will share a brief overview of Afro-Caribbean history and culture within Costa Rica.

We will return to Brasilito Hotel in Guanacaste where we'll remain for the final two days before being transported to Liberia's airport the morning of July 6th.


Lisa Porter | | Sociology and Anthropology


Accommodations on this trip will vary from location to location. Student will experience homestays with families for two of the weeks in country. Lodging for the remaining time will be in hotels where students will be in shared double rooms. For times when internet may not be accessible on site, internet cafes will be located nearby. The group will have its own private transportation for most of the trip and will utilize public transportation for nearby excursions.

Two meals per day will be covered in the fees for this program. Most typically, these meals will include breakfast and dinner. However, on certain days with planned tours, the meals included will include breakfast and lunch. Students should plan to spend their own money to cover the cost of a third meal/hearty snack. 

Additional Items to Consider

No visas or background checks are needed for traveling to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Although not required, the CDC does recommend that travelers are up to date on their immunizations and have the HEP A and Typhoid vaccines.

Mosquitoes in both countries have been infected with the Zika virus. As a result, preventative measures are needed (insect repellent).

Most U.S.cell phone plans offer coverage in Costa Rica. Check with your provider ahead of time. As an alternative, many travelers use the WhatsApp application through local wi-fi access while in country. 

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

Some Spanish is recommended

Open to all majors

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay 
  • Resume
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

apply now

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


SOCI/ANTH 391: Dynamics of Community in Costa Rica (4 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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