Costa Rica – Pura Vita in Playa Flamingo! – Week 1

Costa Rica Study Abroad Gallery 126
Costa Rica Study Abroad Gallery 126
Summer 2 is off to a great start and soaking up all the sun in Playa Flamingo.
Saturday after picking up our second group of kids, we spent the night in Liberia and had a great first group dinner.
Sunday We drove off to Flamingo on Sunday to take the CPI language placement test. We had lunch at a local beachside restaurant and then headed to the beach. We are all enjoying the sun and drinking lots of water to stay hydrated. We met our homestay families Sunday night and had dinner with them to get to know each other.
Monday was a relaxing beach morning where we visited Playa Flamingo. Kids had fun soaking up the sun playing cards and jumping in the waves. We started classes Monday afternoon at CPI. Students are really focused on conversation and using Spanish whenever they can.
Tuesday we started our Flamingo volunteer project. We are working with an organization called Siempre Amigos that goes out into impoverished rural communities and provides help to them. Our group alone on Tuesday was able to mix enough cement to pour a floor for one family’s kitchen. The kids worked really hard and are making a big impact on someone’s life. We ate a big lunch to replenish our tired bodies and went back to Spanish class. We walked to Playa Flamingo after classes to watch a beautiful sunset. We are all so lucky to be here.
Wednesday we visited Playa Conchal. It’s a beach competent covered in shells. The students had fun soaking in the sun and snorkeling a bit. We went back to school for dance class where the kids had a blast! We learned merengue, bachata, and salsa. With a great attitude and a lot of laughter, everyone enjoyed themselves. After Spanish classes we headed to an ice cream shop to celebrate 4th of July!

Thursday we went back to the same area to volunteer with Siempre Amigos. We finished pouring the concrete for their outdoor kitchen floor. The family’s only income is making tortillas and they were about to be shut down by health codes because they didn’t have a proper floor. Now they will be able to continue their business and provide for their family. We also started prepping the outside walls of the house to be painted.

Friday we went to Playa Tamarindo. Over half of the students took surf classes and learned how to shred some waves Costa Rican style. The rest of the group played some pick up volleyball games on the beach and soaked up the sun. Everyone had a ton of fun learning something new and hanging out with new friends.

Saturday we went to Rincon de la Vieja where we had a full day of activities. We started with a canopy zip line tour that included two Tarzan swings and a rock wall to climb. Then we did some horseback riding through the nature preserve. The fun doesn’t stop there! We then went tubing down the Rio Colorado. It was so much fun and really intense! We ate a huge buffet lunch where we replenished our fuels for the second half of the afternoon. We then went to the thermal baths and painted ourselves with volcanic mud. Some of the baths reached natural temperatures of 100 degrees! It was a very nice and relaxing activity to end our day trip.

Sunday we went to Guatil where we saw how Willy and his family have been making pottery for over 800 years! The kids thought it was a very calming experience and really neat to watch. We then went to the town of Santa Cruz to do a little scavenger hunt to get to know some Ticos. The kids had fun being creative with the clues and hanging out with their friends. We got back to our homestays in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day relaxing with our families and going to the beach.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

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Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.


Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.