Best Place to Learn Spanish Abroad: Intercultura Costa Rica – A Life Full of Serendipity

Best place to learn Spanish abroad.

***If you book using the Discount Code “ALifeFullOfSerendipity” you get 10% on all classes booked directly through Intercultura’s  website. Click here to choose your course!***

In May 2016, I travelled to Costa Rica with the plan to travel overland and explore Central-America. I was going to travel all the way overland up to Mexico within two months. After having travelled in SE-Asia and being able to get by just fine with my English, I thought that travelling within the Americas would not be any different. However, on my first few days in Costa Rica I realised quickly that without any basic Spanish, I was not going to have the fulfilling experience I had hoped for.

Why? Because I wanted to be able to speak to the locals. And the majority of them don’t speak English. In Central-America, people stared at me with blank faces when I spoke English (except, of course, in hostels – but even there it was not always a given).

I got frustrated that I could not speak with the Uber driver or my host or that I could not hold a conversation with someone over breakfast and ask everything about the local specialities. I felt like I did not belong and I thought I would always feel that way, as long as I would not fully immerse myself. So, I decided, I needed to find a good Spanish school to at least learn some basic Spanish.

But how to learn Spanish fast? The answer: by doing an Intensive Spanish Immersion Course combined with a Homestay with a native family to cement what I had learned. So the research the best place to learn Spanish in Costa Rica began.

Intercultura Sámara Costa Rica stood out to me from the start.

I literally hugged my pillow out of joy when I discovered Intercultura Sámara Costa Rica! A language school right by the beach? Where you can drink coconuts in your study breaks and chill under the palm trees? A school with a stellar reputation, both for its efficient management, and the high quality of teaching helping students boost their Spanish language capabilities since 1993?

And a school that, to make it even better, founded a non-profit association where “…local kids (…) participate in community development projects and serve actively in the social and communal activities that help shape the future of this beautiful area“. It seemed Intercultura Costa Rica was a company that was very much aligned with what I had in mind.

A photo posted by Tess – Rootless Nomad (@alifefullofserendipity) on

It almost sounded too good to be true. But my gut instinct was telling me that this was the right place for me. My only worry was that I wanted to start the course in a few days (I had only booked a few nights in the Capital — that is as much as I had planned) — how big is the likelihood that I would be able to book myself onto the course so very last-minute?!

So, I e-mailed the school and sent out a little prayer into the universe. To my amazement, within a few hours, I had a response already! Not only that. They had a spot for me and they could even organise a family homestay for me last-minute if I wanted to.

My mind was blown!

I was hesitant to book the homestay as I thought I wouldn’t be able to do my work — as not every homestay has a Wifi connection. So I booked the Adult Spanish Immersion Program without the homestay to begin with (my plan was to study Spanish for a week and then move on…as you know by now…I like to change my plans…and of course, I extended for another week and in the second week, I actually stayed with a family (and they had Wifi…).

I wish I had done this from the start as I got so much more out of it plus it is the cheaper option too!

Sámara is not a cheap place to holiday. I highly recommend booking the family homestay option to save money on food. Alternatively, you could stay in a hostel and cook all your meals yourself — but even this is not necessarily cheap. There are several small little grocery shops in town and a bigger supermarket (Pali) that are well stocked, but you essentially pay US$ prices for the items. Keep that in mind when you book your course!

The added benefit of booking a family homestay that you get to fully immerse yourself and experience real everyday life with a family in Costa Rica. But careful with the food….Costa Rican food is so delicious…I gained several kilos while I lived in Sámara…ooops.

When I got a confirmation e-mail from the school, I could feel a mixture of apprehension and joy arise in my tummy… — “Oh my God. This was happening!”. A few days ago I had no intention to learn Spanish and now I’ll be learning a new language in Paradise! What will I be expecting? Will I actually be able to speak any Spanish at all at the end of the course? What if I can’t keep up??

Up next, I researched on the best options to travel from San Jose to Sámara. If you plan to travel by bus yourself, head to the Terminal 7-10 (tickets to Sámara are sold on the upper level at the Alfaro ticket booth). Here is a screenshot of the very useful Samarabeach info website (which is filled with very useful information on all things Sámara, by the way!).

The busses depart every day at 12pm (with some delays sometimes but generally I found the Costa Rican bus service to be very well organised and punctual) and the journey takes roughly 4 1/2 hours.

Screenshot taken from

I do recommend buying the ticket the day in advance — however, many people just turn up about 1 hour before departure. You risk, of course, not having a seat on the day, though.

Once you have your ticket, head down to the bus hall and wait until you hear your bus being called out (I do advise asking someone so you know which bus to take — just to be on the safe side — especially if your Spanish is not the best, the announcements may be super confusing).

When you arrive in Samara, I can guarantee you won’t get lost, because the place is so unbelievably small! Here is a map of Sámara to orientate yourself. As you can see, Sámara Intercultura is on the map too (and yes, it is right by the beach!). If you opt for the homestay option, you will need to go to the office to ‘check-in’ so you can be taken to your host family. If you arrive on a Saturday or Sunday, the security guard on duty would have been informed that you are arriving and he will take care of things for you.

In terms of hostels, if you do not choose the homestay option, I highly recommend Hostel Matilori.

I arrived on Saturday as I wanted to give myself the whole weekend to explore Sámara and relax on the beach before I would start my classes on Monday morning. I had read in the Lonely Planet that Sámara is also known as the ‘black hole of happiness’ and that many who have come to this magical place, never left.

