A grant to Costa Rica offers a variety of benefits, including a convenient location, well-respected institutions of higher learning, a pleasant climate, great natural beauty and a strong Fulbright tradition.
The academic calendar varies greatly among universities, therefore, it is essential that applicants confirm which academic calendar their institution and program of interest follows. In some cases, requested grant lengths may be adjusted at the discretion of the Fulbright program.
Short-term Flex grants for teaching, research or teaching/research for one- to three-month segments over one or two consecutive years are available. Applicants interested in the Flex grant option should consult with CIES program staff before applying. Final approval of Flex grants will be contingent upon available funding.
Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in the Western Hemisphere. As you prepare your Fulbright application, we encourage you to read the information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Costa Rica is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the North, the Caribbean Sea to the Northeast, Panama to the Southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the Southwest, and Ecuador to the South of Cocos Island. It has a population of around 4.9 million, in a land area of 51,100 square kilometers (19,714 square miles); over 300,000 live in the capital and largest city, San José.
Costa Rica is known for its stable democracy, in a region that has had some instability, and for its highly educated workforce, many of whom speak English. The country spends roughly 6.9% of its budget (2016) on education, compared to a global average of 4.4%. Its economy, once heavily dependent on agriculture, has diversified to include sectors such as finance, corporate services for foreign companies, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign companies (manufacturing and services) operate in Costa Rica's Free Trade Zones (FTZ) where they benefit from investment and tax incentives.
In spite of impressive growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), low inflation, moderate interest rates and an acceptable unemployment level, Costa Rica is facing a liquidity crisis due to a growing debt and budget deficit. Other challenges facing the country in its attempts to improve the economy by increasing foreign investment include a poor infrastructure and a need to improve public sector efficiency.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous peoples before coming under Spanish rule in the 16th century. It remained a peripheral colony of the empire until independence as part of the short-lived First Mexican Empire, followed by membership in the United Provinces of Central America, from which it formally declared independence in 1847. Since then, Costa Rica has remained among the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. Following the brief Costa Rican Civil War, it permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming one of only a few sovereign nations without a standing army.
The country has consistently performed favorably in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 69th in the world as of 2017, among the highest of any Latin American nation. It has also been cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region.
Costa Rica also has progressive environmental policies. It is the only country to meet all five UNDP criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It was ranked 42nd in the world, and third in the Americas, in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, and was twice ranked the best performing country in the New Economics Foundation's (NEF) Happy Planet Index, which measures environmental sustainability, and was identified by the NEF as the greenest country in the world in 2009. Costa Rica plans to become a carbon-neutral country by 2021. By 2016, 98.1% of its electricity was generated from green sources particularly hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass.
Because Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees North of the Equator, the climate is tropical year round. However, the country has many microclimates depending on elevation, rainfall, topography, and by the geography of each particular region.
Costa Rica's seasons are defined by how much rain falls during a particular period. The year can be split into two periods, the dry season known to the residents as Summer (verano), and the rainy season, known locally as Winter (invierno). The "Summer" or dry season goes from December to April, and "Winter" or rainy season goes from May to November, which almost coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, and during this time, it rains constantly in some regions.
The location receiving the most rain is the Caribbean slopes of the Cordillera Central mountains, with an annual rainfall of over 5,000 mm (196.9 in). Humidity is also higher on the Caribbean side than on the Pacific side. The mean annual temperature on the coastal lowlands is around 27 °C (81 °F), 20 °C (68 °F) in the main populated areas of the Cordillera Central, and below 10 °C (50 °F) on the summits of the highest mountains.