Architecture in Costa Rica

Image of a waterfall in Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Winter Break
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: No
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Learn about current environmental urban design issues and solutions in San Jose. 
  • Explore hospitality architecture and Costa Rica’s approach to sustainability and eco-tourism.   

Costa Rica leads Latin America in sustainability, striving for carbon neutrality. Students will explore San Jose's sustainable development through city plazas, buildings, and infrastructure. They'll engage in the Rutas Naturbanas project, envisioning opportunities to connect urban rivers in San José. Excursions to Monteverde Cloud Forest and Manuel Antonio National Park will highlight Costa Rica's culture and ecology fostering sustainable environments in hospitality, eco-tourism, and urban spaces.

This study abroad program integrates biomimicry, vernacular architecture, eco-tourism, urban design, and nature-based solutions, culminating in a collective book documenting experiences through sketching, photography, writing, and diagrams. The course delves into the country's development impact, preservation practices in San Jose, and the use of flora and fauna in eco-tourism, with guest lectures, firm visits, and interactive assignments guiding learning objectives.


Depart Kansas City & arrive in San Jose: December 27, 2023

Depart San Jose and arrive in the U.S.: January 15, 2024

Program dates are subject to change.



Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna, social and political stability, high educational levels, and efficient infrastructure and services.

San Jose, Costa Rica (3 days):  The program begins in San Jose, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city and the capital of Costa Rica. It lies in the Central Valley on a plain surrounded by large forested mountain ranges, some of which include active volcanoes, green savannahs, and working coffee plantations.

Monteverde (4 days): The Cloud Forest of Monteverde, one of the prime destinations for ecotourism in Costa Rica, is home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity.  Different than a rain forest, it boasts 50% of the species of flora and fauna in all of Costa Rica. We will take a tour with an expert who will guide us through the forest and point out some of the amazing life that lives there.

Dota (3 days): Participants will visit a Natural Reserve to see the Quetzals, the sacred bird of the Mayans and Aztecs. 

San Jose (8 days): Students will collaborate with Rutas Naturbas, who is leading efforts to reimagine urban waterways in San Jose, along with Universidad Veritas students to enhance river access points along Rio Torres. Through designing for improved public access and promoting the protection of the environment, students will develop strategies that explore supporting community needs connected to natural resources and land governance, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

Manuel Antonio (3 days): Participants will travel to Manuel Antonio which is located on the Central Pacific Coast and is about 3 ½ hours south of San Jose. Manuel Antonio National Park is Costa Rica’s smallest but most famous national park.  Participants will explore its rain forest rich with wildlife and white-sand beaches. Additionally, they will visit local resorts to learn about their sustainable practices and ecotourism in the area.

Program Courses:

5 Year Master of Architecture Students will enroll in:
•    Arch 690 Study Abroad (5 Credits)
•    Arch 692  Documentation (3 Credits)

2 or 3 Year Master of Architecture Students will enroll in:
•    Arch 690 Study Abroad (6 Credits)

Interior Architecture Students will enroll in:
•    IA 690 Study Abroad for Interior Architecture (5 credits)

Students will stay in double or triple-occupancy rooms at Costa Rican hotels or hostels with breakfast daily. 

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

The program is open to all KU Architecture and Interior Architecture Students with Study Abroad requirements. Prior to the study abroad program, the KU Masters of Architecture Students (3 year or 5 year program) should have completed ARCH 209 or ARCH 502 and Interior Architecture Students should have completed Arch 109.  

The following additional students are eligible on a space-available basis:

  • KU Urban Planning Students 
  • KU Architectural Engineering students who have completed ARCH 200
  • KU Design students who have completed third year and have drawing experience
  • All Majors


Keith Van de Riet is a licensed architect, educator, and researcher with experience in design-build projects, digital fabrication, and bio-inspired design solutions. Prior to joining KU, he was teaching and conducting research at Florida Atlantic University, with research activities that included collaborative development of biomimetic engineered-living waterfront solutions. He received his doctorate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2012 with a focus in Built Ecologies and worked as a researcher at The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology in New York City. Additional research experience includes prototype testing and development, environmental simulation, and design optimization for sustainable systems.

Thom Allen is an innovative academic leader focused on community engagement and nature-based design solutions. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, he fosters creativity and effective communication that drives forward-thinking objectives for public space. This is done through tactical urbanism, creative placemaking, planning, and urban design. Allen has worked for the New York City Department, District of Columbia Office of Planning, and currently is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Urban Planning Program in the School of Public Affairs and Administration. In his role as the Associate Director of the University Honors Program, he leads faculty engagement to strengthen Honors courses, advises students in the honors programming "Common Cause", and teaches a First-Year Seminar on Creative Placemaking.

For more information contact:

Keith Van de Riet, Associate Professor

Thom Allen, Assistant Professor

Passport and Entry Requirements

All U.S. citizens must have a passport to enter Costa Rica; no tourist visa is required. It’s recommended that the passport is valid for six months beyond the arrival.

September 2023: Passport processing times for U.S. passports are currently 13 weeks for routine service and 9 weeks for expedited service. Students who don't have a valid passport should apply for one immediately. Please view the U.S. Department of State Passport page to read more information about applying for a U.S. passport.

Non U.S. citizens are responsible for understanding their entry requirements. Read more about visas and entry requirements on the website of the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington D.C. Most students will meet the visa waiver requirement of having a visa issued from the U.S., but also must meet the requirement of having a valid passport for six months beyond the arrival. Please carefully read the information on the website.