As I wandered to the beach, I could totally see why. Sámara is small and at first sight, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything special — but just after a few hours, I felt completely relaxed and I already knew I wanted to extend my stay. I found this clip of the surrounding areas of Intercultura Sámara Costa Rica and wanted to share it with you, so you can see in what setting you would be studying…

Video by Dan Hundley 

***If you book using the Discount Code “ALifeFullOfSerendipity” you get 10% on all classes booked directly through Intercultura’s  website. Click here to choose your course!***

And? Have you also just fallen in love with Sámara? It is a pretty spectacular setting, isn’t it? Most people that come here, do the whole 12 – week course from start to finish. But even if you come to Intercultura Costa Rica without any previous Spanish knowledge and you just want to learn the basics — fear not! I was one of you and I can now, after doing two weeks of the Adult Spanish Immersion, uphold a conversation exceeding the basics actually!

Goal Accomplished! *Pat on the Shoulder*.

On Monday morning I did a short placement test to assess my Spanish knowledge so I would be assigned to the correct level (by the way: if during the class you feel you have been placed too low or too high, speak to one of the friendly ladies at reception and they will make sure that you can change group so you get to make most out of your learning).

After registration, you will meet your teacher and group for the week and you either start your classes right away or you begin in the afternoon (if you do decide to stay for several weeks, you will have a different teacher each week — this way you get to benefit from different teaching styles).

The starting time of your classes always alternate on a daily basis. So if you start on a Monday morning, you’ll be having classes on a Tuesday afternoon and then on a Wednesday morning etc. This gives you the opportunity to try out different types of activities (which are offered by the school during the whole week).

Click here for the list of the activities that are included in the price. Actually, it is at this very campus (overlooking the beach and palm trees) where I completely fell in love with Latin Dance — which is now an integral part of my day-to-day life. I not only owe Intercultura Sámara Costa Rica for the amazing Spanish skills I have acquired (in a short period of time) but they also introduced me to the world of dance which has literally changed my life (I’m unashamedly a Salsa addict now)!

A photo posted by Tess – Rootless Nomad (@alifefullofserendipity) on

 The Spanish classes were intense and after four hours, I was ready to relax in one of the many hammocks on campus. You really do get a lot for your money — the teachers are extremely dedicated and make sure that everyone in the class gets to advance and practise as much as possible. The added advantage the school offers is that their program is taught in some group classes (you can also choose to have private classes if you want to make even more out of your stay) – so everybody participates and benefits equally!

The classes are heavily focused on conversation exercises with some time dedicated to grammar in between. I felt what I learnt was what I actually needed for day-to-day conversations! I would say,the activities are carefully planned out so you really practise that are necessary to learn a language in the most efficient way. Although, sometimes I struggled to concentrate in the afternoon particularly towards the end of the day — Sámara is such a relaxing place and daydreaming about your next surf lesson or that Cocktail is very tempting…!

Returning to campus after chilling the whole morning by the beach or sleeping in a hammock can be challenging!

View this post on Instagram

Just finished my first week at Sámara campus & guess what?! Yep…I extended for another week 😍 in the second week I'll be doing a Homestay to fully immerse myself and learn more about the culture of the Ticos (a non-derogatory commonly used expression to say 'Costa-Ricans') and savour more of the delicious cuisine (Gallo Pinto for breakfast anyone?). Stay tuned for a blog post with awesome photos of the location & school, so you can see for yourself how studying Spanish in Paradise looks like. I'll also be reviewing my experience of the Homestay and tell you what the pro's & con's are of doing it that way (as opposed to staying in a hostel or guesthouse like I've done it in the first week). There'll be a discount code at the end of it too giving you 10% off this awesome experience! 😜🙈 If you can't wait and want to start right away, send me a message 😆 And now, please excuse me – I'm going to take a nap on my hammock – because when in Costa Rica….😂👌🏻 #alifefullofserendipity #serendipitytess #costarica #spanish #paradise #puravida #beach #ocean #sea #sand #summer

A post shared by Tess – Rootless Nomad (@alifefullofserendipity) on

If you feel like escaping Sámara for a bit, the school offers a breadth of excursions that you can do during the weekends (at an extra cost). In my second week, I joined a group to Monteverde to do some Extreme Ziplining and chill in the Baldi Hot Springs. It was absolutely worth it and we all had a great time! I was particularly proud to have challenged a long-standing fear of heights by literally throwing myself into the jungle (the Extreme Ziplining experience includes a ‘Tarzan Swing’ and you basically do like a mini bungee jump…).

I met so many kind people at the campus. People who are now my friends and who I know I will see again one day. I loved my little routine of getting up in the morning, cycling down the hill and onto the beach, walk the rest to campus, pour myself a good cup of Costa Rican coffee (the best in the world), head to classes and practise practise practise — then head to either Luv Burger or Gusto Beach for Lunch and chill with my friends or play cards or drink an ice-cold beer…Later I would go back home and have dinner with my host family, do my homework, then before head out to one of the locals bars (Media Luna was my favourite — where you can watch jaw-dropping Salsa dancers) to meet my friends. Go home, sleep – and do it all again.

As a long-term traveller, I loved having a bit of a base again and get into a routine that kind of resembled real life. Ok…who am I fooling, right? I was drinking the juice out of humungous fresh coconuts on a picture-perfect beach before going for a swim in the warm pacific ocean every single day…But the routine thing…you know…

If you want to find out more about the language programmes offered at Intercultura Costa Rica Sámara (or Heredia, which is the campus near San Jose), then click here or send me an e-mail and I’m more than happy to advise you.


***If you book using the Discount Code “ALifeFullOfSerendipity” you get 10% on all classes booked directly through Intercultura’s website. Click here to choose your course!***

A photo posted by Tess – Rootless Nomad (@alifefullofserendipity) on

heart-blueWhat about you? Have you travelled abroad to learn a new language? How has it helped your personal development? I would love to read your thoughts in the comment section below.

Pin it for later!

This content was originally published here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *