Founded 25 years ago, the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) is a center for study, research, and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. We focus on economic development, politics, environmental studies, sustainable development, public health, women’s issues, education, human rights, and conservation.

We offer four categories of programs: Three distinct Study Abroad programs through which students can earn academic credit toward their university degree; a Summer Internship program; intensive Spanish language courses designed to immerse students in the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan contexts; and we also work with universities to create customized short-term programs.

Students learn through readings, lectures, and interaction with local people in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua via internships and voluntary service.


Daily classes take place at ICADS' headquarters, located in Curridabat, a neighborhood on the edge of the capital, San Jose, and near the university area of San Pedro. There are a variety of shops, restaurants and services nearby.

San Jose itself is only a 10-minute bus ride away, and is a bustling cosmopolitan city filled with cultural events, an exciting nightlife, and plenty of historical landmarks and museums to explore.

COSTA RICA is a beautiful country blessed with countless natural wonders, a tropical array of flora and fauna, and gracious and warm people to meet along the way. Any location in Costa Rica is easily accessible by bus from San Jose, and many students choose to explore what the country has to offer – national parks, beaches, rainforests, volcanoes, hot springs, and more – during their free weekends.

The country of NICARAGUA is rich with natural resources and stunning beauty, though it remains one of the poorest in the hemisphere. A troubled history of war and natural disasters has made Nicaragua a place where struggles for justice and well-being are of central concern. There are many non-governmental organizations working in Nicaragua, providing a stimulating environment for learning about grassroots development.

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«ICADS has been consistently first-rate in all aspects. The ICADS staff are exceptionally friendly and professional, and have always arranged a host of lectures and in-country experiences that are tailored to the needs of my course and also facilitate their Spanish language skills. Thus, my students are provided with an incredibly rich base of knowledge and experiences that greatly enhance their learning about political economy, society, and history in Costa Rica and Central America.»

-Gordon A. Babst, Ph.D.
Former Associate Professor Political science, Chapman University.